Arguments V: Authoritarianism, Nature’s Trick, and What Makes Life Worth Living

The authoritarians would be pissed. They’re always pissed, but they’d be even more pissed to find out we found a new way to have fun. They hate it when we’re having fun because they don’t get to have much fun anymore. They followed rules we aren’t following and now they’re pissed because we think they were silly. So they banned pot and tried hard for centuries to ban sex, they failed there because no one can stop sex. But they still tried, and they still want to punish you for it. They really can’t intercede much, but they can try to make you have that baby that may or may not be the result. They pretend it’s about life, about respecting living things, but then they don’t really give two hoots about anyone’s quality of life. Poor people get stiffed and other unfortunate folks with disease or handicaps get very little. So really, the fact is authoritarians just hate your fun. They hate your ability to enjoy life. They can’t afford to have a cop follow you around day and night (as much as they’d like that), and Orwell’s Big Brother isn’t yet practical, and in our country the religious right are supposed to be separate from the state and so, . . . oh, wait Mr. Senator who voted against abortion rights, isn’t that a photo of an illicit bare bottom on your cell phone? Who is sending you their lovely bare bottom? Does your family know about her? How about that? And oh, no was your kid caught with a pound of marijuana crossing the Mexican boarder? Good thing you have connections.

What inspires this? What makes a Nixon? OR as they would have it in classic Star Trek, a “Herbert”. Their code for an authoritarian square. Someone who loves the rules, feels safest with the rules and regulations, and is terrified when others aren’t. You think cops, or Nixons, or the priest isn’t masturbating? They aren’t telling you. Then we find out that they were using the kids at their disposal. Of course they were, and I’ll tell you why. It’s because of biology. You see friends, Nixons, Herberts, and squares nature tricked us. We are not meant to live very long, not like tortoises or trees. Nature made us to be eminently replaceable. I know. It hurts. We are obsessed with our individuality but nature couldn’t care less. Our individualism dies quickly. We are like insects flitting at a floodlight. We think we’re so unique. But really we’re mostly just wired to replace ourselves. We are sexually primed as young teens, ready like bunnies to reproduce. Of course, we aren’t ready at all socially or culturally. What nature didn’t count on was us having these big brains that could actually account for ourselves. We’re supposed to have the brains of bunnies too, or at least monkeys. Nature never intended for us to build any of what we’ve built. Nature never anticipated our social inventions, never expected us to create so many rules. Nature didn’t anticipate self-awareness in general. It’s really incredible. Self-awareness after all is what allows us to create arts and history and learning. It’s what makes us collectors and curators and polluters. We are wired for social behavior there’s no doubt about that, we’re excellent at working together, even better than ants and bees really because they’re just clones, they don’t get to have individuality. But individuality, while it is great pleasure to fly our flags, also causes us so much grief. Individually we differentiate into creative and protective types. Lots of other types too. Some types do nothing but fear. Other types do nothing but complain. It’s better when individuals do things that are tangible. It’s healthier. Too many do nothing but consume and then become neurotic, their energies are untapped. If only they made music or wrote books but they don’t and their powers end up channeled into anxiety. Anxiety breeds more anxiety and soon they’re digging holes and collecting weapons. Now they are armed monkeys terrified of everything. Especially your lack of concern about the wild dangers they dream of. Nature didn’t know about this, didn’t expect us to poison rivers or fill the atmosphere with carbon. There aren’t any checks on our population save economic ones. We used to have the plague but our big brains conquered it. We used to have starvation, and that’ll be back soon, but right now, despite all our big brained warnings we keep growing our population.

We’re ready to have sex and reproduce early because, as I’ve just said, nature doesn’t expect us to live long. Most life is about replacement. It’s the species that matters, it’s the whole that nature intended to survive, not individuals. So we’ve been equipped with massive drive to reproduce. Perhaps there are drugs we could take that could ameliorate that. Instead we mostly have the opposite drugs. We are individuals. It’s a sort of beautiful thing that we can be individuals. It makes our big brained lives worthwhile. After all, many of us end up so frustrated and disappointed with life that we occasionally purposely end our lives. It’s not a difficult thing to understand, though it is very sad and so we pretend we can’t comprehend it. It must be a disease. We treat depression as a disease rather than treating our ability to adjust to horrible conditions as a disease. When the canary in the coal mine dies of the poisonous gasses (as they were once used as an early warning system of that mining hazard) do we think of it as a canary’s flaw?
And on it goes. We are sexy monkeys with too many anxieties. Some of these monkeys get pushy and decide that others need to be managed. And it’s as old as recorded history. The ancient Greeks were arguing about it (actually they already argued about everything we’re currently worried about—and it’s forgotten because we can’t be bothered to look at it). The question is what makes your life worth living? What makes your time well spent? What are you looking forward to? How do you spend your time? Is it pleasurable, whatever it is? Do you go to the beach? Do you send pictures of your bare bottom to a lucky recipient? Are you the lucky recipient of lovely bare bottom photos? Most of the time we probably only get photos of unwanted asses. Most of the time we’re only approached by the unwanted solicitation. It’s a pitfall of our easy lives. The authoritarian in us wants to make it all stop, but then, there are occasionally solicitations we want. Once at Provincetown in Cape Cod a man in a flamboyant wedding dress wolf-whistled at me. Later a woman asked me to assist her in getting an amorous fellow off her trail. I called him and told him his affection for her was misplaced and that she wasn’t interested in him. She spent an hour complaining about the poor guy who only had asked her if she wanted to go dancing, and since she lived next door he’d also offered her some home-cooked treats. Later in a kind of spell of introspection she said to me that she wondered how she would have felt if she’d actually found this fellow attractive–differently, very likely.

Nixon hated the Beatles. He considered John Lennon a true national menace. Along with the terror posed by Elvis swinging his hips in his effeminate manner (and it was seen as such at the time, despite the popularity of guys like Liberace!) it’s hard to not see all our objections in much the same light. Most of our fears are fashions just as harmlessly absurd as rampant tattooing or top hats. But our authoritarians will be concerned and will do their best to install the blandness of whatever era they feel most comfortable with.
Why do they want to do this? I’m convinced much of it, despite all our biology and all our epicurean sense, is about an endless desire to be children. I am convinced that authoritarians loved their position as children in their families, and miss those days of routine and irresponsibility. Someone else took care of everything, mother and father supplied the needs and they didn’t even know there were bills. Whatever household they were raised in is nostalgically perfect and righteous. As adults everything is a terror and the structure of childhood is irrelevant. there’s a kind of free-fall of free will! And this terrifies authoritarians. But for the rest of us this free-will is the thing we’ve been waiting for our whole lives! Our childhoods were holding patterns intended to shield us from the the difficulties of the real world, of course, but the real world is where all the fun is. After all, certain levels of risk is what it is we play with. Being an adult is when free-will can be realized. Of course there are various economic and responsibility limits to it, but it is still far better than the captivity of childhood—for most of us.

Personally, I’ll never sit and do a jigsaw puzzle. Nothing could be more utterly stifling. I will never sit and watch hours of ancient television shows because I grew up on them, few things could be more counteractive to my adulthood. It’s not a judgment it’s just nothing I want.

What makes life worth living? Experiences I’ve not had. And of course, repeating the most excellent adult experiences I’ve loved. Exploration is key and stimulates that most exciting of activities: learning. In short, being free from the restraints of authoritarianism is the reward of freeing ourselves from childhood. Plus, I still get a kick out of going to bed or not when I chose, and eating ice cream for dinner, and receiving an occasional photo of a beautiful behind.

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