October 5, 2011 16 Comments
Just an idle thought:
I’m watching Wall Street being occupied, and became fascinated by the degree to which the Media and assorted right-wing morons are glibly disparaging the Wall Street protestors for “not having any coherent demands.” That in itself is just pathetic, since we all know what their demands are and why they’re not something that can be written on a bumper sticker.
But it made me think: What a powerful and terrifying prospect that could be, if you genuinely have something to feel guilty about: For people to gather in numbers, look you in the face and then not tell you what their demands are.
Imagine a bunch of people walked up your driveway today and just stood there, staring at you impassively through the window. Imagine they kept doing that, day and night, without a word. Every time you walk into a room, there’s someone with their face pressed up against the glass, looking at you and giving nothing away. How long would it be before you started searching your conscience? Frankly, I’d probably be offering them all my money and admitting to crimes I’d never even committed within minutes! But if I HAD committed crimes, or even willingly gone to work and done a mundane job in the financial sector, knowing that there was a little uneasiness in my gut about the ethics of it but not being willing enough to rock the boat or suffer the consequences of resigning, then I think I’d probably be quaking in my shoes. Before long I’d be suggesting my OWN concessions to make them go away. And who better to figure out how to put the mess right?
Of course the major flaw with this kind of reasoning is that I do actually have a conscience, and a sense of empathy, and most of the people responsible for the current scandal in America and around the Western world don’t. It’s their most characteristic feature by far. Maybe if you are completely clueless (or simply don’t give a s**t) about what is going on inside other people’s minds and how they feel, then being faced with thousands of impassive faces, looking at you accusingly and making no demands of you whatsoever, would merely cause you to shrug and say “why should I care?” before going about your business. Unfortunately, such a psychopathic mindset is the primary qualification for being the sort of person who is causing all the trouble, whether on the inside of Wall Street’s towers or on the outside cheering it on. But if there’s even a glimmer of empathy inside the brains of these people then staring blankly at them and waiting for THEM to do something is probably a damned good way to unnerve them, I’d have thought.
Incidentally, a few years ago I bizarrely found myself lying on my front lawn, head to head with a journalist called Jon Ronson. We were lying head to head for a magazine photo and shortly after that he made me climb a tree, but I’ve really no idea why a journalist like Jon in particular would be sent to interview an artifical intelligence researcher. Unless it was to uncover what a bunch of kooks we all are. Anyway, a while back I was driving through the Arizona desert listening to NPR and a voice came on that I recognized. It was Jon, talking about a book he’d written about psychopaths. After our encounter on the lawn, I was glad to note that I wasn’t in it. But if you’re looking for some light but insightful reading about a kind of mind that (being a reader of my blog) you are most unlikely to own yourself but may be uncomfortably aware that you share a planet with, then I thoroughly recommend it. It’s called The Psychopath Test: A journey through the madness industry.
P.S. How ironic that Steve Jobs died today. This is an iPhone-fuelled revolution, for sure.