Terrorists and Cheaters, Inc.

 

It remains trendy among Foucaultians to claim that marriage is unnatural, a modern invention at best. Whether deconstructed, intersectionalized or historicized, the flavor of the month refuses to die. But I digress. The nature of marriage is not the point I would like to bark about today. Instead, what puzzles me is that the cultural shift humanity has experienced in the last century has decidedly overflown the individuals’ capacity for adaptation. And, speaking of the marital debate, cheaters are a case in point. So are terrorists, mind you —particularly, if what floats your boat is bastardized human AB testing. And this juxtaposition, if I may bang my own drum, demonstrates the plausibility of the theory of human existence that we discussed earlier.

 

In Buber’s dualistic theory of being, we exist as humans either in an “I-You” or an “I-It” relationship. While the former is an amorphous and unintended dialogue devoid of objectification, the latter is more of a monologue in which the human objectifies the other by mentally representing it. And, by reducing existence to a relational interaction among persons, animate objects and deity, in a universe with only three variables, Buber lays down as bottom line that there is no isolated “I” —which, in turn, makes each entity in such a universe an ultimate receptacle of value. Elegant, isn’t it?

 

This approach is relevant because it allows to build a theory of why individuals tend to pair up and also why they cheat. First things first: happiness is no longer an outsourced activity, at least in the West. With the decay of monolithic cultural institutions such as the church and political organizations at the hands of a faux enlightenment fueled individualism, a latent contradiction has been born: people are told that they can and should achieve happiness in this life (not in the afterlife) yet they ought to achieve it in and by themselves (instead of in and through others). Marriage in the West, like it or not, is in decline. People either don’t marry at all or postpone marriage for longer, and once they marry the divorce rates stack the odds against them. The expectations placed on marriage and the cultural limits on selflessness clash within the realm of how they think, feel, say and do, along the lines of what is right and wrong, plus a dissonance regarding the meaning of life in general. 1-0 to me, yay!

 

On the other hand, we are witnessing a tremendous confusion in public discourse regarding the motivations of terrorists. Do they hate “freedom”? Are they retaliating for the bombings of their dominions? Why do they blow up themselves? The political, cultural and socioeconomic circumstances surrounding this phenomenon are not as interesting as what it goes inside the minds of these individuals, though. At least for me. Since most of us find their actions deviant and sociopathic, it is hard to grasp how someone would go to such lengths to harm others and themselves die in the process. No matter how much resolve a human can achieve, the reality is that such “extra mile” can only be achieved by those who have entirely aligned their worldview with their feelings, ideas and words, leaving only the actions to follow. And so they take that step.

 

Heinrich Rickert had precisely that view, i.e. that the goal of philosophy should be to elaborate a comprehensive theory of worldview. In that tenor, perhaps it is appropriate that humanity is analyzed through those lenses. After all, human perceptions are influenced by the environment and the limitations of how knowledge is acquired, though the innate characteristics dwelling in the individual are necessarily shaped as a worldview. Henceforth, if Buber is taken at face value, the manifestation of humanity is the search for the elusive “I-You”. Could it be that such dialogue takes place whenever the elements of existence align?

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