Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

Sadists, Masochists, and Proofs of the Existence of God

with 2 comments

So, it’s just past the middle of July, and my left eye has done its usual trick for the summer. 

I don’t know what it is, but I get some kind of allergic reaction thing in it.  I would go into the details, but they get fairly disgusting, so just leave it at the fact that I start out the day with this thing sort of halfway all right.  Then by the time I get to the evening, I basically can’t see.

I mean, I can see.  I just can’t see well enough to read.  And it’s unpleasant.  And I’m miserable.

I assume that this must be something in the air.  It always comes at the same time every year.  It always does the same thing to me.

If I could figure out what the thing was, I’d go out and make it extinct.

All this is by way of saying that I’ve been like this for the last two days, and today it looks like I’m getting to the end of  it.  This is obviously good news, but I’m still favoring the eye a bit, so what follows may or may not actually be finished today.

Then I’m going to go lie down with an ice cube wrapped in a paper towel on my eye, because that is what makes it feel better.

Let me start out by saying that the reactions to my last post were more or less what I expected them to be.

We are all, very naturally,  more worried about the harridans, as Mique called them, than we are about the tortured inward looking people who only beat up themselves.

Let us call those people the Sadists, and they are, throughout history, the most dangerous people alive.

They’re far more dangerous to your ordinary everyday thug, intellectual or physical.  Thugs know they are thugs.  They even know, at the very least, that what they are doing is at least considered morally wrong by everybody around them.  They think it’s rank idiocy to care, but that’s another issue.

Sadists are something else.  They are convinced–absolutely, unshakably convinced–that they are righteous while the rest of us are  not.  And, what’s more, they are convinced that their righteousness gives them the absolute right to whip other people into shape, and by any means necessary.

The man who wrote the Paula Deen article I posted a while back is a Sadist in this sense. 

His principle interest is in enforcing his definition of good and evil on everybody else, and to cause as much damage as possible when he thinks anybody has gotten out of line.

And he’ll have ample chances to find people out of line.  In fact, it would be almost impossible for any of us to escape being added to the “evil” column, since his standard of right and wrong is not about behavior, but about thoughts and ideas and feelings.

You can control your behavior, if you work at it.  You can almost certainly not control your thoughts and ideas and emotions. 

And Sadists almost assuredly know it.

The woman who wrote the article about her experience with the Latino man and his racially charged attitudes was not a Sadist.

She was not interesting in imposing her ideas about right and wrong on anybody else.  She was only interested in other people’s behavior to the extent that it demanded a response from her.

It was  herself and her own responses that she was worried about.  It was her own deepseated evil she was looking to expunge, while at the same time admitting that that evil never could be expunged.

She, too, defines “being moral” as a matter of thoughts and ideas and emotions, and in so doing she is stuck in the place where  nothing she can ever do will ever wipe out that guilt, or give her absolution for (supposed) crimes.

She is, in other words, a Masochist.

And about that I wanted to say three things.

First is that Masochists outnumber sadists in any more movement by a good ten or twenty to one.

Second is that Sadists could not get themselves into positions of power without Masochists.  Masochists provide the ballast without which Sadists could never get any traction. 

Your average ordinary person does not think like either a Sadist or a Masochist.  If Sadists show up and there are no Masochists to follow them, their entire movement falls apart, because it has to. 

But the third and most important thing is this–I think that the Masochist orientation is inborn and ineradicable.

It’s not something we’re taught.  It’s not the result of a childhood of abuse.  It’s not a artefact of Christianity or Islam or even B.F. Skinner’s imfamous box.

It’s a temperament, and inborn “way of being” that nothing will ever change.  

If you’re born that way, the only real question is which set of moral rules you’ll land on to express your utter and unbearable unworthiness.

This particular type of personality has been recognized almost everywhere, and in Christianity it became one of the casual proofs of the existence of God.

We know God exists, the Medieval sermons said, because we recognize in ourselves those deepseated feelings of guilt that tell us that we have transgressed the moral law.

We have those feelings of guilt even when we don’t know the moral law, or when we know one–not Christian, and therefore not true–that we t hink we’re following perfectly.

Christianity at least has a response to this dilemma.  It says that we’re right not to feel worthy, and right to feel that nothing we can do will ever make us worthy.  But in the end, that doesn’t  matter.  Christ is worthy, and Christ died to pay the debts incurred by our unworthiness, and to make us clean.

The  young woman who wrote that second piece on her encounter with the Latino man has, unfortunately for her, fallen into a moral system that provides no such out. 

The best she can hope for is to spend the rest of her life in an agony of guilt that can never be alleviated, never mind forgiven. 

But if you look a little beyond this, you will see that there is another effect–

She may spend her life in an agony of guilt and self flagellation–but it will be a life that concentrates forever and always on herself.

No  matter how much she talks about “listening” to “marginalized” people, she is never actually listening to anything but her own internal drama.

She is the star of this movie, and nothing and nobody will ever dethrone her from the central importance in that particular narrative.

The Masochistic temperament is, first and foremost, the very ultimate in solipsism.

And maybe that’s the point.

I’d better go put an ice cube on this eye.

Written by janeh

July 19th, 2013 at 8:37 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses to 'Sadists, Masochists, and Proofs of the Existence of God'

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  1. Much food for thought here. Thank you. You’re far more lucid with one wonky eye than most people are with two healthy ones, Jane.

    Have you tried Benadryl? Or does that not work for you?


    19 Jul 13 at 12:32 pm

  2. I would have used a different vocabulary, but the functional description seems about right. I would SERIOUSLY dispute the proportions of True Believers (Jane’s masochists) and Cynics (her sadists.) But this could be because I only concern myself with the enforcement mechanism. Monks and kibbutzim don’t bother me, for example, but Communists do.

    “Inborn and ineradicable” is unknown and perhaps unknowable, but also doesn’t concern me. We all want to do things which our customs, laws or moral codes prohibit. We are volitional beings. We have free will. Our impulses may determine which rules we violate, but they do not give us license to violate any of them.


    19 Jul 13 at 2:33 pm

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