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27, Male
the Netherlands
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I'm a gay guy from the Netherlands with a mind that needs brain-food every day, the Internet being my most efficient and opulent provider. I am a good natured guy in general, but if I see injustice or anything else I disagree with I jump onto it and bite.

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Blaming the individual

2009-06-17 08:39:29 by Diederick

This post is meant to illustrate why it seems so important to most people that an individual has a large freedom of choice. I'll start with demonstrating that that choice is not at all that large. We are very much in control of those around us, we just tend to not realize that - deliberately.

As a human being, there are two important sets of influences that control our lives for a certain part. First of all there is the influence that is all around us and which goes for every living thing, whether you are a single celled organism or a fully functional human individual. It is the influence of nature, influence that is created by a simple logical reaction - not by intention, but by the way things work. For instance, you can't crush a common pebble with your bare hands - and you can't hold your breath for more than a few minutes. Another example would be the way things operate outside you: the tire of your bike will rupture as a sharp piece among the gravel you were cycling on, pierces the rubber - leaving you stranded with a vehicle that is suddenly useless. Or a bird drops litter on your Colbert just before an important meeting. You are not at direct liberty to fix your tire or clean the poop off your jacket. You are free, within the limits and brakes of reality. I am not in power to summon pink unicorns to come rescue me when my car breaks down. Reality is hard to get rid of and it is not absolute freedom.

The second influence is that of creatures among us. A dog which you always kicked for fun will eventually bite you; more intensely: people who you live with (not necessarily in the same house) will execute some power over you - some of which you call upon yourself, some of which they force onto you - or is forced onto you. Society is helpful in many ways, but it is not absolute freedom. There are many norms which you can abide to, you don't have to, but you are practically extorted into abidance. This is also an influence for many social animal species, like the apes with whom we share a common ancestor. Almost all actions and also almost all ideas are largely if not completely engaged by other people. We are eachother's puppets, doing and thinking for a very large part what are told to do or simply do because we can't help it as in automatism or as a syndrom.

A tree has no social issues, it doesn't need to fix tires or call upon pink unicorns. For one it couldn't possibly do any of that, but it has no need to either. Still it is not free. It is dependant on rain, sunshine, soil nutrition, wind force, creatures that abuse him, and for reproduction it will need the help of another tree. Freedom, absolutely cannot exist, that is why the political term to address the need for the feeling for freedom, however false it is, is liberty: being allowed to move within a certain setting.

There are two reasons why it is easier for others to think a person can actually help what he or she or it does and thinks - why it is easier to think individuals are free (animals included).

First of all, it doesn't make God as much of a hypocritical asshole for creating this world and its 'requirements' and specific functioning.

Secondly, it is easier for some people to blame an individual for its apparent flaw, because it eliminates the need for pity. It is much easier to find someone stupid for choosing the wrong thing than to feel compassionate and sorry for a person because of something that cannot be changed or couldn't be avoided.

For example:

If a Christian claims that God didn't make me gay and that homosexuality or at least homosexual conduct involves choice, this reassures himself that God did not make my life harder (or at least making it harder for me to live 'morally straight'), which would make God the hypocritical asshole as mentioned earlier. Beyond that, the Christian can reassure himself that it was all my own fault or the failure on my part by not changing my sexual conduct and ignoring my sexual nature; does not require any pity. Instead the Christian can see a sinner, who deliberately chose sin.

Another example is an old man I came across yesterday (when the conclusion one alinea above came to my mind), whom I had seen several times before; with his head aimed downward, his neck obviously has a malfunction since he can only look sideways while his head is suspended that low. To make matters worse, his hair had all but gone and his face was old and collapsing like a dried tomato. I hope he is unaware of his imperfection, because the temporary pity I felt for him was no pleasant feeling. It got worse when I realized life cannot even remotely be considered good for an incredible amount of people - who's only reason to continue is their incapability to commit suicide because their mind and body harnesses them from doing so. Another restriction of reality: that laid upon us by ourselves.

It would have been much easier on me to think that these people all had it coming because of their own mistakes - but this is certainly not the case. A young homosexual in an oppressive social surrounding doesn't commit suicide. He is murdered by social pressure. He didn't choose to be gay, he didn't choose to be oppressed, he didn't even choose to cut himself - it was just the inevitable chain of events. He was incapable of changing his sexuality, he couldn't change the mindset of those around him, and he wasn't psychologically strong enough to prevent the harsh end of his life. It is easier for people to ignore this reality and turn it into sin, poor judgement and weakness. All to avoid feelings of pity or perhaps regret.

People like to think other people suffer because of their own fault - it is easier, no doubt; and they are not psychologically strong enough to face reality - but it is wrong. People do suffer, largely because they were made to suffer or because it was otherwise inevitable. They deserve pity.