Ambivalence Part 1 - Transcript


0:00:00 Introduction
0:02:00 Exploring Ambivalence
0:07:10 The Power of Power Structures
0:09:00 The Influence of Religion
0:10:55 The Comfort of Mythology
0:16:13 Justifying Forgiveness
0:19:26 Relief from Ambivalence
0:23:34 Control through Narrative
0:24:34 Ambivalence towards the Poor
0:31:53 The Ambivalence of Poverty
0:37:51 The Vanishing Ambivalence
0:41:41 Wrestling with Ambiguity
0:46:34 Relief from Ambivalence
0:51:33 The Cult of Good Intentions
0:54:43 Rooting Around in Ambivalence

Long Summary

Steph delves into the concept of ambivalence, exploring how power structures offer relief from its discomfort by externalizing emotions. He reflects on the role of religion in attributing forgiveness to virtue and anger to evil, allowing individuals to surrender control over their internal processes. Steph emphasizes the importance of embracing ambivalence for personal growth, noting that exploring contradictory feelings can lead to wisdom and truth.

The conversation shifts to societal norms and religious frameworks influencing forgiveness and anger, with societal expectations often swaying individual emotional responses. Steph warns against allowing external forces to dictate internal emotions, as this can lead to a loss of personal autonomy. By analyzing ambivalence and power dynamics, he raises thought-provoking questions about the impact of societal structures on individual emotions and behaviors.

The discussion expands to encompass poverty and personal responsibility, exploring various perspectives from Marxist ideologies to personal accountability. Drawing from personal experiences, Steph highlights the complex interplay between individual choices and external factors in determining one’s economic status. Moving on to addiction counseling, the delicate balance between tough love and empathy is explored in guiding individuals towards recovery, emphasizing the inherent ambivalence in such relationships.

The dialogue returns to religion, highlighting the role of doubt in shaping beliefs and encouraging individuals to navigate the tension between belief and skepticism for self-discovery. Through embracing ambivalence and confronting discomfort, the conversation prompts deeper reflection on complex societal issues like poverty and addiction. By acknowledging ambiguity and tensions, listeners are encouraged to engage in nuanced responses for intellectual growth and self-discovery.


ambivalence, power structures, emotions, societal norms, forgiveness, anger, external forces, poverty, personal responsibility, addiction counseling, doubt



Good afternoon, everybody. It’s Steph. Hope you’re doing well.
We’re back in the car, and we’re actually heading to the gym.
And this is kind of like, I’m going to try something new.
This is a warm-up podcast, which I’m doing because I have this big monster idea, or conception, or thought, or argument, and I have been racking my brain about ways to communicate it effectively, effectively because it’s complex and it’s one of these ideas where normally I get an idea and I know it’s the body and then the arguments come out of the body like the head of a hydra, heads of a hydra.
But with this particular beast, I don’t know whether I’ve got the hydra body or just one of the heads because it’s a complex argument with a lot of manifestations or ramifications.
So I have tried a number of different ways of sketching out the idea in my head.
And I bought a pen tablet so I can sketch out the idea on a video.
And I can’t think about it anymore.
So I have to try talking about it. And if this works perfectly, then this will be the idea.
I’m not even going to pretend this is going to be short. So relax.

This is not going going to be too rapid. But if this works, and if it doesn’t work perfectly, then at least it’s a good warm-up and it may be of interest to you to see some of the raw tapes of the brain, I guess you could say.
So this is the idea. This is the general idea.
And it arises out of a little bit to do with FDR-70, the sort of how to control the human soul, but more in particular to the the Miko system idea, and even more particularly, the value, truth, and beauty that is in certain religious approaches.

Exploring Ambivalence

So, one of the great challenges of maturity, in my experience and opinion, is that maturity.

Requires the balancing or the understanding or the simultaneous holding of opposites within your mind.
And of course, Orwell was not a big fan of doublethink, but I’m not saying 2 plus 2 is 4 and 2 plus 2 is 5.
What I’m saying is that with maturity comes something like the ability to handle ambivalence and not to wish it away and not to run away from it.
But ambivalence is a very, very powerful word.
It actually was talked about in a film called Guilt Interrupted, which is actually not too bad, except for the fact that there’s no genesis to the problem.
But ambivalence is two strongly strongly opposing emotions, and we are ambivalent, right?
So, with my brother, say, I felt very strong positive things towards him, and I felt very strong negative things towards him, and being able to hold those opposing thoughts within my head, not as an end destination, but as a realistic, reality, or just as a basic reality of my emotional experience of that, was one of the great challenges that I went through in the late 90s with regards to my own therapy was to begin to explore the very strong ambivalence that I had towards these emotions, the strong relationship, the uncomfortable relationship I had with ambivalence, to put it that way. So.

With regards to my emotions, I had strong ambivalence, because as a good rationalist, I sort of paid lip service on the Randian slash Brandon side of things to the value of emotions.

