Ethics no longer matter.
It’s an old story.
Doing right seems to be immaterial nowadays. In fact, there is no right or wrong. Only a Darwinian ethos survives, they say.
But you are different.
You have good reasons for wanting to leave.
You might say: I cannot tolerate the disappearance of privacy. Or, I cannot abide living in a society that is enamored with false gods. Or, I cannot stand living in a country that is constantly at war. Or, I cannot tolerate living with social injustice. Or, more simply, I can no longer stand the noise.
You might say, also: over there, that is where the answer is. That is where I am going to find peace. That is where I am going to be free. That is where everything is okay. That is where I am going to be happy. The man on the streetcorner told me so. No, not that one: the other one, over there.
But you know that is not the case.
For you know, as does everyone else, that human beings are rapacious monsters, incapable of doing good except in the small, and obsessed always with the score. Yes, that. Someone always has to win the cricket game, they say, which means someone has to eventually lose. Long innings are not played merely for the sport of it, they say. Everyone wants the beautiful girl. The Instagram iife. And at the end of it, the golden parachute. The one that confirms it: you won.
There’s something else.
Human beings are not only cruel; they take pleasure in cruelty, particularly when the notion of vengeance is involved.
You have seen them all.
The terrorist who blows up the innocent and thinks he will go to heaven.
The handsome preppie who goes to a bar in Germantown and ends up with such red hands.
The sadistic judge who sentences the prisoner to a hanging then has ice cream with his family. The buzz cut jailer who keeps the prisoner in chains and buys his girlfriend flowers, this before escorting her to his favorite BDSM club.
The policeman who protects only those who live by the water and arrested you last year and then enjoyed testifying to a lie even though now your life is forever ruined.
The trailer park enlistee who shoots turbaned convicts in the head on a hot summer afternoon just so he can buy a shiny motorcycle when he gets back to America after his tour of so-called duty.
The dirty politician who sees to it that the unwanted poor, crippled and old die off from hunger and lack of health coverage, as a bunch of tennis-playing toffs flaunt their bling in a court of corruptive privilege.
No-one wants to hear the litany, they say, and besides, all of these things are necessary.
Because we are by nature pack killers, and we need rulers to keep us from going over the edge. Without rules and ruthlessness to back them up, there can be no civilization, only chaos, they say.
And so we agree to entrust the few to safeguard and speak for the many. It does not matter if what they say is a lie, so long as we survive, that’s the ticket, and dominate whenever possible.
And then we witness the trust abused, which inevitably happens, especially since we have not won a war in decades, which leaves us angry and looking to blame someone, preferably the helpless, so long as they play victim and are not in a position to retaliate in any serious way.
Sometimes we seek retribution for the betrayals, or when it becomes necessary to pretend that the playing field is level, and then the pointless cycle starts over again, endlessly, in every society that has existed in every moment in time, they say.
Human beings seem to think that they must demonize each other for survival. The weak are fodder; the idealists, naive fools.
If you do not take steps to protect yourself, they say, you will be at the mercy of those who care not about ethics. It is not just the impudent murderers and thieves and rapists who kill and steal and maim and ruin lives for toffee, they say.
It is everyone.
Even you, the blameless one.
But that is not possible, you say.
I am fleeing America or Africa or Asia or Europe because I am more ethical than those people. I am better than those people, Those people are not like me at all.
And so you run. You bury your outrage, You swallow your shame. You say, I will focus on this now, on going away, and minding my own business. I will start a new life and shave every day and wear a clean suit on Sundays. All these other things no longer concern me. Besides which, it is all hopeless anyway. Isn’t it all the same everywhere?
It’s just a little less worse over there.
One day you might notice something is still off. You might even stop participating in that ridiculous cross-country motorcycle trip, that election in which you know the fix is in, that career path that you know will end up in disappointment, that love affair you know will sour eventually, and you will suddenly think of yourself as a speck of dust on a dying planet hurtling through the black void of space.
But that thought will not last. It is too frightening. If you thought this way too long, you’d turn into a good little souse, you would, and no longer recognize the wasted face in the mirror behind the bar. All thinking, they say, must stop.
And so you continue, unthinkingly, miserably, with all the little compromises, those little adjustments, those little lies, which added up, one by one, from the time you were small, till now.
Now that you are a responsible grownup, at last.
Look at yourself, Dorian.
Tell me what you see.