I'm Sick of Being Lied To
I said, "How do you lie about the world? And how do you make yourself believe it? How can you see the whole truth, know the whole truth ... and go on pretending that none of it matters? What's the secret? What's the trick? What's the magic?"
My face was already burning white hot, but I leaned forward, hoping that her sheer radiance might infect me with her great transforming insight.
"I'm trying! You have to believe I'm trying!" I looked away, suddenly at a loss for words, struck dumb by the ineffable mystery of her presence. Then a cramp seized me; the thing I could no longer pretend was a demon snake constricted inside me.
I said, "But when the truth, the underworld, the TOE ... reaches up, takes you in its fist, and squeezes ..." I raised my own hand, meaning to demonstrate, but it was already clenched tight involuntarily. "How do you ignore it? How do you deny it? How do you go on fooling yourself that you've ever stood above it, ever pulled the strings, ever run the show?"
Sweat was running into my eyes, blinding me. I brushed it away with my clenched fist, laughing. "When every cell, every fucking atom in your body, burns the message into your skin: everything you value, everything you cherish, everything you live for ... is just the scum on the surface of a vacuum thirty-five powers of ten deep—how do you go on lying? How do you close your eyes to that?"
I waited for her answer. Solace, redemption, were within my grasp. I held my arms out toward her in supplication.
Walsh smiled faintly, then walked on without saying a word.
—Distress by Greg Egan
I just can't, can't, can't get over the extent to which my observations while trying to talk to people about all this seem to be best explained by the hypothesis that everyone is lying.
I know, that's not psychologically plausible. Which only makes it worse. The sheer depths of denial, mendacity, and cowardice from incredibly smart people whom I love and otherwise respect—or used to respect—is just staggering; I would not believe it if I didn't see it with my own eyes.
Disagreement is fine! Of course different people will read the evidence differently in the light of their own experiences and knowledge and come to different provisional conclusions.
And in an honest disagreement among truthseeking intellectuals, people say, "You're wrong, and it matters, and we should try to resolve this in public using evidence and reasoning, so that others who are interested in the topic can learn and make up their own minds."
And for the most part, that's just not what I see. Instead, people tell me, "You're wrong, and it doesn't matter, and you shouldn't be talking about this." Or, "You might be right, but it doesn't matter." Or, "This makes sense to me, but don't tell anyone I said so." Or, "I disagree, and want to privately discuss the science with you, but if you successfully change my mind, I don't want anyone to know." Or, "I think the consequentialist thing to do is not to tell anyone they're wrong about this topic until the associated political struggle is won."
And I'm just like, what the fuck is wrong with you people? How can it not matter?! You guys are really, really smart; how the fuck can you possibly get this wrong?
Okay, yes, politics, it would probably be very bad if the general public knew what was going on. But don't you at least want to understand for yourselves? And what's even the endgame here? The next generation of people with the trait are growing up and making important life decisions based on your shitty political propaganda. Do you think you can get away with lying about this forever?
People who know me can tell that I have the trait; there are enough of us around that people's radars are well-tuned enough to catch the eggs that haven't hit the wall yet. And they tell me, "You obviously have the trait; you should totally join the coalition!"
And I'm like, you delusional bastards have been blatantly lying to me about the most important thing in my life for ten years. I want nothing to do with your coalition.