ryan night

Digital Nihilism – Radical Self-Expression

Some of the biggest challenges that humanity faces are the sociological divisions that evolved inside our DNA over time as a result of dealing with external threats, the cycles of trauma inflicted upon our species by creating instincts of tribalism, and patterns of in-group/out-group bias which no longer serve the human animal as they once did.

We see these cycles of abuse wherever we look, if we try to look for them at all. Abuses inflicted upon lower classes by upper classes. Abuses inflicted upon people of different colored skin, different genders, different cultures.

Perhaps one of the most interesting things about Hitler’s Germany is the generational psychosis theory; that the shame and humiliation delivered to the generation of Germans subjected to the Treaty of Versailles after World War 1 created a generation of bullying, physically and emotionally abusive parents whose children developed internal problems with anger and emotional regulation, which allowed a man like Hitler to capture their collective spirit and eventually manifested brutally, in the extermination of the Jews. Under this generational psychosis theory you could argue that the brutal terms of the Treaty of Versailles were as much to blame for the holocaust as Hitler himself in much the same way as the person who spilled the gasoline is as much to blame as the person whose cigarette lit it on fire in an industrial accident. You could trace the acts that led up to the Treaty of Versailles – all furthering degrees of separation away from the final atrocity, but all existing along a same path. A series of cycles of revenge and revenge and revenge and revenge, whether consciously or unconsciously manifesting, both at the individual and the societal level.

It is the same thing you can philosophize will happen with the eye for an eye philosophy in a vacuum. A child grows frustrated and pushes another child. The other child, not content to ‘lose’ a confrontation, pushes back. The first child returns with a weapon. The second with a bigger weapon. And so on and so forth until either child is death or the cycle is broken by external intervention.

Indeed, we can use mass psychosis theory as a lens to view many of our societal ills. The disconnect between men and women in modern society can be traced back to the problems of the previous generation – high rates of divorce, high rates of paternal abandonment; and those things can be traced to the problems of previous generations, coerced and abusive marriages. Sure, there are ancillary developments; certainly reproductive technologies (birth control, for example) contributed to the high rates of divorce in the baby boomer generation, but would demand for such a liberating technology have existed were it not for the coercive marriage structure?

We have to be able to begin to identify these cycles of trauma, whether they are the rage of a humiliating military defeat that echoes down throughout generations and manifests as child beating, or sexual slavery that manifests generations later in broken homes and children’s inability to relate productively and lovingly to the opposite sex of their own species. This species has a long history of committing atrocity against itself. Slavery, not just the colonialist slavery we’re all familiar with because of its recency throughout history, but slavery since the beginning of time, and coerced labor and human trafficking that’s occurring even now. War and subjugation. Ignorance of personality differences that forces square pegs into round holes. It goes on and on so widely and so deeply I struggle to even write a truncated list.

What we must do, just like with the children, is find a way to end these things, which are perpetuated because of ongoing cycles of trauma and power domination that date back to savage man in savage times, and have only been emboldened in their destructive ability by improvements in technology, allowed to go unchecked for millennia and spiral out of control.

We can identify that mass psychosis exists and is culturally observable as simply as we view the way that we identify mental disorders in modern times, which is not through any concrete, objective means, but by measuring standard deviation from the norms of a national population defined by regional borders. What it considered OCD in America may not, for example, be clinically diagnosable as OCD in a country with high occurrence of orderliness as a character trait such as in Japan or Germany. This is important to note because in the case of mass psychosis, those psychoses become the normal against which “disorder” is judged, and the arbiters of the psychiatric infrastructure are as much a part of the society the mass psychosis is permeating as anyone else.

So how do we truly discern what is unhealthy and what is stemming from cycles of trauma and abuse? First, we have to identify what’s holding us back from being able to do that, and the main thing is that people tend to keep their experiences of abuse and trauma secret so as to avoid showing weakness and vulnerability that may be exploited to inflect even more abuse. If the fear and distrust of other humans is preventing people from being honest about their abuse and trauma, we must decrease society’s judgment of what is materially and functionally inconsequential. That what is ‘strange’ or ‘different’ is not necessarily damaging or evil. That victims are not to blame for their abuse. That abusers are more often than not victims. That by the time the victim becomes aware of their abuse, they most likely have already committed abuse and perpetuated the cycle.

