Reflections on Aphorisms #70

I had a productive day, but kind of lost track near the end so we’re in another situation where we’ll have just one aphorism tonight.

I’ve been thinking a lot about speech and freedom. I’m a bit ashamed to say that I don’t like to say what I really think because I don’t want people to respond in a negative way.

It’s not that I’m particularly controversial. I’m fairly moderate in almost every way, and those few ways in which I am not are all derived from moral foundations.

Still, we live in scary times. There’s something that Jordan Peterson once said about the matter of freedom of speech: “It is not safe to speak, and it never will be. But the thing you’ve gotta keep in mind is that it’s even less safe not to speak. It’s a balance of risks: do you want to pay the price for being who you are and stating your mode of being in the world, or do you want to pay the price for being a bloody serf, and one that’s enslaved him-or-herself?”

I like to think that these explorations of aphorisms are my attempt to say what I think without stepping on toes, but even then I sometimes worry that I’m setting myself up for trouble down the road.

Aphorism 108

You have not converted a man because you have silenced him.

John Morley

Interpretation

One of the things that I find interesting about the modern day is that speech has become something that is a measure of who we are.

We revere speech when it’s done in the ways we approve of.

When people say things we don’t like, they’re apostates.

It’s one of the few bipartisan issues, and the great thing is that there are always people who say things for which they should be condemned, which muddies the water quite handily.

The problem is that we wear our alliances on our sleeves and they have increasingly become our identity.

Of course, this isn’t to say that similar situations have never happened in history, though I shudder to recall some of the other instances (what comes to mind first in my knowledge of history is the late 1850’s in the US, which is not a good place to be drawing comparisons to), but I think that we’re in a very different place for a simple reason.

We’ve lost our foundations, so the superficial displays are all we’ve got.

One of the things that I think is leading people toward destruction and perdition is losing the ability to talk normally and freely.

I read a lot. That’s not a boast, it’s just a statement. I started this year with a goal of reading a book a week, and I’m running closer to two. I’m keeping my readings eclectic as much as possible to avoid getting into a rut.

One of the fields that I’ve spent a lot of time on is psychoanalysis.

I’m something of a devotee of Jung and the field of depth psychology, though I generally disagree with Jung on many of his final conclusions I think that he’s correct 90% of the time.

One of the things that we see in psychology is that you wind up with complexes that are a result of certain situations and phenomena within the psyche.

I think that a lot of our ills in our society are coming from this desire to eradicate evil not only in ourselves but also in others (in fact, it seems predominantly directed toward others and sometimes ignores the self).

It’s a flawed goal. The methods needed will themselves corrupt us, and that’s if we are correct in our assumptions. Our aim tends to be pretty bad.

What we wind up with are two complexes.

The first is projection of guilt. People who demand moral perfection in themselves but don’t reach their goals will often begin to see their flaws in other people. When one remains unaware of their tendency to do this, it becomes destructive.

The remedy to this is fairly simple. You need to learn to let go of other people.

I had to work out of this complex myself, and I think I often still see it function in my mind. I blame a genetic propensity, or maybe familial acculturation, because I see it a lot in my family (or, if you want to get spiritual, you could say it’s generational sin).

The things that helped me get over this were three-fold:

  1. I realized I was pretty awful, objectively speaking. I’ve gotten better, but I’m still not what I’d consider good. I use the term “good” in a moral sense only on choice occasions, so I’ll extend this to say that I’m somewhere between mediocre and slightly-better-than-mediocre, depending on the day.
  2. I realized that everyone has their own agency and responsibility, and if I turned my attention to others I’d never fix myself, and I definitely needed fixing first. There’s a biblical injunction about “looking first to the log in your own eye” before you help your neighbor with simple problems and judge them. As a judgmental personality type (to such a degree that personality types exist, which is a complex matter), I definitely needed to awaken to this.
  3. I realized that anything I did to condemn other people only hurt them. The result: Forgive everything, forget what one can safely forget. I don’t have control over other people, and odds are they don’t really have control over themselves, because I don’t always have control over myself (through my own moral weakness). I let go.

The other complex that forms from a society that creates an untouchable class is that of the exile-in-society.

These are the people who become dangerous and bitter. They gravitate toward nihilism and destruction because there is no other path left.

And why should they have another path? They have given us our best, and we rejected it out of hand.

Of course, it’s not that we shouldn’t reject things. Rejection is the best method that society has to direct people, since it’s less coercive than the alternatives.

But the problem is that we reject people, rather than their actions or ideas.

We silence them without converting them, and do so at our peril.

Resolution

Don’t silence those I don’t like.

Remember that judgement needs to come from the right spirit.

Put the cure before the anodyne.

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