Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Catch-22: Guilt corresponds to sanity, Masturbation corresponds to bombing

In recent posts, I have several times mentioned I believe I had been caught in a catch-22 sort of vicious circle in my youth. Well, I have never actually read the novel Catch-22, so even though I had a vague remembrance of it having been described to me what exactly the catch-22 was, I decided I ought to look it up, especially since I had doubts about the worthiness of the book (I think maybe I confused the book with Fahrenheit 451, the movie of which I decided to stop looking at after a dose of ridiculous firemen dressed up like sperm). So I looked it up in Wikipedia of course. The Wikipedia article (this version) described the catch-22 about as I remembered it, and for all of a minute or two its logical explanation seemed clever, but upon a not very closer examination, I thought, “How preposterous!” No one would view as fundamentally significant both A --> not B and B --> not A, because the two statements are trivially logically equivalent to each other! And yet, it did somehow seem right that the profundity didn’t rest just in both A and B being impossible because A implies not B. I.e., the catch-22 is more than insanity and an application to not fly on account of insanity (A and B) being impossible on account of insanity implying the impossibility of an application to fly (A implies not B) because insane people don’t make applications admitting their insanity. E.g., as mentioned early in the article, what is also relevant is that supposedly sanity implies not wanting to fly. (Which is similar to not A implies B.) After a reasonable amount of effort, I could not see that the catch-22 is really of any at-all-obvious logical importance, which suggested to me that its logical structure resonates because it has some psychological significance.

Since people feel guilty about masturbation in a sort of vicious circle that brought to mind catch-22, I naturally decided to try the analogy there first. After a day or so of struggling with my feelings about it, the analogy I found to work was to view guilt as corresponding to sanity and masturbation as corresponding to flying. So I wasn’t exactly caught by a catch-22, but by another sort of vicious circle. The catch-22 applies to those people who when they think that they are sufficiently guilt-free and that for them masturbation is not particularly reasonable, will make application to their wills, “I am guilt-free, feel good about myself, and can’t see masturbation has any useful purpose. Therefore, allow me to not masturbate.” The will should and often does respond, “No. I agree that it makes sense that guilt-free people, being reasonable, should not masturbate if they find masturbation not useful. But if you were truly guilt-free, you would find masturbation of a great deal more importance, so I am introducing this picture of nude female in your brain. Masturbate, it’s an order.” As for me, the loop I was in was like the loop of a pilot who was sane and didn’t want to bomb. What the article about Catch-22 doesn’t mention is the other vicious circle, namely that craziness not only is necessary to keep one from applying to stop bombing, but also that bombing causes craziness. In other words, sanity can cause one to not want to fly bombing missions, and not flying bombing missions causes sanity. So a general who wants crazy pilots who want to fly just flat out doesn’t allow applications to not fly from non-crazy people, the very people he scoffs at the most. Something analogous was applicable to me. I was like a sane person who didn’t want to bomb. The more sane a bomber is, the more he applies to not bomb, and the less he bombs, the more sane he gets. So the anti-will steps in to make sure that for sane people, applying not to bomb does not entail not bombing, so the vicious circle doesn’t happen. The same happened to me. The more guilty I was, the more I would apply to not masturbate, and the more I would not masturbate or disrespect the phenomenon, the more guilty I would end up being, because it would make my masturbation not profound. So the anti-will stepped in to make sure that when I felt guilty, applying to not masturbate does not entail not masturbating. I could not succeed in (wrongly) beating down my sexual fantasies.

Now if you’ve followed my train of reasoning, this all sounds pretty ridiculous, I can well imagine. Since now I claim to be not guilty and to have fairly profound sexual fantasies, I am essentially saying that I used to be like a sane bomber who didn’t want to bomb, but now I am like a crazy bomber who appreciates bombing, and that this is a good thing. So why does the catch-22 resonate as well as it does? Well, on the one hand, it might resonate because it makes the generals seem manipulative in a clever way, which could serve an anti-war purpose. But even if Heller’s book is anti-war, if that were all there were to it, one could scarcely say Heller was anti-war, because if he were, how could his having made crazy bombing seem like sane masturbation be seen as anti-war? So it wouldn’t make sense that he would on whatever level do such a thing. No, one has to look at another possible analogy and thus vicious circle. The reason people have a propensity to view seemingly purposeless masturbation as something to feel guilty about is that masturbation can cause feelings of intense sexual pleasure. This is only natural, because it is very useful from an evolutionary standpoint to understand one’s own sexual desires, and masturbation can be a help in gaining such understanding. Accordingly, theory suggests there is a kind of resemblance between the meaningless sordid pleasure obtainable via actively getting sodomized and the sexual pleasure of masturbation if there be no apparent meaning to the latter. Instead of viewing bombing as masturbating, suppose one views it as getting sodomized. Then one sees that crazy bombing is like without guilt getting sodomized, indeed a dreadful thing. The more guilty a sodomite is about feelings to get sodomized, the more he (or she) applies to not get sodomized, and the more he doesn’t get sodomized, the more clear-headed he becomes, which would make sodomy seem less profound and more worthy of being guilty about. It is a circle that is only vicious logically−not all positive feedback is bad. Indeed, viewing guilt as sanity and getting sodomized as bombing makes it quite clear that the loop between not bombing and not wanting to bomb is a very good one to encourage. The difficulty I had is that it was very difficult for me to decide what sort of loop I was in. Was I feeling guilty about sordid pleasures or unsordid ones? Was it a good loop (given the circumstances) or a bad one? Only understanding gave a solution.

