The Privilege of Topical Death
But this begs the question: what is the “self”? Philosophically, there is no universally consistent answer to this. The individual identity of a person will change over time either through experience or demand on responsibility. For example, the self may be extended to those you are responsible for (children, students, citizens, etc) or be restricted to exclude parts of yourself (feet, hands, eyes, etc). Being that it depends too much on personal interpretation, we cannot help to read it without bias.Radical Civility -> Analytical Approach -> Axioms -> Preservation Of Legacy (Self Preservation)
Definition of Life
Capturing what “life” means has always been elusive for humans. Officially there are a lot of definitions, and – due to the different uses – this is appropriate. Law being the most meaningful of them to ensure rights granted to the “correct” organisms. Medically it is vastly different though since it could range from bacteria to corpses. And let’s not get started with religion – some would assert that planets should be considered a single life force or that there are angels the size of pin needless or bigger than planets and they are the ideal that we should platonically base all other life on.
Point is, it’s a hard discussion. It’s easy enough to understand. When we think of life we think of “things like me”. No thinking thing would deny themselves “life”, so that seems to mean that the thought itself ought to be the defining quality. In short Descartes was right! “Cogito Ergo Sum”; “I think therefore I am”. And that solve it, right? We’re done?
Sadly, no. This too falls short. Do trees think? I doubt many would consider them to think the same way we do – if at all. But those same people would definitely say they are alive. So what makes them alive then? Or maybe this is the wrong question. Maybe the right question is, what isn’t alive?
When something dies: plants, bacteria, humans, whatever, the actions stop. We stop acting, we stop moving, we stop “functioning”. And I propose this is the key to understanding it: life is the processes that we use to get resources. To satisfy needs. Life is a means for survival.
So for the sake of this conversation I’ll authoritatively dictate the term. Life is the collection of impulses that is driven to satisfy the needs of that collection.
The Agency of an Idea
Now this definition is incredibly broad, but – for the sake of the rest of this post – this is better than being too restrictive. It not only “fixes” things like trees or bacteria and other “non-sentient” organisms being excluded, but – as something that may be frowned upon – it would also allow things like institutions or ideas to be “alive”.
And this is what the heart of the topic will be focused on: what does it mean if ideas can be considered “alive” and what does it mean for them to “die”? So it may be worth looking at the definition again for consideration to look at the issues.
Why do we instinctively reject the view that ideas are “alive”? This may be me telling on myself, but I think it really comes down to the fact that we like our agency. Again, “I am alive” is a fundamental claim, and if ideas (which clearly aren’t materially surviving and can’t be understood except through “language” of some type) manipulate us, then that agency is lost. It’s a matter of ego to need them to be non-living, otherwise they are parasites that control us. And that is existentially terrifying.
But if we can get past this – if we consider this STRICTLY logically – I don’t see why we shouldn’t consider ideas alive. Are they a system of impulses? Well the ideas derive from understanding other material things, react to other ideas, and affect the world; they seem to be a system of impulses as much as anything else. Do they seek to preserve themselves? Even completely fictional ideas get institutionalized and defended with myths. So we would have to consider those parts of their “body”, but – abstractly – it all seems to fit.
The only real question is “are they driven to satisfy?” Or, put a different way, “do they have agency?” It doesn’t seem that ideas CAN have self agency being non-materialistic. But even materialistic things don’t have sentience the same ways that we do. They react to light or other stimuli and are non-chaotic and predictable. That’s true for small children as well, generalizing into adulthood. It seems that only when things get too complex that we term them as “conscious”. And ideas are nothing if not complex: “reactive to metaphysical stimuli” the same way that organic lifeforms react to material needs.
In short, ideas being alive seems valid, and I think the denial that ideas are alive is a bit egotistical.
Not to mention those ideas that get stuck in your head like brainworms. If that’s not clear indication that there are little terrors living rent free in our heads, I don’t know what it means. <- half joking… but not really.
The Topically Zombie
So assuming that ideas are a form of life, then let’s consider their body. This is where it gets troubling:
Humans would have to be considered part of their survival mechanism. We would be used like hands or feet to ensure they have the means to spread to others and grow. But if we can get past this dreadful concept, the rest is understandable. Institutions and governments and myths would all be part of their arsenal that they built to protect themselves from destruction. But it also shouldn’t be ignored that – like all life – they adapt to and change to their environment (which is the social landscape).
