I have finished three novels and, although they share only the most tenuous connections in setting, character and plot, I do consider them a trilogy of sorts. All three are attempts to understand the disconnect between intentions and outcomes. All three are, in a very real sense, about my attempt to overcome the desire for revenge. All three reflect the dominant mood of my life at the times I wrote them – anger for The Blackguard, sadness for The Book of Joshua, mirth for The Potency. But most importantly, they are about identity – not cheap, lazy identities like white/black/Asian, something deeper. I began building a framework for what constitutes a cheap identity during high school and refined them throughout college. Here’s a super brief version of what I came up with:
- There is no such thing as an objective right or wrong. Attempts to deem a thing good or evil are necessarily subjective and arbitrary.
- Instead of morality, the organizing principal of humanity is might. If you make the arbitrary assumption that existence is desirable, that which helps survival/power is “good” and that which hinders survival/power is “bad.” As such, the reason we are not all Nazis right now has nothing to do with the moral “evil” involved with gassing Gypsies, homosexuals and Jews and everything to do with the madness of attempting to run a country in which you a) spend billions of dollars to murder millions of productive citizens who would otherwise be making things for you b) wage war simultaneously on every great power extant c) actively destroy your intellectual base.
- Humans can, and have, morally justified anything they want to. Further, those moral justifications cannot be empirically debunked. This makes moral justification a dubious guide but an excellent tool for manipulation.
- Human beings draw their identities from two sources. A) that which they achieve or actively partake in and b) that which they inherit from birth.
- Human beings are most likely to act against their own survival when they are pridefully engaged with one or more of the identities which they inherit.
- The most common of these destructive, inherited prides are patriotism, racism/ethnic pride, and what I call religious nativism, wherein the individual latches vigorously onto the religion of his/her birth.
- The roots of race/religion/patriotism’s deleterious effects lie in their cheapness. Because they are inherited all the members of a community, regardless of ability, intellect or skill, will be included. When an individual is unable to justify his/her existence in any other way, inherited prides become a raison d’être. As such, any attack on the individual’s race/religion/nation is internalized as a direct attack on the individual. Hence the inherited identity’s power to motivate large groups of people into horrifying actions.
- Inherited prides are inherently ludicrous. The individual partaking in these prides, by definition, had nothing to do with the group in question’s origin, structure or meaning. As such, taking pride in one’s native nationality, race or religion makes no more sense than taking pride in gravity or the sun’s hydrogen content.
The Blackguard deals with race, The Book of Joshua with religious nativism, The Potency with patriotism. The Potency, which I finished just a few months ago, will be the last of my books dealing with the inherited prides. This is not because I’m tired of thinking about inherited prides and the desire to move beyond them, quite the opposite, but because I feel like I’m finally at peace with my own deeper identity.
I’ve already got a cluster of ideas for the next decade’s worth of novels, but you’re just going to have to wait to find out what they are,