Our Devious Values
—one of Society's most powerful weapons ...
I was reading Montaigne this morning, the essay Of Cannibals, and suddenly found myself irresistibly distracted by the concept of value systems. It prompted me as well to recall the many gruesome images portrayed throughout the Iliad and the Odyssey.
And of course it made me think about the stuff that we convince ourselves is valuable, our so-called code of ethics (not to mention the totally bullshit rules of etiquette that we always seem inclined to throw in someone's face). The whole experience only underscored something I have carped on for years, namely how totally full of our own selves we are.
I mean of course as a culture. I typically do not have anything against a particular person. All of my cynicism is directed squarely at Society, a large group of individuals who seem to take on the mind of (if not become absolutely subsumed by) that group whenever it forms.
It is those very groups that would lay a guilty conscience on us. Yes, they would heap the burden of regret on our shoulders. They are persistent with their efforts control us, to impress us into their service. I have a strong suspicion that, if Society could have its way, it would turn us all into virtual robots.
This is especially troubling when we consider that another part of Society actually encourages us to think for ourselves. This is the notorious double-bind that we are occasionally warned about. In truth, thinking for ourselves is the last thing that Society wants us to do.
Society does not want us to think our own thoughts. It wants us unequivocally to think ITs thoughts.
It is Society that literally brainwashes us through a system of mass hypnosis called public education (especially in the elementary grades) into believing in, and wholeheartedly embracing, the worth of our culture.
It strives with almost embarrassing desperation to turn us all into patriots (I pledge allegiance to the flag), while, at the same time, another branch of Society would perforce convince us that the sports team from one particular area is superior to the sports team in another area.
One of the most deceptive values that Society tries to instill in us is that associated with human life. I can clearly recall conversations in which people were insisting (with the most disdainful of voices) the likes of such as, "They place no value on a human life." They were usually talking about a criminal or a foreign culture (when a war was under way).
Now this statement of course implies that there is most definitely some sort of value inherent in a human life. I most emphatically demur. A human life is simply what it is. It contains not an iota of either worth or worthlessness. A human life is neither valuable nor worthless. I repeat: it is what it is.
I can think of no greater way to achieve personal empowerment than by recognizing the truth of this observation. If we truly believe that we possess some sort of value simply by virtue of the fact that we are a human being, then we bear the burden of a great delusion. One of the best things that we can do to enhance our state of mind is to rid ourselves of this cumbersome bag of rocks.
It has always been a driving force of sorts, for me to shine the light on the true character of Society, to paint an accurate portrait of its totally selfish, and utterly duplicitous, spirit. As Alan Watts so astutely put it, the only real salvation lies in realization. We cannot save ourselves from the inexorable, and suffocating, force of Society if we are unaware of its influence on our psyche.
November 3, 2009