Moral Fatigue

**This was supposed to come out on an episode of Inconsiderate (audio) so it is written to be heard, not so much read**

Thanatos, the death urge. This is the morbid, subconscious fear of non-death which psychoanalysts
attribute many of our fantasies to. Culture is filled with variations of this fear: purgatory, the nowhere of the Twilight Zone or Lost, vampires, zombies, curses of eternal life. We are haunted by the non-entities from the nowhere places of non-death. And in order to ward them off, we have invented numerous devices. We’ve
reinforced coffins or have installed alarm systems should the dead rise. We’ve conducted regular ceremonies
to appease our dead relatives. We have even come to deify those who have come back from the underworld not
only unscathed, but triumphantly. And then there’s psychics, dream analysits, shamans, and priests …our
privileged soothsayers.

What is it that they want us to remember throughout the day? To be Good! So that the other world lets us
sleep. In Thus Spake Zarathustra, Nietzsche mocks moralists for their preoccupation with sleeping well and
the rituals they prescribe towards that end. And for as vague as Zarathustra can be, he’s not the only one that
has made the connections between morality, stress, internal dialogue, and sleep. Plenty of people have taken
dreams – and especially nightmares – quite seriously. Even our lauded psychiatrists recognize a symptom of
disease in restlessness and terrifying fantasies.

It’s one thing to expect from mystics and idealists that they would give dreaming such lofty ontological
significance. Anything ephemeral is going to be important in a system of thought where material reality is
driven by these spiritual forces. But even the scientist of adjustment and common good will hold your dreams
against you from a sort of corrupted ethics. From the knowledge that the anxieties which keep us awake at
night often relate to social norms we’ve internalized or figures of authority we’re coerced to obey, their
solution is often also a call to conformity. Morality …everywhere.

For them, anything is better than atheism …the moralist doesn’t want “anarchy”! If someone is missing
their Stirnerian spooks, both the office of religion and the office of health will see to it that some spook finds them again. Studies find that religion can help with all sorts of psychological disorder …it may even be the only hope for the dreaded psychopath. The message is simple: the damn crazies need some sort of authority and if it can’t be internalized as a god or a super-ego, it must be applied externally with institutional force. Someone’s gotta get their sleep…

The funny thing about all of this is that these problems are what sleep deals with to begin with. There are two dream states: REM and nREM. The most contemporary studies of what our brains are using these states for show that one state deals with solving practical problems (such as learning a new skill) while the other state deals with solving emotional problems (such as how to resolve anxiety and stress related to a relative or lover). Living up to moral principals may deal with conflicts which emerge from having already adopted those principals, but it doesn’t deal with the problem of having those moral principals in the first place. People like simple and effective rules to live by and that is fine, but there’s a lot to be said for solving problems in this world instead of creating new problems in an other world to solve. I would rather have a difficult time sleeping because I’m trying to figure out how to make my life better in this society than have a difficult time sleeping because I’m trying to figure out how to make my afterlife better in a society of phantoms. Even worse, sleep well because I’m faithful and gullible enough to believe that I have already ensured a wonderful afterlife for myself.

I’m sure that there is plenty of money to be made peddling pseudoscientific narcotics, obsessive spiritual mantras, and entertaining stage performances where I would read the cold corpse of your mama …but, sleep is for the dead.

One Response to “Moral Fatigue”

  1. Fuckbeard the Man Pirate says:

    I love REM

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