Extract from Chapter 6. Evaluating values.
We like to think of human history as a clash of great men, their hair flowing in the breeze, their muscles rippling, their eyes fixed firmly on the horizon. In reality, virtually all of the so-called great leaders of history were just like our fearless leaders in the present day: Chiseling, conniving, endlessly grasping grafters, each one striving with all his crafty cunning to go one-up in the sleaziest possible way on all the others. We celebrate and revere the most successful career criminals of each human epoch, and we forget entirely the brilliant minds who actually produced all the riches we take for granted.
Still worse, we fail to note that each one of those renowned thugs was backed up by a scheming little shaman, a full-time professional rationalizer of evil, whose job it was to tell the same transparent lies to the boss thug and his henchmen over and over again, to assure them, again and again, that their actions were righteous because they so obviously were not, to keep them from drowning in the liquor they had to swill to quiet the cognitive dissonance within their own minds. That shaman – first a high-priest, later a theologian, still later a philosopher – was also tasked with the vitally important job of gulling fools into believing that a brute like Alexander the “Great” was a greater benefactor to humanity than a genius like Socrates. Just about everything you know of human history is a testament to the success of that shaman and his intellectual heirs.
Your values are inverted, and I can demonstrate this with an example very close to home. For your whole life you have been told – and you have probably believed – that the United States Constitution is a grand and noble document that exists to safeguard your liberty. In reality, it is a sort of peace-treaty drafted by three corrupt political factions in early America. The owners of the newly-erected factories in the New England and Mid-Atlantic states wanted to impose high tariffs on goods manufactured in England, thus to make their much-shoddier products more appealing to American buyers. Planters in the Southern states wanted legal protection for and official sanction of the despicable practice of human slavery. And poor ordinary people wanted “free” land, to be expropriated by the U.S. Army from the Native Americans who had occupied it thereto. The liberty-loving revolution of 1776 was contorted into a rent-seeking coup d’état by 1789, and the whole wretched abomination was rationalized in The Federalist Papers – which you very probably pretended to read in high school or college.
I cite that example not to criticize you but simply to draw your attention to the fact that you are being lied to most of the time by philosophers and other so-called “thought leaders” – and for the most part you don’t know it. What you learned best, in your very-costly education, was a contempt for the mind and for the works of the mind – and this is precisely what the philosophers who taught your teachers wanted for you to learn. You were taught to cherish anything and everything that does not matter in the uniquely-human life and to despise the one thing that does matter – the human mind. A dog will defend its food and a lion its lair, but not only will you not defend your self, you join with all your fellow men – “We’re all in this together!” – in heaping scorn on your sole means of survival. You are the only type of entity in all of existence capable of conceptually identifying the values your life – your self – requires. And you are the only creature capable of failing to do what your life requires.
This is not an observation to be proud of, but it is yet another demonstration of how much you are unlike other living things. The philosophers, theologians, academics and other would-be “thought leaders” who make it their business to convince you to despise your identity as a human being will insist that humanity’s greatest stain is to be found in the hydrogen bomb. What better proof, they demand, could there be of the incomparable evil that is rationally-conceptual volitionality – free will – than an artifact of the mind that can destroy all life on Earth? The human mind is pitiful, pathetic and corrupt, they insist, an ape’s brain with delusions of grandeur, And yet, somehow, it can contrive the means to exterminate all life in a flash. That much is funny, as all contradictions are funny once you unpack them, but they don’t know the half of it. If we were to collect enough random junk in space and throw it all at the same target, we could create a new star – a self-sustaining nuclear critical mass. How much more like a god must we become before we will deign to worship the awesome power of the human mind?