Saintly Essays & Discussions

A Modest Proposal: Reflections on Charlie Hebdo & Man's Violent Nature

[I have a natural aversion to posting my thoughts too soon after a tragedy.  Before you go getting the wrong idea about me, this has little to do with being too upset to write and more to do with a deep-seated commitment to never expressing anything which may be interpreted as the least bit emotional and unexamined.  There is too much of that sort of emotive knee-jerk commentary on the internet, and I have to believe that more often than not, those who post to the web in a fugue state will look back in a few days with horror, wishing that they had given themselves more time to formulate a response.  Granted, the internet is not really conducive to this kind of reflection; by the time one has had a chance to adequately think through the issues in the light of cool rational reflection, the cyber-herds will have moved on to the next amusement, the next atrocity.  And so, even though it has been over three weeks since the tragic attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, and the internet has largely moved-on in anxious anticipation of the next tragedy, I feel compelled to write—both as a tribute to the fallen (a tribute which I hope and pray they would appreciate)], but far more importantly, as a means of contributing a unique perspective to the conversation.  For in thinking about this massacre, I believe that I may have stumbled upon a means by which we, as the enlightened citizens of the western world, might stand united against terrorists of every stripe and creed.  A means by which we might stand upon our greatest principles and prevent such massacres from ever again occurring.

What I am suggesting is a change in policy as concerns the so-called global war on terror; a policy change so profound, in fact, that its benefits will far outstrip preventing ideologically motivated massacres.  This policy will go so far as to cause a global plummet not just in terrorism but in virtually all forms of violent crime.  My proposed solution is quite simple, so simple that I am shocked it has yet to be suggested.  I suppose sometimes it is the simplest solutions that escape our attention, precisely because they are so simple.  As with almost any question of policy—when stripped of all tangential (though by no means unimportant) questions of ethics, societal expectations, and legal norms—any proposal comes down to a question of trade-offs.  That is, a pragmatic balancing as to how well the proposal will accomplish the specific policy aim—in this case preventing massacres—versus the costs to society, both monetary and otherwise.  I imagine we can all agree that providing for the security of its citizens is one of the most basic functions of society and that there is perhaps no more basic duty security demands—with perhaps the exception of repelling invasions by actual nation-states—than that of preventing senseless massacres perpetuated by terrorists—whether they be of the home-grown or the international variety.  If a society cannot assure the safety of five-year-old children as they go about the important tasks of learning the alphabet and finger painting, or of homemakers as they go about the day’s errands, or of businesspersons rushing from one vital meeting to the next, or of satirists and illustrators as they expose the festering rotten flesh underlying western culture, how can society be expected to carry out any of its other roles and functions?  From a position of pragmatic policy analysis then, there is almost no humane cost that is too high to guarantee this most basic right—freedom from massacre, if you will—to society’s citizens.  And herein, my friends, lies the issue: I submit that however stringent the weapons-control laws and no matter how large the state security apparatus, the lone gunman or group of desperadoes hell bent on the senseless annihilation of as many innocent lives as possible will always be among us and will always manage to kill far too many of our fellow citizens.  This state of affairs is simply unacceptable. 

So for all of our technological prowess and intelligence sophistication, these violent murders cannot be stopped employing our current security paradigm.  No, my friends, the modern state security apparatus with its protocols and no-fly lists and spies and wire taps and racial profiling and invasive data mining and GPS tracking satellites and extra-judicial predator drone assassinations simply does not address the root of the problem…the problem of the violent nature that lies within the heart of all men.  And mind you, when I speak of men here, I am not speaking in the politically incorrect parlance of the 19th century; no, I mean none other than the violence which lies within the hearts of the males—those Y-chromosome’d ruffians—of our species.  Notice the correlation: these violent attacks are carried out, almost to-a-man by…well...MEN [granted, there does seem to be a surprisingly large contingent of female suicide bombers out there these days, but I think that we can safely assume that they carry out these attacks on the orders of some wicked and depraved males—these women would obviously choose some other form of conflict resolution if they made up the organizational leadership].  It seems to me (and it is at this point that I should probably make clear that this author is himself a member of this ignoble sex) that the problem is nothing other than men themselves—that the male of the species is simply too violent and too dangerous to be allowed to continue to exist within the confines of normal society.  The answer is right in front of us: the surest, simplest, and most humane method to quell the surge of terrorist attacks and tragedies is to banish men from society.  

I imagine at this point you, my reader, are preparing to cry foul.  “Surely”, you say to yourself, “this man must be joking; this cannot possibly be a serious proposal!  What does he expect us to do, go out and round up all the men and kill them?  At the very least (all questions of humane treatment aside) this would surely mean the end of human civilization as we know it; for, how might we expect the human race to perpetuate itself without the male of the species?”  My dear friends, nothing could be further from my mind than the horrid suggestion that all men should be rounded up and killed!  The answer is much simpler, in keeping with the values of enlightened civilization, and far less gruesome.  I sense that you are still not convinced, so I urge you to consider the following: is there anything, any role, which men perform in society that women simply couldn't live without or perform for themselves?  The obvious answer is reproduction, but with this (albeit important) caveat lain aside, I proffer that there is no job currently performed by men that women could not do just as well, if not better.  Ours is not the age of Victorian prejudices and outdated gender-role scruples.  There was a time when serious minded men (and some women) vociferously argued that a woman’s place was in the home and that all productive (non-Reproductive) roles in society—be it lawyering, doctoring, soldiering, or manufacturing—must be carried out by the male of the species, leaving the so-called 'gentler sex' to the running of the home lest anarchy ensue.  Our experience has burst asunder these pompous prognostications; in our age women excel in all endeavors both foreign and domestic and the sky absolutely refuses to fall.  Not only is the modern woman capable of performing any professional task the modern world has to offer, but she by-and-large remains the primary manager on the home front as well.  With our bread largely earned by women and our homes largely tended by women, what else is there left for men to do but get in the way?  If the only issue were of men indolently loafing around their homes—watching sports, playing video games, and passing wind—we could perhaps defend the status quo, but the unnecessary man is prone to violent outbursts.  For in his winter of discontent, what choice does he have but to assuage his impotence with acts of violent mayhem—whether he kills according to the auspices of a despairing nihilism or under the guidance of some ideology which proposes to show him the hidden source of his ennui if only he will kill in its name?  The answer, for a sizable minority at any rate, is that the only agency left them is to kill.  Quite the opposite of a productive member of society—the human male is in fact primed to become a destructive member.   

