Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Option d)

The Pope asks, quoting the great philosopher Carlin, whether most people are a) stupid, b) crazy or c) just plain full of shit. The truth is, of course, option d), "Don't give a shit."

Look, mankind is, in the end, just a bunch of jumped-up monkeys with big foreheads and not enough hair, with prety much the same hard-wired instincts as any monkey. Our instincts are programmed to follow the beta male. Our instincts are programmed to treat our own troop/tribe/clan as the only "real" people and everybody else as "not really people".

The end result is that we have no instinctual basis for giving a shit about anybody outside our own family and circle of friends. Homeless children? Don’t give a shit. Civilians dying in Iraq? Don’t give a shit. Brutal genocide in Darfur? Don’t give a shit. Bush Administration is lying and trashing America's reputation? Don't give a shit. Oh sure, on an intellectual basis we can be apalled. But that's a function of the forebrain, the least-used part of the human brain and a part that is especially little-used since the American educational system was replaced with an obedience-training system intended to indoctrinate children that Truth is what's handed down by Authority and obedience is a virtue. On an emotional basis, we just don't have the instinctual equipment to give a shit about something happening to some person far, far away that we've never seen nor met.

So what do you do when the majority don't give a shit? That's a good question, and one that I don't have an answer to. I guess I could say, well, the answer if most people don't give a shit is to not give a shit, too. Of course, that way leads to piles of dead bodies, but hey, they're not the dead bodies of me or mine, so who gives a shit?

-- Badtux the "Why give a shit?" Penguin


  1. Have you read any Robert Anton Wilson, Penguin? If not, you should. He's the person who first brought the Carlin quote to our attention, and his own stuff is quite entertaining. For instance:

    "Benny had actually read Darwin once, in college a long time ago, and had heard of sciences like ethology and ecology, but the facts of evolution had never really registered on him. He never thought of himself as a primate. He never realized his friends and associates were primates. Above all, he never understood that the alpha males of Unistat were typical leaders of primate bands. As a result of this inability to see the obvious, Benny was constantly alarmed and terrified by the behavior of himself, his friends and associates and especially the alpha males of the pack. Since he didn't know it was ordinary primate behavior, it seemed just awful to him.

    "Since a great deal of primate behavior was considered just awful, most of the domesticated primates spent most of their time trying to conceal what they were doing.

    "Some of the primates got caught by other primates. All of the primates lived in dread of getting caught.

    "Those who got caught were called no-good shits.

    "This metaphor was deep in primate psychology because primates mark their territories with excretions, and sometimes they threw excretions at each other when disputing over territories."


    The Vietnam War, like most primate squabbles, was about territory....if they had been wild primates, they would have all excreted in the disputed area and maybe thrown excretions at each other; being domesticated primates, they made ink excretions on paper and threw metal and checmicals at each other."

    Sound like any war you can think of? Any species, for that matter? Man, you're so lucky you're a penguin and not a stupid-ass primate.

  2. Pope Horatio Tyrannosaurus Nixon Rex

    When I read that post, I was thinking of Wilson myself. It's easier to understand politics when you understand poo flinging.

  3. Whoops, probably should've attributed that long-ass quote. It's from Schrodinger's Cat. Not quite as good as Wilson's opus, Illuminatus, but a fine book nonetheless.

  4. Yes, I have indeed read some Robert Anton Wilson, who also has a most entertaining web site BTW if you have not wandered by it lately. I am not, however, a big fan of his work, since I prefer my fiction to have "plot". Of course, RAW's stuff might not be fiction :-).

    - Badtux the Fictional Penguin

  5. "I guess I could say, well, the answer if most people don't give a shit is to not give a shit, too. Of course, that way leads to piles of dead bodies, but hey, they're not the dead bodies of me or mine, so who gives a shit?

    -- Badtux the "Why give a shit?" Penguin"

    The problem with that is that if such a situation prevails, the dead bodies could very suddenly start including "me and mine."

    Intelligence, at all levels down to the neural net of a jellyfish and on down to the hormonal cues emitted by bacteria, evolved precisely to give life forms a sort of map and model of the environment they are in, so they can individually outwit death and survive long enough to reproduce.

    When danger comes from equally intelligent beings the dangers get very unpredictable. There is a lot to be said for keeping one's head down. But this could be more dangerous thgan choosing a side and backing it.

    Tough call.


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