Today I found Valentin in a different mood. He was morose, although always friendly. He was happy to see me but couldn’t hide his low mood. It actually seemed that he was happy to infect me with his gloominess. Without any encouragement from my part he started poring out his mind on me. It was unprecedented in my life. He had no distance or respect for his own intimacy. He boycotted himself emotionally and tried to use me as an accomplice. It was mesmerizing to hear. He started by telling me he’s lonely and frustrated because no woman he ever met could adjust to his sensitivity. He’s generally led a secluded life because he can’t fit into society. Psychiatrists have deemed him slightly dangerous to himself and to others. They advised him, for his own benefit, that his self-destructive behavior be isolated as much as possible and neutralized. That’s why he works with horses, because of their therapeutic properties. He told me he was actually a natural musician and that would’ve been his career, were it not for his mental state. “Apparently music doesn’t soothe the beast as much as horses,” he joked sarcastically. He was practically forced to work and live there and he stopped giving concerts, because people upset him too much. Instead, he dedicates himself to compose songs in his free time. He played a song he’d just composed in his guitar and, honestly speaking, it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. I asked him whether he put lyrics on them sometimes and he bluntly answered me: “They all have lyrics, but people don’t understand them, so I sing them tacitly.” Obviously there is resentment on his part; society doesn’t understand him so he has an ambivalent approach towards his creations. On the one hand, they help him poor out his strong emotions, and on the other hand, he feels they are wasted on people who don’t appreciate him as a person. However, he said: “I still hope my songs will redeem me and will teach society to see things a little from my perspective, so we can have a real conversation.”
Now, I must clarify something about our era that differs from yours. Around the beginning of the second millennium a strong emphasis was put on diversity and tolerance as keys to society, but that paradigm quickly lost momentum and normality kicked in again. Society in the year two thousand was still getting rid of the scourge that had plagued them for millennia: negative discrimination. The problem is that they didn’t understand the concept of positive discrimination yet, so they fell into a dangerous tangent: relativism. Permissiveness was the order of the day, a kind of de facto nihilism: There’s no universal good and evil, but something is good for someone and evil for someone else. In this way, morality and ethics just fell into disuse. People became even more fanatically religious to try compensate; they leaned on their made up gods to try to find solace from the lack of moral certainty that reigned in society. It was, basically speaking, a new Dark Age. Old religions resurfaced and Protestantism overcame Catholicism because of its intransigence. Catholicism was too lenient to survive at such times. People didn’t take it seriously enough and it became as relevant as astrology to society. But Protestantism and the new religions took over and they moralized society. This lasted a couple of centuries, till people understood that discrimination wasn’t bad at all, but necessary. Positive discrimination was an artistic and philosophical movement that started in the middle of the twenty third century. It did away with all the obscurantism of religions till they were stripped off there esoterism and only reason and ethics remained. Then a universal ethical system was adopted. The world was already highly globalized so it caught on fast. Some people declined this new ethics or disagree partially, but it was there to stay and it was informed by the intellectuals of the whole world. A new enlightenment period was born and people were interested in knowing what philosophers had to say. Debates about existence and non existence, morality versus ethics, took more relevance than the old discussions about Islam versus Christianity or communism versus capitalism. Societies started focusing on things that mattered. Since then, there’s always been a universal morality, which may differ among different societies, and therefore the term: positive discrimination. We don’t say that being a meat eater and being a vegetarian are equal ethical choices nowadays, but we know that eating meat is ethically lower. We accept this hierarchy first, and only then we condone this action. Nothing is relative anymore, but everything has an ethical value. Homosexuality is obviously not genetically cured because it’s not an illness to get rid of; we allow for it in individuals thus born. But we know that homosexuality has a lower value to society than heterosexuality and this is simple mathematics: Yes, homosexuality contributes to the betterment of society by providing us with diversity, but were everyone to be born homosexual, procreation would be a great issue. This does not mean that homosexuals are underrated; on the contrary, they’re highly estimated in society. But homosexuality is considered a deviance or a wild card, something that may radically alter society, were it to become mainstream, and is therefore distinguished, that is, positively discriminated from heterosexuality. But again, it’s simple mathematics, because homosexuals are the minority, but were they to become the majority, which is allowed by our social system, then the paradigm would change and heterosexuality would become ethically lower, that is, dangerous to the status quo of society. This is by no means relativism, but it’s rather a pragmatic ethic. From the moment when ethics are informed by morality rather than by a made up god, everything becomes more logical. Morals evolve the same as ethics, but this does not mean everything is relative; it simply means we don’t know how we’ll evolve as human beings and, even if we knew, we can’t enforce morality on people. Maybe in the future we’ll be all androgynous or even asexual, but for now the paradigm is heterosexuality.
