Dead Men Tell No Tales: The Debate I: Elucidate

What is Dead Men Tell No Tales? It is a selection of (hitherto) undisclosed, private ruminations and epiphanies. Most take the form of (slightly) edited letters to unnamed recipients, but some have been scavenged from the depths of private journals recently rediscovered. Over the next little while (however long it takes – days, weeks, months, years?) I’ll be posting them in episodic fashion for the reading pleasure of my nonexistent audience.

In The Debate, our young, idealistic but morbidly depressed author – less than a month away from going to Marine Corps boot camp – is responding to careless statements made about his favorite movie (Fight Club) and his decision to enlist. Elucidate is an attempt to explain to the unfortunate opponent why our author’s venom was unleashed.
Disclaimer: this is going to be long. :shrug: It is no longer or shorter than it needs to be.

I tried to enter into the debate kindly, tried to warn you you didn’t want me to enter into it, in fact… then I feel attacked when you say things like “if the director had wanted to make a more thoughtful commentary” about a movie that has given me more food for thought than pretty much any other media I’ve ever experienced… or “i hate to be frank but I doubt you’ll change the system much” implying that I will lack efficacy in my goals… or “i don’t like tearing you down” implying that you think I look like a fool or a weak debater… or “as I’m sure you know, marines have a higher death toll than any other branch” implying that I must not have done my research or something… then of course I am going to respond in kind.

But I don’t debate for debating sake. This might come off arrogant, but I’m not kidding when I tell you I’ve only ever met one person who is able to hold their own in real debate with me (a real debate being one in which both debaters were well informed but had differing opinions) – and he is my friend Kai. The only other time I engage in debate is when I think the other person could have something to gain – if maybe I could teach them something. 

Otherwise, like I said, I don’t like to get involved… I am apathetic. And what did you have to say about that? Another dig: “and by the way, being apathetic and correct (assuming your correct) is worse than going out on a limb in persuit of a cause or the truth.” So what does that mean? If I enter into debate with you, I’m an asshole, and if I don’t, I’m worse than being misguided? Okay, cool. So how exactly do I win here? Fucked if I do, fucked if I don’t.

I’d love to just talk, too, but I feel that you need to take some accountability for the less-than-careful words you put out there. This all probably relates to our differences in the way we were raised – I imagine that you are used to support for the decisions you make (do correct me if I am wrong, baseless assumption is not a practice I like to engage in). Every single fucking decision I’ve ever made ALWAYS gets criticized BY EVERYONE. I never receive ANY god damn support from anyone, and must constantly defend myself from others. I get tired of it, I get tired of repeating myself, and I prefer to mostly just be silent. There was only ONE person out of the 30+ I’ve told at this point who didn’t flip me an hour of shit about joining the Marines and try to criticize every little thing about it. 

This is how it’s been for the entirety of my life. Another great example was my protest project [edit for blog: on feminism, presented in liberal Bellingham, WA], who even teachers that liked me and generally respected me derided as misguided. Well, I don’t care to do things the easy way. The system was fucked, I hoped to open some eyes, but people are so slow to throw off comfortable thoughts… eh. It’s all so futile. I couldn’t even talk to you about it – do you remember? – because before I’d even get to finish a thought, you or one of the three friends behind you would cut me off and spout off some bullshit. I’d try to answer that, and more interruption.

And yes, one can just “pick” things to argue about. I generally don’t do that. When we’re talking about an organization that I’ll be giving 8 years of my life to, it kind of matters to me. And when you try to find holes my position, you can bet I’m gonna defend myself and try to correct flawed thinking in your position.

Even here you say things that I would like do disagree with. Hatred is every bit as tangible and potent a force as love. I have thought about this for a very long time and I do not think that there is a single person who can truly and fully comprehend both love and hatred at the same time. 

You want to know what goes in inside this head? I grew up my entire life without love. My mother did not love me – she emotionally abused me my entire childhood and told me I was a worthless piece of shit embarrassment. As my weight approached 150 pounds (at height 6’6), she called me a greedy son of a bitch every time I asked for food. I had to work a part time job – on top of debate, on top of three AP classes – just to fucking eat. My dad was never around, my brother was an alcoholic. Do you understand how hard it is to love an alcoholic? The emotional roller coaster that results? 

I have no god damn idea what love is or was. All I ever saw was hatred – the hatred my mother inflicted on everyone around her, the hatred we all had for her. The only time she ever told me she loved me was when she was trying to get something from me – trying to appease her own guilt, trying to secure her future because she realized that despite her influence, I was the only child that would make it on my own. (Even though she once said “you’ll never be able to fucking make it out there in the real world, you whining sniveling spoiled piece of shit worthless fuck!”) 

And all the people I’ve ever thought I had feelings for – even just kind of liked – betray me. I have an easy time forgetting and moving on, because it has happened so often to me that it’s become like catching the cold. Before I left Bellingham, I had trusted you with the most personal writing I had ever done, and you said we would stay in touch. It takes an entire year to hear back from you? 

