“Nameless One – ‘Then this is my final question: What can change the nature of a man?’
Transcendent One – ‘THE QUESTION IS MEANINGLESS.’
Nameless One – ‘Nonetheless, before there is an ending between us, I will hear your answer.’
Transcendent One – ‘THEN THIS IS MY ANSWER, AND YOU ARE THE PROOF. *NOTHING* CAN CHANGE THE NATURE OF A MAN.'”
–Dialogue from Planescape: Torment.
It is an odd thing, to read the thoughts of your opposite. In my readings of conservative blogs, I have come across a blogger who calls himself “OneSTDV”. I am not quite sure of the meaning of this name but I believe it has something to do with his belief that blacks are inherently inferior to whites intellectually. He calls this idea “Human BioDiversity” or “HBD”. I call it “racism” myself, and I believe it to be false.
This is not the only area where we differ. OneSTDV is also quite anti-feminist. While I would call him a misogynist, he himself would probably claim he is not, so we’ll compromise and say he is openly and extremely sexist. On every political issue that I have ever seen him address, his views appear to be the complete and total opposite of mine.
The differences do not stop even here. Our tastes are also completely opposed in the realms of literature, film, art and what qualities we find attractive in women. I am a vegetarian, OneSTDV is a carnivore, and quite proud of it–and more than that, he is openly hostile to vegetarians.
So, why do I read his blog? I admit it can be quite upsetting–his ideas strike me as terrible. When reading him, I always think of the line in P.G. Wodehouse’s story Comrade Bingo, when Bertie Wooster says to the Communist revolutionary: “The whole hub of the scheme seems to be to massacre coves like me; and I don’t mind owning I’m not frightfully keen on the idea”.*
But I read his blog anyway, because I believe it is very useful to expose yourself to thinking in total opposition to your own. It clears the mind, and allows you to focus on what you really believe; and through testing your convictions, you make them stronger.
I tried for some time to analyze my visceral dislike for his ideas, to comprehend what it was that made us different. It seemed to me that perhaps there was some underlying principle from which all our differences logically followed. I believe I found it when OneSTDV wrote in one post:
“In the end, we just can’t escape biology.”
That may be the key. It is to some extent true, of course, and those who would arrogantly try to escape fundamental facts of nature often end up like Icarus. But there is a way in which OneSTDV seems to revel in this fact, as if he is perfectly content with seeing everyone as just “moist robots”, as Scott Adams would say.
It is perfectly true that we cannot escape biology–but it is my contention that this doesn’t mean we ought not to try. For in trying, we become more than just biological entities–we achieve something more meaningful. It is this desire, I think, which underlies all Art and Literature.
Again, my favorite quote from Ayn Rand applies here:
“The conservatives see man as a body freely roaming the earth, building sand piles or factories—with an electronic computer inside his skull, controlled from Washington. The liberals see man as a soul freewheeling to the farthest reaches of the universe—but wearing chains from nose to toes when he crosses the street to buy a loaf of bread.”
Now, Rand believed we could have our cake and eat it too; be free in both the physical and psychological realms, where as I see it as more of a trade-off. But in essence, I believe that she was right in that quote above. Liberalism means freeing the mind to do mental work, Conservatism means freeing the body to do physical work.
And that, I think, is what OneSTDV is striving for. He wants to obey his herd instincts–not a bad thing necessarily, as they got to be instincts for a reason–and this is what most of his ideas are directed towards. The vegetarian issue is a perfect example: as I recently noted, I am a vegetarian because I want to be different, OneSTDV is not a vegetarian because he vehemently does not want to be different.
It may be that I am wrong in my assessment. This is just my feeling from reading his posts. No doubt he would be quite annoyed to learn I was doing even this much armchair psychology on him–especially as I suspect he finds psychology in general to be a web of liberal lies. I confess I find it odd as well, but the truth is that I am actually trying to understand myself by understanding him. (He is welcome, should he ever read this, to perform the same sort of analysis on me.)
The larger point here, beyond the strange (and sort of humorous) disagreement between two pseudonymous bloggers, is that sometimes there is something to be gained from reading views alien to your own. It may help you keep your own mind sharp, and prepare you to defend your beliefs.
*Note that I mean this only as a humorous exaggeration. I do not mean to imply that OneSTDV actually intends violence.
UPDATE 1/20/2012: Mentioned this in the comments, but just to make sure everyone sees it: my responses to the comments on this post are collected here.