So as you can clearly see, from a day-to-day point of view, any society might function quite well without its male members.  “But surely,” you ask, “without men to perpetuate the species, before long society will shrivel away and die.”  Now please rest assured that this author is by no means suggesting the killing of any now existent male person.  The immediate suggestion is merely to separate males from the female population so that they can cause no further killings of the productive members of society.  Males have forfeited their right to societies’ concern by their innate aggressiveness, so the female society need not trouble themselves with whatever harms the segregated males cause to one another—one can be reasonably assured that no matter how many of them fall victim to the bloodlust of their fellows, surely there will be some who survive the inevitable self-imposed culling.  I will leave the details of this segregation to minds more nimble and unbiased than mine (namely, to females), but the important point is that they be segregated from the female population and concentrated in an area where they may be monitored and controlled.

“But surely,” you retort, “surely even though the males are still alive, procreation will prove difficult under such a scheme.  What good is it to protect the lives of our daughters if they are doomed never to have their own daughters in time?” And surely, I respond, as long as men remain in even modest numbers, procreative materials will not be in any short supply.  Perhaps those males who have shown some special aptitude, or those who are especially good looking or fertile, should be kept separate from the rest in order that their genetic materials may be preserved, or in case there remained some women who (for reasons I find hard to fathom) desired congress with men.  This would ensure the perpetuation of the species and likely alleviate some of the ill-feelings that the more unenlightened males (namely, most of them) are likely to feel regarding their new situation, especially if they could be made to feel that any one of them might have the opportunity to be used for stud purposes.  Furthermore, compulsory sperm banks could also be established wherein vast repositories of semen could be stored virtually indefinitely as a population bulwark against the coming plummet of the male demographic.    While, undoubtedly, men will not be pleased with such a situation, it is unlikely given the general habits of men—especially when deprived of female company—that there will be any lack of contributory material to such a scheme.

Our genetic structure is currently so formulated that a more or less equal proportion of men and women are conceived.  This is obviously a situation that should not long be allowed to continue, as it would soon become unduly cost prohibitive to feed and house a population of useless and unproductive males.  Studies would need to be conducted to determine the ideal number of males that should be maintained in order to ensure genetic diversity.  Perhaps over time new scientific techniques would allow genetic modifications enabling an “unnatural” natural selection of female as opposed to male conceptions in the correct ratios.  But in the interim, after the quota has been met, I fear that it would be necessary to abort those male fetuses who find their way into the mother’s womb.  I know that this is likely the most unappealing aspect of this program to the souls of the tenderhearted amongst us, but I assure you, dear readers, this is a most necessary and humane sacrifice to save the lives of thousands…nay millions…in the future.  In fact, as scientific advances may eventually find means of curbing those more destructive violent tendencies in men (though I fear that such speculation belongs to the realm of mere fantasy), such apartheid may be made to come to an eventual end and a new enlightened man may be reintegrated into society and allowed to regain his former population density.  Thus, in curtailing—for a time—the perpetuation of “man”-kind upon the earth, these enlightened women may in fact be acting for the future good of man himself as much or more than for society as a whole.  In the best tradition of enlightened self-interest, in acting most directly for the good of herself and her daughters, she is effectuating the ultimate good of the offending party—man himself.  

Sacrifices must be made; human males have had over 5000 years of recorded human history and millions of years of evolutionary development to reign in their violent tendencies, and yet they have failed to do so.  1000 generations of violent sociopaths is enough.  We have advanced as a civilization to such a level of enlightened ethics and sophistication that we no longer have any excuse not to take some little control of our genetic destinies.  We must take our tutelage from that most virtuous of living things—the industrious bee—who has banished the male of the species so far from the center of her communal life as to hardly notice his existence.  The drone has been so reduced that he is no longer even tangentially a threat to himself or to others, having lost his stinger.  Let us pray that we may have the courage to act and to act quickly, my friends.  Let us banish the violent male to the outskirts of the hive of human society before it is too late!  How many more children, women, satirists, and yes, even men, must die a horrible death before we allow ourselves to be awakened to the fact that men are simply too dangerous to be suffered any longer?  I pray it does not take another massacre to open our eyes to the obvious.  This is a hard truth, but for the sake of our children, let us have the moral courage to take the steps that our humanity and common sense demands! 

The Story of Cause; The Cause of Story

Cause and story, cause and story, cause and story.  It would seem that at the roots of religion lies a human fascination with these two interacting concepts.  Cause because we perceive creation as a sequential enterprise, story because we are egoists.  Before I go on I should like to take a moment to affirm my belief in the importance of both of these two concepts from the perspective of our position as human beings.  But, simply because we as human beings will continue to be obsessed by these principles, this does not mean that these principles have any true validity.  Cause especially may be an false quality when considered from an absolute position.  For, if causality is not a condition of being simply, but is merely the result of our position in the cosmos that ties us to a linear understanding of time, what is to say that causation itself is an illusion of a position, rather than a quality of being?  Thus the Aristotelean "Uncaused Cause" ends up being, not only a logically illogical stopgap (I think this is more or less how Aristotle conceived of it) but an unnecessary construct.  And yet, to say this doesn't make much difference for us; because from our position, cause is and does occur!  I wonder sometimes if this is where some of the confusion inherent in philosophy comes from; that is, a confusion as to whether we are looking at the phenomena we are trying to understand from the perspective of a human being or from the perspective of some hypothesized "Being Itself".  It seems to me that the answers we get might be very different depending upon how we answer this question.  Furthermore, it seems that the answer concerning the perspective of Being Itself might itself change based upon our conceptualization of the relational interface between Being Itself and the rest of existence, i.e., does such Being take notice of the cosmos or is such Being indifferent to it? 

