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 seemed as if he was glad to infect me with his gloominess. Without any encouragement on 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 thus 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 in the premises of the riding hall, and he stopped giving concerts because people upset him too much. Instead, he dedicates himself to composing songs in his free time. He played a song he’d just composed on 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 people to see things a little from my perspective, so we can have a real connection.”
Now, I must clarify something about our era that differs from yours. Around the beginning of your millennium, a strong emphasis was put on diversity and tolerance as keys to society, but that paradigm quickly lost momentum and normality kicked in anew. Society in your era is still getting rid of the scourge that has plagued you for millennia: negative discrimination. The problem is that you haven’t grasped the concept of positive discrimination yet, so you’ve gone off the tangent into relativism. Permissiveness is 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 have just fallen into disuse in your time. People have become even more fanatically religious to try to compensate; they’ve leaned on their made-up gods to try to find solace from the lack of moral certainty that reigns in your society. You are, basically speaking, in a new Dark Age. Old religions will resurface and Protestantism will overcome Catholicism because of its intransigence. Catholicism is too lenient to survive at such times. People don’t take it seriously enough, and it will become as relevant as astrology to society. But Protestantism and the new religions will take over and they will moralize society. This will last almost a century, till people will understand that discrimination wasn’t bad at all, but simply necessary.
Positive discrimination was an artistic and philosophical movement that started in the middle of the twenty-second century. It did away with all the obscurantism of religions till they were stripped of their esoterism and only their 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 disagreed partially, but it was there to stay, and it was informed by intellectuals of the whole world. A new enlightenment period was born and people were again 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 individuals, and therefore the term: positive discrimination.
We don’t say that being a meat eater and being a vegetarian are equal ethical choices nowadays; we know that eating meat is ethically lower. We accept this hierarchy first, and only then do we condone this action. Nothing is relative anymore, but everything has an ethical value. Homosexuality is 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: 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, which might radically alter society, were it to become mainstream. Therefore, it’s 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 Valentin if it was possible for him to deal with his sensitivity and try and accommodate society. I said to him that despite 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 is 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 at home or go out to gain something from the outside world. But if someone needs to choose between eating healthy food and poison, that’s a fallacious choice, because then the question stops being: What do I prefer to ingest? 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 actual choice and, 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 others. That’s mere determinism. There’s no freedom at all then.”
“But there is. The fact that we can choose bad things for ourselves proves it. The fact that they willingly consumed substances that make the body weaker and more prone to illnesses and accidents, for instance, or the fact that they used to give up comfort to struggle in the name of some ideal. You could argue determinism in the fact that these people believed that they were winning something in return. It’s true that people got instant gratification from narcotizing themselves, and that they gained emotional strength from sticking to their principles, but they were still choosing freely. They were aware of the danger they incurred; they weren’t deceiving themselves, as a person who eats a poisonous mushroom thinking that it’s an edible one. By making a bad choice for them, they were exerting ultimate freedom. And here is the conundrum of choice: There is determinism in the slaves that choose not to escape, but there isn’t in the slaves that run away. The first slaves basically have no option but to be slaves. They know they’ll be beaten or killed if they try to escape, so there is no real freedom of choice for them since the risk is too high: They’re determined to be enslaved. But the slaves that run away embrace their odds, regaining their freedom not from the moment they successfully escape, but from the moment they decide to do it. That’s how freedom is born from determinism: When you decide to lose it all to gain something beyond your current reach. Do you understand?”
I understood perfectly, and I was blown away by Valentine’s sharp mind. His logic was sound, although not conducive to anything positive. There was no practical conclusion to his train of thoughts, beautiful as it might have been. The same as Marx’s theories ended up being abused by communistic despotic regimes, or Nietzsche’s esoteric thoughts led to moral relativism, Valentine’s thoughts, though sound, were intrinsically dangerous because of their turbidity. Such inconclusive thoughts may lead to positive or negative outcomes, depending on their interpretation, and that’s a crime in today’s society: Philosophers are responsible for their thoughts, the same as architects are responsible for the building they design. In the past, many philosophical texts were susceptible to misinterpretation, which made them as dangerous as a knife in a monkey’s hands. Because there’s no doubt that’s all we still are: monkeys. But we, monkeys from the future, have learned to put down the knife. Today’s philosophers don’t leave open endings when it comes to thinking. They don’t try to be thought-provoking, but they try to be thought-clarifying. They don’t fall into the trap of intellectual vanity, leaving unresolved conundrums, but they try to add to society, practicing Lao Tzu’s teachings: To lead someone, walk behind them, not ahead of them.