Sunday, February 2, 2014

For Good

“People do not lack strength; they lack will.” - Victor Hugo

As Hugo points out, one of the remarkable but mostly overlooked aspects of strength is that most people have plenty of it. Which is rather fucked up because you would think it would be the sort of thing most people might notice. The average person is spurting with strength. I’ll grant there are exceptions, but let’s set those few aside. The average person is one strong motherfucker. Follow someone around for a couple of days and you will see it takes a lot of effort to get through the average person’s day-to-day life.

Strength is defined, mostly, as a quality of physical or mental power. It can also be applied to attributes of a person’s character such as the ability to be firm or display courage. There’s the definition of strength that applies to influence or authority, as well.  More important than it’s definition, though, is that for most people it can be obtained.  

It might be easy. It might be hard.  Gaining strength is doable, with the caveat that everyone has particular aptitudes that influence how much and how fast they can get stronger.  You can study and become mentally strong. You can work out and get physically strong. You can learn charm and seduction to gain influence and authority over others. The boggle is, why don’t most people do it?

The missing component is will.  Will is the faculty that builds and implements strength, and it is through our will that we deliberately choose to obtain and apply our strengths.

This is where most people fall down.

In the course of daily life, we spend much of our time managing our strengths against our weaknesses and exerting our will in all manner of small and mundane ways. From getting out of bed in the morning, to not crushing the way-too-fucking perky girl at the coffee house at 6AM, to finding the strength to push on through the work day and get that last hour over so we can go home and start all over.

There is a more interesting aspect, though. What we don’t consider often, on a conscious level, is how strength and will of one person interacts with the strength and will of another. Everyone’s strengths are pressed against others through their will constantly. We really don’t think about it, we just do it. When we do think about it, it’s usually in some moral or ethical situation, where we have to do a double check to make certain we aren’t exerting our strengths to be rude, or asshole, or subvert someone else’s will for ill gain.

Most people do this, and for the most part do it automatically. If we think about how we’re exerting our will on others all the time we’d either never get anything done, or we would be constantly second guessing ourselves.

It is this line of thought that can lead us into the darker side of strength and will. We start to see manipulations in everything, malevolent seductions abound, everyone and everything has an ulterior motive, and everything we do is a game of power. Who is stronger and, more importantly, who has the will to see it through?

As we become conscious of the subconscious manipulations around us we become jaded and paranoid. We only see people acting a certain way to get something or to get them to do something. They may be passive aggressive, or charmers, or complainers, or bullies, or schemers, or gossipers, but they are doing what they do to manipulate. They are doing it without really thinking about it. Many of these people even believe their behavior is “for their own good and/or the good of others.”  A few even tip over the edge into the realm of sociopaths and mild to middling psychopaths, completely focused on getting what they want and sadistically unaware of the destruction they leave in their wake. All of which is a sad, but normal (or an abnormal but all to common), application of will and strength.

Getting trapped in this line of thinking is a downward spiral. A dark path that leads to depression, paranoia, and madness. It sucks. So, your average human being tends to ignore it, or at least minimize the conscious analyzing of wills pushing against each other beyond the most basic interactions. It is a mental condom that prevents other people’s wills from knocking up ours.

If we look close enough, though, we discover something else as well, something creeping under the surface of normal interactions. Something so skillfully hidden that if you didn’t know to look, you’d never suspect there was something more there. There are some people, some few, who are conscious of how their will interacts with others all the time. They also deliberately exert their will to make others do and believe as they want. To these people, most definitions of strength are nothing. Strength is either worse than worthless, or strengths are simply weakness to be exploited. To these few, will is the only thing that matters. In particular, their will dominating and controlling someone else's. For lack of a better term, we’ll call them evil.

We can point out the obvious evil people. Criminals, for example. Someone who intentionally steals, harms, rapes, or murders. We have laws for these kinds of evil that, to an extent, work. No, here we speak of the more insidious types of evil, those rare individuals who delight in the discomfort and pain of others. Yes, they are full blown sociopaths and psychopaths, most likely, but in this case, they like it. The choose it. Unless they cross the line into criminal behavior, they get away with it. What’s interesting about these people is that they can get away with committing evil by subtly exerting their will on others and no one really notices. It’s masked under a veneer of socially acceptable behavior. They often don’t even commit the evil acts themselves, instead preferring to influence, seduce and manipulate others into doing bad things that they would not normally do.  It’s actually quite fashionable.

This, however, is not a discourse on the evils of men. We’ll get to that at some point, I suspect. These types of people have been around throughout human history and is nothing terribly new.  What is new, perhaps, is lack of the opposite type of person.

Remember your high school science teacher telling you that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction? Yay, physics! In society, however, that is not entirely accurate. There should, by reason, be an opposite to these deliberately evil people. There must be people who apply their wills solely for the purpose of either selflessness, or in opposition to those who apply it for selfishness. I think there are still a goodly number of people out there who apply their strength and will for the former. The latter, however, are becoming nearly extinct.

To take the opposite of evil, a good person exerts their strength and will for the benefit of others. Anti-criminals, as it were, or as we sometimes call them, heroes. They still pop up from time to time and society hasn’t entirely lost its capacity to produce these types of people. We see them in our civic protectors, such as policemen, and also in members of the military, and even the occasional concerned citizen.

The other type of good person, however, is becoming exceedingly rare. A good person who seeks out the evil people and thwarts them through the application of will alone. We’ve nearly destroyed our capacity to have these types of people around. Is it possible we are losing our ability, as a society, to produce those individuals that actively and consciously oppose evil?

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a shining example of someone who stands up and opposes those that gleefully manipulate and hurt others by exerting their wills over others. Where is the person who goes about their day finding joy and contentment in fucking over those manipulators? That special someone who intentionally develops and hones their strengths to subtly influence people to do good instead of evil.   

These types of people, and the encouragement of them, just simple isn’t cool. It’s not fashionable to exert your will to thwart evil people and manipulate, seduce, and influence people into doing good.

Is it even possible for a person like that to exist anymore?

To find out, we’ll have to go very deep into that dark place called the human soul, get kind of dirty, and dig around for awhile, I suspect.