Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Real Root of All Evil

[ref. Blank Noise Project]

Now that everybody is writing about it here is my own two cents on the topic of sexual harassment. Like many men writing about this on their blogs, I have little clue about what sexual harassment really is. The closest I have come to sexually harassing women is staring at them, that too from a distance and in most cases, to the best of my ability, I have tried to be as discreet as possible. But yet to all the women I have stared in my life, here is what I have to say: it was a stare of admiration and not some way of exerting power or making you feel bad about being a woman. If it was anything else, I am deeply sorry!

Okay, now that the prelude is over, the main thing. The British philosopher John Stuart Mill wanted to abolish sexual desire on the grounds that it is responsible for so much of violence, suffering, misery and discontent in our lives. And if you just think, how much of our intellectual, emotional and physical resources go into feeding this monster of sexual desire! How sad it is to see Human Beings, who are supposed to be the paragon of all animals, infantilised and turned into slavering puppies just to gratify their sexual needs. How good it would be to find a non-sexual way to propagate our genes. The French writer Michel Houellebecq makes the same arguments in his books, most powerfully in The Elementary Particles. But of course we all know this is not going to be. This is how we are designed by the evolution. But the question is why? Why do we need these insanely complex reproductive and sexual impulses? Why do we need two genders? Why did evolution connect sexual desire to reproduction? Well the tragic answer is because it is in the interest of our selfish genes. The desire to propagate our genes is not the proximate reason that guides our behavior. Our genes force us to first mate, so that they can propagate their own copies. After all we are just vehicles for those replicator. Aren't we?

This is also what the German philosopher Schopenhauer called the "Will to Live". It is this malign and malevolent force that keeps us alive even when we know that the world is essentially evil and the life is vile, futile and full of only pointless pain and suffering. It also makes us invent illusions and abstractions like "love" with which we try to hide our basest impulses from ourselves. He also said that the only recourse left is to negate this will to live, to lose oneself in artistic contemplation and withdraw from the material world. I know this is asking a little too much from testoterone sodden teenagers, who whistle and leer at women on streets, that they start reading Schopenhauer but whatever : dudes, at least try to understand. It is your selfish genes which make you do this. Don't fall into their trap. Ahhh! What a sorry state of affairs. By God, I am already feeling too depressed!

*I hope people don't think I am ranting against sex just because I am not getting any!
**this post on the excellent blog The Proper Study of Mankind has more details on the evolutionary theories explaining the origins of sex.


km said...

Asking teenagers to read Schopenhauer sounds like a great idea. It could actually help them impress some nerdy woman on a bus or a train :) (didn't work in my case, though!)

Guptavati said...

Very interesting take!! As for folks reading schopenhauer,didn't he himself hold that "Intellect is secondary to the will and subordinate to its demands".I would have to add that repression is the real root of all evil.

Btw Indian mythology is filled with tales of potent sages impregnating virgins by a mere stare,sometimes the process works even by a stare at their reflection in water. :)

Alok said...

km: so yo have already tried this? good to know that it didn't work. I was thinking of doing the same thing !

gv: repression? i never thought about that. actually I don't think schopenhauer's idea of the negation of will is the same as repression in pschoanalytic terms. It is a very conscious way of freeing yourself from the shackles of will and unlike repression it is not the result of external force imposed from outside but the result of an inner, higher, even spiritual, impulse to be free.

of course this is all theoretical and I am sure Schopenhauer or all those mystics who inspired him were repressed in pschoanalytic sense too.

Aishwarya said...

km: if it's any consolation, it doesn't impress the nerdy men either. ;)

Alok said...

Ahh! more reasons to be hopeless :(