But I had a very strong belief that the thoughts generated emotions, right?
So, philosophy is the computer program and emotions are the output.
I had a strong ambivalence towards towards the unconscious.
It’s a fertile place. It comes up with creative things and so on, but the feelings can be apt to get you. They can be uncomfortable.
So, I had strong ambivalence. I both loved and hated the unconscious, or I guess you could say loved and feared the unconscious, very strongly ambivalent towards that.
Strongly ambivalent towards objectivism itself, insofar as everybody’s supposed to be an individual who thinks exactly like Ayn Rand and that she dictated conclusions, not a methodology, which I think is intellectually lazy and culty, frankly.
I had strong ambivalence towards even things such as analyzing dreams.
I had strong ambivalence towards my own sexual impulses, which were not always towards the highest and most rational person around, but sometimes based on baser physical characteristics and so on.
I had strong strong ambivalence towards this question of success and social acceptance, right?
I both wanted social acceptance, and I also feared social acceptance as a negative, right?
Because it was hard to find a group that I would feel genuinely and philosophically proud to really…

Be accepted by and feel that was a good thing. I felt a strong ambivalence towards rationality versus creativity.
I desperately wanted to have my own thoughts, but it seemed like all the ground had been covered already.
And the unified field theory, in a sense, that is the FDR approach, certainly hadn’t occurred to me as yet.
And of course, it was because I avoided ambivalence that I avoided the richness that came afterwards.
So I could go on and on, and I’m sure you have have your own laundry list of things that you’re ambivalent about, right?
We desperately want connection with people, but at the same time, we don’t want to lower our standards to the point where connection becomes something that is degrading, right?
So we have ambivalence. We want connection, but we don’t want to lower our standards.
We also, of course, have a strong desire to be close to our family, which for all too many of us is coupled with a fairly real non-ability to be close to her family, right?
So, all this kind of stuff, for me at least, was cooking around a lot of ambivalence, a lot of opposing thoughts and feelings.

You know, should I love classical music or low-down dirty funk, right?
I mean, even ambivalence in that kind of stuff could occur.
A desire to be a wise man and a desire to be sexually attractive, which, of course, to some degree, are opposites, right?
One is based on external shallow vanities and biological imperatives.
The other is based on, hopefully, universal truths and a deep understanding of life and so on.
So, I had me some ambivalence, This is kind of what I’m trying to say. And…

It sort of struck me a couple of days ago.

The Power of Power Structures

Well, and when I say struck me, I meant I couldn’t get to sleep till six o’clock in the morning because this idea was tossing me around the room like a rag doll.
Which is that a lot of what power structures do, in fact, it’s almost the modus operandi of power structures, is they provide relief from the discomfort of ambivalence.
All right. They provide relief. I remember Willem Dafoe played, I think, quite a moving scene in The Last Temptation of Christ, where he talks about his love of this world versus his love of the spiritual world, that we get our real pleasures from the flesh, but at the same time, in an aesthetic sense, we can be quite repulsed by the flesh as well.
And you see this, of course, in the Randian fiction, right?
Because in the Randian fiction, the heroes are all slender and copper haired and fat guys are the villains and so on, right?
There’s this horror of the physical with regards to the beauty of the intellect or the purity of the intellect.
And this is a very, very common theme that goes all the way back through Western and to some degree, of course, also intellectual history in the East as well. Wow.
And my God, I mean, don’t we have that relationship with the truth itself?
I mean, I tell you, man, I do love the truth and the truth just pones me like savagely.

But, you know, we all I mean, we all know and we’re all aware that the truth does an absolutely enormous amount of sucking as well.
Well, it sets us at odds with our histories, our families, our circumstances, our friends, our jobs, our neighbors, ourselves.
So there’s a love-hate in a lot of things.
I don’t think that’s just my experience. I think that’s a pretty common experience.

The Influence of Religion

And so what is it that—let’s just take the classic sort of Christian example. Okay.
So, in the Christian example, we have a love of God.
Now, not just a Christian example. I mean, it’s the genuine Christian experience, right?
And we have a love of God, and we also have doubt about God, right?

And how does Christianity solve this problem?
Well, of course, the love of the God comes from the angels, comes from the angels, and hatred of God, or let’s just say doubt of God, comes from the devil, right?
So, what happens is that the feelings that are considered positive are more internalized, right?
Obviously, if they come from the angels, or they come from your love of God or they come from God. They’re in you, right?
And the feelings which are negative are externalized, right?
They become the devils. They become something that you fight because they come from out there, out in the world.
And this is done. I was sort of formerly thought that this was done to avoid the pain of doubt, But that’s not actually the truth of the matter, I think.
To doubt God is not in and of itself something which causes intense discomfort.
I mean, Richard Dawkins strongly doubts the existence of God.
I don’t think that that causes him an extraordinary amount of discomfort, in my opinion, and also in his reporting, right?
He doesn’t find it uncomfortable to disbelieve in God or to say he’s almost certain that God does not exist.

The Comfort of Mythology

So, given that it’s not doubt that the externalization of doubt rescues you from, it must be something else.
Now, if somebody purely loved God, there would be no doubt to externalize.
If somebody purely doubts God, there’s no reason to externalize the doubt because it’s not uncomfortable, right?
So, it must be that the devil is invented not to give people relief from the pain of doubt.
Because doubt is not in itself a painful thing. I doubt the existence of leprechauns, but that causes no discomfort.

But the devil is invented not to eliminate the doubt of discomfort, but to eliminate the doubt of, or the discomfort of, ambivalence.
Now, I have found, through my horrendous experience in the late 90s and early 2000s with the therapy and the insomnia and the first breakout of the MECO system in me, I have found that the exploration and acceptance of ambivalence led to real wisdom and real truth.
I was ambivalent about the objectivist, quote, proof for ethics, which now considers me completely a non-proof, a mere assertion.
I loved it because it could sort of justify ethics without a God, but I also disliked it. Not just because I felt that it wasn’t true.
I really believed deep down that it wasn’t true.
And I remember arguing it with this niggling feeling of like, gee, I hope I don’t get caught.
Right? Because I know this. I didn’t know what it was. I knew there was something wrong. Felt there was something wrong.
But the end justified the means to convince people of ethics without God was more important than rebuilding the theory from scratch, which I didn’t feel up to doing.

