A follower on Twitter today expressed disappointment in our recent opioid post here: I was hoping it was going to be a post on finding purpose with life over and above choking on “red pill” outrage porn on a daily basis. My initial response was to advise that the most certain means to avoid such letdowns in others is to articulate your preferred positions yourself. And that made me realize this is probably the very content he wished to see. I’ll return to this in a moment.
But first I wanted to discuss the concept of “outrage porn.” In particular as it is customarily deployed as a pejorative. Of course any piece of writing can be poorly conceived or executed, and most are. But if the term is meant to be descriptive of a genre, its wholesale dismissal is the work of a fool. Outrage porn, or alternatively “mockery lit” has a long and auspicious history of catalyzing necessary social counter-responses. These responses being much more robust than dry dialectic has ever produced, I would argue. That’s not to say dialectic isn’t critical; it’s the concrete foundation of western civilization. But men don’t fight wars with concrete as a weapon.
If we were to objectively evaluate outrage porn through the course of history’s endless tribal conflicts, we would probably find ourselves immensely impressed with its effectiveness. Some of its most frequent users are successful tribes indeed. It’s interesting that you never see jews dismiss even the most lurid rhetoric of their co-ethnics by calling it “porn.” But it shouldn’t be interesting at all. This is a key tool in how they avoid the temptation of complacency while maintaining in-group cohesiveness and out-group antipathy. And whose tactics are winning precisely?
Further, there is a subtle but substantial delta between saying Look how stupid this is, har har! And Look how stupid this is. Here’s the lesson we should take from it. Some people seem to forget that sexuality isn’t synonymous with pornography, particularly when its purpose is to produce a child. In other words, titillation isn’t exclusive to masturbation.
Though returning to the idea of finding purpose in life beyond despair, why ignore the best part? There’s an abundance of purpose in gloom and discomfort. Seeing so many anesthetized positivity-preaching zombies, I sometimes feel a thrill at having desolation’s rich motivational vein seemingly all to myself.
As a mildly successful man, it’s difficult to not give despair its due. I fought through an acute youthful shyness around women out of despair at the prospect of being an incel with crippling monthly Kleenex bills. I labored long hours to advance my earnings power out of despair at the prospect of being an Applebee’s waiter in my 70s. I exercise daily and binge on broccoli instead of bon bons out of despair at the prospect of my gut looking like Michael Moore’s neck. Truly, if I had always thought everything would be copacetic I’d be alone on the back porch of a shack counting the birdies in my backyard. That I am sitting here blogging instead may not actually be the most compelling point in favor of my thesis.
But setting aside the vast motivational efficacy of doom, the advice I would offer those in the clutches of drugs, personal rot, or merely apathy is one perhaps they’ve heard somewhere before: You don’t have to live like this. Contra liberal doctrine, the future isn’t fixed. Yours, like that of the West as a whole, is still to be written. Both have a higher purpose than lying supine on the floor.
Rising to a more regal posture is much easier than most choose to recognize. Whether in a state of fulfillment or decay, our lives are nearly always the fruits of our habits. The human psyche is remarkably prone to inertia. Thus whether self-destructive or beneficial, we tend to keep doing the same things while wondering why nothing ever changes. But the best thing about habits is that bad ones can be broken and better ones formed. Even the thickest dullards can usually ascertain the difference between the two.
For me, good habits have always blossomed from negative concerns. That’s why I keep a stack of outrage porn always close. I have a greater ambition for me, my children, and my civilization than to be someone else’s meal pellets. While working against that bleak possibility isn’t always fun, you do get in excellent shape from the effort. And that’s about the most positive thing I can think to say.