So we have this concept built. Of how they live, now what does it mean for them to die?
If we reflect on traditional life, this seems easy enough to understand: the need for resources is no longer necessary to be satisfied. But the repercussions are troubling because it “flips the script”: People stop drawing breath because they no longer NEED oxygen. People no longer think because there is nothing else to think ABOUT. It doesn’t answer “why does this end?”, it just states that it does.
Personally I think that’s because entropy makes fools of all of us in the end, but that’s for a different time.
So when applied to ideas, we see that ideas die the same way: there is no longer a need to satisfy resources. But since this isn’t a material discussion this takes on a different form. What needs of the “body” is the idea satisfying? This is such an abstract question, it’s best to look at an example:
What is the idea of “purple” satisfying? We’ve seen in a different article that purple is an impossible color, but that doesn’t mean it’s not satisfying a need. Specifically one to identify when the phenomenon of different cones are activated in the eye. Since this is so dependent on material observations, the idea of “purple” would only really die if our biology was different.
So what about something more abstract? Let’s consider what the idea of “patriot”. Speaking broadly and simplistically, the idea describes a compliance to a national identity. For this to “die” the concept of a national identity has to go away (unlikely). But it brings up a contrasting view as well, what if a “body” cannot comply in the first place? Then the idea was never born. We may have a name for the idea; a placeholder for it, but the idea itself is missing. For all intent, the idea was dead on arrival.
Now it gets interesting. Because this idea CANNOT be known. That placeholder is vapid and meaningless. If a person has the concept of this topic, the place holder, but no reference; for this body specifically relating to this topic – they are a topical zombie.
The topical zombie is fascinating because it tries to consume and mimic what it should be, but it can never really be alive. The patriot that cannot comply is only mimicking the patriot, but will always be a patriotic zombie.
The ally of the socially outcast (that is not an outcast themselves) can only mimic the outcast. They are an outcast zombie.
The Burden of Life
This may cause some people to consider a flawed perspective coming from the concept of “life is a virtue”. Since traditionally “life” has always been considered to be “that which is like me”, and the ideas want to sustain themselves, it would make sense that this “life is a virtue” concept is near universal. But since we changed the definition, it is worth reevaluating.
Is living (recognizing that we are being dictated by ideas and needs) beneficial? I would argue, no. While alive, the personal identity is harder to validate and comfort/stability harder to achieve. While bringing the benefit of self awareness, being topically alive – under this understanding – is synonymous with “burden”.
If we are patriotically alive, then that means we are trapped by the national identity lest we lose our own personal identity which relies on it. In contrast, if we are “patriotically dead” (meaning that the national identity is not identified) then we are unrestricted in what we can be.
In this sense, being “topically dead” is a freedom because you are “normal” or “typical”. But we should acknowledge that this is vastly different from being a topical zombie, someone who has a demand for a topic forced onto them. Someone that is attempting to understand but cannot. It also should be noted that the topical zombie often is so naturally good at mimicking the topically dead that they don’t see their understanding of the topic is vapid.
With all this laid out, it should be clear that – coming at it from the perspective of “ease of life”, the categories can be classified (from easiest to hardest):
topically dead, topically alive, being a topical zombie
The good news is most people are topically dead on most things. This is a result of perception bias and learning through experience. We are not burdened with the idea of being crushed under a mountain because our experience never taught us that this was a need to be satisfied. And there are infinitely different concepts like this that we will never think about.
Including those that others DO have to suffer through.
What we Deserve
Frankly, we all deserve to be topically dead in as many ways as possible. Within the patriarchy, a “typical man” can be topically dead. They don’t need to think about their place. They are “typical”.
But being typical is rare. Anyone non-typical even by a slight degree (a feminine man for example) is a topical zombie and is always trying to mimic what is meant by “typical” either to reject it, or to be it. And these are the people that we need to consider.
Ideas seek to preserve themselves. They are alive. They will fight to discredit the topical zombie. They will fight to use their body to reject the threat. But that doesn’t mean we have to allow it.
We all deserve to be topically dead, but when we encounter a topical zombie the moral thing to do would be to WAKE UP. To become topically alive. To understand the privilege of being a puppet of a parasitic idea that you were being controlled by.
We deserve to be topically dead, but for the good of everyone around us, we should strive to be topically alive and suffer the burden of that life.
Every action, every decision, every choice is a vote to make reality what you want it to be. Please help promote each other.