Thursday, June 14, 2012

Essay on Shame #13

I was reading a Montevidayo post in which Lucas de Lima writes that self-determination "promotes values as stifling as enlightenment, individualism, and restraint" and I became extremely irritated and aggressive-defensive, like a ferret. The negation of restraint--and of agency, which the post also condemns--troubles me in particular because it seems like one of its quick descendants is, "It's not my fault that I hurt you" or "I couldn't help hurting you." Ugh, that's terrible. I'm ashamed to have typed that, even in quotation marks.

But then I thought about my life as a person participating in the money-world and in relationships with other people. The money-world sets it up so that I can't help hurting people by proxy. Some would argue that because it distributes damage so widely (the poisonous equivalent of, say, voting or donating to charity) and draws from so many sources my participation in it is actually worse than, say, punching someone in the face. I can see the logical and emotional truth of that.

And I do believe it's possible to hurt someone you're close to "by mistake" or "by accident" in the sense that hurting them was not a self-determined plan, but a side effect of misplaced or incomplete attention. In some ways, I'm more aghast when I do this kind of damage. But mostly, when I (individualism) do something* (agency) on purpose (self-determination) to hurt someone, I feel the worst about it. I may be mistaken about that. While trying to protect what's directly in front of me from my terrible self, I may be leaving a wake of carnage. But I'm not sure the solution is to remove the self.**

*This doing is usually saying. I haven't taken any other kind of deliberately harmful or vengeful action in a long time.

**The self -- my sense of self -- not myself. Don't worry.

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