But I only have myself to blame. I ruined my one good shot at connecting with someone in a meaningful way via cowardice, via buying into my mom’s bullshit about being worthless and unlovable. But I’m done regretting that time.

And the one girlfriend I had was just enough of an experiment for me to verify my forgone conclusion that I will, in all likelihood, end up dying alone. Despite best efforts, despite intentions otherwise, I end up pushing away anyone that tries to draw close to me. I used to welcome this isolation; now I tolerate it while trying and failing to minimize or reverse it.

So when you tell me hatred isn’t a real emotion, when you tell me that it isn’t pure, isn’t somehow worthy of your concern, that’s like telling me my whole life isn’t worthy of your attention. You would not enjoy a movie about my life – it seems to me that you would call it somehow less than thoughtful.

You commentary on optimism and pessimism leaves out the only perspective worth talking about: realism. The thing about reality is, it tends to suck. The thing about our society is, most people build up illusions to shield themselves from the ugliness. For elaboration, see this article:

When I say that the average person in retail isn’t decent, I mean they lack decency. They are rude, selfish, and total assholes to the employees. If they are not these things, they are quite literally completely stupid. Like I said, work in retail for a year and see if you disagree. When you actually meet a decent person, you go out of your way to do any and EVERY thing for them, if only to spend less time with the scum of the earth.

If you just want to talk to me, that’s fine. Talk to me. But don’t tell me the things I’ve lived are somehow not worthwhile – are worth less than the things you’ve lived. Don’t treat me like I haven’t thought about my decisions. Don’t trap me in a double bind of being an asshole if I engage in your debate or worse than misguided if I do not. If you want to know how I am feeling, ask how I’m doing. If you want to know what I think, ask me what I think. If you want to know why I joined the Marine Corps… oh, you did 😉 (I was just waiting til the end to get to this stuff.)

The reasons I joined the Corps are many. Maybe that’s better left for another time – the more I tell people about myself the more they shy away from me. While I have accepted that I will die alone, it’s not something I particularly look forward to. I am so tired of being alone, LW. This entire year I have spent living alone in my apartment with virtually zero friends. I have not really told anyone how I’ve FELT for two full years. This is the closest I’ve ever come to that, in these past two years. And I like you. I even had a crush on you for a little bit! The last thing I’d want to have happen is to completely lose contact with you, but that happens to me all the time. It is something I am sure I will need to endure eventually.

To be honest with you, I’ve never been much of an appreciator of art. I’ve not understood it – same goes for poetry. I’m more of a music, novel, and movie kinda guy. But some art does resonate with me. I’ve always liked that painting of the frail old man playing guitar – rendered in drab colors. To be honest, that’s the only picture that stands out for me on your profile.

Dead Men Tell No Tales: Epic Catastrophe II: Metaphor

What is Dead Men Tell No Tales? It is a selection of (hitherto) undisclosed, private ruminations and epiphanies. Most take the form of (slightly) edited letters to unnamed recipients, but some have been scavenged from the depths of private journals recently rediscovered. Over the next little while (however long it takes – days, weeks, months, years?) I’ll be posting them in episodic fashion for the reading pleasure of my nonexistent audience.