We must increase our capacity for understanding. We must break these cycles, once and for all, because we perpetuate them at the cost of our own lives; these cycles obfuscate our true purposes.

We can look at what happened with the experiments of Alfred Kinsey in the late 1940s and early 1950s for guidance about how to affect society’s capacity for judgment as, at that time, a similar secrecy was going on. Sexual deviancy was rampant, but totally taboo and never spoken of, as a remnant of Christian sexual repression, puritanism and the cultural spillover from Victorian England. Despite appearances, affairs, kinks, homosexuality, cross-dressing, myriad differences in sexual attraction modalities, everything that seems so out in the open today was, if discovered, something that could permanently destroy a person’s reputation and livelihood.

When Kinsey released his research on male sexuality in 1948 and then female sexuality in 1952, at first there was outrage and shock. Accusations that Kinsey was a liar. But, as it turned out, those accusations were manifestation of fear; the people who were the most outraged were people who were participating in this deviancy and who were terrified of the social consequences of their behavior being revealed. Slowly, over time, people came to accept the truth – that the human animal engages in a diverse array of sexual practices based in instinct, pleasure, ritual, power, and all sorts of thing that excite the human ape’s lust mentally, emotionally, ritually and physically. And most of it was self-selective and, though bizarre, harmless. Over time, judgment on a societal level dissipated and acceptance increased.

This is something we must lean into, and soon, because our interconnectedness through technology and social media is increasing. As technological literacy increases and the international surveillance state increases, our expectation for privacy will be further and further reduced while simultaneously our capacity for pile-ons, mob justice and the digital equivalent of barbaric stonings will increase. Our capacity for understanding must increase to match it.

This is where radical self-expression comes into play. We must not be afraid to be our true selves. We must get beyond the puritanical social constructs that prevented Kinsey’s patients from being open about who they were and what excites them. Just as secrecy is unhelpful in our intimate relationships, but also challenging to face, we as a society must address the secrecy in our higher level relationships, even if it’s only step by step. One degree less secrecy in our most intimate relationships, one degree less in our friendships, our casual acquaintanceships and so on so forth until we’re all able to be our true selves without shame of judgment so long as we’re not hurting each other.

Our traumas are so secret that it’s scandalous for them to be revealed. The sexual coercion and rape happening to women throughout society which most of society denies but all women are aware of and I have seen evidence of firsthand. The child abuse – both physical and sexual – that has been so sickeningly pervasive throughout the modern world and still exists today, and its perpetrators, also likely victims of abuse that exist in the cycles of trauma. The gay men and women forced to live pretend lives that went painfully against their true nature; the introverts we force into extroversion; the feminine men we force to ‘toughen up’ and the tomboys we force to ‘soften’.

We must recognize the enemy and it is the cycles. We must recognize that while the actor who inflicts the trauma certainly bears the most immediate responsibility, it is the cycle itself that must be destroyed. Just as in the case of the Holocaust, responsibility laid at Hitler’s feet, we can’t stop there; we must look to the cycle, and what led to that point on it, and what comes of that point, and address the cycle itself.

The destroyer of those cycles is radical self-expression. It is the mass cultural adoption of the value that being your true self, as defined through advanced introspective understanding, is good, until expressing your true self is no longer radical, but conformity in that praising our own harmless uniqueness, or sameness, frees us from the fear of societal judgment and thus frees us to, with trust and love, reveal and begin to heal the traumas millennia of human savagery have thrust upon us.

This is paramount to digital nihilism, as the ability to self-actualize one’s true self is a significant step in the path to identifying and pursuing meaning throughout life. Anything that impedes that journey, as these cycles of trauma do, or beyond that impedes anyone’s ability to be their true self and manifest their natural personality, gifts, aptitudes or otherwise fulfill their ‘function’ or purpose is contributing to the suffering of that person. Radical self-expression must be partnered with intelligent, informed introspection and thus educating psychology, philosophy, spirituality and providing associated diagnostic tools and resources is important. The self, after all, cannot be radically expressed if it is not truly known.

Finally, radical self-expression also requires education in the means of expression – both in terms of interpersonal communication and through artistic expression: art, dance, song, fashion, writing, and so forth.

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