Let us consider the life of the masses — it is a long, dull record of effort and strife wholly devoted to petty interests. They are Philistines, and their trademark is that they can never, but ever, become interested in anything that does not involve them personally. This you can readily see, for bring up any subject you care to, no matter how far-reaching or universal, and you will see a dumb face staring back at you. The light is off. Now, dare to mention something about them, something personal and you will see the oven lit. They will tell you about this and that, what they’ve accomplished and what ails them — and God forbid you come onto the subject of their children! Baudelaire said that it is OK to talk about yourself PROVIDING IT’S ENTERTAINING.
But I know very few people who are entertaining.
Now another mark of a Philistine is that he will learn nothing. He is the person the ancient wise men despised, the one who ‘knows’ everything and will learn nothing. It is not short of astonishing how, in discourse with such people, we find them repeating what they’ve read in the newspapers, or seen on television, parroting the idiotic ideas their parents — equally as ill-educated — passed along.
A fine measure of the intellectual capacity of most people is to be found from what is available as ‘popular entertainment.’ The books, in general, are awful, the so-called ‘sitcoms’ unfunny, the ‘talk shows’ cultural train wrecks. The masses don’t want to learn, they want to be entertained. We can say they have no mental needs and are constantly occupied with realities that are not realities. They take no pleasure in affairs of the mind, only the sensual appeals to them. The mark of a true Philistine is that to him, a beer, bag of chips and some insipid so-called entertainment is the height of existence.
But nothing exists without a purpose — and the purpose of this incessant stupidity everywhere is singular — to keep their minds off what they are actually doing. For we can describe most as ‘replication units.’ They slave away, struggle only for the information stored in their genes; that genes, and the information they contain, can pass to a new, heavily armoured shell, which has been given the name ‘child.’ Babies are evolutionary vehicles for the one hundred and fifty thousand genes in the human genome — disposable tools of Nature.
The incentive of people to earn wealth is to leave it to their children. And this means to enhance the odds that their own genes, those of the parent, will survive in the future. Parenting is inherently selfish, yet few see it this way. As Veblen has it about human behavior:
‘The only real motives for human conduct are simple, crude or unworthy. That which appears otherwise is only crude or unworthy in masquerade.’
Let me say, that a man who wakes up to this, that the people around him are automatons in the employ of DNA that is millions of years old, that their genes care nothing about them or their happiness, and that they remain unaware of this — well, such a man is in for a rude awakening, and I would not blame him in reaching out for drugs or alcohol. As the sublime Mark Twain has said:
‘A man who truly understood what is going on in this world would stay drunk 24 hours a day.’
Such a man will find himself alone, among a different race of beings.
Now we might ask here: How is this possible? How comes it that they remain unaware?
Nature has many tricks up its sleeve to see to this. It is well-known that there are many states of consciousness. We can say that most people walk around in a kind of half-sleep, robotic, if you will. They remain mercifully unaware of truth. Now another way Nature works to ensure genes get replicated is to convince a person that they work and toil for their own benefit. In this regard Nature plays on the terrible egotism we find in humans. A man believes that he has sex, produces babies, works decades, pours his heart into this — for himself. But this is a ruse, Nature cares nothing for any individual, only the species, and its interest in the latter is in any case half-hearted. With regard to species there have been an estimated thirty billion arise on this planet. 99.5% of these are now extinct. Nature keeps striving without goal or purpose. As the wise Plato said:
‘Everything is becoming, nothing is.‘
So a woman or man is convinced that in birthing they are working for themselves, but in reality they labour for the species. We hear talk of the importance of ‘continuing the family name.’ What could be more ludicrous? In infinite Space/Time a name has import?
Along with this the parents somehow concoct the idea that by having children they cheat death. This is also abject nonsense, for after a few generations there is almost nothing left of the original parents from a gene perspective. We can say, that if genes could laugh they would be rolling in the aisles.
Another way of duping humans is Nature’s use of drugs, its natural opiates — hormones. The word itself comes from the ancient Greek to urge on. Remember that hormones are as powerful as illicit drugs and act on the same regions of the brain and in the same manner. It is almost as if Nature drugs people, these become automatons that then are in Her service. We can quickly see this in talking to parents. I can no longer keep a straight face when a parent tells me that their son or daughter is a genius, or a top model in the making. Talking to parents then is akin to conversing with a drunk, or a drug addict.
I ask those filled with their own self-importance to go to a crowded train station. Take a look at the sea of heads and ask yourself honestly: How could I as an individual possibly matter? Consider that about one hundred and ten billion humans have walked this earth, and that those alive today constitute about six or seven per cent of the whole. Then turn your attention to the endless space that surrounds us in every direction, the countless stars and worlds. How important do you feel now?
But Man’s egotism cannot be overcome. The best indicator of this is astrology. In this quackery the belief is held that stars and planets of unimaginable size lined up in a particular way heralding an individual’s birth. Not only this, but that the way these globes align gives hints to the course of a person’s life. Let us be clear: To believe in astrology in any way is to hold a view of the Cosmos that has been totally debunked by Copernicus some four hundred years ago. But still it continues!
In fact, at that great intellectual locus Harvard University, the archaic and wrong Ptolemaic system was taught until 1852, hundreds of years after the death of Copernicus.
Still I have people come to me with their ‘star charts.’ Go away Philistines!
‘Copernicus removed man from the center of the universe. Darwin reduced him to the status of an animal, and Freud dethroned his intellect and put instinct in its place.’
Man as Cosmic Worm.
What is so bad about this unbridled egotism we see everywhere on display? The simple answer is that most of the terrible suffering in this world has its roots in it.
We can see in all this that being ‘normal’ in this world requires incredible self-deception. When we talk to Philistines, we get the distinct and disturbing impression that they are sincerely convinced that their ideas of reality are real. Nothing could be more frightening. It is as if a person writes their own fictional script about themselves, and soon, this hardens into fact.
Deception is essential in friendships. In fact, it can be said that a friend is someone who endorses the untruths you hold about yourself. It is a mutual admiration society. In the Moral Animal, Robert Wright notes:
‘It may be that the hallmark of the strongest, longest friendships is the depth of the shared bias; the best friends are the ones who see each other least clearly.’
The best definition of a friend that I’ve heard comes from a film: ‘a friend is someone who hangs around waiting for a chance to talk about themselves.’
Or we can agree with Ambrose Bierce who defines being friendless in The Devil’s Dictionary:
‘Having no favours to bestow. Destitute of fortune. Addicted to utterance of truth and common sense.’
About life among the Philistines, the wise man will join with Groucho Mark in saying:
‘Include me out.’
Fiat veritas, et pereat mundus!