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448. The joyous (VII)

Periodically, you will see a news story about a pair of women who finished university and hiked into the Atlas Mountains, only to be kidnapped by bandits and decapitated—the video that features the execution then furtively circulates among fourteen-year-olds on the look out for the grossest clips online. Similar stories about men who hike into deserts or kayak along the Alaskan coast—only to court disaster—also appear as additional human interest stories. The entire genre, often written off as “naïve kids”, must add up to a few hundred deaths a year; and each story provides a chance for readers to tut-tut and sternly note that the parents were absent. Perhaps, for the women, it all represents an inherent feminine desire to seek out the dungeon and the grave; sometimes they find that what they seek metaphorically—a good stab—is also available literally. Yet, as with the men in these cases, it is not just about sexual desire or naïvety—or rather, it is a very specific type of naïvety.

These young people suffer from democratic society; everyone is equal in democratic societies, and young people think this is true more than any other group—they grew up in the bubble and have yet to make the private exit that most adults do. In the democratic society, since the people is sovereign, there can be nothing higher: no aristocracy, no king, no father, no Church—and, ultimately, no God or nature. Citizens brought up in democratic societies seem naïve because they genuinely think that one culture, nation, or society is much like the other; actually, due to democratic solipsism, they mean every nation is like their nation.

Adults who occasionally point out this is not so are bigots or racists; and even the adults will say the young should acknowledge the difference on the basis that not to do so reveals a hidden inegalitarian view: “So you think you’re better than the Algerians? Well, that is racism, in a way, is it not?” The straight assertion that nations, peoples, the natural world, and even individuals themselves are different is more or less inadmissible.

You might think this is an exaggeration, but next time you see someone talk about a trip to Egypt or some country you know something about tell them some local difference: “Better watch out if you’re a single woman in Cairo; they don’t respect you without a man, they’ll think you’re a whore—that’s what the Egyptians are like.” I can almost guarantee that you will get disdainful looks, and that is because you have violated the democratic ethos: you said people are different, and different in a respect that we consider to be worse than us. Someone is almost bound to chip in, “I’m sure some are like that, but most aren’t”.

It is a wound to our narcissistic satisfaction as democratic citizens to be told there are people or forces that differ from us, even nature is not taken very seriously—hence people who work in nature or in the outdoors are often struck by how naïve urbanites are about the wild. The democratic citizen lives in a city where everything is built for man’s purposes—even if it does not serve him directly—and he is astounded to find a phenomenon, nature, that is completely indifferent to him. In a democracy, you count—you are the arbiter, your opinion is as good as the next guy’s. So nature and wild tribes and bandits hardly figure in your worldview, these things suggest something beyond you—impossible.

God is also out: vox populi, vox dei. The democratic city has gods, pseudo-gods, known as celebrities and it also has “the oppressed”: ethnic minorities, women, and the LGBT—yet these are approachable gods, and you could be one too if you get famous or discover how you are oppressed. Otherwise, there is nothing above you—no limits—and so the democratic citizen naïvely stumbles to their death, confident that they are omnipotent.


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