January 14, 2018

Might Makes Right (revisited)

As some of the followers of this blog know, I resigned my membership in the Church of Satan this past October. Three months have passed, and I find that I'm still unpacking attitudes and beliefs I picked up while a member of the organization. The purpose of this post isn't to criticize the Church of Satan--I've said what I wanted and am reluctant to dwell on them any further--but to unearth the deeply buried foundations that inform my understanding of Satanism.

One of the pillars I'm excavating right now is the assertion that might makes right. It's true that I'm going to take this statement out of the context from which Dr. LaVey himself took from Ragnar Redbeard's book of the same title, but I'm not here to discuss the intellectual forebears of modern Satanism. I'm not an historian or scholar, so I'm not trying to speak authoritatively. Instead, I'm talking about my experience as a practitioner using the "codified" and "crystallized" religion and philosophy of Satanism as I learned it through the canon literature of the Church of Satan.

The maxim that might makes right is either quoted specifically in the literature or operates as a principle underpinning a number of other positions which come back to the sentiment that living life successfully is the result of being sufficiently either strong or cunning to rise above all others and claim what you want no matter the consequences.

In a way, I really identify with that attitude. How many times in my life have I failed to be or have what I want for the sole reason that I just didn't do it or reach out and take it? With history as my guide, fortune favors the bold, therefore strength of either body or will is a principal ingredient for being and having what I want. But is that really a healthy and productive way of looking at the world?

I found that accepting as a philosophical truth underpinning my worldview the assertion that might makes right made me into an apologist for people, organizations, and worldviews that are totally anathema to me.

Pedophile priests have been raping children in possibly unknown numbers for possibly hundreds of years and have used their religious organizations to escape recognition and punishment. It sucks that the priests were strong enough to rape all those children, and their churches have been strong enough to defy law enforcement, but... might makes right.

It's become public knowledge that an increasingly large number of men in politics, show business, and athletics have been raping, molesting, assaulting, and abusing boys, girls, men, and women in their company. It sucks that the men who committed all this abuse were either strong or cunning enough to not be forcibly stopped, and they managed to either silence or disappear their victims, but... might makes right.

The vast majority of Christians want to see their religion as the default basis for public discourse, and not a small number of them even identify as Dominionists who want to conquer the so-called "seven mountains" and claim dominion over the country in the name of their God. They've managed to influence the selection of gradeschool textbooks in Texas (which matters because those schoolbooks are typically used to determine what schoolbooks the rest of the country gets). They've also managed to influence lawmakers into outlawing varying degrees of sex education for children and abortion for adults as well as forbidding government funding to medical schools to be used to teach doctors how to perform abortions. 

Put those things together, and you get a situation where they're burning the reproductive rights candle at both ends in order to reduce the number of clinics where abortions can be received as well as the number of physicians who are either qualified or capable of performing abortions. Yeah, it sucks that the Christians can't keep their religious laws to themselves, but... might makes right.

These examples aren't exhaustive, they're only the ones that come to mind while I'm writing this essay. If I look for any situation where the strong are protected at the expense of the weak, I can find somebody saying, "I wanted it, and nobody can stop me or hold me accountable, so I did it, and fuck the people who were too weak to defend themselves." What am I supposed to do in the hypothetical situation where I'm at the mercy of somebody or something that is strong enough to do with me or the people I care about as he, she, or it pleases? According to the canon literature, I'm supposed to embrace the shadowy archetype of the Satanist who blends in, disappears, or even finds a way to join the strong and reap the benefits of perpetuating the very abuse and oppression I oppose.

When I cared about my membership in the Church of Satan, I was motivated to accept this kind of thinking because, well... that's the way it goes, right? People are generally inclined to accept an idea or belief when it comes from somebody that they like. This is one of the so-called "laws of persuasion" I learned in sales. But when I resigned my membership in the Church of Satan, the bias to accept or justify these arguments went away. And in hindsight, I gotta say... the attitude that I should either become stronger than my enemy and claim what I want, or just deal with it and adopt a lifestyle of sneakiness, invisibility, and hypocrisy isn't just degrading, it's also pretty revolting.

These days, when I see "might makes right" etched into the foundations of my understanding of Satanism, I'm not sure how I want to handle it. Should I build on top of this? Get a figurative chisel and remove the engraving? Discard my foundation and start over with a different understanding of Satanism? For a Tarot reader who's supposed to have all the answers, I'm coming up short here.

3 comments:

  1. My sense of the "Might Makes Right" dictum is that is was intended to be descriptive, not prescriptive. That is, no one was saying that it was a good thing that typically "might makes right." Nor does the fact that one was able to get away with something mean that what you did is moral in any system of cognitive ethics. Instead, the dictum was a candid assessment that, like it or not, the world really works that way most of the time.

    One is certainly able to regret or even despise the way the world works, and one is free to work to change that. But until and unless that happens, the world will mostly function in accordance with the dictum. The counsel is that in order to be successful and self-actualizing, one must build the dictum into one's calculations or one could become the failed champion of a long list of losing causes. That helps no one. My $0.02.

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  2. I enjoyed this piece very much. I also applaud you for your questioning of social darwinian dogma and your courage to follow your questions. Here is a piece I wrote a bit ago on this same topic. https://devilsfane.com/2017/08/19/the-left-hand-path/

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    1. Thanks for the feedback.

      "[S]eeking dominance over others’ sovereign wills and inviolable bodies is nothing more than the essence of what has historically characterized coercive RHP traditions." < No disagreement from me on that position.

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Freedom of Expression =/= Freedom from Consequences