            For the longest time, it seems that the foundational logical inference that we perceived as underlying the question of religion was tied up with the question of cause.  For surely, we would say, we perceive that in the world each effect must have a cause, each cause is itself an effect of some prior cause, and that in the extreme we must hypothesize some final un-caused cause, and surely that cause must be the same as God (a bit of an unfair leap there, but not entirely untrue).  This, at least, seems to be a predilection underlying many of the theological questions asked within the ambit of Western Christendom.  And such endeavors have born good fruit; for was it not such questions that eventually spurred mankind to consider the causes hidden within the natural world that led eventually to the discovery of the scientific method (at least that appears to be the impetus of Cartesian philosophy)?  Yes, such questions have led us to vistas that mankind had previously never even imagined possible, and a mastery of our environment which seems to lead to ever more mastery.  As the questing after cause has led us again and again and again not to the spiritual as distinct from the physical, but to ever more ephemeral and "unreal" seeming aspects of the physical world, so has our conceptualization of God as the final cause shrunk.  For what need, the skeptics say, have we for the category of final cause when all we see before us is a vast vista of contingent causes?  The churchmen hold fast to their irresistible logic, but it is a logic that appears (if not wrong per se) to at least fly in the face of our experience.  For, if it is "cause" that connects us to creation and creation that connects us to God, this God of creation surely recedes further and further into the distance.  What if, mankind says in his terror, the chain of contingent causes has no end?  What if the expanse separating the God of creation from creation is not just great and vast but infinite?  And so, the longer we hold onto the Deistic God of Cause as our starting place, the further such a God will seem from us.  This is what Nietzsche meant when his mad prophet so famously declared that "God is Dead".  For surely, why should mankind care for such a God as this?  And so, let us agree (for the moment) with Nietzsche.  Let us declare that the God of Cause is dead.  The churches of the West will shudder, and the people (not readily understanding this death) will slowly drift from the doors of Christendom, seeing no point in the worship of this dead God.  Oh, they will try to worship this God for a time, and some will try valiantly, but in the end, this God being dead, He will eventually become just another idol of the self.  And the masses of these who claim with their lips to worship the living God, will grow cold in their hearts, for their mendacity was nothing more than the fevered creation of human will and striving, and was bereft of grace.  Seeing that their worship of the self is, in the end, no different from the world's worship of the self (only more perverse, for it deny's the reality of the soul's need) they will throw down their holy books, and run screaming into the streets, a mad people bent only upon the gratification of the flesh which they had foolishly denied themselves in the name of their dread idol.

            And so, what is left?  The ultimate desire for cause has been ripped from the heavens where it once seemed ineffably to dwell, and brought down squarely to earth to be poked and prodded by the wise men of this age.  Should mankind now invest his whole being into this science?  If it were possible for man to do so, maybe.  But in rending cause from the heavens, mankind did not change the nature of cause (for it was always there for him to see, had he only looked with his eyes) but changed his relationship to cause.  Whereas the contemplation of cause was once an act of worship, worthy of mankind's great philosophers and poets, it has now become a trade worthy of craftsman and clerks.  Do not misunderstand me, I do not mean to imply that the scientific study of cause is unworthy of poets and philosophers (may it never be!).  There is much there to raise the seeking mind outside of itself and fill it with wonder (and this in and of itself should make us skeptical of our earlier claim declaring the death of God) but the apparent need of wonder in the enterprise is lacking in the thing itself, and must bleed in from elsewhere, from some other source.  And bleed in it will, for surely mankind will cease to be human when he fails to imbue this base physicality, which he now knows to be merely an illusive link in a great chain of being, with great meaning and purpose.

            And so we come to the question of story.  For the longest time, story and her ilk were scorned by the philosophers and the wise men.  Socrates would have banished the storyteller and the poet from his republic because they told lies about the gods.  For the Socrates of the dialogues, story had a contingent purpose, for what were the myths but stories illustrative of the beauty of Socratic logic and ethics?  But, it would appear, there would be no need for such illustrators in that Republic where mankind had been trained to recognize the Truth Itself and thus where story and myth could only lie.  Thus, it would seem that Socrates' real issue with poetry and story is not that it necessarily always lies (though, when weighed beside the purity of the Truth Itself it must still be found wanting) but that it has the capacity to lie and to deceive.  And that, to those who do not know the Truth Itself, the story may appear more seductive than that little truth which mankind, in his present state, has access to.  And so, taking their lead from that great sage, story was allowed to slink to the margins of serious human intellectual endeavor.  It was always recognized as a useful tool, for surely the story has always had a powerful way of moving mankind both to good and to evil actions.  The powerful, who believing they understood cause, would spin stories for the masses to illustrate the divine nature of cause, and would seduce the people to their vision of the universe, where the Divine One that Is Being Itself stands as a dread king above and beyond the created universe, active to be sure, but mysterious and distant.  The powerful might truly believe that they are acting for the good of the masses, but they cannot help but laugh at and pity them their incomplete and imperfect knowledge.  But wait.  If cause, as we now see, was not something divine itself but only divine because it appeared divine to us because of our contingent relationship to Being, was it not then true that something other than cause led the wise to perceive cause as divine?  What could have done such a thing?  Why, the answer is quite clear.  The wise had, themselves, been seduced by a "story" that they told themselves concerning cause.  So if it was "story" the entire time that was in the driver's seat of our conceptualization of cause, perhaps it is time that we give it some more serious consideration than did the sneering philosophers.  

            So what of story?  Story has never really gone away but has been submerged.  As long as there have been human beings living together endowed with the gift of speech, they have surely told stories to one another.  Stories about their loves, their hopes, their dreams, their fears.  In our own age, as cause has slowly begun to be submerged into the dull reality of our sense experience, we have rediscovered story and given it a new prominence in our societal life.  Where once nursery rhymes were hidden away, fit only to be heard muttered from the lips of mistrusted old nannies, such are now spoken and told in the open before the most learned of men and women.  Where once novels were thought to be the respite of repressed old maids and silly women, serious schools of study pour over these texts looking for clues to the mood and feeling of a given age.  Poetry is an odd example; where, as story has progressed, the power of spoken verse has sunk into a twilight; but this likely has more to do with media than with power, for poetry is still very much alive in our music and even the beauty of some of our prose.  Yes, we live in a golden age of story, not seen since the great works of the ancient tragedians.  And yet, I cannot help but sense that there is a little sadness underlying our storytelling [as there was great sadness in the stories of the Greeks].  Where once storytelling was a doorway into pure delight, now our stories seem to be the last grasping after an age where story was not merely contained within the story told by the teller, but to days when the whole world seemed to be imbued with story.  For, where now we may only see the gods as CGI creations on a screen, our ancestors once saw and felt their presence in the groves and hallowed places, in the forests and mountains, in the hearth and home.  Perhaps for most of us, who were not clever enough to see into the rare truths tied up with the schoolmen and their causes, this was the real loss felt by the demotion of cause from something found in the heavens to something tied to the earth.  For with the demotion of cause, another (less noticed but perhaps more felt) demotion also began to occur; where story was thrust into the full light of day, and demoted from that hidden place where it tickled our minds with its mysterious lies, to a place where it merely told us pleasant myths to tickle our fancy and to while away the time.  Because, really, what else do we really have left to do but to tell ourselves pleasant myths?  We stand on the edge of powers as yet unknown to mankind, but we have lost our sense of ourselves.  We have lost our Story and are left with stories.

