The Macro Self, The Micro Self, and what they suggest about violence
I’m occasionally an aggressive guy. At least internally. When people do bad things, endanger other people, or just generally act like assholes, I tend to wish harm upon them. When people drive unsafely on the highway I imagine whacking them in the face a few times with a metal rod. Or maybe just across the knees. I’m not entirely sure. But basically their willingness to endanger the lives of dozens or upwards of hundreds of strangers is just beyond my ability to comprehend.
It takes a dangerously ignorant person to do something like that. But that’s not what I’m talking about today. There is a reason why, if I did exact such righteous vengeance, that it shouldn’t result in lasting harm. No limbs lost, no noses broken, etc. And I think the reasoning behind this is support for why no major violence should ever be exacted on anyone for punishment. The simple and arguably objective reason has to do with something I’ve covered before. The notion of the macro and the micro self. The micro self being the you at any given moment and the macro self being the you as a whole. The entity that all other people think is “you”.
The micro self can, at any one time, do great harm and great evil to people. But the micro self is constantly changing. You might be violent as a kid but totally chill as an adult. It would be a shame for an action of your past self to cost you a leg or an arm. Once you change those things never come back.
When we think about retribution I think most people forget the micro and only dwell on the macro. Tending to think that people are without redemption. I’m using a lot of gospelly sounding things today but I mean this all just on the level of physical reality. We want to see vengeance brought upon people who wronged us, almost without a time limitation. At best the person who did it might stay free for so long that once you find them again your micro self has changed enough to no longer feel wrong.
At worst you could brutally wound them and no matter what changes they might make in the future they’ll remain damaged from that failed copy in the sequence of copies that makes their life. Sure, there are some people who are just terrible at the macro level. Perhaps you can adjust them strongly enough to start moving the average towards being a better person over time. Admittedly though if its been too long the person will just die before they ever really even out what they’ve done.
I think [again] on nearly an objective level, if not literally so, we should always avoid life changing injuries upon those we dislike. Because the person they are in that moment may not, and likely will not, be the person they are in a year. The changes will likely be subtle but that person might not have done what this one did. Thinking on the macro level seems difficult though. I’m not sure I could do it.
Just glad I don’t carry a pipe in our car.