Hard Truths Part II: Don’t Fear the Reaper

In the comments of the last “Hard Truths” post, several commenters alluded to the “death instinct” Freud says we have.  Several others mentioned the utter ineffectiveness of facts and reason.  Combine the two, and you get Hard Truth #2:

Consciousness is often more of a burden than we can bear.

In Gene Wolfe’s great series The Book of the New Sun*, there are throwaway characters called “zooanthrops.”  It’s set millions of years in the future, the sun (already a red giant) is about to go out, and so some people have decided to lay the burden of consciousness down — they get lobotomized and dumped in the woods, to live what’s left of their lives as feral animals, because hey, why not?  The literal end of the world is not far off; why deal with the stress?

We’re not quite to that point yet, but I’m sure y’all see where this is going.  Radical politics is an ideological lobotomy.  Drug addiction is something closer to a literal one, and it’s no accident that the drug of choice for the White underclass is painkillers.  Social media is something close to a social lobotomy; the Internet in general, an informational one — with access to everyone, everywhere, and every fact ever unearthed in all of human history available to us on a handheld device, we use that awesome power to construct our own little delusion-bubbles, and every new advance helps us shrink them smaller and smaller.

In the case of radical politics, at least, the urge to be lobotomized is obvious.  This isn’t a cheap joke — it’s right there, big as a mountain, and if we don’t see it, that’s because it’s so big, so ubiquitous, that we don’t notice it, like air.  We laugh at “victim bingo” because we think Leftists are engaging in conscious status-jockeying — “my level 3 sexual assault survivor beats your level 5 heterosexual Blackness!”  That is, we want to think they’re doing this, because the truth, though obvious, is horrifying — what they’re really doing is setting up a flowchart, so that they don’t have to think.  Evaluating grievances is stressful; micro-calibrating identities the way they do could entail making hundreds of judgment calls each day.  They want a clean, clear decision tree that covers every possible situation, so that they can get through their dreary, pointless days in blissful unconsciousness.**

That’s why unreason always wins.  It’s also why your higher IQ types tend to be — counterintuitively — Leftists.  Smarter people see farther, grasp logical entailments better, process information quicker.  But all that means is: Smarter people get to an uncomfortable mental place quicker, and more often, than dull people do.  No wonder they — we — retreat so readily to fantasy.  No wonder our fantasies are so elaborate and murderous — if you can lose yourself in the arcana of Dialectical Materialism, you can forget Materialism’s bottom line, which is that all our works and days do nothing but temporarily alleviate some of the physical misery of dumb, grunting, naked apes.




*the origin of my stupid nom de blog, btw.
**nerd confidential: Julian Jaynes, a research psychologist, hypothesized that humans only attained full consciousness in historical times — the Greeks of the Iliad, he says, were in effect automatons, following the orders of their gods, which they literally saw and heard.  The science of this is way above my pay grade, but such evidence of his that I’m capable of commenting on seems…. suggestive, to say the least.  For instance, the law of the excluded middle doesn’t seem to apply to schizophrenics.  Put two guys who think they’re Napoleon in the same psych ward and somehow, some way, they arrive at complete agreement — they’re both Napoleon.  Your really hardcore Leftists seem to have gotten at least halfway back there — how else to explain how the hivemind just knows what orthodoxy is today?  How else to explain the fact that the same people, having just screamed and  yelled and thrown rocks and ruined lives for A yesterday, are out there screaming and yelling and ruining lives for not-A today?
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5 thoughts on “Hard Truths Part II: Don’t Fear the Reaper

  1. Frip

    Severian, could you provide an Amazon link to the edition or multi-volume book you’d recommend for The Book of the New Sun? I’ve never heard of it, and scrolling the various editions of it is a bit confusing. Thanks

    1. Severian Post author

      As they were four short novels originally (plus a coda he added later), I’m sure there are a zillion omnibus editions; I have no idea which is which. The original four novels are:

      The Shadow of the Torturer.
      The Claw of the Conciliator
      The Sword of the Lictor
      The Citadel of the Autarch.

      Lot of the stuff in there is over my head — I don’t really read sci-fi, let alone literary sci fi — but the world is so cool that it’s fun just to browse.

  2. Frip

    Thanks for the heads up. I skimmed a few pages. That kind of thing isn’t easy for me. I’ll stick with The Wind in the Willows.

  3. The Eleventh Commenter

    “It’s also why your higher IQ types tend to be — counterintuitively — Leftists.”

    Do you have documentation for this statement…Could you supply a footnote? In my experience, Leftists (and by “Leftists” I surmise you mean “academic Leftists”) tend to ferment in the fields of rhetorical knowledge, i.e. they could be called “The Sophists”. Lawyers, blank-studies majors, etc.

    1. Severian Post author

      Obviously you haven’t been on campus in a while!! These days, even the hard sciences are fully converged. A professor of English can be a moron, lord knows, but you can’t have a <140 IQ and get a PhD in physics. And yet, they're all Leftists, too -- the women who got that guy at CERN fired weren't in human resources; they were the few female physicists and their "male feminist" allies, also theoretical physicists.

      (I know, anecdotes aren't data, but I toiled in the groves of academe for a long time. I have LOTS of anecdotes).

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