Moby's Essays from I Like to Score (1997)

one problem with cultural conservatism:
to put it simply, and it's not a problem that only conservatives have, conservatives very often confuse (or conflate) ethics and aesthetics. when gertrude himmelfarb lambasts our (as she perceives it) 'amoral', 'sexually deviant' and 'polymorphously perverse' culture she is primarily responding to something that she finds culturally foreign and threatening.
i agree with her that values are oftentimes a good thing, but only when they are born of an ethical and pragmatic perspective, not an aesthetic one.
the conservatives want a seemingly neat and compartmentalised society wherein stable appearances are maintained and archaic cultural archetypes are adhered to religiously. i grew up in a world of rigid cultural archetypes. i grew up with white businessmen going to office buildings while their wives stayed at home and their kids went to school. or, more accurately, i grew up with alcoholic adulterous businessmen who lived culturally insular lives while their wives took sedatives and smoked cigarettes and vented their frustrations on their kids, and these same kids took reams of drugs, got abortions, drove drunk, and victimised the weaklings. i grew up in what most conservatives would consider a utopia; lots of money, prestige, cultural cohesion, and good conservative values.
but their values were in fact aesthetics, and maintaining these aesthetics ruled and ruined their lives. almost everyone in this suburban bourgeoisie system hated their lives, but because they had been brought up to worship these aesthetic myths they felt that to question them was an admission of personal failure.
what are these myths? they're old and platitudinal but i'll trot them out again: that money makes you happy, that society is right, that poverty is bad, that maintaining convention in every aspect of your life is the ultimate good, that aberrance from these ideas is sin, etc.
i'm not going to say that the polar opposites of these clich├ęs is true, that would be one of the failings of the radical left. i believe that for the most part these criteria are irrelevant. money can make life easier, but it can also make life miserable. poverty can be bad, but it can also be fine. convention has some good points and some bad points. what it all comes down to is a flexibility that should allow for the well being of the individual without compromising the rights of other individuals.
when conservatives trot out their litany of evils -- homosexuality, single parent families, multiculturalism, etc, i'm always left asking 'why?'. if people are happy being gay then what's wrong with that? it may be a lifestyle that's aesthetically different from what we've been brought up with, but so what? and single parent families? better a loving single parent family than a 'conventional' family wherein the parents hate each other and the father is a demagogue.
one reason that we have such a wide variety of alternative lifestyles is that the conventional lifestyles that the conservatives champion are often quite flawed and restrictive.
restrictive mores can be terrific when applied to peoples' violent impulses, but restrictiveness is terribly unhealthy when it's used to get people to conform to arbitrary social archetypes. this restrictiveness can make people feel inadequate and inferior and it needs to be done away with.
if someone's gay, let them be gay. if your son wants to marry a black woman (or white or yellow or jew or muslim) then let them. we need to love each other and support each other even if we choose to live in alternative but harmless ways. obviously if your son is a rapist or a wifebeater or a child molester then you need to question your support of his actions & values.
i'm not championing a retreat from responsibility. i believe that personal and social well being is built upon a foundation of hard work, loyalty, honesty, diligence, respect, tolerance, and other good 'values'. but it doesn't matter what the cultural manifestation of the values looks like. it can be straight or gay or male or female or white or black or anything so long as it's respectful of others and makes the practitioner feel well.
so my advice to cultural conservatives (and others) would be to cultivate an approach to values that's based on principles rather than aesthetics. i would also say that any pronouncements on the values of others, especially pronouncements veering into the pre-scriptive realm, need to be cautious, pragmatic, logical, and not just the typically hateful and reactionary vacuities that we've grown so accustomed to.


it's hard to be human:
here we are, saddled with 4 1/2 billion years of biological legacy, essentially designed to live short, aggressive and violent lives on the plains of the serengeti, but yet forced to be good, contemporary citizens. life is hard for everybody. we're all trying to eke out an existence in unbelievably confusing circumstances.
given our biological inheritance i think that we need to be more tolerant of ourselves and more tolerant and compassionate in our dealings with others. the standards that we have for human behaviour are at times noble, but at times quite absurd. we're genetically designed to be lustful, aggressive, gregarious, productive creatures, and it can be a good thing to hold ourselves to high community standards of behaviour, but we need to deal with ourselves as who and what we are, not just what we think we're supposed to be. the last thing in the world that we need to do is judge and condemn each other. i can understand locking someone up if they're violent, but i can't understand judging that person without compassion and tolerance. if you have a five year old child that likes to kick cats you don't abuse him and lock him in the basement and tell him what a horrible person he is. obviously you talk to the child and try to get him to figure out why kicking cats is not such a great thing to do. and you recognise that he's kicking cats not because he hates cats, but because he's expressing something that he feels and can't otherwise express. abuse begets abuse, compassion begets compassion. i'm not advocating a soft approach to criminal, violent, or anti-social behaviour, rather i'm advocating an enlightened and realistic approach to our human-ness. locking a criminal up in a horrible place and making them feel like shit is neither a compassionate nor a culturally expedient way to deal with the situation. it's also not taking into account the fact that we're all essentially guilty of the same things. if i had been brought up in a different environment that was abusive and only reinforced violence and aggression i'm sure that i would have turned out differently. so how can i condemn someone and judge someone who was raised differently from me? i can, with justification, prevent someone from hurting someone else, but i can't comprehensively condemn them for it. we're all saddled with a violent biological and cultural legacy, it's just that some of us have the skills and upbringing to deal with it.
in most cases people just aren't aware of the effects of their actions. you can't take a creature who has spent the last couple of million years reproducing and fighting and living a short and difficult life and then plop them in a suburb and ask them to enter data into a cpu and expect them to be well adjusted and fine. we're supposed to be out chasing and being chased, eating and being eaten. nothing in our genetic lineage has prepared us for most of what we deal with on a day to day basis. if you took a penguin from antarctica and put him in a corn field in mexico would you be surprised if he got sick and died? same thing with us humans. for the last million years we've, for the most part, lived in tight communities and led urgent and vital lives. we're not designed to be slothful and indolent suburbanites.
i'm not advocating a rejection of modern conveniences, but i am advocating an acceptance of what we've inherited and what we are as biological humans. christ took pity on us and had compassion for us, so why can't we try to have understanding & compassion for each other? moby


Transcription source: http://www.moby.org/info/ilts-sa1.html (defunct)

Copyright (c) 1997 Moby

Disclaimer: Moby's essays used to be posted on his website, moby.com, so I decided to post them here in their place. All of the essay text was taken directly from the album verbatim without prior consent of Moby or the record company or webmaster of the transcription source(s) (if any is/are indicated), which I may have edited (according to the original booklet) (but their work has saved me some typing). I do not intend to receive or divert any money or credit away from the Moby or the record company for this album.

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