I asked if it was possible for him to deal with his sensitivity and to try and accommodate to society. I said to him that in spite of our psychological condition, we’re all free to change the attitudes that are detrimental to us, and he said:
-When someone holds you at gunpoint and asks you for money. Are you free to give it to him?
-You can still choose not to.- I said- You always have a choice.
-Yes, risking your life in this case. But it’s this real freedom?
-I believe freedom always implies a certain risk. You’re free to speak your mind but someone may not like what you say and kill you for it. You’re free to go out of your house but an accident may happen to you in the street. The exertion of freedom always implies a risk.
-Yes, that’s exactly my point. The risk, in the cases you’re describing, is minimal compared to the potential gains. That’s why they are free actions, because both possibilities are equally beneficial: You could shut up and live your life in peace or express your opinion and risk confrontations. You could stay comfortably home or go out to gain something outside. But if someone needs to choose between eating healthy food and poison, that’s a fallacious choice, because then the question stops being: What food do I prefer? and becomes simply: Do I want to live or not? And if we imply that most of us generally want to live, then there’s no choice at all, therefore no freedom. We’re compelled to do something, the same as animals are compelled to hunt their meal or hide from predators. Then there’s no freedom.
-But in that broad sense, we’re always compelled. We have hormones that compel us to like someone better than other people and taste buds that compel us to like some food more than other. That’s mere determinism. There’s no freedom at all then.
-But there is. The fact that we sometimes choose bad things for us proves it. The fact that people willingly consume substances that make the body weaker and more prone to illnesses and accidents, for instance, or the fact that people give up comfort to struggle in the name of some ideal. The only requirement for it to be freedom is the fact that the weakening of the body or the giving up of comfort might potentially pay off. Then it’s a free choice. This potentiality may be objectively true or not. Some people may believe that by narcotizing themselves all their troubles will go away, which is not an objective potentiality but a mere psychological one. Then we can also say that this person is not choosing freely, because they are deceiving themselves or making a mistake, the same as a person who eats a poisonous mushroom thinking that it’s an edible one. But if there is real potentiality of gain, then there is a choice. For instance, the slave that runs away is exerting their freedom, but the slave that stays is not. Here’s the apparent conundrum. Why? Because the slave has basically no option but to be a slave. They know they’d be beaten or killed if they try to escape, so escaping is not an option. There’s no freedom for them because the risk is too big. But the slave that runs away is accepting their odds. They know the odds of being caught and they accept them, and by doing this, they’re exerting their freedom. Do you understand?
I understood and I was blown away by Valentine’s sharp mind. His logic was sound, although not conducive to anything productive. I wanted to know what was the practical conclusion of his train of thoughts. The same as Marx theories had ended in communistic despotic regimes, or Nietzsche’s thoughts had provided the intellectual justification for fascism and hatred towards Jews, Valentine’s thoughts, though sound, were intrinsically dangerous. They were susceptible to misinterpretation or misuse and I wanted to see whether they were dangerous in his hands. I want to see how dangerous the knife is in this monkey’s hands, because there’s no doubt that’s what we all are: monkeys. But we monkeys from the future have learned to put down the knife.