But the ambivalence that I felt was important. By examining that ambivalence, I came up with UPB.
And hopefully UPB is the step that’s needed. Maybe there’s one after that, or maybe there’s 10 after that, but it’s a step forward in my opinion.
So by rejecting the pain of ambivalence, I prevented myself from growing intellectually, emotionally as a human being.
Because ambivalence is really, really uncomfortable.

We love and hate certain people. We love and hate the truth.
We have an uncomfortable relationship very often with philosophy, and that’s partly because of the challenges it provides us personally, but it’s also within the culture we live in.
It’s a challenge and all these kinds of things, right? So, I mean, there are times when I have longed for a normal life, and there are times, I’m sure, when you wish you’d never typed in or clicked on the damn link.
So, ambivalence is a very, very powerful state. It is like the nuclear material of human growth.
And it’s intensely, intensely, acutely uncomfortable.
And so power structures, hierarchies, are put in place because they provide relief from the intense discomfort of ambivalence because they create receptacles that you can project the downsides into, right?

We all have a desire to forgive those who have done us wrong, but it smooths the waters.
It lets us move on. It lets us ignore, in a sense, the difficulties, the pain, and so on.
We all have a desire to forgive those, and they, the people who do us wrong, have an even stronger desire for us to forgive them because then they don’t actually have to make restitution. They don’t have to change.
They can, quote, apologize and move on. So, the discomfort that, you know, when someone’s done you wrong, the discomfort that that generates in us gives rise to a strong desire on the part of the person who did us wrong, and consequently on our part as well, if we are in that relationship with any real sort of investment.

To forgive.
So we want to forgive, but at the same time we’re angry.
So again, we have this ambiguity, this feeling, these contradictory feelings, this ambivalence about something as simple as forgiveness versus anger. All right.
So now we’re going to continue at the gym and hopefully as I slither from machine to machine trying to find things, places that aren’t too crowded, freak people out with these topics.
Hopefully we can continue. you but um so what happens is let’s just take something like the desire to forgive somebody versus the the anger right somebody does this wrong that’s the desire or impulse towards forgiveness and there’s the desire or impulse towards anger and it is more convenient Convenient in the short run to succumb to or surrender to or act upon the issue of forgiveness, right?
It smooths over the waters and it makes the discomfort and so on go away.

Justifying Forgiveness

Well, so if that’s the case, if everybody wants us to forgive the bad person, and we ourselves wish to live a life of a little more soulful ease than we otherwise might, lead, then we need a justification.
We need a way of making that work within ourselves, right?
And so if we take that which is convenient to people in power, in other words, that which which is convenient to bad people.
If we take that and act upon that, then the people who are bad are going to say that that feeling comes from God.

And then if we wish to act on that which is inconvenient to bad people, i.e.
Those in power, then they’re going to say that that impulse or So that feeling, which is bad for those in power, comes from an evil entity, deity, place, or whatever, right?
So in this way, if someone does us wrong… No, no, go ahead.
No, no, it’s all yours, thanks. That if somebody does us wrong, particularly somebody in power, then if we feel anger, that is going to be defined as coming from a bad or evil entity.
Whereas if we then feel the need or we act on forgiveness, then that comes from a good deity. And what that means, of course, is that good for those in power, right?
Convenient for those in power, good for those in power. So the ambivalence, which is we both want to forgive and also want to be angry and want to not forgive, that ambivalence we are rescued from by religion.
And we’ll talk about statism because I know that there’s lots of people who don’t really see or get or appreciate or respect the role of religion.
So, you know, we have to find some way to make this work within the status framework.
Of course, even more fundamentally within the family framework, which I think we can reasonably do. do.

But what happens, of course, is that the desire to forgive comes from Jesus, and the desire to not forgive comes from the devil, right?
So, forgiveness and meekness and mildness comes from Jesus, and anger and so on comes from the devil.

And of course, one of the reasons that that occurs is that anger is defined as the desire for vengeance, not defined as the desire for separation, right?
Because atheists are always perceived or portrayed as angry, right?
They have not separated from God. They are angry at God in the same way that, I don’t know, some woman who’s been abused by her husband may end up running around the rest of her life being angry about men.
That’s not exactly getting away from the abuser, right? Right.
So, in this way, we can see that one of the ways that, and I know this is all theory, you know, one of the ways that power structures operate is they put a hook in the water, right?

Relief from Ambivalence

They put a hook in the water and they say, what ambivalence is the most uncomfortable for you?
What ambivalence is the most uncomfortable for you?
And if it’s, say, anger versus forgiveness, then they will say, I will provide you relief from this ambivalence.
All you have to do is surrender your moral definitions of your emotions.

Right, so the desire to get along, the desire to forgive, the desire to smooth things over, we will now define as virtuous.
And the desire for anger and just separation from people who hurt you, we will define as evil.

And I guess even more importantly for these states of mind, we will take them even out of your body in the religious approach, right?
We will take them right out of your body and we will personify them in these abstracts, right? garden.

The devil. Now, the problem, of course, is then, I mean, the benefit is clear, right?
People feel angry and they feel the desire to forgive.
The forgiveness is more convenient to those who’ve wronged them.
The anger is more convenient to their long-term healthy self-interest in a modern society, at least relatively, is that when we allow other people to co-opt, to extract and to then moralify, so to speak, our own emotions.
We lose control over our own internal processes.
We surrender control over our emotions to other people, right?
To those who are in power, to those who are in control, to those who control the narrative, right?

So when we feel ambivalence and we then say, say, okay, well, I’m going to surrender this definition of ambivalence.
I’m going to split it off, split off the unity of my personality, and I’m going to surrender the good and the bad to the definitions of other people.
Then, of course, I’m going to gain relief from my ambivalence.
I don’t have to negotiate and navigate and figure out what is the truth in all this complexity.
It’s just that forgiveness is good. I’m going to forgive. And when I feel the temptation to be angry, to either have a desire for vengeance or separation, then I’m just going to push that away as an evil temptation, right? right?