            But my intuition is that this is untrue, or at least, an incomplete picture of this world as it now appears.  If it was the demotion of cause that unknowingly demoted story, perhaps it is the knowing ascendence of story that may yet save our sense of cause.  To a certain extent, what I am saying is nothing new.  Nietzsche (that great prophet of the death of cause) spoke of a mankind unmoored from the old rules, able now to strike out on his own and to tell new stories fired in the cauldron of his own being, that great will to power.  We have been (more or less) doing this for the last hundred years at least, but it has failed to inaugurate a new age of super-men.  More often, the grandest of storytellers have been small men, who merely ended up telling stories of pain and power and triumph, and in our horror, we have turned all the more fully to the game of storytelling rather than to the serious business of story-weaving [see if you can spot the subtle difference between these activities].  Wherein lies the issue with this approach?  The issue, which Nietzsche appears not to have understood, is that even though it may be mankind who tells the stories, the best stories, those which stand the test of time, are not the stories told when man imposes himself upon and dominates nature, but where he opens himself up to that force which goes by different names, but which Socrates would have referred to as his daemon.  That force which, while a part of our inner selves, is yet other from us, and connects us with the Great Story that is being told from the beginning of time to the end of days.  We may have overcome the God of cause, but I wish to suggest that it is inconceivable that we shall ever overcome the God of Story, for it is this God of Story who preexisted this God of Cause, and it was He who first lifted our eyes to the cause itself.  Thus, cause, it turns out, was not the God we took him to be, but merely an illusion leading to understanding revealed to us by the True God, the God of Story.

            But wait, you will answer me.  There is an obvious issue with this "story" that you have constructed.  If there is one thing that we know, it is that stories can lie.  There are thousands of stories, each one of them mutually contradictory to the rest.  We, in our infinite imagination, can make a story about anything.  We can come up with a whole list of things that we did yesterday which sound plausible, but never happened.  We can tell of unicorns and dragons and other strange creatures that never existed and could never exist.  We can imagine a thousand deities in the sky, each more powerful and more ludicrous than the next, and use them as a means of explaining what happens here below, which fit the appearances, but which never were.  Ah, I respond, but your lack of confidence in some stories as against others belies your skepticism concerning story itself.  For, in the way that I am speaking of "story", what is photosynthesis but a story?  What is cellular mitosis but a story?  What is relativity but a story?  These are not stories, you scoff, these are explanations.  The story is an explanation, I respond, and it is the only explanation that we have [that is, it is not a thing self existent, but a relationship formed between the thing that is perceived and the he/she that perceives].  Look, whether or not you believe that there is an I who looks from the high throne of Being Itself, would the state of the world we conceive not look foreign to us if seen from this position?  Would we see photosynthesis, and epigenetic processes, and gravity?  We can't even say for sure whether we would see those things which we perceive as solid objects but which we know are at base complex energy interactions.  Of course the stories which we tell will not be True in this sense [for Being Itself needs not the interpretive intermediary of story, at least not in this sense].  But they can be true in other senses, and there can truly be said to be truer and falser stories based on our best knowledge of ourselves and our existence at any given time.  Then the paradigm will shift, and our stories will shift with it, but that does not change the story that was told.  

            What do you mean the story that was told? you ask.  I mean, I respond, the developmental story of the history of our species [an anthropology], that thing which we cannot escape, that we cannot vanquish and replace with a story of our own creation, no matter how hard we attempt to assert our will and our power.  For that which is written in the book of time cannot be unwritten.  Well, that is patently false, you respond.  For we have often unwritten what was written, and have unseen and forgotten much of what has been.  Have we really, I respond?  The book of time is not a book that we can read.  Perhaps there is no I anywhere to read such a book, but that does not change the fact that there is such a book, and what has been written there defines what comes after.  Or, have you forgotten your old god cause?  Simply because you no longer worship him as a thing divine does not mean that you have power over him.  Yes, perhaps from the perspective of Being Itself there is no such book, and perhaps all that has been is not yet written, but for us, it is.  Perhaps some day this will change, and then the story must change again with it, but for now, this is the story, and the story is one of time.

            So, what are you telling us, you respond?  To be honest, I say, what I tell you is something that I do not yet see clearly, and perhaps never will see clearly.  Perhaps someday I will, or perhaps someday, someone will pick up the thread of my thought and unroll the spool just a little bit more and see a little bit further.  What I am saying truly is that we must not despise our existence, for it is only as existent beings that we may tell one another stories and hear their stories  in return.  We must not despair of the idea that there is a Story overlying all our individual stories, for without such an idea of Story, surely we will turn (in our egoism) to an elevation of our own meagre story, and ultimately despair in our own self-idolatry.  We must believe that, though there is such a Story, that we may not own or make claim on this Story, for it did not originate with us and is not ours to give.  While we must bear witness to the Story insofar as we see it, we must have always before our eyes the humility of our own position, for what little of the Story I may have may be stripped from me at any given moment and made other than what it was a moment before.  We must not despise those who recognize not the Story, for we in our own ignorance, if we see at all, see but through a glass darkly.  We must recognize that all that is, even in its ignorance of the Story, is itself a part of the Story, and while not necessarily good in and of itself, is good insofar as it produces a dissonant chord in the Great Story, thus adding to the beauty of the whole.  We must not, in our will and zealousness, attempt to supplant a version of the Story with that version of things which we believe that we have seen, for such will serve the Story in the end, but not in the way that we foresee.  Someday, perhaps, I shall have more insight into the Story.  But for now, I am empty and must rest.     

