One of the most fascinating things I have ever heard, was a story about a scientific study. The participants were all people who had suffered an odd form of brain damage: the left lobe and the right lobe had been disconnected. These people aren’t retarded or anything, but when they read something using their left brain, the right brain literally has no memory of it. So the scientists would give the left brain some instruction, such as “leave the room and wait outside please.” And then when the person went outside, they would ask the person, “why did you go outside?” and the person would invariably give some normal, sane-sounding answer such as “well, I was thirsty and I wanted to get a glass of water.” Or “I just wanted to stretch my legs a bit.” EVEN THOUGH THIS ANSWER WAS DEMONSTRABLY FALSE. THE PERSON BELIEVED IT WAS TRUE!!
The point, of course, is that normal people do shit every day for hidden reasons, or no reason at all. We do shit, and THEN we make up some kind of rationalization for it, and we persuade ourselves that the reason came before the action. And we honestly believe this delusion, and that is how we go about our daily lives.
Ok, has anybody else heard of this study? Can you email me and tell me where the official report of the study is? Because I sure as hell can’t remember where I read this, but I swear it is true.
Anyway, (and here I am moving from Shit I Read to New Shit I Am Just Making Up), I think that this randomness and self-delusion applies not only to our everyday actions, but to the labels we give ourselves too. Like, people say, Oh, I am a football fan. I am an indie rocker. Blablabla. I am a metalhead, so therefore I hate fans of Michael Bolton. I like michael bolton so therefore I hate goths. All this kind of high school bullshit. And yet even after people supposedly grow up, they still keep in cliques. I’m a Republican. I am a Muslim, so I hate jews. Blablabla. And of course people can come up with pages and pages of reasons and arguments of WHY their group is better than the other guy’s group.
But it’s all bullshit.
Basically you are a member of a group because they are a surrogate family; people you can talk to, people that accept you; people whom you have something in common with. And that “SOMETHING” is totally fucking arbitrary. Whether that “something” is stamp-collecting or scientology or marxism or cb radio or the Skull And Bones society, it DOESN’T MATTER. All the “somethings” have the same function, which is to give your lonely ass some friends in this big cold world.
You did not join the Punk group because they are the “only ones with balls to stand up to the fucking system, man”. You joined because they were the only ones who would HAVE YOU. You did not become a football fan because “The NFL is the most manly, exciting sport ever” ? you are a football fan because that is the first group that would HAVE YOU. You could just as easily have become a stamp collector or some guy who recreates civil war battles, or gets together with pals to fly motorized planes sculpted out of balsa fucking wood. Deal with it. The hobby itself is just an excuse, a rationalization. The primary motivation is the bone-deep instinct of humans to find COMMUNITY. And this distaste for the hobbies/political parties/religions of the Other Guys is one of the main ways that a community defines itself. All your arguments and reasons why your group rules are just like some brain-damaged guy saying “well, I left the room to get a glass of water.”
A great example of what I am talking about : DOCTOR DEATH. This is a documentary about a man who makes lethal injection machines for a living. (warning ? this synopsis contains spoilers). it is an amazing job and he is a fascinating, if kind of lonely and awkward, guy. But then midway through the documentary, he starts talking about how the holocaust never happened. And you’re like, did he just say that?? And it turns out he is a professional Denier. He was totally non?political. But then some neo-nazis approached him because of his experience with forensics. They paid him to go to some concentration camp and test for residue of Zyklon B. then he became a denier, and because of that, he lost his job working for the US prison system. So now he lives out of a suitcase and tours around the country speaking to fellow Deniers for a small fee. And here’s the thing that makes the documentary brilliant ? it doesn’t show the guy as a nazi dickhead. He isn’t motivated by a hatred of Jews. He was just a lonely guy, and the nazis were the only people reaching out to him. And of course, it became this vicious cycle where they cost him his other friends and his job, but this just drove him deeper into their arms. Maybe you can’t see the brain-damaged behavior in your own life but because DR. Death is such an extreme case, it is easy to see how community is a powerful allure, and how the need for community is the emotional motivator behind a lot of so-called “rational thought.” (end spoiler)
So what can we learn from this? Everybody, just lighten up. With your religious wars and your music bickering and your fashion bitching. You could just as easily have BEEN one of the Other Guys, because you are human and humans will jump in with the first damn group to offer them a home, because we are weak and lonely and the world is big and cold.
Also, happy new year.No comments