Friday, January 27, 2006

The Offended Consciousness

I jotted this down some time ago; it's a sketch of one particular way in which people claim to be rational without showing it.

The offended consciousness obsesses about the reading of others, considering it dishonest because it cannot conceive of another way to read: it must regard their reading as bad reading because they contradict its own invested opinion. It apes and caricatures, and the principles it uses to denigrate the truth are stolen from the truth; and this theft is the honesty on which it prides itself.

Wounded by the truth it makes up a tale, a just-so story, by which the scandalous truth can be tamed; it explains away by arbitrary fiat: this is due to fear, that is due to craving; this is due to vanity, that is due to hatred. As the wounded animal strikes out without reason, so the offended consciousness strikes out, contradicting not with argument but with clumsy reversal, like an angry child on the playground: "Your love is hate, your benevolence malice, your good bad."

To learn from what offends it is not its way; to be made stronger in honing itself against what scandalizes it is beyond it. The offended consciousness does one thing only: it flees, scorching the earth and poisoning the wells behind it, excusing itself by saying, "If I faced it, it would magically gain power."

And so it flees, calling out encouragements to other fleeing, desperate, offended consciousnesses: "Do not worry, strong ones! We will slay the foe by insinuations!"

Embittered by paradoxes that only its own offense makes paradoxical, it puffs itself up and runs to hide, saying: "You cannot analyze like I can analyze! That is why I will not face you: my weapons are too subtle for you! They are so subtle they would pass through you without any effect!"

A frightened little boy weeping on the edge of the playground dreams up the same fantasies, consoling his wounded pride with repeated self-exaltation and repeated denigration of those who have more power to do and to be than he has. Unable to undo the wound of offense, the offended consciousness whimpers and snarls and occasionally casts a dart from afar.

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