So when we allow those definitions, when we basically allow significant parts of our emotional life to be carved off and mythologized by other people, then the control over vast areas of ourself, in fact, we could say pretty much all the important or essential areas of ourself, particularly with regards to our emotional life, the control over that passes from us to other And this, of course, is the fundamental aspect of control, that control is always foundationally non-coercive, that it is psychological, and it involves other people controlling the narratives which inevitably control us.
Once I have surrendered to this drug, once I have greedily taken this heroin of relief from ambivalence through the external anthropomorphizing of my emotional state, then I can’t do that without the participation of other people.
We can’t anthropomorphize the world on our own. It’s part of a collective narrative.
I mean, if I say that there’s an invisible being named Bob who wants to kill me, that’s not a religion. That’s just paranoia.
That would be something which would not get me a tax deduction, but rather a set of fairly heavy medication.

So those who define the narrative end up controlling our emotions, right?

Control through Narrative

So we take the heroine of mythology, which gets us immediate relief from ambiguity and ambivalence, and then we get hooked on this narrative, right?
So once I say, well, anger comes from the devil and it must be fought, forgiveness comes from Jesus and must be loved.
The moment that I do that, I gain relief, and I am now addicted and under the control of the drug dealer, right?
Of the guy who gives me the little sweet piles of amyl nitrate mythology to sniff whenever I have a mind to, or whenever I feel the discomfort of ambivalence.
Now, of course, like all addictions, there is a sort of instant high followed by a declining sense of well-being over time.
And I think that we can see this pattern occurring in the realm of religion and in the realm of the religious people. So.

Ambivalence towards the Poor

This situation, I think, is somewhat clear to see when it comes to religion.
It can be harder to see when it comes to the state, or at least it was for me.
I think that I have some useful ways of of looking at it with regards to the state.
But I’ll take them for a swing, and we can see if this makes any sense.
Now, I grew up in…

Neighborhoods where, I mean, nobody owned any houses. There were almost no cars around, a few, but it was all, you know, one-bedroom or two-bedroom rental units, which were rent-controlled and subsidized and so on.
And so, I’m going to say some things about the poor, which may sound harsh, but this is not me living in some capitalist or Marxist fantasy.
This is just based on my my experience of, direct experience of growing up with and being one of the poor.
And I would say that certainly me and we as a society, and I think this is true of all societies, one of the greatest and deepest ambivalences we have is to the poor, right?
And I think that any sensitive or thinking person goes back and forth on this issue.
It’s like criminality, right? There are, I mean, there’s an overlap of causality which you can’t ignore, right?
Like, I have a friend who’s a professor in the States. I’ve mentioned him before.
And we’re certainly not close now, and we haven’t been for some years.
But his father was a professor.
And his father is actually Bez Taprock in The God of Atheists.
A very good man in many, many ways.

This guy, we’ll call him Bob, of course, right? Grew up, didn’t have to work in the summers.
He had access to, you know, he got the computers. He got the electronic toys and so on.
So he developed computer skills very early, which of course helped him in his academic career, which was, you know, based on heavily computer-based.
And there was no chance that this guy was going to end up homeless, right?
It just wasn’t going to happen, right?
He wasn’t going to end up. He was going to do well in school because he didn’t have to work in the summers.
He didn’t have to have any after-school jobs or anything like that, right?

So he ended up doing very, very well. Now, there were other people that I knew.
This other guy, he’s dead now, so.
He was a friend of mine, if friend is the right word, for a number of years when I was in my early to mid-teens. The relationship ended up splintering because I just found him to be too brutal emotionally.
But he grew up with a violent father who left very early on and who never contacted him again.
He had a weak and alternatively aggressive and then hyper-apologetic and compliant mother.
And he was, he did okay in school, but he ended up, I mean, he had a real death wish.
And he was very aggressive towards his mother, sort of push her up against the walls and that kind of stuff.
And he ended up just, I was telling you, I mentioned this before, we got beheaded in a motorcycle accident because he just, I mean, he would do crazy stuff on his dirt bike, like his BMX bike.
You know, he would just like run into walls and drive off railway tracks and stuff. It was all presaged for many, many years before it eventually came to be.

And there was no chance that my friend Bob, the professor, was ever going to end up like that, right? There was no chance.
These are just realities, right? And we all know this kind of stuff insofar as there are very few homeless people who are not mentally ill.
There are very few homeless people who come from happy, intact, professional, let’s say, homes. It just doesn’t happen statistically.
Now, it certainly is true that not everybody who comes from bad homes ends up homeless, but it certainly is true that almost everybody who’s homeless comes from a bad home or is mentally ill.
And so we have ambivalence towards the poor, right?
We don’t know the degree to which a person is responsible for his poverty, right?
Are the poor lazy and not willing to do the the emotional work it requires to not be poor, right?
So you see these people showing up on Dr. Phil.
You know, they had jobs, but they started taking a lot of drugs.

With their wives, they had too many kids, they got divorced, they, you know, got picked up for selling drugs, they went to prison, right?
So, it was a whole series of choices that they made to end up in the poorhouse, right?
That’s not quite the same as being afflicted with schizophrenia.
But, of course, even the people who are afflicted with schizophrenia, unless you’re willing to lock them up, which they don’t want, usually, they are pretty damn near are impossible to save, right, to rescue.
Because, you know, you give them a nice hotel room, they’ll just wander out onto the streets again.
People who are addicted to drugs come, of course, from all walks of life.
I mean, the richer they are, the less likely they are to end up in prison.
But if somebody ends up as a heroin addict, well, I mean, clearly in the later stages of the affliction, There’s not a lot of control that they have in their life.
They’re physically completely dependent upon the drug, and they have to hit a savage kind of bottom in order to get away from it.
Did they have choice earlier on? What was it that led them to take this path or this route? Nobody knows.

