Mar 1, 2007

Bad faith and Discordianism

One of the basic claims of Discordianism is that we are radically free to choose and act as we wish. Its spelled out on page 00008 and has remained one of the few things almost all Discordians can agree on. You are free, not you can be free or freedom is available to you, but right now, at this very second, you are an independent agent who is capable of making choices and taking responsibility for them, because only you caused them.

However, many people try to avoid this freedom, precisely because they dread responsibility. I don't have to tell you about most of these, the conservatives who put faith in tradition, the Christians who put faith in being part of God's plan and every other person who constructs a worldview that puts them at the mercy of higher powers and the world in general. Victim mentalities, often where no victimization exists.

In short, we choose social roles and institutions and norms in order to escape our freedom, to give it away and abdicate responsibility. One of the most insidious of these is Discordianism, precisely because it proclaims freedom so openly and positively.

Many Discordians feel they should or actively do play the role of someone who is a bit “zany”, slightly unpredictable (though tiresomely predictable within a certain range) and given to bad faux-surrealism and Dada. I should point out not everyone is like this and there are some people who have always been like that. This is not directed at those people. Instead, it is directed at people who play that role because they feel this is how a Discordian should be and/or want to fit into the Discordian community more.

This is simply not true. You have an idea taken from an incomplete impression of the Principia Discordia, with an all too Cabbage-like need for acceptance from your chosen set of peers. In short, you laughed at all the wrong parts and took seriously the ones you were meant to find funny.

First off, you're falling into the “conformity of the radical” fallacy. That every radical group or gathering etc should have a narrowly defined set of behaviour and interests and those acting outside of it are “poseurs” or fakes of some description. Remember that bit in the Principia about people belonging to the Orders of Discordia just as likely carrying a flag of the counter-establishment as the establishment? Good.

Secondly, your actions and behaviour are suggesting to the rest of the world that you are playing the role of a Discordian, that you are an automaton whose only purpose is to act out the essence of being a Discordian. This is basically a paradox, you are using your freedom to actively deny it. “I'm a Discordian, I'm supposed to act crazy!” etc. A very interesting position.

Of course, Discordianism is no stranger to paradoxes. But normally they are used to illustrate a point in a humorous manner, or draw attention to some inconsistency in a viewpoint. Also, Discordians do have a commitment of sorts to freedom, as previously stated. Obviously everyone does, but to be fair its not often as explicitly stated.

The thing is, you can't escape freedom. By making a choice to act like your idea of a Discordian, you may be denying it, but you are responsible for your choice at the same time. So what you should really ask yourself is “is this really the best way to exercise my freedom? Or should I, as a free person, act as I see fit, instead of how I think others will approve of me?”

I know where I stand on the issue.

1 comment:

Cainad said...

Hey, I like this. It's good to know that some people are trying to achieve a more realistic interpretation of Discordianism.