Thursday, November 23, 2006

The highest high

If you take an aspirin, that is ok. If you drink tons of coffee to stay awake at work, I'd guess that is ok on de facto grounds. So what is it that makes something like steroids wrong?

You have these sports people that earn money based on how much and how well they perform. Take steroids, better (?) performance, better sports people, and better salaries as well. Why not? Well, because something does not sound quite right, does it? What is that thing that bothers you in the back of your mind?

Then you have things like baseball, where the player union itself seems to have an interest in that there are no doping tests. Why not? What exactly would be wrong with finding that whatever percentage of players use steroids? Let's say the number is 10%. What's wrong with that? Does it change the sport? And if the number is 50%? Does it change the sport? And if the number is 90%? Does it change the sport now?

Of course not. Steroids or no steroids, drugs or no drugs, cork bats or no cork bats, the sport remains the same. But what is wrong with that kind of proposition? Why is doping something that must be hidden? Why cannot it be in the clear?

And that question gives the answer. It must remain covered so that whoever is doping can claim that the achievements are the result of sportsmanship work. But if reality is that, roughly, any Joe Doe taking pills can achieve similar results... hey, all of a sudden the salaries of these sports people look way too high, don't they? Why would you pay anybody tons of millions of dollars to take pills, go win championships, and dedicate the victory to the pharmaceutical lab?

That is the problem: sports like this are bullshit (quite literally) because the players who dope do the following two things. First, they have a complete disregard for whether something is proper or not (believe it or not, doping can do things like getting you out of the sport forever). And second, they have a complete disregard for whether something has any connection with reality or not. In other words, they are psycopaths and liars, because they do not care what is it that they have to do as long as they can collect ever growing mountains of money.

When they celebrate, they take all the glory. We like to believe they persevered because of skill and effort. And, to a point, we are also accomplices because even when we have some hint that perhaps there was doping involved, we brush it aside so that we can also celebrate. Because we need to celebrate, we need to win too. And thus we also lie to ourselves so we can give ourselves a fake high.

So what is going to happen when getting a fake high takes more and more efforts on our part? What is going to happen when the dope of yesterday is not enough for tomorrow? Well, things like drugs that will allow you to work 24 hours a day. And obviously, the work day will be extended to 18 hours, and whoever works "half a day" quite literally will be punished with a lower salary, etc etc etc. Note how the article is written in almost fatalistic terms: it is here, it will happen, I am sorry for you, and so on. And clearly, if you are convinced that it must happen, then it surely will.

Welcome to the high life, I mean life on a high. And welcome to a Brave New World. Being a complete slave of work, a complete slave of money, of these tokens you will not keep when you die. A life full of gla$$ bead$, of doing things we really do not believe in so we can think we have things which have no intrinsic value.

Sometimes, the way in which we lie to ourselves may seem a bit innocent, or even childish. I had a plane conversation once with this lady that was very religious. Although which religion it was exactly does not matter, out of curiosity I asked her about these religious things she was describing. She went on to tell me about what she did because of her religion, and why these acts had a lot of value because they were done in the context of her religion.

I guess my straight face and lack of reaction made her see I was not buying any of it, so she said the following: "Well, I know that all of these things I believe in are more or less like believing that Santa Claus exists, but life would be too hard if I could not believe that there is something after death... life would be meaningless, so even though I know very well that all of this is foolish I choose to believe in it anyway because I would not be able to cope with life otherwise". I had not asked a single question, I had not uttered a single word, and there she was confessing her sin: knowingly lying to herself.

But some other times our lies have nastier consequences. For example, what is going to happen when getting an ever stronger high requires that some species goes extinct? Or that someone else dies? Or that many other people die? Or that some ethnic cleansing must occur? Or that we completely ruin this planet in less than 100 years? Or that we commit global suicide, so we can finally get the highest high of all highs: experiencing death in a horrific and terrifyingly slow manner, just so that we can finally bring on to ourselves what we are typically so afraid of?

Oh, you mean, you open the newspaper and read?

Thus, there is no choice other than to conclude that, on aggregate, we are such pathetic monkeys. And even though life like this is absolutely 100% bullshit, the more important fact is that it is also an option. So thanks, but no thanks --- I will take something else instead.


Nathan said...

i love this post, very spot on and thought provoking. in my opinion this attitude was born along with the information age. When the definition of a days work moved drastically from plowing a field or hammering a nail to programming and making phone calls. We no longer work with our bodies as nature intended we are working primarily with our minds and we are making the transition faster than evolution allows us to adapt. Some would argue that the introduction of substances are part of the evolutionary process but i disagree. The end i fear may be the fatalistic one of which you spoke but i see no alternative. History is riddled with societies like our own and i am afraid my friend it is doomed to fail. Ours is a unique set of circumstances but with a familiar theme of attempting to out-run nature and become the gods we idolize. Perhaps this is what propels evolution in the first place but now i am just running in circles. This was definitely food for thought.

Andres said...

Hmmmmm, however, this kind of "addict" behavior if you will still occurred when manual labor was predominant.

I think that our brains are just too hooked up on obtaining pleasure, whatever we learn pleasure comes from. For some of us, it may come from exercising our creative skills. For some others, perhaps it comes from the limitless accumulation of money.

One way or the other, it's very similar to being an addict to something.

So what happens when our addiction is damaging to others? And in particular, what happens when the addictions of a large number of people sharing the shame cultural background is damaging to other groups of large people, even if they have the same cultural background?

What typically seems to happen is that neither group can kick the addiction and you end up with disputes ranging from disagreement to war.

In addition, history teaches us that wars are typically launched because of economic reasons. Hence, our accumulation of funny looking pieces of paper... and the irrational faith we have in their value... results in a competition between the imaginary values of each side's fortunes.

Of course, the loser is expected to die. Sometimes, the winner dies too. Very evolved, us humans...