Pain tolerance and truth avoidance: why smart people keep believing obvious lies.
I don't think I'm alone in my continuous incredulity over the last two years, watching what seems like most of the human species throw reason to the wind as they fall for the largest psychological warfare operation in recorded history. For those of us who have retained our wits, one of the questions we find ourselves asking is - how did this happen?
That question is especially pressing when it comes to our intellectual classes - the academics, scholars, and scientists who get paid to do the bulk of humanity's abstract thinking. With a few notable exceptions, they've dropped the ball something fierce, and we've all paid the price for it. Since starting this substack I've been writing a post-mortem debrief on the DIEing1 academy, the most recent entry in which you can find here. I've been doing that as a sort of therapy. Frankly, if you're a vaguely sane human being trapped in the Stalinist bedlam of the modern Western university, you're in need of a bit of therapy now and then.
There are several answers that have been proposed to explain our society's psychotic break into totalitarianism. Some prefer Desmet's 'mass formation' hypothesis, in which a general emotional malaise arising from broken social structures and economic stagnation left society primed to latch onto anything that could be justified as a concrete, identifiable source of discontent, with the descent into madness then being triggered by the Event - in this case a viral pandemic - that acts as a seed crystal dropped into a supersaturated solution. Others propose a power play by the shadowy network represented by the World Economic Forum, who have orchestrated the kabuki theatre of masks, lockdowns, and endless testing as a form of mass cult brainwashing with the goal of herding the human livestock into a global technocratic prison grid.
Personally, I think there's a lot to be said for both of those explanations. They're not at all mutually incompatible.
Still, that leaves some important questions, particularly as it pertains to the intellectual class. Sure, they, like everyone, have been targeted by advanced psychological warfare techniques, scaled up versions of the methods used by abusive cults. And, sure, they're no more immune to the societal dysfunctions that plague all of us than anyone else - they too must struggle with alienation, atomization, insecure employment, and all the rest, and are therefore just as emotionally primed to respond to a mass formation event as the next guy.
But at the same time, these are smart people. I mean you might argue that a lot of academics aren't actually all that intelligent, and in many cases I'd agree because let me tell you, I know some real winners. But in all honesty I know a lot of highly intelligent people inside the academy, and with a tiny handful of notable exceptions they all fell for it, and they're all continuing to fall for it.
At the same time, I know plebs with minimal education and who don't strike me as exactly brilliant, who saw through all of this right away.
So what gives? Why have academics proved to be so remarkably immune to seeing what's happening in the world, despite the fact that the evidence is beating them over the head on a daily basis?
Here's my theory:
The truth hurts.
I don't just mean that in the way that your emotionally abusive ex-girlfriend meant it when she told you her new boyfriend had a bigger dick. Frankly she's a bitch, and probably nothing she says is true, king, so just put whatever she said out of your mind. You're better off without her.
I mean it quite literally: the truth, when it contradicts what you think is true, is interpreted by your brain as more or less the same thing as physical pain. To be more specific, that's probably your left brain talking, since it's your left brain that falls in love with simplified models of reality and readily rejects facts that contradict those models. That just a bit of nuance that doesn't affect the central point, which is that it hurts to accept something that violates a previously held belief.
Learning takes effort at a biological level. The brain has to grow new connections, which means it has to invest time and energy in that rather than in just using the existing pathways. That's hard enough when it's learning something that doesn't contradict previously assimilated information. It's much worse when it contradicts something that is already believed. In that case, the brain has to go back and undo connections that were already made, as well as make the new connections. All that work - for nothing! And the deeper and more fundamental the assumption, the more concepts it connects to, the more beliefs that are built on it which must now be re-examined, the more reluctant the brain is to modify it ... the more painful undoing that assumption is.
If you're reading this you probably have some personal experience of what I'm describing. In all probability, a couple of years ago you were a normie, happily going along to get along, and then ... all this happened. You found yourself being dragged kicking and screaming towards very ugly conclusions about human nature and the nature of power in this fallen world, realizations that were like waking from a pleasant dream into a nightmare reality.
Maybe your personal awakening wasn't recent. Perhaps you're like me, and you went through this process many years ago, during some previous societal upheaval during which the veil was lifted and the darkness shrouding the world become briefly more visible for those with eyes to see. Maybe it was during Russiagate; maybe it was Trump's election; maybe it was Brexit; maybe it was the migrant invasion of Europe; maybe it was Black Lives Matter, Zimmerman, 'Hands up don't shoot!'; maybe it was the 2008 housing crash; maybe it was 9/11. Maybe you're a boomer and you've been a conspiracy theorist since Iran/Contra or JFK. There have been many opportunities over the last two decades.
