THE POISON OF COMPROMISE; or, how to make everyone think you’re batsh*t crazy, including yourself.
i’m in the process of reading chuck klosterman’s new book eating the dinosaur, and there are two separate essays included that made me think about this idea of complete moral conviction and how it can very easily translate to insanity in contemporary american society. The first essay looks at the standpoint of ralph nader (in comparison to that of werner herzog and, um, rivers cuomo), and the second talks about ted kazynski (the unabomber). it just struck me how the unifying element of these two (almost typed whackjobs) is they’re undying singular dedication to their convictions. Nader has been so focused on his message for the past forty or fifty years that he is completely unironic in his worldview, and has never run contrary to any of his personal beliefs. this eplains why the man has NEVER been in a relationship. similarly, ted kazynski believed so wholeheartedly in his manifesto about the poisoning of our species by technology that he was willing to kill people in order to perpetuate his ideas.
this reminded me of a conversation we had about a year ago after watching no country for old men, specifically about the character of anton chigurh. at first, the general sentiment was that chigurh was a sociopath, and clinically insane. but, perhaps from having read the book and gaining a little extra insight into the three main characters, it slowly dawned on me that perhaps chigurh is actually the only sane person in the story. this, of course, was met with guffaws. but here’s how i see it: the three central men in this book/film exist on some sort of moral spectrum: anton a “the bad guy”, the sheriff portrays “the good guy”, and josh brolin is caught somewhere in the middle. i mean, he’s not an evil man, but he DOES steal $2 million and place his wife in jeopardy for it. but one thing the book further expounds on is the moral fiber of the sheriff, how he battles with a specific scenario from his youth in the war where he denied his convictions for his own self preservation, and was consequently rewarded for it. sheriff bell lives with the weight of this irony for the rest of his life, never being able to reconcile what he had done, and in way, it dictates the path he takes in his adult life as a reaction to this guilt. anton chigurh lives with ZERO ambiguity in his life. this is perfectly illustrated in his final scene with llewelyn’s widow, as he dialogues with her about why he HAS to kill her; for no other reason than he said he would. this is a man who has CLEARLY defined his moral stance, and will not err from it, because he KNOWS that to deviate even slightly, as the sheriff had done, is to fail. it makes him a hypocrite.
similarly, the antihero rorschach in the graphic novel watchmen almost perfectly typifies this single-minded allegiance to his convictions. of all the people in that novel, he is the ONLY one who does not quaver from what he believes, and is seen as an almost one-dimensional character because of it. it’s amusing that we see static personalities as “less” than ones who exist on some perennial rollercoaster of identity, well illustrated by the other protagonists in watchmen, especially nite owl and dr.manhattan, upon both of whom the entire plot revolves on their change in perspective. rorschach is the all-encompassing personification of his own belief structure, to the point where he would rather become a martyr for the truth than allow a lie to keep the peace. this seems insane.
so, in our conversation post no country, i made the parallel comparison between these two characters. when my friend reiterated that chigurh was indeed insane,possibly because he went around shooting people in the head with a cattle punch, i asked him to define the term. we came to the conclusion that insanity is measured by a person’s deviation from what society deems as “normal”. but this precludes the idea that SOCIETY IS NORMAL. which, of course, is the message we are barraged with from day one. this is why we go to school, o to college, get a job, listen to certain types of music, eat at certain restaurants, blog on the internet, whatever. we seek out what the rest of the world tells us is NORMAL. but what if maybe that isn’t true? what if society is an insane institution? what if what we are REALLY asked to do from the moment we are born is to compromise our very essence, because mankind has sought to claim and establish our OWN standards of morality?
now, please don’t misread me. i am NOT advocating shooting people with cowpunches or wearing masks and destroying german shepherds. i’m not saying it’s alright to mail bombs to people or run for president at the expense of really allowing progress to take place. what i’m attempting to discuss here is not the belief structure itself, but the WAY in which we go about upholding that structure in every aspect of our lives. i’m talking about the poison of compromise. when we ascribe to a specific set of ideals, we are taking on those parameters as a way in which we intend to live our lives. and unfortunately, far too often we allow ourselves to be swayed by something that deviates from those ideals. it’s a our search for value that leads to a misappropriation of the desire for normalcy. to put it another way, we’d rather be “cool” than “right”. perhaps this is a massive oversimplification, but i think it still rings true. and, personally, it stings a little to type it.
paul spoke his friends in rome about this very same thing: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. to accept the message of christ is to reject the standards the world has set before us, and in essence embrace our “insanity”. jesus himself told his disciples (and by extension, us) that, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.the world should hate us for our dementia! so why are we so desperate to impress her?
this is all i can write for now. i might expand it more later, but i hope you find this intriguing. and i apologize of any of these references are alien to you. go watch no country for old men and watchmen, as they’re great films. G-D bless, and safe travels.