Triggers, Morality, and Modern Culture
This is a piece on offense.
It’s about fear and sex.
It’s about the culture war.
It’s about identity, and marginalization, and victimization.
It’s paradox and power.
And mostly it’s about shame.
There is a article in my Medium Drafts, written by me just 4 years ago entitled “Nerds are Not the Entitled Ones”. I cringe reading it today and thank whatever power had it be that I did not publish it. It was written by an angry me, a scared me, a lost me, an ashamed me. When I read it I was struck by one thing: I was hungry for sex and deeply terrified that made me a bad person.
I was hungry for sex and deeply terrified that made me a bad person.
…So terrified that I wrote an entire piece explaining how I was not the villain.
That is essentially what culture wars are about: Deep down most people are trying to prove they are good people while secretly believing they are not. Caught in this conflict we seek external validation of our goodness, we disengage, or we find true power. The culture wars are waged by factions of the external validation strategy fighting to answer “What is morality?”
Let’s create some characters, Frank and Jess.
Frank looks to a simpler, less confusing yet ultimately myopic time when God was good, men were men, and John Hughes determined who got the girl. Most importantly the rules were clear.
Jess sees past the illusion of Frank’s paradise. She sees suffering. Suffering that is the by product of a system which has placed her in a unique position of having more power than most, yet little enough to have empathy for those at the edges. Terrified that to have power and not use for a noble goal is to be evil, she throws herself into helping those with less of a voice. She is on the frontlines of righting increasingly subtle forms of injustice. Good, yet in pursuit of saving the victimized she unconsciously becomes entrenched in the belief that she is better than them. No matter though, as her goodness comes from a morality based on sensitivity to those those very people. Her shame combating strategy and identity depends on them needing her. Thus even her sensitivity is an act of benefiting from the very system of oppression she campaigns against.
Frank, oft recipient of Jess’ telling offs, sits on the edge of disengagement, the line of Morality which Jess proclaims is right and unquestionable appears to move! And God help the fool who crosses it — no presumption of innocence here! Nothing but Judgements! Frank without hope of achieving external validation of his goodness by Jess’ Morality he retreats. After all he values risk, and this new morality offers zero margin for error.
An absence of any real engagement between Jess and Frank develops.
Frank joins the silent horde who have buried their shame so deep under layers of fantasy and consumption that they live quite comfortably.
Jess screams into an empty chamber.
Jess and Frank are not the only characters in this play. There are of course the marginalized. They are nexus of our intersecting plotlines, yet have no voice of their own. Living in the paradox of creating everything and having nothing; of being the most feared, while having the most to fear; of having to be the most discerning in their word choice, while receiving least discernment…. they are forever the scapegoat for the cowardly and the feckless.
With no illusion of grandeur and nothing but raw humility from a lifetime of degradation to fuel it: Art emerges.
It is real. It is raw to the bone. It is vulgar, It is God Herself.
Everyone wants to touch it.
Hungry for the visceral, the disengaged reach for it, like a racoon washing cotton candy in a puddle, and it is vanishes.
Power is never really ours.