“Upon this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? One should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved.”
— Niccolo Machiavelli
Honesty is a virtue that never fails to go unpunished, a lesson I’ve been reminded of recently.
Because people assume that with honesty comes intent and/or judgment; if I say a girl is pretty that must mean I desire to have sex with her–and moreover–that I intend to try and do so. Or, if I tell someone it’s their fault they are single, it means I’m judging them to be unworthy or incapable of being loved.
However, the fact of the matter is that it’s quite possible to state something is beautiful without desiring to possess it, and likewise, that stating the cause of a phenomenon does not require the assignment of blame, or even a value judgment of whether something is “good” or “bad.”
Indeed, as an existentialist, one of the practices I adhere to as much as possible is to observe the world without assigning value or responsibility or possession. If it rains, it is neither good nor bad: it is simply an observation of fact–it is happening–and I can choose to respond in whatever way suits my purpose.
Better to be Feared than Loved
Which brings us to Machiavelli and his oft cited quote–in short, that it is better to be feared than loved if both are not possible.
Many people conclude that Machiavelli was therefore advocating cruelty and violence, and in some ways this is true, but it’s incomplete. He was not advocating cruelty and violence because he thought such things were virtuous–he was advocating cruelty and violence because such things are necessary to maintain power.
Preferably, they would not be–but they are–and this is where we come to the crux of the argument. The problem is that stating a truth like Machiavelli’s makes people uncomfortable, and they react with hostility–shaming the speaker, if not condemning him to excommunication or exile. Why? Because the person who states this sort of truth is burdened–not by himself, but by others–with intent and/or judgment.
So if I say monogamy is crumbling before our eyes, it must mean I want this to be the case–or even that in some ways I’m at fault for it–when in reality, it is simply an observation of fact.
Or if I say women prefer men who are strong, dominant, and have access to other women–not the khaki-pant, polo-shirt wearing, white knight our society produces–it must mean I’m a bad boy, or worse, a misogynist. Alternately, the other lied as explanation I’ve heard is a reflexive kind of slut-shaming–only those kinds of girls are like that (the ones I cold approach), but not the high-quality, good girls. But again, it is simply an observation of evolutionary biology and a fact I can attest to through lived experience.
Unaccepted Truth Will Shackle, Not Free You
Unfortunately, that’s not what people want to hear, and it’s certainly not what they want to believe. No, the fact is most people–even extremely intelligent and rational people–don’t like to have their notions of the world challenged, and will react predictably with anger and derision against those who dare to do so.
As for me, I prefer to seek and accept the truth. I’ve found that it is far better to understand reality and alter my beliefs to reflect that reality than it is to fight against the inevitable truth. For example, climate change is real–whether one accepts that truth or not has no influence over the super-charged hurricane that swamps their city or the heat wave that produces massive, unstoppable fires that burns their home to the ground. As the Russians say: better to be slapped by the truth than kissed by a lie.
The problem is that in seeking a better understanding of reality, I’ve discovered truths about humanity the vast majority of people refuse to accept–can’t accept–because to do so would shatter their notion of conventional morality.
I find I’m writing this, then, for two reasons.
- As a warning to others: unless honesty–the truth–serves your purpose, STFU. I recently said something to someone I thought I could trust. My only purpose was to open a dialogue–indeed, almost as a confession–but that’s not what happened, and our relationship is now damaged in a way that may not be repairable.
- I’m going to be starting another blog, but this one will be anonymous. It’s not that I lack the courage to stand by the truths I want to publish–it’s that publishing such truths is in fact, dangerous. Unfortunately, sexuality is something our society is deeply uncomfortable with–especially male sexuality, which people slander as base and inherently violent. That doesn’t mean I won’t still publish high quality content here on ChuckingRocks–it’s just that the highly controversial content has to go elsewhere, for my own safety.
The second point, in all honesty, is also the reason I haven’t written as much recently. I’ve gone down a rabbit hole in some ways, and what I’ve seen is absolutely astonishing: truths that once learned, cannot be un-learned.
Some writers write to please people. Some write or for profit. But my quest is, and always has been, to seek the truth. But what do you do when speaking that truth puts a target on your back, when threatening the dominant narrative is not only provocative, but also dangerous?
I guess we’ll all find out soon enough.