Nobody knows, right? So we have ambivalence towards the pork.
We, you know, we, I mean, I think I could speak for just about every sensitive or thinking person here, that if you think deeply on the topic, you realize that there aren’t any easier, obvious or total answers.
The poor aren’t always lazy.
The poor aren’t always crazy.
Yes, there are so few people who are neither lazy nor crazy who end up poor that we can be fairly certain that these categories have something to do with these attributes.

The Ambivalence of Poverty

So, this is sort of what I mean by ambivalence.
We don’t like the fact that there’s poverty, right? Of course, nobody’s overjoyed at the reality of people who are very poor.
We have sympathy for the innumerable childhood traumas and hells that people who end up poor have almost invariably experienced.
But at the same time, we know that there are people who go through those things and don’t end up poor.
So we feel that there is a personal responsibility in the matter of all but the craziest who we can’t help anyway, right? Pretty much.
Unless we lock them up, which may not be exactly the same as helping them.
Who knows, right? Because they’re crazy. We don’t know.
So if we just look at something as simple as the poor, there’s a lot of ambivalence.
Now, of course, the Marxists eliminate this ambivalence, right?
Because the poor are victims of evil capitalists, right?
So poor becomes virtue and not poor becomes vice in a capitalist system, right? The poor are poor because the rich is rich. It’s a zero-sum game, game, right?
Someone has a million dollars, a million people have one dollar less.

That approach eliminates the question of responsibility from the poor.
And the poor then become institutional effects without choice of a particular economic system.
So that’s one aspect of things. For another aspect of things, there is the, and it’s less common now, it used to be a little bit more common, which is the sort of Horatio Alger, lift yourself up by your bootstraps approach to poverty, which is that anybody who’s poor is lazy and it’s their own damn fault, right?
And in that approach, of course, people who are poor, there is no circumstances or history that can reasonably contribute to their poverty.
Therefore, they must just be lazy and stupid and immature.
And they took the easy route and they decided to get addicted to drugs.
Or, you know, they just made that fork in the road, which ended up with them being where they’re being, and it’s their own damn fault, and if we coddle them, we’ll only make it worse, and so on, right?

And so, you know, this is, say, the hardcore Republican versus the dewy-eyed liberal Marxist thing, right?
Both of those ideologies offer relief from ambiguity, from ambivalence, which is that the real ambivalence is that there are circumstances which contribute to poverty, but not for everyone. want.
So, it’s complex.
You know, reasonable people can see both sides of the equation and are not willing to grant that there is no causality in a person’s choice which results in poverty.
I’m not going to take away personal responsibility from an entire class of people, but at the same time, we know that it’s not purely a choice to become poor, right?
It’s complex. complex now statism takes away and i mean what i mean by statism is welfare statism it takes away that complexity right because in welfare statism the poor are universally victims right who are deserving of aid right.

Ambiguity is taken away. And now people don’t really, in the welfare state planet, they don’t really have to think about the poor.
They don’t have to wrestle with the ambivalence and the ambiguity of the poor.
If you look at, I mean, to compare that, you know, the violent, brutal solution of statism to something like a private charity that has to show long-term and continual effectiveness with regards to the poor, the alleviation of suffering in the immediate sense and also the reduction of poverty in the long-term sense, right?
Those are often mutually exclusive things, right?
This is part of the ambiguity and complexity of dealing with these kinds of problems.
The more you alleviate the pain of poverty in the short run, the more you will tend to increase its prevalence in the long run, right?
Because if you pay people $10,000 a month, you can eliminate poverty, but you will increase the number of people who end up being defined as poor, right? It’s just natural, right?
At the same time, if you throw everyone who’s poor in jail, then there will be people who end up in jail who didn’t have a choice or a chance, right? Or no particular choice or chance.
So this balance, balancing the ambiguity of wanting there to not be poor people at the same time as recognizing that poor people like everybody else respond to incentive, I mean, that’s complex stuff, right?

You’ve ever seen a drug counselor at work or an addiction counselor at work, right?
This is the whole challenge, for want of a better phrase.
This is the whole challenge that is represented by the phrase, tough love, right?

And this challenge is that we do want to help people, but we can only help people by being very tough and to some degree unsympathetic towards them, right? right?
If people end up getting stuck in a pattern or a quagmire of self-pity, then being tough with them is actually going to help them and jolt them out of that stuff, right?
And so when you see addiction counselors working with addicts, you can see that the addiction counselor will stand up for the best in the addict by loathing that which is the worst in the addict and be being very tough and harsh sometimes with that, right?
That is an ambiguous relationship, right? In order to help you, I am going to hurt you, right?
I am going to teach you to love yourself by appearing to hate you in certain ways, right?
I mean, that’s highly ambivalent, right? That we get to the love through the hatred, right? We, I guess, hate the sin, not the sinner kind of thing.
So that aspect of things, this ambivalence, it’s all very complex stuff.
At the moment you put religion or statism into the mix, the ambivalence vanishes.
And so does progress. So does exploration. So does curiosity vanish, right?

The Vanishing Ambivalence

So, for instance, and I’ll give you sort of another example just to jump back to the religious thing, but this could also work with objectivism as well. For example.

