Edward Teach (TLP) — Sadly, Porn

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Intro

TLP (The Last Psychiatrist) has finally written his book of porn — it’s on Amazon and on LibGen.

It reveals everything, where by “everything” I mean “what does TLP believe to be right”. I think all his previous essays don’t matter much now — Sadly, Porn and the previous book (Watch What You Hear) replace them.

Also, the book isn’t about porn. Also also, it’s 1000 pages long and all the topics are intermingled. I am quoting from the whole book and the footnotes.

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What is TLP against?

Let’s jump straight to it. The bolding is mine.

Different things are at stake, but there is a common pathology, here it is in bullet form, along with its defense:

  • inability to love, manifesting precisely not as not loving but as loving someone without satisfying them;

  • a terror of growing older, manifesting precisely not as fear but rage — rage at how the world that once belonged to you, or should now belong to you, is being wasted on everyone else;

  • a disdain for the very idea of preparing the world for the next generation, manifesting precisely not as dismissing the future, but disconnecting the past from the present so the future starts today and the benefits are yours;

  • a fear of dependency, manifesting precisely not as off the grid individualism nor universalizing economic supports but as a demand for all manner of social/psychological controls all which must appear invisible;

  • the despising of peoples, manifesting either as a well reasoned desire for central planning or unsophisticated devotion to laissez-faire — both are admissions that outcomes can not be left to ordinary people=you;

  • an inability to be alone, manifesting not as loneliness but as a horror vacui — when you’re by yourself in a house with greater than two rooms, always will the TV be on.

Is it too late for you? Yes. You are already lost.

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You enjoy the deprivation of others

TLP continues and expands on the theme of his previous book, Watch What You Hear: Penelope’s Dream of Twenty Geese. The theme is: you are repressing the forbidden desire to deprive others of… something. Whatever it is they want. This is the drive behind your actions.

Your conscience isn’t cruel, you are cruel, you enjoy the deprivation of others, and if you can’t stab them you’ll cut your own wrists just deep enough to satisfy a feeling — the feeling of what it’s like to hurt someone.

The actions in question are numerous, and the “inability to love others” is one of them:

“I know this is going to sound arrogant, but I’m just being brutally honest so I can understand myself better: every girlfriend I have ends up falling in love with me.” HA! […]

Let’s instead talk about why it’s so satisfying to break up with those who love you. “It’s not satisfying!” Of course it is, it’s the consistent climax of all of your relationships, you’re going to tell me that isn’t the point of having them? “They leave me!” Come on, everything you did for the prior 6 months was a set up to compel them to do what you wanted to do but couldn’t do directly. Giving oh so much of yourself in the beginning, in order to deprive them of all of yourself at the end.

TLP interprets the story of Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel in a similar way. Nebuchadnezzar was a king who had a dream, and then forgot what it was. He asked all the wise men to tell him his dream, and then decided to kill all of them. However, Daniel came up and told him he knew what the dream was:

Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom would fall. It would be replaced by another... and another... and another... and finally all earthly kingdoms would fall, replaced by God's everlasting kingdom. The King is so overjoyed by Daniel's insight that he falls to his knees and worships him like a god.

And here’s TLP’s interpretation: he’s rejoicing because Daniel’s interpretation suggests that the king is paving the way for the Kingdom of God — which is an acceptable interpretation. But Nebuchadnezzar’s real wish, forbidden wish, is that he wants his kingdom to fail after he dies.

In year two of his reign what he is obligated to want is a kingdom that lasts forever; but he won't last forever, hence the anxiety. Not anxiety over his mortality, he is young after all, but that his kingdom might go on without him, might even be great without him; that one of his lazy sons or slutty wives will get all his money, forget where she got it, and live happily ever with all sorts of other phalluses. He wants the kingdom to collapse after he dies.

It's certainly ok for us moderns not to give a damn about what happens to our world after we die, mostly in revenge for making us mad without power, but it was not at all ok for him not to care — let alone to desire it. He is not allowed to want this, this wish is repressed.

Same with parents and children:

Conventional wisdom says American society is hyperanxious about the growth and safety of children, but the subordinate clause is a lie. Children aren't fragile, they are a direct psychological threat.

This doesn't mean that people don't like them or won't break their backs to send them to college, it means that they parent in a way that prevents the kids from manifesting as a threat to their identity, i.e. prevents them from growing up into their replacement.