If you went through it, you know just how wrenching it is, as the awful realization sets in that you were lied to, that you were gullible enough to be deceived, and that you now have to re-examine everything you once believed about the world. To say nothing of the isolation that comes with the knowledge that, with most people, you simply cannot speak of these things.
If you did this, congratulations - you felt the pain of truth, and rather than shying away from it, you moved forward, into the pain. Something inside you understood that the pain was a small price to pay for the truth.
Few people in this society have much ability to deal with pain. We are a soft and decadent people, in love with our comforts, reluctant to experience physical hardship. Pain makes us shy away. It's no surprise that almost everyone fails at their diets - giving up in the face of the pain of mild hunger. It's no accident that the gyms fill for a few weeks after every New Year, only to empty again when the pain of the workout overcomes the half-hearted resolution to finally become fit and strong. It's entirely symbolically appropriate that the drugs cutting a swath through our population are powerful synthetic opiods.
By the standards of the Bene Gesserit, most of us don't qualify as human. Our behaviour is dictated by our paralyzing aversion to pain; lacking the ability to over-ride it, to hold our reason clear of it, we become no more than animals governed by stimulus-response algorithms. This is ideal for our managerial overclass, for animals whose every decision can be predicted by the algorithms of behaviourist psychology are much easier to drive around in herds than wolf packs of feral humans in whom the savage Logos is a living presence.
In this I've been more fortunate than some. It's not that I've developed a high pain tolerance in the school of hard knocks. I'm a lower middle class kid from a stable and loving family, with a comfortable upbringing in which I lacked for nothing. My life has been no harder than many, and easier than most, but through the luck of the genetic lottery I was born with a relatively high tolerance for pain.
I realized this near the end of my military basic training, when we went on a long route march in full battle rattle. My feet started hurting a bit some way through, but I pushed past it and kept walking. Another trainee was wailing like a little bitch all the way through; while I had no particular liking for him, I was glad that whatever discomfort I might be feeling, the damage to my feet had to be nothing compared to the injuries he must have sustained to be carrying on like that.
That is, I felt that way until the march was complete, and we peeled off our combat boots so the medics could inspect our feet. The individual in question had a small blister on his heel, maybe the size of the end of my pinkie finger. You had to squint to see it. My feet, meanwhile, had turned into four overlapping blisters each the size of the palm of my hand. I was put on light duties for a week. Comparing our respective injuries, the other troops were amazed that I'd said barely a word; needless to say, my counterpart became an immediate target for the brutal bullying males use to weed the weak out of the pack (and yeah, he was gone soon enough).
That incident was one of the first times I realized that, when it comes to physical pain, I'm wired differently from most people. It's not that it didn't hurt. It was agonizing. It was simply that my brain registered the pain, and then put that information aside because achieving the goal was a higher priority than stopping the pain.
I've noticed this pattern in other laterally thinking political dissidents I know. Many of them seem to have experienced excruciating physical pain at one time or another in their lives, due for instance to severe sports injuries, and then - crucially - they pushed through that pain to rehabilitate themselves. Later, they demonstrated the ability to 'redpill' themselves: systematically confronting all of their previously held assumptions and ruthlessly discarding them when the observable facts contradicted what they'd previously believed. It's no accident that they're usually in pretty decent physical shape. These guys tend to be both smart and tough.
Now, returning to our highly intelligent academics, and their inability to acknowledge that we've been lied to and abused by preening sociopaths that opportunistically grabbed hold of an unremarkable respiratory virus as the excuse for an unprecedented power grab. Why is it that, despite their towering IQs, despite their specialized training in the techniques of careful, rigorous, empirically driven, rational thought, the propaganda has continued to work on them, even now, two years in?
Well, just look at them.
Go to any campus, walk around, and look at the professoriate. Evaluate them as physical specimens. They're either scrawny, or obese, or skinnyfat - that particularly odious combination of noodle arms and pot bellies. Their bodies are a reflection of their lives. They don't work out. They don't watch their diets. They don't engage in dangerous competitive sports: they're physical cowards. They are, in a word, highly averse to pain. They live lives of comfort - an abundance of hyperpalatable foods delivered to their climate-controlled living quarters as they entertain themselves in front of screens that require nothing more from them than their presence.
Over the years - for the youngest, over their entire lives - this comfort has eaten away at whatever inborn capacity they had to resist pain.
Having lost their ability to overcome physical pain, their ability to move through intellectual pain likewise atrophies.
The body and mind are one.
And the truth hurts.
So if they avoid the hurt, it follows that they avoid the truth.
And so it is that their impressive intellects count for nothing.
As in the bio-Maoist cult of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity that currently holds the academy in a death grip.