In Epic Catastrophe, our young author makes a series of unfortunate miscalculations and mistakes with one KL. Metaphor seeks to provide context to the previous letter, as it was largely misunderstood by its recipient.
[My opening is a response to her quip about providing me with some unedited honesty.]
You want some unedited honesty? Try this (the only edit made was this disclaimer being added to the top):
As previously stated, nothing will make sense without the proper context. And each new piece of the puzzle requires yet more context to understand…I would need to relate to you the entirety of my life, but I tire of that sort of thing.
I am analogous to a character with whom I assume you have zero familiarity – Fei Fong Wong from a little thing called Xenogears. I also assume you will never experience Xenogears for yourself, so I’ll clue you in on the important details.
Fei is revealed, after much plot progression, to be suffering from a kind of multiple personality disorder. When he was a young boy, he experienced severe trauma (at the hands of his mother, no less!) that caused his true self to recede inside his mind. Another personality manifested – a personality that would later become known as “Id” in the world of Xenogears, and whom you are led to believe is a separate character until you learn the truth. In any case, the original Fei is referred to as the “coward” by Id, because the coward forced all of Fei’s negative experiences onto Id. Id becomes a reckless, homicidal killing machine of unparalleled power, until finally Fei’s father splits Id’s personality and creates a third persona (that you are first introduced to when you meet Fei).
This is analogous to what I’ve become. As a boy, I suffered trauma at the hands of my mother (emotional, however – not physical, like Fei’s). This trauma instilled in me a lack of confidence and a propensity for failure in meaningfully connecting with people I liked. I began to learn how to live apart – live alone – and even adopted the hypothesis that my dying alone was a foregone conclusion. As such, I did as much as I could to insure that scenario – sabotaging the only good relationships I had in my life and further entrenching my isolation. I became consumed by my hatred and loathing. I was similar to Id in a sense (minus, you know, killing everyone).
Then I met Haley. She, as a person, did not affect me. But the relationship further entrenched my belief that human beings, are, by their very nature, deplorable. It takes a lot to rise above our baser selves, and few do. Yet at the same time I realized that living as I had – destroying relationships, sabotaging friendships, and generally just being an asshole – wasn’t solving anything either. So a third personality emerged, a sort of apathetic answer to my base hatred. Like, yeah, the world is terrible – so what? I don’t care. Just let me go about my business, mkay.
That’s about where you met me. Like the theme song says, “No one but me can save myself but it’s too late / I can’t think, think why I should even try.” I see no purpose in rescuing the child inside of me that was lost, and my apathetic answer to hatred proved to be equally destructive, and less enjoyable to boot. It is no longer an active, seething hatred, but something different. A kind of acknowledgment that humanity is flawed, over-arrogant… The kind of attitude that leads to relativism, the idea that my life is worth no more than any other life is worth no more than any other life. That extends to everything – your viewpoint is no less convincing than my viewpoint than any other viewpoint. There is justification for anything in this world. And right and wrong are moral judgments, and morals are a strictly human construct – there is no physical law that correlates to “good” and “evil” in the universe, or to “right” and “wrong.” “Right” is what an organism must do to survive, and “wrong” are actions that doom that organism to death.
And with these kinds of attitudes, I can join the military with no qualms. Send me to Iraq, give me a gun, tell me to shoot whoever, it doesn’t matter. I don’t care.
More song lyrics for you: “You don’t understand me and you probably never will (probably never will) / Got a tendency to self-destruct, and a soft spot for the filth / A hair trigger temperament / A switchblade for a tongue / I’m a walking one man genocide / With a black belt in corrupt / Everything I touch turns to ashes”
What do I want out of life? The same thing most people want. Love, a family, kids. To satisfactorily complete my life’s work (in this case, my novel). Simple things, honest things – things always inexplicably outside my reach. So in the meantime, I squander time.
The stubbornness of people – the insistence that their view is the one and only correct view, coupled with the unwillingness to admit when one is wrong – is what primarily disgusts me.
I realize there are huge logical flaws in my conceptions of the world and the conclusions I’ve reached. Gaps exist because I fail to let anyone fully enter in my head space. And ultimately, I just need time to heal. One might compare this to a renovation – you must DESTROY the old before you can build the new, and thus my self-destructive tendencies. 
The Fei analogy does not hold to how I actually view myself, but it was something I had thought of that was interesting (and it was a reference to something I’d wager you’ll never experience for yourself) and as such I threw it in there. Because why not? And how’s this:
[01:00 AM] John: I think I will probably live the entirety of my life alone. Every experience I have seems to lend credence to that notion.
[01:02 AM] John: Maybe related to a bit of philosophy I attached to from the better part of the Ender’s Game series (i.e., the part most people hated)
[01:02 AM] John: True understanding between people is impossible. 
[01:02 AM] John: Too many barriers. Language itself is a barrier.
[01:03 AM] Soltis: You have to already understand them.
[01:03 AM] Soltis: If you don’t, language won’t help you to.
[01:03 AM] John: I think “understanding” is a hoax.
[01:03 AM] John: An illusion.
[01:04 AM] John: As relates to other people.
[01:04 AM] Soltis: Not always.
[01:04 AM] Soltis: But mostly, yes.
[01:04 AM] John: You might be able to predict them, or have some empathy for their situations, and be pretty damn accurate.
[01:04 AM] John: But to completely understand someone? I don’t think so.
[01:04 AM] Soltis: You wouldn’t be able to, yourself, at the moment.
[01:06 AM] John: Say I did something completely shocking. Something which you never thought I’d do.
[01:06 AM] John: Died in the process of doing it. You might guess at why I did it, and (knowing you) may even be convinced you would know my motivations. But how could you be assured of your understanding?
[01:07 AM] Soltis: That would depend on the deed, really, but you’re so conflicted, right now, and shut off, that I don’t pretend to understand you.
[01:08 AM] Soltis: I have a working understanding *with* you, that is, we have some agreement of philosophical convention.
[01:08 AM] Soltis: But do I really understand *you*? Hell no.
[01:08 AM] Soltis: My understanding is limited to precisely what you described — prediction, familiarity, and sympathy.
[01:08 AM] Soltis: Not much more.
[01:08 AM] Soltis: You don’t let anyone in your head.
[01:09 AM] Soltis: I don’t blame you, but it makes understanding you impossible.
[The bulk of her response:]
“I’m going to have to think about this awhile before I respond. I feel like you, in trying to separate us, are almost trying to manipulate your own feelings, and be mad at me.”
I am not trying to separate us. It is all very complicated. And I am not mad at you. To be more accurate and honest, it would be truthful to say that you have disappointed me in the past, and because of that disappointment I am wary to give you trust again. However, realize that I trust no one, and do not take my distance from you personally, and we should be just gravy.
[It takes her some time to muster a response.]