The Fragility of the Past

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John Fredov’s failed mistress – A deep trench, a trap of compelled consistency – The Wisdom of the dullest man on the street

In my last essay (The lost wars of optimism), I briefly introduced the Fredovs, their predicaments, and how an online marriage therapist helped them survive. Even during their predicaments, both partners had been very faithful to each other. However, things weren’t particularly smooth for John. Thanks to his nature and something magical about his looks that makes it difficult for lady colleagues to let him rest. He had to battle this since High school in Dolbeau-Mistassini. But this time around things got a bit rough.

It was Anastasiya, a new colleague at work that gave him serious chills. Unfortunately, she expressed perfectly identical gestures. It started with coffee before work, then lunch together, then prolonged chats after work. Few weeks afterwards, something came up that ‘necessitate’ a visit to Anastasiya at the dead of the night (without, of course, the knowledge of the wife)

But he saved himself:

he was smart enough to realize that his past actions are almost meaningless, as his future action compulsorily depends on it for its meaning.

He knocked at the door, and had to wait for a few minutes. When Anastasiya came to open the door, he was gone, taking the fastest route home with his heart pounding heavily. That marked the end of early morning coffee, shady lunches, and prolonged (and sometimes lewd) chats after work.

Last week they had their 4th Kid, living relatively happy. And by the way, Janet wants to get to six.

A deep trench, a trap of Compelled Consistency.

When a past event is dependent on a future one for its meaning, one fall into a deep trench – a trap of compelled consistency. This trap can be good or bad, moral or immoral. John Fredov’s failed adventure is an archetype of the former. Let’s look at possible examples that could lead to the latter.

Think, a nation going to war, only to be massacred by her combating opponent. The death of her combatants, more often than not, will be used to justify the continuity of the war [i]. The Leader of the nation comes forth with a very familiar speech, something that ends like this:

“Friends, our brothers must not die in vain”

Invoking a past sacrifice (‘the death of our brothers’) as a justification for entering another round of war, while ignoring the authenticity of the justification of engaging in the war in the first place. In order words, a past action – the death of our brothers on the battle field, creates a trap of compelled consistency.

The Wisdom of the dullest man on the street

In an identical case, at a point in history, 3 non-identical nations were collapsed together (almost arbitrarily) to form a country. But the country wouldn’t work, its differences completely overwhelms her strength. In the course of ironing out some of the differences, multiple civil wars crippled in, a couple millions of people died here and there, in the name of the country. Things got worse. Clearly the differences of the nations wouldn’t disappear – they had to break up. The dullest man on the street could diagnose the problem correctly.  But the elites of the country knew best, they gave the following argument:

“Many men have sacrificed their life for our dear country, should they do so in vain? Spill their blood for nothing? Brethren, our nation must work”

In addition, there is another, probably more stronger argument at the back of their minds (not the kind you say in public) – building a nation for over 5 decades just to break up, isn’t just good business (psychologically).  Economists call these things sunk cost.

As I write these words, situation is far from worse.

(Photo Credit)

[i] Moshe Harbetal, On Sacrifice.


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