Would you be willing or even obligated to stop a behavior of enjoyment that is derived from the suffering of others?
First, I want you to vividly conceptualize sadistic behavior. Really try to find something that truly angers you and makes you feel sick and don’t settle for anything less. What is it? Is it animal abuse? Is it child slavery? Torture? Keep this visualization in mind as it will come into play later.
When we first think of sadism, what comes to mind is something like a person smiling in glee while gently paper-cutting someone’s eyes or slowly dripping boiling habanero infused vinegar onto the exposed body of another. The extraction of pleasure from pain is very overt in these cases but what about less transparent cases?
What if we used a human mouse wheel that requires painful amounts of effort and used it to power a toaster for the consumption of luxury extra-status pop tarts? Is this sadistic? The connection between pleasure and suffering becomes increasingly invisible but it is still there. The suffering is a necessary factor of the total product. We may convince ourselves that we only want the pop tart, that the mouse-wheel-powering mechanisms are an unfortunate but necessary side effect of one’s true desire. We abstract away from the dismal reality in order to generate a conceptual euphemism. Does merely expressing a lack of affinity for the suffering in this case absolve one from ethical responsibility?
Consider your phone or computer, you must be reading this somehow. Our technology utilizes mined materials that are gained through cruel means. What about animal products? What about cheese? In the process of dairy farming we typically artificially inseminate cows because pregnancy is needed to produce milk, it is the mammalian drink of the infant after all. The baby is usually taken and either becomes a new female dairy cow, is killed for efficiency, or used for veal. If someone enjoys having beastial sex with the cow, are the ethical implications significantly different? Is it more problematic than the act of gaining pleasurable cheese products through artificial insemination? What if it is actually more ethical to engage sexually with the cow than to farm dairy products from the creature?
The culture of America often neglects awareness of the processes that go into our products before becoming our consumerist fantasies. We talk about it here and there but largely we avoid speaking on this disturbing topic. We seem to feel guilt when we are aware but we also seem to develop strategies to dissociate from reality, to diminish our awareness as if dissociation is any less guilty of an action. In fact, it’s much worse than being naive, the knowingness of such crimes and yet an immense apathy. The culture in the U.S. is very much taking part in a collective dissociative bystander effect. We collectively distance ourselves and support each other’s willful pseudo-ignorance because we all know that we crave these desires and none of us wants to lose them. Those in the third world often take an unfair blow due to our pleasures and we all choose to disengage our awareness on this matter, further comforting ourselves through conformity by looking around and seeing everyone else disengaging too. Addiction and exploitation to reach our desires has become a normalized and socially acceptable part of life in the first world. Like some kind of opium den involved in organized crime to sustain their habits.
An overlooked utility of money is that it allows you to thin this perception of connectedness in the processes that result from our sadistic exploitation. By using money, it creates another layer of ambiguity to this whole process of gaining exploitative consumerist rewards. This kind of distancing seems to be a core problem with society after the invention of mass production. Even those working in corporations become increasingly valueless and disposable, disregarded by the collective.
One popular reward is the iPhone X, which has a lot of human rights violations, unfair labor, suicides, and deaths resulting from its production. In this sense, not only is your sadism harmful, but also deadly. Are you a murderer? Chocolate is another problem, involving slavery, child labor, and horrible living conditions for the children. Are you indirectly a slave holder? Consider whether you would oppose Nazism or American Slavery back in the day as a bystander, or oppose such things. It seems that these events occurred partly because of our bystander apathy in essence.
If I had some kind of sadism fetish, could I increase the ethics of my desires by adding layers of ambiguity to the situation? For example, say I want to experience the excitement of somebody bleeding. If I build a contraption that wields the knife for me, and it requires quarters to operate, then is this more ethical than if I directly applied the blade to the victim? What if I paid someone to enter the quarter for me? The answer seems clearly no. What if I enjoy putting the quarter into the knife contraption rather than the harm towards the victim? Is it more ethical to enjoy the quarter aspect than to enjoy the harm aspect? These two aspects are intertwined and in reality we enjoy the final outcome of the product enough to engage with the process.
When we desire the outcome of some process such as dairy, chocolate, or technology, we must realize that if we choose to engage these desires, we are seeking the entire process of events leading up to the product, unless we reject the product on these bases. We do want slaves to work for our chocolate because we want the outcome of the slave process: the chocolate. We may say “I like chocolate” but the reality is that this is not what we are getting. We are getting “chocolate made by slaves” and we are thoroughly enjoying it. We gain pleasure from chocolate made by slaves. It is sadistic. We are willing to let child slavery occur because chocolate matters more to us and it’s easy to be a passive bystander, especially when there is no one here to shame us. This seems to mean that we value our social reputation but not the lives or feelings of others.
And what will you do with this perspective? Will you attempt to rationalize it away? To justify it? Maybe you will spend sleepless nights haunted by the demons of your petty euphoria. Or become stressed, depressed, or even shamelessly unaffected. I dearly hope its the former two because it brings me such pleasure to spread this horrible meme, this seed of an idea that you will begin to see in every facet of your life, in every passing moment of sensational thrill, that you are vile, that you are a sadistic monster living among a culture of apathetic YOLOers who continuously dismiss the suffering they cause to others in an endless addiction, no better than a heroin addict who steals money from their dying cancer-ridden mother in order to get high.
Some of you won’t care. Some of you will be obligated to act.
So yes, I am a sadist because of the amusement I get from feeding you these ideas. But I feel no guilt here, because I am justified and my sadism is ethical, something that can’t be said for the majority of cases. Now, of course I am a monster in other places of my life, much like you, but to report this reality to you and enjoy the distress you will undergo is actually ethical. It means some of you may change for the better and reduce your unethical sadism, ultimately improving people’s wellbeing and reversing the unnecessary harms on others.
Return to the visualization that you created in the beginning of this article. How does the imagined compare to the actual reality of sadism that you already engage in?
Please justify yourselves in the comments below and if you are feeling a little mean today, share this article with some of your friends. Support the project here by becoming a patron.