The Slowness of Justice

I know that I have complained at times that justice, as we know it, is not really apparent in the course of history and certainly not within the course of our own lives.  Thus, because justice cannot be depended upon as a defense of one's actions, one may be "justified" in acting unjustly in order to accomplish certain necessary goals.  Thus the prince (ala Machiavelli), while recognizing that it may be unjust to break one's word, will eagerly do so with one state in order to create an alliance with another more powerful state.  And I think that this is very true, as applied to a single human life and a single human generation.  But just because an individual person or group of people do not see the manifest effects of justice necessarily played out in their lifetime, this doesn't mean that the act of injustice has not had an effect within the society taken as a unit endowed with a specific historic trajectory.  If this is the case, an act of injustice may not be rectified until years or even generations have passed.  Thus the Old Testament imperative "the children will pay for the sins of the fathers."  We need not take this to describe the justice of an angry deity, but as the process by which some natural moral order, built into the fabric of this level of reality, slowly reasserts itself over time by means of the complex causes and effects of human interaction.  If this is the case, then there truly is no hope for justice (as seen from the perspective of a single human life), because some of the corresponding harms to actions may be so remote in time from the event itself as to appear to arise from an entirely different set of circumstances.  Thus, the evil king who pillages his neighbors to such an extent that their kingdoms are razed to the ground.  Years go by, and the evil king's great grandson, very rich and powerful because of the pillaging of his ancestor, now sits on the throne.  But he is a manifestly good and wise king (because it's easier to be magnanimous when one is wealthy and secure).  But his neighbor's kingdoms, having slowly rebuilt their empires over the course of the generations, still feel the sting of the harm done to them.  Thus, they raze the kingdom of the good king.  We can be forgiven for scratching our head in consternation at such an example, for to those people living through such times, the proximate cause of this action will appear to be the foolishly wise and magnanimous king, who did not have the stomach to continue the policies of his forebears and continue their ways of violence.  And, in fact, had he adopted such policies, he may have staved off ruin for another generation or two or three.  From the broader historical perspective, we see that the real cause of the violence was itself the violence which initially caused the resentful situation, which in turn means, that had the good king chosen the way of violence and deferred judgment to yet another generation, this decision may have had the effect of causing either more violence or less (but all things being equal, probably more) than would have happened had the dam broken during his own generation.  While mankind is not unconscious of their descendants, they can perhaps be forgiven for preferring that the wages of their own unjust actions be paid for by a later generation than their own.  This is especially true because mankind experiences history midstream, and each successive generation has inherited the unasked for burden of previous generations.  You cannot expect us to be just in all things in our own generation, declares mankind.  For if we were, what would be left for us once the balance sheet was made right?  Our children might not appreciate such a just blank slate if they are unable to feed and clothe themselves, or if, in our zeal for justice, we are reduced as a people.  And thus the wheel turns, and the scores of old hatreds continue to wreak havoc over the face of the earth, for generations to come.  Occasionally some Great War or cataclysm may rise up and wipe clean much of the balance sheet at once (at the cost of untold innocent life and property), but it will only lay the groundwork for the next blow-up.  What are we to do with such a cycle, for we can neither be totally wicked nor totally innocent without assuring our own destruction?  And thus the confusing stream of human history, where mankind in turn commits great evils alongside of unlooked for charity.  I don't think it tells us much of how we should act in a given situation.  But it is at least a response to those wicked men who would argue that there is no justice for tyrants.  The wise man sees that there will always be justice for tyrants, but that justice may not affect him in his lifetime and fall instead on his descendants.  The tyrant will not be dissuaded by such arguments, for he is wicked and cares only for the now in which he may feast on the spoils of his wickedness.  Nor, do I think, should the just take pleasure in such a state of affairs, for the justice that will come may come down upon the innocent (at least as concerning the effective judgment).  What a strange world that we find ourselves in!   But this is the settling of the balance sheets built into the fabric of existence, whether we like it or not.  One may complain to the Deity concerning such a poor state of affairs, but one must live with the system nonetheless.

 

[I write here after having contemplated the meaning of this view of justice and I see one ray of hope that allows for, if not a positive means by which we may come to understand our own lives as a people, at least a hypothetical hope.  For it seems that the cause of this justice working itself out so slowly has much to do with our own lack of wisdom concerning the nature of justice.  Were we wiser, perhaps justice could be served over the course of a single generation rather than working itself out so slowly, for surely the cause of justice’s tardiness is the result of human intractability.  I have no hope that we should ever become so wise that we should understand and practice justice so well and so perfectly, but I believe that such justice is possible.]         

Theologico-Political Musings

I understand the urging that could trick the poets into proclaiming the death of God.  How we might yearn for such freedom (or what we perceive as such freedom).  But the death of God can never be fully realized in the hearts of human beings until we develop beyond the point of mindful abstraction and become uninterested in the specter of our own demise.  While the latter can (and often is) assiduously trained out of us (though I doubt often much to our benefit), the former seems to me a far less likely vestige to ever be rid of [nor something desirable to be rid of, for it is in our powers of abstraction that lies the foundation of all human thought—from mathematics to imagination].  We are beings whose instinctual wisdom is often wiser that the wisdom of our intellects.  While we preach ultimate emancipation of the self, we still preach in the idiom of the salvific story, whether we seek that salvation in our selves (materialism) our society (collectivism) or in the divine (transcendentalism) [note: nihilism or apathy might also be possibilities but I have yet to decide if nihilism is possible to practice consistently and apathy and ignorance seem more a natural gift of the individual mind that a conscious life choice—for in a sense to recognize one’s apathy is to cease to be comfortably apathetic].  No matter whatsoever we choose, we choose for ourselves a god which promises some level of retreat from the wilderness of our earthly existence.  By this I mean that for most persons, mere physical perpetuation of the body is not enough for a full life and thus we will always seek something more.   

One may view the 20th century (to some extent) as the death of the cult of collectivism.  While not all of her experiments were failures (I do not claim that no good has entered the world by means of the collectivist impulse; I would even claim an aspect of collectivism cannot help but be tied to a form of transcendentalism) our naive belief in the power of the human collective to join into a unifying and beneficent whole has been, at least for a time, curtailed; however there is an amusing alignment between the materialistic and transcendental aspects of liberalism in the language of Universal Human Rights [by liberalism I mean here the underlying set of political goods common to both the right and left within our western political system].  The current pangs of our de facto materialistic system have somewhat reinvigorated aspects of the hard collectivist imagination, but I suspect that it will be sometime (one or two generations, if our present age should last so long) before any real resurgence of wide-spread collectivism will take hold in western society (I might argue that the age of small self-contained collectivist communities may have once again arrived, but I have no evidence to back-up this conjecture—nor are such musings original to me).  We are trapped in an age between ages, which has co-opted the nihilistic liberation of the self with the transcendental principles of a diminished (though still, I think, vital) cultural Christianity.  It is important that we realize that this is a hybrid situation, one in which the logic of contrary impulses of liberalism—our solipsistic libertarianism (call it nihilistic materialism if you will) and our transcendental human rights—stand in stark and abiding dialectical conflict with one another. [Let me not be misunderstood: neither solipsistic materialism nor transcendental rights are per se incoherent in and of themselves; I only mean to suggest that they represent contrary impulses within mature liberalism].

