Two fancy words I picked up years ago reading Venkatesh Rao’s blog are “deontological” and “consequentialist”. The former is when “doing it right” is defined as “followed the rules and governing principles”, the latter when you paid attention to how actions are likely to play out in reality. We all speed occasionally on the freeway, breaking rules, but we know that the consequences tend to be minimal, for instance. Throughout life we are making choices and evaluating trade-offs of being in compliance with social and legal norms versus the cost of being a rebel or dissident. Many people I know consider themselves to be “good” people because they follow rules, and don’t spend much energy calculating what they can get away with.
I find myself in a strange dissenting place in life. I am actively resisting rules that only serve rulers, and are not righteous. During the Covid masking and lockdown period I did everything I could to resist the tyranny and not comply. I am having to evaluate (“consequences”) how many battles against corrupt power I can take on at once, and which ones are wise. What I am finding is that those who are acting wickedly are weak, and while they will bluster and threaten, they just want an easy life. After all, they would not be doing what they do if they had a spine and a conscience. They want to demoralise you and get you to compromise yourself — so they don’t feel bad about being limp themselves. You will be despised for taking a stand, even by people you thought were allies.
What I observe is that doing a bit of fighting energises you to do a lot of fighting. You gain momentum and self-respect from refusing to be complicit in malfeasance. Refusal to be embarrassed for standing apart becomes your ordinary life. Over time, a little bit of resistance sets up a lot of resistance. Meanwhile, those whose work takes them into the establishment world, even if notionally awake to the corruption, get re-absorbed into the ethos of power, often unconsciously. People who are in corporate jobs and put food on the table for dissidents are no better or worse as individuals, but that “just obeying orders” work environment has a real spiritual impact. We become whatever our habits are, and resisting turns you into a revolutionary, whereas complying makes you into a collaborator.
I am trying out a different video and microphone setup — still learning how to do audio-visual content. So much easier to turn the chaos in my head into text, but it lacks the personal touch.
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