There should be a word for the feeling of approval of ruthlessness, including one’s own vicarious ruthlessness, and approval of one’s approval of it, all in a package.
Things should have adequate names. For some conversations and some things, the names, to be adequate, must be the names of general sins.
If there is no such name, then the only substitutes are insults - which the sinner will definitely not hear - or explanations that make it sound like the person is practically wrong, going about things wrong, wrong about method.
With the names of sins, the important thing is that sinners may understand by them what’s being referred to.
(If some things that have been called sins should not have been called sins - or if sin has been talked about stupidly - does that abolish the whole area? Does wakening morality take things out of idiotic bracken and into friendly vacuum?)
There should also be a name, an adequate name, for the iron scorn for suggestion that there is or has been anything wrong with one, or that one has been doing anything wrong.
(It pairs so well with the feeling of approval of ruthlessness.)
And both of them pair so well with the feeling that one’s own ruthlessness is not the bad one, because one is on the right side, the really right side, with the bad finally at bay on the other. Why should one not…? (As if it had never been thought of before.)
It turns in the hand so easily.
(In this mubbledubbling of mine about sin, which is usually a religious notion, a mention of scripture is not out of place. I have always thought of 2nd Corinthians 11:14 as the great unexploded bomb of Biblical cautions. Everyone always does take the verse as a warning, with Satan himself shown taking on spotless, blameless angel wings to make the point - and everyone always knows who the deceivers aren’t, what side the deceivers aren’t or can’t be on, where the deceivers are not speaking. One oneself never trusts or listens to the deceivers, and one listens carefully to those one does trust about who they are, and the trusted have a great deal to say. So the deceivers to be watched for never wear the robes of righteousness. Not in one’s own eyes. And people continue to say, “And no marvel,” people continue to quote the warning. It makes to me a great history-spanning swirl of Biblical black comedy.)
This was sparked by reading some expressions of approval of quite literal ruthlessness and of scorn at anyone who differed about it. But insofar as I have succeeded in thinking about general sins, my thought doesn’t point at some things and not at others, it points everywhere. Any such thing must, or I’ve done it wrong. Sin . . . I said the word “sin”, took that laden frame, because the idea with sin is that sin is in everyone, sin is all of us. And it is a battlefield in each of our heads, and our own battlefield has to be our first concern. (You are not Christian or theist; well, neither am I. If you think that disposes of the area, that would have to mean it disposes of a great deal about us, and we show no signs of going anywhere. Even if we are in fact without gods we are still left with ourselves.)
We are not passing out of an era of judgmentalism; we have not given it up; our appetites for it are boundless, on all sides, and sides are a facilitating frame. But strangely the adequate names of sins are hard to find. Or maybe the names of the sins are adequate, but they no longer sing.
There is a peculiarly universal enthusiasm for cutting through the “bullshit” and going past it. To win. What gets in our way or contradicts us becomes red tape.
We could be headed into an era of judgmentalism, but a specially heedless one, and in this same passage we might be headed out of a time when we could talk about what’s wrong with people and with ourselves, and into a trackless, hopeless wasteland where there is only self-assertion and scorn. We could be sad about it, and would be, a sadness endlessly reinforced, but only proud obliviousness and eager indignation would be live in the language. In which case, if so many questions and so much - consciousness - is left behind as outmoded wreckage . . . we will not be less in hell if we are proudly unaware of our stoking of it, if our image of seeking heaven is feeding hell.
If the names of sins are needed, the names must be short. So must calls to virtue.
Don’t be ruthless. Be kind. Don’t be quick to call others liars. Listen. LISTEN.
Would you really like to be satisfied with yourself? There is horror in that.
You’ll genuinely look better - whether or not you see it - if you don’t take the idea of you making yourself look bad as intolerable unthinkability.
You may be, we may be, among the fallen. Be mindful of this. Being mindful of it may keep it incomplete, may sometimes make it a lie. Furiously rejecting it, on the other hand . . .
Last updated May 06, 2015