So long as this detente remains in effect, we live in the happy land of the in-betweens.  This is the triumph of western liberalism and I support our efforts in maintaining this ultimately unsustainable state of affairs for as long as possible.  I say this because, although I don't perceive this model to be rationally coherent, and any rationally incoherent system will eventually break under the tension of its competing internal vortices of power and rationale, it is this very balancing of conflicting and mutually exclusive impulses that forms the basis of sound politics in the modern world.  To the simple person (or the person who has had the good sense to avoid thinking on such things) this tension is hardly felt, and can be handed down effectively from generation to generation.  To the slightly more intelligent person, who sees the mendacity of the system but only cares for their own self-aggrandizement, they have too much invested in their own self-idolization to do much harm, for they will constantly serve either one master or the other in turn.  No, those who are to be feared are the persons of principle and vision.  The persons who recognize the inherent flaws lying at the foundations of the world system and through their own hubris or their own idle curiosity cannot help but dig out and critique those deep things which any viable polity would do well to keep hidden—these persons of principle (whether their principles spring from the well of the self or the well of the divine) are those whom society needs truly fear.  For it is they, whether in the pride of their being or the compassion of their love for justice and truth will dredge up the deep things, and cause that stable muddle of society to falter. 

Should society then seek to silence such persons?  No, society has not the tools to prevent their appearance.  Like the many headed hydra, once such men and women begin to arise, striking down one or two will only cause doubly more to arise in their wake.  It is good for those secret truths, birthed not in mendacity on the parts of the founders (necessarily) but the results of flaws of the human character unforeseen at the inception of the republic, to come to light, even as their emergence destroys the system.  Once such prophets arise, their truths will inexorably make their way into the collective thought of a society.  Perhaps some will effect only minor changes in the system, and easy fixes may be made to allow the lumbering beast of this civilization to carry on its merry way.  Perhaps some may effectuate a paradigm shift large enough to shake the foundations to the core, but in the end, the civilization that emerges is continuous with the one that came before.  But in the end, the paradigm will shift so dramatically that the resulting age will be rested from the present with blood and carnage.  Revolution (both within the self and within society) is inevitable and necessary in this age of mankind.  Revolution is terrible and should be avoided at almost any price, but when it comes into its own, may those who are unlucky enough to exist in such an age still steer the middle course of prudence?  I would say yes, but the prudence in an age of revolution is different than the prudence in a time of peace and middling mediocrity.  Do we live in such a time of revolution?  I am not a prophet, so I cannot tell.  I hope not.  What bliss it is to live in a time of mediocrity, when men and women are not called upon to sacrifice upon the altars of the gods, whether those gods be real, false, or imaginary (which is not quite the same thing as false)!  But what I do know is that God has prematurely been pronounced dead.  If ever the dread logic of the dissimulation of the Divine will speak to the mass of society, it will take more than coercion and famine and terror and reason to solve our plight; it will take a fundamental change in the very nature of mankind and the universe.  

           

[Note: This first section is mostly sociological/political in its descriptions (even those which necessarily employ religious language).  I found myself musing further concerning possible solutions to what seems to be a value-laden dead end, and these musings became much more theological and poetic in character.  I don’t necessarily think these musings describe a normative solution to the described plight, but they do accurately describe the only way forward that the already formed furrows of my mind’s channels suggest.  Feel free to read further if you think these theological musings might be useful to you, or ignore it if your mind suggests other viable alternatives (and please let me know what your thought suggests).]

 

What then do I proclaim?  I proclaim that God is not dead, but I do not claim that He is Living (at least, not in these words here; this is not the place for such a pronouncement).  God is not dead but He is hidden from us.  Hidden, you say?  Where has He hidden Himself?  You misunderstand me, I respond; God has not hidden Himself from man, man (supposes) he has hidden himself from God.  We may, in hiding ourselves from God, have gained some wisdom from the experience; that is possible.  But we are fooling ourselves if we believe that He has been fooled.  I suspect all that we have done is anger Him.  The Christian age has taught us that the way of salvation is belief and trust.  Perhaps so.  But one may have faith and trust in many things which are never to one's benefit.  Belief itself, whether coupled with works or not, is not enough.  What is enough, then, you ask?  Why nothing is ever enough, I respond.  Nothing you can ever give is enough.  And the moment that you gave enough, more would be required.  Then what good is this God of yours, if all He offers up to us is riddles and pain?  Do you fear Him, I ask?  We think you speak nonsense, you respond.  Do you fear nothing, I ask?  We have tried to fear nothing, you respond; but the fears of our childhood have followed us into our maturity.  We fear the wind at midnight, we fear the screeching owl, we fear the wolf baying at dawn, we fear the unseen slithering things in the darkness, we fear the ogre who will catch us unawares on a forest path and stuff us into his rotting and fetid mouth, we fear the faerie who steals the last breath from our dying lips, we fear the abyss that stretches out past this earthly existence into eternity.  We fear what lies beyond.  Good, I respond!  You have rediscovered your fear; it never really left you.  You exorcise your fear with false incantations and potions and lusts and art, but none of these things can satisfy the fear that clings to your breast as you lie alone in the middle of the night, knowing that you must face the abyss alone, knowing that none of your fellows will be able to help guide you into that cold dark night.  You may rail against your fate, you may ignore it, you may calm yourself with ascetic practice, your may laugh at it, you may worship it, but none of these things will save you from this fear.  Then what is left for us, you ask?  From human hands, I respond, nothing.  Nothing human may be provided past a true knowledge of the fear which lies deep within the hearts of mankind.  But it is only out of such fear that grace may emerge.  Fear is the key, not even fear of God in the beginning, but a true recognition of the nameless dread that we all should fear.  Does this fear necessitate God, does it promise relief, you ask?  No, I respond, this fear promises nothing but more fear and madness.  It may consume you, it has consumed many before you—it threatens to consume me.  But failure to acknowledge the fear will not save you in the end.  It will take you (all of you) unawares.  If you desire pleasure and ease (for a short time) ignore this fear; but if you desire truth (not even salvation as such, but truth) then embrace the fear, live with it every-day, let it wash over you like a bath of burning pitch, let it scar you and consume you!  What then, you ask?  Any further, I answer, I cannot take you.  I give you the tools of your own experience, the world around you, and what wise writings you may find.  Anything more is not mine to give.  Anything more I cannot even give you assurance that I have received.  The only thing that I can offer you is that to remain where you are is folly, for God has been prematurely pronounced dead, and His Face shall not remain hidden forever.                