But like I said, looking at the analogy in the first way, i.e., viewing bombing as masturbation, I wasn’t exactly in a catch-22. Or at least, I never was in a catch-22 for long. It might be of interest to see if for nothing else than artistic reasons what the catch-22 corresponds to exactly in questions of sordidness. I.e., What would an application to cease bombing from an insane person correspond to if bombing corresponds to getting sodomized and insanity corresponds to being guilt-free? Plugging things in, we see that it corresponds to an application to cease getting sodomized from a non-guilty person. Alas, those applications don’t happen either, and even if they did, the real danger of not enacting the catch-22 if the other analogy is the correct one (i.e., if what is thought sordid isn’t), would probably in no way make the will or anti-will or whatever listen to them. The sodomized and addicted need to feel guilt or they can’t be rescued.

What’s really clever about the catch-22, the one mentioned in the story, is that it is apparently necessary, in order to preserve the logical structure, to view craziness as analogous to not feeling guilt. Amazing, really, anyone would think of doing that, since intuitively craziness seems more akin to excess guilt than insufficient guilt. I sensed pretty early on yesterday after deciding to think carefully about the matter that this was the case, but just for the fun of it, I first tried to see if I could make an analogy with craziness corresponding to excess guilt, and as I suspected, I didn’t succeed. Another possible catch-22 analogy, more related to violence, would be to consider that guilt causes females to think themselves cruel, because when girls feel guilty they wonder whether their loving sexual feelings are of screwed-up origin, and a way to test that is to see whether they can have sadistic cruel thoughts while having such feelings, since if their feelings are just caused by sodomy chemicals having been applied into their digestive system, they will have a hard time not feeling love and sexual desire for everyone they think about, even wicked people of no or little beauty; being able to feel cruelty makes them feel better about their love, since it makes them know it is not just some sordid chemical phenomenon. But these cruel feelings may be misinterpreted as being something wicked that deserves guilt, which causes more cruelty in some vicious loop. The way to avoid superfluous clean cruel feelings is to stop being guilty about them, whereupon in most people they probably will seem not beautiful (and pointless). But the logical structure is I think slightly different inasmuch as sexual fantasy is always useful, whereas cruelty is only useful to the extent one might should feel guilt. And looking at cruel feelings instead as akin to uninspired masturbation may also make for slight discrepancies in the analogy (guilty people don’t apply to avoid uninspired masturbation, they apply to avoid masturbation). So the vicious circle of cruelty, though very much like a catch-22, probably isn’t as exactly like it as I’m thinking be those involving masturbation and addiction. I’ll guess though, as a lark, because ha-ha the silliness of it would feel about right, it might explain other things (e.g., how the author could have discovered something so strange as an analogy on some level between guilt and sanity) about the novel that would be clearer if I read the book. One of these days, I’ll probably try to read it.

It is an interesting observation that it is not just right-wing standard anti-Pelagian currents of thought that could try to make girls feel guilty about their sadistic sexual fanatasies. (Pelagius was a late-fourth- early-fifth-century monk from the British Isles who was declared a heretic on account of his trying to deny the doctrine of original sin and the concomitant excess guilt the church selfishly desired its parishioners to feel.) Nowadays, one sees what I shall call a kind of neo-anti-Pelagianism, very much against standard anti-Pelagianism. Sodomy being so common nowadays, an effective approach for a sodomizing male to take is to try to make his victim feel good about her allowing herself to be sodomized by him. And a way of doing this is to try to make people disgusted at females having innocuous sadistic sexual fantasies, because then his victim, unable to naturally have such fantasies, will feel like she is better than other females. He can behave as if such tendencies are suggestive of an innate tendency of some females to be evil wicked homicidal torturing creatures that isn't just in their heads. And more generally he can behave as if anyone who has cruel fantasies or who loves someone with such fantasies is screwed-up and should be ashamed. This also serves another of their purposes, namely to discourage people from rescuing others, which occasionally must be done with force, and which is to their purpose, might lead their own victims to becoming rescued. I don't think the neo-anti-Pelagianists realize that by making normal females more ashamed of their sadistic fantasies, it's only going to make them more sadistic; what is even much more scary is the neo-anti-Pelagianists' indifference to giving often violent sodomizers more control over their victims. It's not the neo-anti-Pelagianists themselves that are especially dangerous directly to people not presently victimized, it's the Hitler creeps that might arise afterwards in reaction to them. But then indirectly that makes the neo-anti-Pelagianists dangerous to everybody; and we don't need to look to the future. We should care right now about rescuing those who are subject to tyranny even if the neo-anti-Pelagianists say to do so is disgusting or presumptuous. There is nothing disgusting about the right thing. Hmm, but this post is long enough, so I quit for now.