Sometimes I wonder if I’m accidentally a naive, innocent, psychopath with empathy. This sounds absurd, cringe even, but hear me out. As I walk through life, it feels like everything I touch catches fire. This isn’t my intention, but it seems to happen, and I feel like a monster. I do not see myself as unique, so I suspect others out there can relate to this but it’s difficult to talk about. Some of this is almost insane. It’s a matter of perspective. Allow me to explain.
People tend to conform to their cultural bubbles. The shape of these bubbles is built upon their conformity. The cultural values that circulate these spheres act as reference points for how one should behave. As a society, we seem to lack consensus on many values, but there still exists some local small-scale consensus. I seem to lack the feeling that drives such conformity. This seems to be the root of my problem. It isn’t that I don’t have a sense of ethics, but I do not bend to the idea that everyone disagrees with me. I fight to the end, to my detriment.
The fighting isn’t really the issue though. The real issue is that I enter spaces and disregard the rules and threaten the norms, peacefully even. This gets stranger as I interact in one-on-one contexts. In those contexts, people lose the frame of reference for their cultural bubbles that guide their thoughts and behaviors. My presence seems trustable enough. Ethics are one of my deepest concerns, after all. Yet, I can lure people away from their spaces of conformity, often without even realizing that it’s happening. I lack their reference points mostly, and these one-to-one interactions reveal people’s true openness to deviation. There is a great responsibility I have to protect people from my heretic openness.
Communities exist in a stable form due to the harmony of synchronized values and interests. Common goals unite people. My presence is disharmonic, but not aggressive or overtly threatening, at least usually. My well-meaning demeanor makes it all the more complicated. A great drive to pursue my own values pits me against many others. The most undeniable example would be that I’m “vegan”. Many have disdain for the vegans. My existence as a vegan threatens others simply because there is an implicit sense that I disagree with nonvegans strongly enough to change my life and thus others suspect I judge them harshly, regardless of whether that is expressed.
Recently, two separate groups have destabilized within a short span of time. This seems impossibly coincidental. In one of these groups, there was a social order to things. Certain behaviors and values were normalized. Some individuals conformed to these norms resentfully and silently. I cannot be silent though; I am disinhibited. My involvement escalated into a moral war with certain members. The conflict eventually ended in peace, but some of the norms were left in ruins. The individual who was conforming seemed to view my opposition to normalized behaviors as a window of opportunity to speak out. I broke the harmonic silence that protected the group’s normalized behaviors. This community was deregulated enough that those who still clung to the previous norms left, despite their long-standing presence in that social sphere. The tides shifted and a new social order began. A great guilt emerged in the back of my mind. To this day, I still think I was in the right, at least in terms of challenging the norms. But at the same time, I feel I’ve destroyed something beautiful in my wake.
I feel like I inspired people to burn bridges.
People tend to seek social harmony. This often leads people to turn away from conflicts that exist, pushing the conflicts into the shadows. These hidden conflicts emerged in the example I gave above. This group seemed to be at peace for years, and my involvement suddenly collapsed the harmony and revealed latent conflicts. People’s conformity, conflict avoidance, and desire for pleasant social interactions leads them to cover up conflicts, lie, and maintain the peace.
My rejection of their harmony partially occurred due to my lack of personal harmony within the group. I am not sacrificing harmony, I simply never had it. So much of my time is spent being direct and confrontational about my feelings or thoughts.
I am not a megalomaniac. My tendency to create these situations does not come from some special power I have over people, at least not any greater than others have over each other or me. Most people are strongly incentivized to not behave in these ways, and I may lack these incentives. It may even be that these kinds of dynamics inevitably apply to group outsiders. I’ve written about how exiling drug users and vegans can cause the development of antisocial behaviors and countercultures. Stigma functions like a pipeline for antisocial subcultures. When you have nothing to lose, like reputation, you are freer than ever to behave in ways that would harm your reputation because reputation no longer applies. Stigma is merely preventative because people will cling to their valuable reputation and avoid becoming a drug user or vegan.
I am a drifting “ethical” pyromaniac. My role in the universe is chaotic, even as well as I mean to be. It feels like destiny on some level. Perhaps this is what I was evolved for. This is what I am supposed to do to the cults of society. Maybe I just need to accept my fate. Maybe I should die a martyr to protect the world from my influence. Maybe my existence is actually good for the world. The cults of society are inarguably a great distance from any kind of utopia. Without me, maybe they’d stagnate and decay. With me, maybe they’d burn to the ground, to be born again anew, sometimes with good outcomes and sometimes in devastation and collapse.
I can never really know what is good. Neither can others. The truth is elusive and possibly unknowable entirely. Yet the conformity of others is highly valuable in creating the harmonies that guide “healthy” stable communities. My existence functions as a memetic mutation. An agent of destruction and chaos, paving the way for an adaptive radiation of our culture.
Is this mental illness?
Is it pathological?
Is it for the best, in the end?
A part of me worries that I’m ruining people’s lives. Even if those lives are structured around deception. The member of the devolved group that left is one of my close friends. He is even my closest friend among that group and yet he is out of the group while I remain. Luckily, people would likely not see me as having such influence. After all, it is their cultural norms and values that led them into conflict. They are the ones that subscribed to their moral frameworks and created their value systems. It is their fault too. My friend could have decided to conform to the new social order. His refusal was his “choice”. Or perhaps it is none of our faults. We could all be victims to naivety and the mindless machine of entropy that is the universe.
But what am I supposed to do??
Maybe I will never know.
And that’s okay.
I think this pertains to many of us out there. This is what the mysterious spirit of the world prescribes: social chaos and ultimately memetic evolution. Maybe this is the mechanism of the human way. This could be advancing us forward. At least I hope this justifies our existence.
Check out the book I just finished, The Psychonet. It explores many ideas from this blog and is designed to make you feel alive, emotional, and maybe terrified. It uses AI art and depicts a story about AI.
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