On the Moral Necessity of Despair

There is a great deal of truth in the statement that our life is what we make of it.  By this I mean that attitude can determine a great deal.  If we focus on those aspects of life that are negative we stand a good chance of having a negative experience of life, whereas if we focus on the positive (while by no means guaranteed) we stand a better chance of having a positive experience.  Of course, who would wish to have a negative experience of life?  Thus, so we are told, better to be positive in all things so that we may better enjoy ourselves and be more enjoyable to others.  Furthermore, empirical studies indicate that those who are positive live longer healthier lives, experience more fulfilling personal relationships, are more successful in their careers, have better sex, are nicer, and are all around better people than those who go around undergirded with a sense of doom and despair with their depressing negative attitudes.  Again, I suspect that there is much truth to this, so it would seem that the thing to do is (in the immortal words of Eric Idle) "always look on the bright side of life."  But I wish to play the contrarian.  Not so much that I wish to come out as one who is against happiness and success per se--I enjoy these goods as much as the next person.  But I wish to suggest that the more potent, and perhaps ultimately the more fulfilling draught, is to be drawn from the cup of human sadness than than from the goblet of human happiness.  For to be happy in such a world as ours is, it appears to me, necessarily somewhat disingenuous.  Are we not surrounded by a sea of human suffering and despair?  Men, women, and children dying from hunger, war, and disease?  

Why yes, you respond, but we are not going to solve any of these pressing problems by moping around.  We must keep ourselves in good spirits so that we may critically ponder and solve these grand problems.  

You and I both know, I respond, that these problems shall not be solved so long as the fundamental nature of humankind remains unchanged.  You practice your "scientific" utilitarian charity in order to assuage your moral sense of wrongness; in essence, your charity is simply another way that you gird your own happiness.  

What is wrong with that, you respond?  I am both happier and more effective than you are.  In the end, do not I make both myself and others happier by my good attitude, while all that you do is preserve the status quo?  

You appear to do good, I respond; and those who you consciously see may in fact appear and feel better for your efforts than they were before, this much I will grant you.  And I do not suggest that you should cease in your charity, even if disingenuous.  But what of those who you do not see?  Do you pretend to be so open-eyed concerning your world that you can see the chain of cause and effect stretching back into the mists of time, showing how your actions have affected all others in this world?  I will answer this question for you--of course you do not and cannot, no person can see this far.  Who knows what ills may spring from anger you engender in the person you (unintentionally) cut off in traffic on the way to work, which later explodes into a shooting spree.  You may be the most moral and upright person in the world and still cause great evil either by your action or lack thereof.  And this regardless of your intentions.  Why, based on the best information available and with the best of intentions, you may in fact cause greater evil than if you had done nothing!  And this is not even considering the guilt of your ancestors.  You are the heir of a system built upon the backs of brutalized slaves; you partake of the goods wrought by violence and oppression.  You cannot escape this blood guilt by simply ignoring it.  

Yes, you respond, but we must do the best we can, it does little good to bemoan those things which you cannot change. 

Oh modern man, I scream!  It is precisely those things that you cannot change that keep getting you into trouble!  Listen to me, you cannot be good enough, cannot think yourself out of this bind.  

Alright then, you respond, assuming for a moment that we believe you, what of religion?  Might that not provide some consolation?  Is the point of grace (at least in the Christian tradition) not to wash clean this stain of ancestral guilt?  

You have misunderstood grace, I respond.  Yes, the mystery of grace does seem to respond to notions of guilt "transference" or "sharing".  But grace does not simply cause these harms to vanish in a puff of theological smoke.  Its workings are more subtle than this.  The purpose of grace is not to alleviate this burden, but only to allow us to bear it.  For is it not, oh you Christians, the point of your religion that you are to unite yourselves mystically to Christ, to put on Christ and to participate in his crucifixion (and resurrection)?  And surely, has he not born our griefs and carried our sorrows?  So is it not true that the more that one unites with the Christ of the cross, the more one feels these sorrows?  

But what of the triumph of the resurrection, you intone?  

It is there, I respond, I by no means suggest ultimate despair (though it might at times be useful to preach this doctrine).  But all is not finished in this world, and I find far more reason to experience the pain of Christ than the triumph of the resurrection, here below.  It is a question of proportionality.  

[my meditation is met with silence]

Thus, I continue, whether you are a Christian or a secularist, the only path possible is to dwell in the pain and despair of existence, to meditate on it and let it rush over you as ocean waves rushing over the ever sifting sands.  To do otherwise is to live within the bubble of a self-constructed faerie story.  Of course, I rather like faerie stories. 

Man: The Worshiping Animal

As I have discussed elsewhere, there are many interesting speculations concerning what defines humanity.  I like the definition of man as a being who tells stories.  But perhaps we should be more specific than this; or, to put it another way, perhaps we should approach the question from a different angle.  I posit that a human person may be defined as a being who by his very nature worships.  This begs the question, of course, what does it mean to worship?  I posit that worship is a process by which we give some substantial portion of ourselves (be it our time, energy, wealth, being, freedom, etc.) over to something or someone, either external to ourselves or otherwise.  By this definition, all human beings (be they "religious" or not) worship.  If we may say that human actions and relationships provide indicia of that thing which each human being worships, then some worship money, others fame, others family, others country, others pleasure, others tradition, others power, etc.  Notice, I have not mentioned God as an object of worship.  Does this mean that I don't think that people worship God?  On the contrary, I think people can't help but worship God, if by God we mean (along with Tillich) that which is our ultimate concern.  Notice that most of those things above mentioned can be conflated into some form of self-love or self-worship.  Thus, man is by nature a being who worships...himself.  Is it possible for man to worship anything other than the self?  I think yes, but it is not easy.  Perhaps a more interesting question (in our time anyway) is whether man SHOULD worship anything other than the self?  Again, I am inclined to think that the answer is yes, though this statement should not be interpreted as an endorsement of all objects of worship other than the self.  If there is one thing that I am convinced of it is that self-love makes of man himself an idol, and as such he is not an object worthy of self-worship (a bit of a tautology there, but one I am willing to live with).  This is all well and good, but man himself is not the only idol, nor I think the most dangerous.  Self-idolatry is the true "natural religion" sometimes spoken of by the philosophes, and insofar as it is natural and "naturally" feeds the needs of man, while by no means harmless (heaven forbid) it has its uses and needs always be with us (at least until our worship of God is perfect).  Turning from the self to the other is a necessary first step if we wish to learn worship of a true God (if any there be) but there are invariably other "unnatural" idols existing outside of the self.  The human self may be by nature evil (or fallen, if you prefer) but it is never other than a human evil.  The evil idols that lie outside of ourselves may contain an evil wholly other than ourselves, and are truly terrible and terrifying.  It is there that the demons lie.  How may we distinguish that which is God from that which is demonic?  I fear that there are no human means by which they may be differentiated.  When we attempt to turn from the idolatry of the self, we are at our most vulnerable.  Would it not be better then to simply abide in ourselves and our own self-worship?  This would seem to be the wisdom of a liberal and cosmopolitan modernity.  But no, our souls are restless, and can only abide the worship of the self so long as we do not recognize the object of our worship as such.  Once our eyes are opened to the knowledge of our self-idolatry we can do nothing but despair or turn with horror from the self to some other object of worship, and it is in this turning that we become vulnerable to that which is truly demonic and terrifying (I am speaking mostly metaphorically here, but not wholly so).  So, would it not be better to remain in ignorance to our true condition?  Again, worldly wisdom (and I say this without the least sense of irony) would seem to say yes, and perhaps the Grand Inquisitor is correct that happy is he who remains in ignorance (though he himself is obviously, and by confession, a worshipper of the demonic).  But our souls are restless, and I suspect will not long remain satisfied in such self-imposed serfdom.  Whether or not there is a True God deserving of our worship, it would appear as though we are hard-wired to search for Him (or, at least, that some are), no matter the cost.  If there is no such God, how tragic then must be our condition!  If there is such a God, how tragic must be our struggle!  Thus, to say that a human being is a being who worships, is to suggest that the human being is a tragic animal.   Maybe all of our stories are tragedies, if told long enough.

