Can human beings write across barriers of race, gender, nationality, religion? What about extreme morality and behavior? Surely there are limits…
No, I don’t think there are.
I saw the documentary “Iceman: Confessions of a Mafia Hitman” is back on Netflix. That’s the tale of Richard Kuklinski, an apparently soulless professional assassin/serial killer, one of the most dangerous human beings whose thoughts have ever been recorded on film.
I wouldn’t have wanted to be in that room with him, even in handcuffs. Another part of me is dying to. Sigh.
He spoke mostly in cold blood about all the people he killed for the Gambino crime family…but there is no moment when you cannot sense the predator just under the surface, the satisfaction in the kill, the pleasure in the fear shock and surprise in the faces of his victims at the moment they realized he was about to take their lives.
If you would be safe in the world, it is critical that you understand that human beings like this exist. Your best bet: they cannot be argued with. Reasoned with. Have no “better nature” to appeal to. Stay out of any arenas that could overlap with their interests. If by some horrific coincidence you end up between them and something they want…God help you.
But for me, the most interesting thing wasn’t the discussion of his kills (which seem primarily connected to what I’d call an ‘unshielded’ predatory nature combined with a value structure that allows toleration of no slightest sign of disrespect, and a fear of powerlessness that results in serious pleasure from dominating others. Suggesting a thin, thin ego shell over a belief that he, and all other human beings, are demonic beings pretending to be civil. But that’s another discussion)
What was most interesting to me were a few moments when he discussed the effect of his behaviors on his family, which had no slightest idea of his secret life. Especially the impact on his daughter.
Now…it would be easy to be cynical about this. To assume he was faking for the camera, or pretending to be human to continue a masquerade that has served him all his life. Simulating human emotions he doesn’t feel. That’s one perspective.
But I know something. I know how it feels to hold your newborn child. And that from discussions with hundreds of parents, something happens at that moment. Some door of perception opens in the heart, and you glimpse a larger, deeper reality…just for a moment. You understand something new about where you fit in the cosmos, and it is a profound understanding.
Profound enough to penetrate the pale heart of a man like Richard Kuklinski? Possibly. Possibly.
While the notion that it is just for show is tempting, the opposite could also be true: that it was profoundly honest, and a glimpse of something else, a road not taken. Paradise Lost.
The “Nature” side of the argument says that such people are just born bad. Genetics. PRE-genetics, a twisted soul perhaps.
The “Nurture” part says that during gestation or childhood something went terribly wrong.
Ultimately, I believe people start with a feeling, a sense of which is true, then twist their intellectual fact-gathering to support what they wanted to believe in the first place. Take your choice.
“Don’ trust people. Instead, RELY upon them to do what they believe to be in their own self-interest. It’s up to you to figure out what that is.”–Harley “Swiftdeer” Reagan
“Never appeal to a man’s better nature. He may not have one. Invoking his self-interest gives you more leverage.” Lazarus Long (Robert Heinlein)
And the way I would put that is that not everyone is “vertically integrated” in the sense that their survival is congruent with their emotional, mental, and spiritual maps of the world. Most world religions and philosophies attempt to do this. When you do, self-interest and community service are precisely the same thing.
A couple of things make this all work together.
- Remember the question of doing what you love/loving what you do? There is no intrinsic honor or value in a specific activity, save what we choose to bring to it. We do this by connecting with it until it is something we would do even if there were no external pressures. Do it for its aesthetic pleasure, or because it is connected to curiosity, a way of self-discovery or expression. People who believe that without “Faith in God” there would be no morality are simply telling you either how THEY motivate themselve not to murder old ladies, or that they consider the mass of humanity beneath them.
- The Koisan belief in “Num”: “One soul looking out through many eyes” is congruent with the notion that there is no altruism. That selfishness isn’t a problem. That the problem is a lack of expansiveness in your sense of Self. Most people can expand that to include their families. This is part of the process of developing empathy and “altruism.” Selfishness is no problem. A non-expansive definition of “Self” most certainly is.
- The “Core Transformation” technique reinforces this. If all human behaviors can be reduced to an attempt to connect with the Divine (or perhaps the sense of peace experienced in the womb) it doesn’t take much of a leap to see this “divine core” could be seen as the personal, the “Num” as the group.
- That “Vertical integration” of morality, passion, discipline, focus, and much else can be seen IF “Num” and the “Core” are seen as the same thing. As a construct, it is very, very tempting.
- If all animals move away from pain toward pleasure…if all human action is an attempt to find some transcendental peace…and if we are social creatures unable to survive alone…and if game theory suggests that SHORT TERM benefits can accrue from theft and dishonesty, but LONG TERM benefits come from treating others fairly and honestly, “as you would wish to be treated”…then aligning your personal desires (The Child) with your ultimate values (The “Ancient”) and be sure that every day’s behaviors (short term) are aligned with your long-term outcomes…that is about as good as life gets. We become as efficient and effective as humans can be.