Fairly clear to see that to love God, if God for you is virtue and truth and love and all these sorts of things, to love God is to love those things, right?
And I can’t really think that it’s a bad thing to love truth and beauty and virtue and so on.
Now, if you love God and your your doubts about the existence of God can be projected out into the fantasy land of Satan and thus can be absorbed and controlled by the priestly class.

You put under the thumb of the priestly class, then what happens is you stop having to navigate that ambivalence, right?
And through that ambivalence comes amazing creativity. At least that has certainly been my experience.
And what I mean by that is, if a religious person says, I love truth and beauty and virtue, but I doubt the existence of God, then the logical outcome of that is that if God completely equals truth and beauty and virtue, and then your doubt overwhelms you and you give up on the idea of God, then you give up on truth and beauty and virtue.
We’re going to become a nihilist or a Marxist, which is the same damn thing.
On the other hand, there’s another situation or way of looking at it.
If you believe that God is truth and virtue and beauty, and then you say, but I don’t believe in God anymore, and I still love truth and beauty and virtue, then you’re in a very different situation, right?
Then you’re in a really fascinating and creative place.

I love truth and beauty and virtue. Truth and beauty and virtue is God.
God does not exist, but I still love truth and beauty and virtue.
In other words, the doubt and the love occur for you simultaneously.

That’s a crazy place to be, but that’s a very fertile place to be.
And for my own experience, UPB came out of, I love truth and beauty and virtue.
I love truth and beauty and virtue.
And I no longer believe in objectivist ethics.
Now, I wasn’t going to sit there and say, well, that’s it. I give up on truth and beauty and virtue. They don’t exist. I shall become a plague unto the world.
Although that certainly was a temptation.
But if I say, well, if my love for truth and beauty and virtue still exists, TBA.
If my love for TBA still exists and is still valid.
Objectivist ethics, which was truth and beauty and virtue for me, does not exist, is not valid, then I have a problem.
I have a mismatch, right? I’m not going to explain away that mismatch.
I’m just going to make up some answer to it, right? Which is, I don’t know, find Buddhism or something.
But I’m going to say, that which I love, I no longer have justification for, but I still love it.

I cannot prove truth and beauty and virtue, you, but I still love it, right?
It is that discomfort, that ambivalence that was the impetus for UPP.
I’m not going to give up on truth and beauty and virtue, but I don’t have a proof of it, but I’m not going to give up on it, but I don’t have a proof in it, but I’m not going to give up on it, but I don’t have a proof in it, right?
I went that way for a long time until I’m either going to have to give up on this or I’m going to have to find a proof for it, right?

Wrestling with Ambiguity

But because people don’t trust their own creative faculties, what they do is they say, well, if I give up on the belief, then I no longer have the feeling.
If I give up on God, I no longer can love truth and beauty and virtue.
But if you say, well, I still love truth and beauty and virtue, I don’t have any proof of them. I don’t know if they’re valid.
I have no way of of justifying them, but I still feel them. That’s ambivalent.
And from there, great creativity can grow.
So, I mean, one of the challenges that is faced by religious people is this perception of this belief that mankind is a special kind of creature, right?
They believe mankind is a special kind of creature because God gave man a soul and who made in God’s image and so on, right?
And so they feel, well, if I give up on God, then I give up the idea of man as a special kind of creature.
If I give up on man as a special kind of creature, then I can’t have ethics, right?
Because ethics only applies to man, at least according to the Christian conception, and I think any reasonable conception has that perspective.

Now, if the Christian says, I’m no longer going to believe in God, man is not special because God made him, made in God’s image.
Man is not special because man possesses a soul.
I no longer have a justification for my belief that man is still special, but I still believe that man is still special, right?
That discomfort, that gap between belief and feeling is where great fertility arises. Because if you give up the belief, you no longer have a problem to solve, right?
If you say, well, I give up on the idea of a soul, and therefore man is no longer special, I give up the idea of man is special, and I give up the idea of ethics, then, I mean, you’re wrong, but you’ve given up the ambivalence, right?
I mean, I hope this makes sense. Let’s hope so.
Up the soul and you give up your love of truth and beauty, then you no longer have ambivalence.
You’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak, right?

And it is wanting to wish away all that discomfort, which really is the fear of being wrong, right?

And you can see this kind of stuff operating whenever you have a shout down, right? right?
Up here in Canada, there was a guy who cut welfare and people said, well, how are you supposed to live on X, Y, or Z dollars, right?
He’s like, well, buy dented cans of tuna rather than real, like regular cans of tuna, right?
He also came up with stupid stuff like negotiate with the store owner or whatever, right?
But he was just shouted down, right? It’s the same thing with people who criticize climate change, shouted down, right?
Same thing with people who say there’s there’s no such thing as country.
So, it just gets shouted down, right?
And they get shouted down because the whole purpose of philosophy, in my opinion, I mean, in terms of really helping people achieve wisdom, is to constantly push back projections, to push back people’s projections, right?
So, if somebody projects their anger into Satan and you say, there’s no such thing as Satan, well, then, of course, what they want to do is find some other place to project their anger, That’s going to be their natural response, to find some other place where they can project their anger into, which is why Christians and Marxists are often interchangeable.
And Christians and socialists are often interchangeable, right?
If I can’t have God to rescue me from ambivalence, if I can’t have God and Satan to relieve me from the anxiety of ambivalence, then I’m going to take…

And the state, right? Angels, the devil, and God equals the poor, the rich, and the state, right?
In the Christian socialist model or the Marxist model.