Meaning & Nihilism

Is there any meaning in a world without God?  There is a cheap answer to the question based mostly on semantics.  If by God we mean, along with Tillich, that which is an individual person's ultimate concern, then the question may become mostly irrelevant (or merely tautological) in that God becomes synonymous with mankind's search for meaning itself.  I suppose, in this case, mankind must still have a "sense" of God (or at least, some persons must.  It appears likely that this "sense" is attributable to some brain structures and not others), and thus cannot merely shrug the God impulse off as irrelevant, but the question of God becomes mostly a question of mankind's mysterious dialogue with his innermost self.  Now, this is a real process, and I would argue that--at least from an experiential point of view--this process is necessarily part of our experience of God (whether or not any such God exists); but we need to go further, for such a conceptualization of God strips God of an aspect which is uncomfortable to us living in the modern world, but nonetheless demands our attention--that is, that a necessary attribute of God is that He is a Being of terrible Power and Majesty and Righteousness (speaking in terms of ontology, and obviously biasing our conceptualization to reflect the Judeo-Christian conceptualization; obviously, other valid conceptualizations exist, but this is a useful starting place). 

Well surely, you say, life can have meaning without such a conceptualization of God.  Mankind can continue to live his life, to seek for those things that are beautiful and good and pleasurable and necessary.  We go on living and loving and dying in this strange and mysterious world which we reach out and feel with our fully human and free senses.  We construct (for we are before anything else storytellers) what meaning we may find for ourselves and nothing but the imprint of our actualized freedom may make it so. 

What a beautiful sentiment, I respond; you have convinced me that there are meanings to be found without God.  But is there a shared sense of meaning possible for mankind or do we exist in a solipsistic universe by which each actualized meaning by each individual human is equally valid even if it exists in contradistinction to the meaning and value of another? 

Of course, you respond, we all live in the same world, are subjected to the same stimuli of the senses (at least, mostly, granted some are color blind and some cannot taste salt, etc.);  there are limits, it isn't all one side or the other; it is a dialectic between man and the world. 

I see, I respond.  But, is it not so that one man may see a forest and see what may be built using the timber and the foliage and another man sees the forest and wonders at the beauty of the unmolested trees? 

Of course, you respond, what of it? 

Surely, I respond, there is some good in both visions, for the one provides sustenance and shelter and fills men's stomachs and the other provides beauty and enjoyment and fills men's souls. 

Of course, you respond. 

Both visions cannot be actualized in the same place at the same time, can they, I ask? 

No, you respond, but that is why we have policies and laws in place by which many men and women may come together and deliberate as to the best means by which these competing goods may be reconciled. 

Ah, I reply, but suppose such laws were not in place and one man or the other was the stronger.  Would he not effectuate his will to the exclusion of the good of the other? 

Yes, you respond, what of it? 

Does this seem right to you, I ask? 

It seems unfortunate, you respond, and on some level there seems to be some justice lacking. 

Even if there was no law declaring the validity of the one competing claim against the other, I ask? 

Even without such a law it appears unjust, you respond. 

But if meaning is all about the individual actualizing their preferences based on their own individualized experiences, and even granting that we can agree that certain things are necessary (such as food and shelter and art as in this situation) how can we judge this situation unjust if the end itself results in a good either way, I ask? 

Because, say you, the one exerted his will over the other by means of power unavailable to his opponent.  His self-actualization occurred at the expense of the other by means of a naked power grab and is thus unjust.  If their power had been equal, and the fight had been fair, it would not have been unjust. 

You keep reverting to an appeal to justice and fairness, I respond.  From whence does this sense arise? 

From the right of every man to actualize his own sense of meaning to the extent that he can do so without trampling upon the actualization of others, you respond.  All we have is a brief moment in time upon the earth to effect what we can of our existence.  We must be patient with one another and help one another or we are lost, for no man is an island. 

Again, I say, your speech elicits such beautiful sentiments that I am almost convinced.  But tell me; it seems that you speak as one who has not the power to actualize your meaning fully because you are not so strong or rich or brave or brash as some other men.  It is well for you then that you should convince men to think as you do, else you are lost.  But why should the strong man, who is rich and powerful and strong and brave, listen to your sense of justice, which serves your interests but not his?  Is he not stifled in actualizing his sense of meaning (which is to exert his power over as many of you as is possible) by your moralizing?  Why should he pay heed to you and your "justice"? 

Because it would be unjust for him to do otherwise, you respond. 

That is not an answer, I say. 

[Of course, this example is somewhat unfair to the argument from moral nihilism.  It may justly be responded that "no one", correctly understood may be so powerful as this person that I have suggested.  Many may "think" they are this powerful, but ultimately, because any man may be killed by any other man no matter how apparently "weak", there are none who are this powerful (this is basically Hobbes' argument for radical equality).  Still, it is hard to deny that such an argument for justice is, at best, "unsatisfying".  Should we not continue to seek so long as the explanations we discover continue to be so "unsatisfying"?  I honestly do not know.]