Carv's Thinky Blog I'm an author with a focus on satirical sci-fi and agnostic commentary.

18Dec/180

Cat Scratch Fever

It's taken me fifty years to understand this, but most people define good behavior (by themselves and those around them) as that which benefits them, not that which benefits other people. Laws that inconvenience them don't deserve to be laws, so those get ignored. One thing that confuses some people about the crappy behavior of misogynists, fraudsters and other offenders is their lack of self-awareness: "How can they not know they're being awful?" But that's like asking whether the sky smells octagonal today. They're words from two different, independent vocabularies. To these offenders, nothing they do is unethical. Rather, the system is deepening its own depravity by catching them, trying them and otherwise intruding on their never-ending quest to get their greedy way all the time. It's a profoundly egocentric flavor of sociopathy that runs so wide and deep we can display it without ever seeing how hideous it truly is.

My wife and I have a cat. Some cats are scratchers, some are not. Simon, our cat, is a scratcher, preferably of human throats. If you're sitting down, he sees that as his cue to attempt to tear your throat out. If he can't get access to your throat, he'll happily settle for scraping your ribcage. Your desires in this matter are not merely insignificant to Simon; they are, in fact, invisible. He does not see or care about them one iota. He never will -- not a jot. My wife tells the cat she does not wish to be scratched. Even allowing the cat a rudimentary understanding of English he does not in point of fact demonstrate, that effort is wasted, because cats are sociopaths who don't care what anything wants unless it benefits them. Supplying tasty snacks = good human, withdrawing from scratches = bad human. I have accepted this and simply throw up physical obstacles to block the cat from clawing my throat. After this becomes clear, the cat gets frustrated and leaps some distance away, where he gives me the back. That's the feline equivalent of a middle finger. I know that and find it amusing, but only because I got my way and Simon did not.

Now.

We ask why humans mistreat other humans. The reason we're compelled to ask such a thing is we have endowed those offenders with an empathy they do not in fact possess. Surely the fact that one's fellow humans suffer from our actions will dissuade us from acting unkindly! Nope. Not one jot. We do not generally perceive ethics from the perspective of other people, merely from our own. We want something, and anyone who gets in our way is not seen as acting with agency or even with respect to an ethical structure, they're being pains in our ass so we either force them to do what we want or give them the finger, because how dare they? How dare they?! Don't they know they're being difficult in our quest to get exactly what we want all the time?

Seldom if ever will we be able to reason anyone out of violating our own ethical standards. We might have success by engaging their empathy, but only if they can see us face to face and we've already made it clear we'll be an obstruction to their desires no matter what happens. The more successful strategy is simply to raise impenetrable physical obstacles. That's sad but true.

A guy sends you an unsolicited, unwanted dick pic. He wants a sexual charge, and it's your responsibility to give it to him. You push back. He keeps trying. You push back harder. Does he admit he was wrong? Of course not. He calls you a stuck-up bitch. That's the human equivalent of Simon giving me the back for being an obstacle to his absolute, perfect, eternal, fully-deserved ecstasy. Other people's desires or ambitions aren't just inconsequential, they're invisible.

AND THAT IS HOW MOST OF US GO THROUGH LIFE.

Oh, not me, you think. Okay. Have you ever driven faster than the posted speed limit? Me, too. We tell ourselves our desire to spend less time driving is more important than any of the reasons that law was passed. The cops just want more money, we tell ourselves. It's a speed TRAP. Well, much like a perjury trap, it's only a trap if you break the law, but that's not the point, right? The point is we want something, and all these other cars full of humans are getting in our way. We ignore the fact that there's a good chance the speed was lowered on that stretch of road because someone died there and the public would've been furious had that not motivated a change in the law, but ho hum, fiddle dee dee, we want fast so go fast! We tell ourselves oh, it says 65, but everybody knows they really mean 75. There's a ten-mile-an-hour permissible range over the posted limit. Except then we pump our brakes to go below 65 at the very first sign of a cop, clearly demonstrating we know that thing we just thought about the ten-mile-an-hour-allowance was bovine by-products. Our knowledge of the law, or even of why laws were passed, does not affect our adherence to the law when it inconveniences us. Conversely, few of us are car thieves. We already have cars and wish to retain them, so yes, we are very much in favor of laws against car theft and feel outraged when anyone breaks them.

I get the consequences of what I'm saying. I get that I'm implying behaviors we hate will continue no matter how we regard them. I'm not endorsing, encouraging or in any way in favor of those consequences. But do not think reasoning with anyone will change their ethics. It won't. We must simply find ways of making unethical behavior unproductive from the perspective of the offender. If a guy sends you an unsolicited dick pic and then gets all aggro about it, send it to his boss. Get him fired. Get them all fired. Humiliate them. Shame them. Make it no fun whatsoever to even attempt these behaviors. Only then will the scratcher see a reason to scratch somewhere else or not at all.

As for the current administration, it's full of people who were breaking the law over and over and over and over and over and yet seem stunned when the law comes a-knockin'. They were willfully breaking the law, we say. They were aware of the law, knew they were breaking it, and sought to cover it up. Yes. All true. Except we're forgetting the sociopathic perspective on what happened, which is this: The law was inconvenient to those offenders, so they considered it irrelevant in theory and an obstacle to be worked around in practice. That's it. How you or law enforcement or anyone else felt about it wasn't merely inconsequential, it was invisible.

This is why it never serves society well to give a few parties far greater power than the majority. We're sociopaths who, far more often than not, will spend every dollar you give us and more if we can simply take them. Obviously we deserve that money more than they do; they're simply too "stupid" or inconsequential to block us from grabbing it.

You say I'm being cynical. Granted. Except I'm also just noticing a cat is a cat and not expecting it to be Mahatma Gandhi, y'know? Maybe it's time we all wised up and adjusted our society so fewer people have situational opportunities to be the sociopathic, egocentric abusers they're so clearly inclined to spend their lives being. When I block Simon from clawing me, I'm not being unkind to him. I'm being kind to myself because I'm fully aware he will not treat me kindly. Simon isn't a bad cat. He's an average cat. It's up to me, not him, to be smarter and more aware of my own needs than he is. Is that fair? No, not really. But life isn't fair, it's simply life, and if you don't believe me ask anyone who was just prevented from getting anything he or she wanted for even one second.

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