And the whole purpose of philosophy is to keep taking these things away.
And I think that we’ve come the furthest in doing that because we haven’t substituted one drug for another, right?
And we haven’t said, you can take your ambivalence from here, and you can put it over there, right?
Which is, I mean, if you can do that, then you can sell, right?
Because that’s what corrupt philosophies and religions and so on, and statisms, the governments, countries, right?
And that’s what they’re selling is relief from anxiety, relief from ambivalence.
And so if you can, and this is, of course, why we see this cycle of one ideology getting knocked off and another ideology being created immediately, because all that’s happening is that the Marxists know that if they get rid of Christianity, that people will be left in this state of acute ambivalence, and they can then sell Marxism as an escape from that, right?

And in the same way that small government libertarians or conservatives tend to be more pro-God, right?

Relief from Ambivalence

It’s like, well, if we take away the government as the way that you can deal with ambivalence, then you’re going to be more prone to believing in God, right?
Because you’re going to still be left with all this ambivalence, but you’re going to be taken, you’re going to have a smaller, I mean, you’ve got 10 liters of ambivalence and you now only have a one liter government.
So that means nine liters of it has to go into religion, right?
And this is why socialists tend to be more on the rationalist side or the skeptical or agnostic side, right?
Because it’s like, well, if the government gets nine liters of your ambivalence, there’s only one liter left over for religion, which leaves you with agnosticism, right?
Whereas what we do here is we say, no.

Pour your ambivalence anywhere. Your ambivalence is your own goddamn thing.
Your ambivalence is your own thing. And running after some ideology which is going to take away your ambivalence at the price of turning into an bigoted idiot, we say no.
That 10 liters of ambivalence, that’s your fluid.
You don’t get to pour it into some ideology. You don’t get to pour it into some other damn thing. That’s your…
That’s your deal. That’s your stuff. That’s your business, right?
And we steadfastly refuse to let people project their ambivalence into other people, into other things, even into FDR, right?
This is why I’m constantly resisting any form of elevation of me and why I’m constantly resisting any form of it’s a cult or anything like that, right?
That’s why when people argue content, I will often tend to argue methodology, right?
And that’s why I don’t give answers in that way, right? or try to encourage answers in other people. That’s why I give UBB, not all the answers.
I give examples. I give examples in the UBB book, but not the actual answers.

Because I don’t want this conversation to become a receptacle for people’s ambivalence.
Scientology, all these kinds of things, just receptacles for ambivalence.
And I’ll talk about the last one here, and I appreciate your patience with this.
This is a first draft, and it is a highly challenging idea to work out, and the implications of it, to me at least, are very large and very widespread.

But actually, I’ll take a quick break and change, and then we’ll talk about this in the car on the way home. Thanks.
All right. And if we look at something like science, I think we can see that science is based on ambivalence insofar as science says truth is a value that we do not have.
We value truth, but we don’t have truth. We are uncertain of the truth, and therefore we need to subject theories to rigorous and empirical, reproducible, verifiable experimentation, right?
That’s the, what is it, was it Galileo?
Dropped the orange in the cannonball, and people said, well, the cannonball will drop faster, right?
He’s like, well, I value that as a truth, but I don’t know if I have it.
I value that which I do not have.
Therefore, let us drop them from the Tower of Pisa and see which one falls fastest, and they fell the same rate. Thank you.

Us. And I think the most powerful area of ambivalence is, of course, with regards to our own family.
And we could go into this in many ways, but let’s just talk about it with regards to our own parents.
So with our parents, and you can hear this over and over again in the listener conversations that I have, we can see that when I say to somebody, your parents, you know, by your own reporting, your parents did X, Y, and Z, which was not good.
The first thing that they do is they rush to eliminate that ambivalence, right?
I.e., I care for my parents and they did me wrong, or my parents claimed to love me and yet continually or consistently did me wrong, that my parents claim to love me yet do not listen to me, My parents claim to love me, yet they disagree with everything I think and feel, or whatever.
I mean, you’re using extremes, but you get the idea to whatever degree, right?

And that, of course, is a situation of ambivalence, and it’s really a very primal, in fact, one of the most primal, if not the most primal, area of ambivalence.
They love me, but they don’t act like they love me. They say they love me, and of course, the reason why this is so tortuous, as I talk Talk about a non-truth, remember, it’s available for free.
The reason that this is so tortuous is that if they say that they love me, they know the power and virtue of love.
But if they don’t, in fact, love me, but only say that they love me, then they know. They can’t claim ignorance of the power and value of love.
All that happens is they are using that to control and diminish me.
So, there you have some pretty extreme situations of ambivalence, right, with regards to parents. parents.

The Cult of Good Intentions

And people will just explain that away, right?

They did the best they could. It’s a different time. I didn’t explain it right.
I didn’t bring it up well.
I was difficult as a teenager, right? They come up with all of these explanations, right?
So, in this way, really, I mean, it’s the cult of good intentions or what are called good intentions is what the family is really based on, right?
If there’s evidence that they love you, then they love you. If there’s evidence that they don’t love you, then they still love you because they had good intentions.
It’s the cult of good intentions.
And it is a way, of course, of this cult of good intentions, just another way of wishing away the excruciating anxiety of ambivalence.

I love my parents because I believe that is virtuous and I do feel affection and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Or even if I don’t love them, I mean, this is how crazy ass I was that in the 90s, I mean, even though I would never say that I loved my mother, I still felt obligated to do X, Y, and Z for her, to have lunch with her, to go to dances with her, and so on.
Because that was a good son, and that was rising above, and that was giving love where you’d received evil, and all of the nonsense that I had imbibed from the general culture, around how to deal with ambivalence, which is to wallpaper the shit over it with whatever excuses you can come up with.
Whereas if somebody says, says, yes, you know, my parents say that they love me, and I do feel affection towards my parents, but they seem to have treated me badly in many ways.
And they must have knowledge because they taught me ethics, which they themselves then violated. That’s the whole untruth thing, right?
So they must have knowledge of a better way of living, even though they did not perform it.
They demanded of me standards or adherence to standards of behavior that they violated in the the very demand, right?
That is an intensely uncomfortable situation to be in, right?
And I think we can all appreciate and understand and have some sympathy with that. It’s very hard for people to stay in the state of that ambivalence.

