“Real dope gives you the freedom to dream your own dreams; the American kind forces you to swallow the perverted dreams of men whose only ambition is to hold their job regardless of what they are bidden to do.”
–Henry Miller, The Air-Conditioned Nightmare
“The wisdom to quit is all we have left.”
–Charles Bukowski, The People Look Like Flowers At Last
Deep down we know ourselves to be noble. It’s just that we rarely find avenues or mechanisms to show our goodness to the world. You know, we have bills to pay, planes to catch, meetings to attend, etc. How, then, do we let the world know about our goodness, if not through our work? This is when we declare that whatever we do for a paycheck is also good for society. Because it is us – good people – doing it. And the higher, the more visible, the more powerful our platform is, the better positioned we are to demonstrate our magnificence to the world. Without that platform, we risk losing our identity. So, the platform – whether P&L or a daily column or a political office – becomes our “precious.” We’re either zealously pursuing it or obsessively trying to hold on to it. And something is lost on the way.
That’s our collective American spell.
Under that spell, in that constant pursuit, we become incapable of mercy. Elites – intellectual, financial and political – are often mistaken about their purpose in life. They think their purpose is to win, whether it’s an argument, a multi-billion dollar deal or an election. In such a realm, mercy becomes a four-letter word. The elites equate mercy with weakness. The only type of benevolence that fits into that worldview is that of a conspicuous philanthropy.
“The more of one’s wealth is obtained by plunder or extortion, the more spectacular and self-aggrandizing will be the forms in which it’s given away.”
–David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years
True benevolence, in my opinion, is not about giving. True benevolence is about not taking it in the first place. True mercy is about being magnanimous towards those who don’t want to or can’t compete in the rat race that the elites have created and mastered. Real mercy is to have the strength and mental disposition to abstain from doing harmful things, to walk away, to quit. Yes, real mercy takes balls.