If I start from the “equality” side of the spectrum, that we are all connected, all part of the same being, I can explain human variation very easily…and mistakes made from this position strike me as smaller and less damaging.
If I start from the “inequality” part, I see people who are ignorant of huge swaths of environmental factors. EVERY TIME. For instance: those who believe in racial inequality MUST downplay the effects of slavery. You simply cannot believe what black people say about that institution and its aftermath and also believe what the “Bell Curve” implies. Both cannot be true. It seems to me that mistakes made from the “inequality” position have been responsible for most of the human misery, war, slaughter, genocide, slavery, and social horror of our history.
Note: Superiority beliefs MASKING as “Equality” beliefs might be the worst. This is the “all animals are equal, some are more equal than others” thing. Communism definitely falls into this, and presents a special danger because the claim of supporting equality is seductive, perhaps more seductive than simply stating outright “we’re going to kill you because we want your shit”.
But that’s another subject.
If equality between genetic and ethnic groups is the safest place to start, then the same question has to be addressed between men and women. Start from equality? Start from inequality? Which one requires less distortion? I say from equality…with some critical differences.
Vive le difference.
And ultimately…how about between people? Are all human beings of the same basic stuff, and is the core difference what we experience along life’s path?
This is not a question that can be ultimately answered, but I do think it is useful to have a basic, broad sense of your personal beliefs. IF I start with basic equality, all of us being a part of the same “stuff” then we have a “vertical integration” between not just our personal being from survival to spirit, but from male to female, from the personal to the social. Possibly from the human to the cosmic.
All fitting together, even if we can’t quite grasp it intellectually. Can you see a sort of pulsing dynamic sphere of life and existence? Does it require a belief some broadly defined group is inferior to yours? You are following another path, and good luck to you. Hope you enjoy the company.
I see it clearly in the arena of writing, a three dimensional dynamic sphere of the whole process. Seeing it isn’t some magic pill for turning one into Shakespeare, by the way. One of the things that becomes clear is where I am on the path of conscious/unconscious integration, and I’m delighted to say that all I can see is the people better than me, further down that road. Most of that is that they really, really did invest more of themselves in being that thing. They SHOULD be better than me: its more important to them.
Same with martial arts, spiritual matters, finances. There are certainly cases where people just seem to be better popped out of the box…but most of what I see, by far, is that they just…invested more of themselves in a particular arena.
The implication of “expertise” is that “morality” is a part of this. Most of what we consider “morality” is just selfishness where the “self” is the body public. If the cells of your bodies were an “every man for himself” prokaryotic cluster, you’d be pretty screwed. Nope, they have to work together.
If all human behaviors are to bring us pleasure, and ending up in jail, dead in an ally or a tragedy to our families is not pleasure, and logic suggests that we cannot walk such a toxic path without serious risk of being caught…
Then it is reasonable to say “something went wrong.” By any standards, not just moral or legal. That the Richard Kuklinski’s of the world are not merely two-dimensional monsters, they are people unable to fulfill some basic need, unable to follow some internal map to joy without a detour into consuming darkness.
Something…went…wrong. Hey, maybe they’re genetic outliers. I can’t deny that possibility. But which of us have not had thoughts, urges, fantasies which, if followed, might have opened doors within us leading to private hells? Who has not become addicted to non-optimal behaviors? Not been alarmed by the growth of hungers that could destroy our bodies, relationships, careers? Not felt that we dodged a bullet by blindly following some social or religious dictate?
Never? You are perfectly disciplined in body, relationships, career, and finances? Really? May I have the registration number on your halo? It’s right behind the little wire thingie.
I know I’ve screwed up. Oh, yeah. Sometimes, you need faith to claw your way out of such a trap. I don’t have a fraction of the aggression of some of the human beings I know. But its there. Oh, yes. And if I hadn’t harnessed my fear and anger and pain to positive actions…if I hadn’t believed that I would have more long-term pleasure by following a set of principles not all THAT better than Dexter Morgan’s “Harry’s Rules”, I don’t know who or what I’d be.
Is there a Richard Kuklinski in all of us? If there isn’t, there is little harm in imagining there is. But if there is? It could be horrific to assume there is not.
Our most basic negative drives are about moving away from pain. Our more elevated, but quite possibly still universal drives is to connect to the divine. You can integrate this so that you have discipline in body and mind, motivation to hunt and gather, problem-solving to align drives and morality, and ultimately feel safe enough to love without limits.
And all of that…or any part of it…I find a better seed for a good life than assuming that “they” out “there” are the bad ones.
We’re just fine. Yeah. Tell me another one.