Steven: Introduction

“If what you say doesn’t make someone angry, you’re not doing philosophy properly”

Recently, I have made a mistake in my life. I have moved. Now, that’s not the mistake. Nor the house choice is a mistake. (Well, a little bit) The person I’ve moved with was the mistake. But by the time I had realized it, I had already committed to it, and couldn’t really change my situation.

Now, this person (let’s call him Steven) is the kind of person I was when I was 10, and maybe even when I was 15; and the kind of person I could still be now, if I hadn’t “woken up”. But I’m still trying to change, and grow up, and become better, and that old me hasn’t totally abandoned me yet, despite my efforts. But seeing the materialized “old me” right in front of me does make me want to change more. He is the kind of life I despise and want to avoid at all costs, and yet the kind of life I always fear my life could be, if I give up. It’s always there, like a shadow, like the temptation of being lazy despite knowing that you will hate yourself a little bit more if you waste yet another day.

What I want to start here is a sort of philosophical investigation on that kind of life, using my housemate Steven as a case study. I want to delve deeper into that kind of life, what it is like, what it implies; to point out clearly and precisely what is so disgusting about it, and by opposition (re)defining what I want to be and not want to be. As a consequence, I hope it will push me to become a better person myself.

I realize this may make me look like a liar, a person that speaks about others behind their back, while pretending to like them. But things are not like that. I have tried to tell him some of the things I am going to talk about. Once I have even called him “Nietzsche’s Last Man”. But he will not listen. And if he does, he will forget as soon as he finds another distraction. (Distraction will become one of the key words in this study.) Most of the times he doesn’t understand what I’m talking about, and when he does, he ignores it, forgets it, or contests it by saying that “it’s just your opinion”; this sort of sceptic relativism, though, is not a proper point of view, but simply a technique behind which he tries to shelter by attempting to degrade my arguments to “just my opinion”, therefore equally valid as his or anyone else’s opinion. I realize what I say is an attack to his very own way of living, and if he took me seriously he would have to turn his life around, and he doesn’t want to. (Cf.: Plato’s cave) Since I have to live with him after all, I have decided to stop telling him these things because it’s pointless to argue with him and it will just lead us to fight, with no benefit to either of us.

Another disclaimer before starting: it may look, in fact, arrogant of me to judge people’s lives. If it is arrogant to judge in itself, then let it be so. But the fact that I judge others harshly doesn’t mean I don’t judge myself just as harshly, if not more. A little Socratically, I only claim for myself the genuine attempt at analysing and changing my own life for the better, an effort I don’t see in many people, who are often not even aware of the problem to begin with. I dare to judge, but I don’t put myself in a higher position than anyone else. In fact, I criticize myself a lot more than it is healthy, constantly over-analysing and second-guessing myself. Besides, I give reasons and arguments for my judgements, and I honestly try to recognize when I am proven wrong; if so, I take responsibility for my mistakes and apologise appropriately, but still knowing that I have been honest, and I have done my best all along.

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