Why ambivalence is so uncomfortable. I think it’s because if you stay there, you get very close to being able to detect counterfeit currency.
It is the counterfeit detection machine is ambivalence, right?
Because, I guess I can just finish up with this part.
I think we understand the ambivalence around the family and what is made up is the cult of good intentions or whatever.
The cult of they did the best they could with the knowledge they had, or I got it wrong, I misunderstood, I I misremembered, the cult of fog, the cult of all that, right?
But if you can sit in ambiguity, then what happens is you begin to get to the truth, right? You begin to get to the truth.
And the truth is that we are not fundamentally ambiguous.
We are conflicted, but we are not not fundamentally ambiguous.
When it comes to our parents, we are not ambiguous. That’s what lies at the heart of ambiguity is non-ambiguity, right?
For instance, with my brother, let’s just talk about with my mother.
She wanted to be perceived as a good mother.
No, let’s stick with my brother. My mother was just crazy, right?

Rooting Around in Ambivalence

My brother wanted to be perceived as a good person, a virtuous person, a wise and insightful person, and a loyal person, and a brave person or whatever, right?

My belief that he was these things was his vanity inflicted upon me under pain of punishment if I did not repeat the party line, right?
It was just propaganda, which I was punished for not mouthing, right? Which I internalized.
So I did not evaluate my brother’s behavior objectively and say, wow, he does great good and great harm. Wow.
Right? I mean, it was not, the ambivalence did not come from my sole discretionary, voluntary, and rational assessment of his behavior.
What happened was I found him to be a bad person, but he punished me for not calling him a good person or for not acting as if he were a good person, right?
And yes, he would, you know, do tricks here and there to sort of lull me into thinking he was a better person or whatever.
But what What happens when we begin to root around in our ambivalence is we realize that we’re only ambivalent because we’re trying to believe our truth and other people’s lies at the same time, and that the ambivalence then drives away.
I don’t feel ambivalent towards my brother anymore. I don’t feel ambivalent towards my mother. I don’t feel ambivalent towards the state or towards God or any of those things.
It doesn’t mean I’m free of ambivalence. It still occurs in terms of my own behavior and the right thing to do under particularly tricky circumstances, but I’m certainly getting better and more comfortable at that stuff.

But as far as what is at the core of ambivalence is singularity, is a true and honest experience, right?
So when it comes to the existence of God, and people feel ambivalence about it, right?
They believe in God and they doubt God. Well, they don’t believe in God.
And the people who teach children about God damn well know that children don’t believe in God because they teach them about God, right?
God is considered like math, right?

Axiomatically and automatically is going to get all the math they ever need just sitting around, right? In the way that they get puberty or, you know, learn now how to breathe.
The math is taught because it’s not innate, right?
And God is taught because God doesn’t exist, right? God has to be inflicted upon people because God doesn’t exist. So, children don’t believe in God.
So, the doubt they have is, is there genuine and real experience of God, which is none because he doesn’t exist, right?
And so they have a, quote, love of God, which is in fact a fear of others, as I’ve argued in prior podcasts, fear of punishment for not believing in God, which they then internalize as some sort of fervent desire for God.
And they have their doubts, which is their true and genuine and organic experience, right?
So when you start rooting around open-mindedly and with curiosity in the sort of supposed tangled knot of ambivalence, you realize that what is called ambivalence is simply bullied behavior that contradicted your natural, organic, and honest and true experience.
So when we root around in ambivalence, we realize that we’re not ambivalent.
We were just bullied. Right?

That I’m a great guy and a terrible guy, then foundationally, I can understand that I’m not actually that ambivalent.
I just was told that I was a terrible guy and things may have warped and mutated a little and I might’ve got a little bit of extra vanity as a compensation for that and so on, right? But it’s just all responses to being bullied, right?
So the reason that other Other people want to sort of, quote, rescue us from anxiety, and the reason why ambivalence creates so much anxiety is that ambivalence leads to a correct and accurate, honest and objective moral examination of the true motives of those around us, right?
And that’s why it is, you know, it’s so attacked, right?
We feel tense around ambivalence because people don’t want us to feel ambivalence, because when we start rooting around in ambivalence, their true evil natures are revealed to us, right? So I don’t even think fundamentally that ambivalence is what causes the anxiety.
I think it’s the fact that when we get the counterfeit detection machine, the counterfeiter, when we even think about getting one, the counterfeiter is going to attack us and undermine us and keep that far away or keep that at bay from us.

So anyway, this is just a sketch of the idea. I hope that it’s helpful.
I hope this makes some sense.
I don’t know how the hell to communicate this yet. I have a pen tablet which may help, I don’t know but if you have any thoughts or ideas about it, please do let me know and thank you so much for listening, to this, which I think is a very powerful and interesting and rich idea, which I’m just scratching the surface of and I hope that it makes some sense, let me know what you think.
All the best from here, talk to you soon, look forward to your donations Bye smokes, bye Well thank you so much.

Blog Categories

May 2024

Recent Comments

    Join Stefan Molyneux's Freedomain Community

    Become a part of the movement. Get exclusive content. Interact with Stefan Molyneux.
    Become A Member
    Already have an account? Log in
    Let me view this content first