Revulsion from the Mean

It’s not that I don’t ever dislike people on sight: I really do. It’s not that I don’t formulate negative views of people as I go along, getting to know them: I definitely do that too. It’s just that I tend to take the view that I don’t like people. I do not like you, or anyone else. Get over it please.

I don’t care about your gender; I don’t care about your race; I couldn’t give a square shit about your sexuality, age, attire, life, loves or politics. Why does that feel like an unusual viewpoint these days?

I don’t mean the fact that I am – entirely naturally in my understanding – quite the misanthrope: Disliking people until they can be considered trustworthy is a natural defence mechanism. It stops us from getting killed. It’s the trusting fools I worry about.

What feels unnatural today is that I haven’t prejudged whole swathes of society, based on some arbitrarily ‘important’ criterion. A person’s political views do not give me pause.

What seems so out of kilter in my generalist viewpoint is that I don’t go out in to the badlands of the internet to seek out souls with differing views to mine and engage them in a fist fight.

I do not feel under attack. Why is that so odd?

I am a white middle class man with a comfortable job. I can afford to pay my bills, feed my family and go on holidays. I do not worry much. From my limited, shuttered vantage point I see the image of a war unfolding. It is not a real war, but a projection.

  • On one side, projected ‘good’ people: Standing up for the rights of the few; defending the right to be ‘different’ with tooth and nail.
  • On the other side, projected ‘bad’ people: Spewing forth agenda of hate; denying the rights of the ‘different’ with venom and spite.

Never the twain shall meet; never shall they be reconciled; the Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) and the Alt-Rightists. Enemies most mortal and foul: both real and imagined simultaneously.

Twitter, comments and press; full of venom associated with each: from one side, a condemnation of all who deviate from the path; from the other, casually caustic hate directed at decadence.

Dare not be caught in the crossfire: doxing burns like acid.

You cannot open a browser without hearing about one or the other in equally pejorative terms. The election of Donald Trump has put the SJWs in to the oppositional ascendancy, while their purported opposition hold the real power. Opinion carries more weight than fact.

The issue here is that this war is only a projection. The bulk of the planet is not engaged; the majority of humanity are not aware that conflict is ongoing; most people simply do not care.

This is a war being fought in the extremes. From far right to far left, grenades are being lobbed: high above the heads of the moderate; straight past the lives of the many; ignorance is not bliss.

That’s not to say that there are no interactions; just that the trenches of this ‘culture war’ are far beyond the normal course of events. They occur most vividly in the minds of the extremists.

The content of these outpourings of rage, from both left and right, have little relevance. Each side is more sanctimonious and biased than the other; each is more wedded to their narrow viewpoint than the other; each is more couched in the frothing zeal of the convert than the other.

The war is being fought a million times over, in the frazzled minds of virtual combatants. There are no sides; only individuals who cast themselves on the side of the good and the pure, with the might of an army beside them: Every actor delusional in the same waking nightmare.

I say nightmare and nightmare it is. Each side feels that they are under absolute and constant attack:

  • The left from a heteronormative, white, male society; from oppressive patriarchy and the establishment; from austerity and defunding.
  • The right from multiculturalism and open borders; from a nannying matriarchy and the establishment; from austerity and the death of industry.

Nightmares frequently derive from childish obsession, and these two are no different: The infantile need to call people rude names and the juvenile desire to protect oneself from imagined threat.

With fervour comes passion; with youth comes hubris: there are no sections of our society so febrile and hubristic than the actors of our culture wars. The problem is that such emotions are contagious; we risk the drag of their self-aggrandisement and the seductive belief that our society is on its brink.

In reality, we work. In reality, we raise our families. In reality, nothing much changes for the greater part from one year to the next, as we continue the drudge and the hack and the grind. There is only real life, far below the decadent fury of the warfare of the privileged few.

I say privileged; most are anything but, in purely economic terms. We hold the image of the student SJW, barely able to afford both food and books; we envisage the laid-off blue collar Alt-righter, struggling to feed their family. Privilege here equals time, not financial ability.

Time to be angry; time to care; time to rage against the dying of the light. The rest of the species is driven so hard, so fast and so furiously that they do not have the privilege of the time to be so irate.

That is, at its core, the reversion from the mean of ordinary human existence. Average is the bulk of experience: the many, toiling to get through the day, unaware that ‘important’ things are happening, unwilling to contribute to a debate that does not affect their precarious equilibrium.

That is the story of humanity, from hunting/gathering, through toiling in the fields, to the oppressive sweat of the factory: there is only what is in front of your face: all other viewpoints are luxury.

The extremes get too much attention – those who shout loudest always do – but they should not be allowed to drag us out at the far edges of our distribution. We’re spread too thinly as it is.

A plague on both their houses; I’m off to cook dinner.