[…] preparing both the world for them and them for the world, it is impossible to conceive of this. I mean exactly what I wrote: it is impossible to form the idea that they will turn into adults that will replace us while we are alive. This is both individually (your kids) and collectively (the coming generation). In fact, we believe we will be increasingly relevant in the world as time goes on, not less so, in exactly the opposite way that the young conceive of us.

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Interlude, pt 1: an experiment

There’s another description in the book that is spot on. TLP analyzes Dickens’s A Christmas Carol and has the following to say about anal-retentive children:

The child saves his poop for the big day so he can give it to his parents as a gift because they — not he — seem to really value his poop. And if he wants to deny them the satisfaction of his poop, he'll just hold on to it. As he ages, and when feces has lost its value to them, his interest passes over to other objects that can be offered as gifts of value, say, grades or anything that leads to “that’s my boy!”

That was 100% me. I had spent ages holding on to the poop (literally) without ever understanding why.

Much later, at the high school graduation I had refused to wear a shirt my mom had bought for the occasion, driving her to tears. Afterwards I left Belarus to study in a different country — and had spent about half a year not talking to my parents almost at all. Etc.

The thought of doing anything parents wanted me to do was enraging and felt completely unacceptable. I remember coming to my third therapist and asking “why do I hate people?” and then we had a pleasant chat and then I said — “just one thing: I don’t like my family but I don’t think it’s relevant to anything and it will never change too”.

Anyway.

After reading the part about “let’s instead talk about why it’s so satisfying to break up with those who love you” I thought “do I enjoy the deprivation of others?”, took out a notebook and wrote a bunch of deprivation-y things to see how I feel about them. “I would like nothing more than for the whole world to fail, and the reason for that is blind rage”. “I want to fail and for everybody else to fail as well”. Imaginary murders were committed, etc.

In the end it turns out that both “I want to fail” and “I want others to fail” are relatable.

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Interlude, pt 2: happily, ice cream

Since wanting to deprive others is relatable, TLP is right.

And he also constructs a fucked-up universe where nothing but repression seems to exist. It’s not “you are sometimes bad”; his shtick is beating you up with italics till you mistrust yourself entirely:

[…] what the movie gets dead right isn’t that they have to pretend it’s for something else — it can only be for something else. You can only act if it’s compelled, impulsive, or for some other reason. No actions but reactions to situations that happen to you. You can not do what you want. “I’ve done a lot of people I wanted to do.” You think you did it for no other reason than your desire for them? Is that what — they think?

(The whole book and the whole TLP are like this. When I was 16 I bought into it, and had spent the next several years thinking I was a narcissist.)

The deal is:

  • TLP is right about wanting to deprive others,

  • and he might even be right about it happening all the time and underlying all your actions etc,

  • and he also correctly notices that you don’t want to see this,

  • therefore you should mistrust yourself.

My answer to this is: Look, I bought an ice cream yesterday and it was delicious.

I had all sorts of perverse reasons to buy the ice cream, including “a friend is in another country and I’ll show her the ice cream and also the fact that they have vegan ice cream” — which might well be about depriving others. But the ice cream was delicious.

In other news: I went outside this morning and it felt like spring, even though it’s January 1st. My Kindle is very light. There’s floor heating in my apartment. The towel is crumbly. I had fun talking to a friend yesterday. I like how the trumpets sound in a song I found today.

None of this makes me “ultimately a good person”. Neither will the next generation still be able to rely on me, etc. However, good luck making me admit it — or change it — while you are beating me up with italics.

TLP complains (in a post somewhere else):

No one ever asks me, ever, “I think I’m a narcissist, and I’m worried I’m hurting my family.” […] If that was what they asked, I would tell them them change is within grasp. But.

[…] “I feel like I am playing a part, that I’m in a role. It doesn’t feel real.”

Instead of trying to stop playing a role – again, a move whose aim is your happiness – try playing a different role whose aim is someone else’s happiness. Why not play the part of the happy husband of three kids? Why not pretend to be devoted to your family to the exclusion of other things? Why not play the part of the man who isn’t tempted to sleep with the woman at the airport bar?

“But that’s dishonest, I’d be lying to myself.” Your kids will not know to ask: so?

I’ll change once you stop beating me up. Can you do that?

Years have shown that the answer is “no”, so I’m left to my own devices, and my devices are: I enjoyed the ice cream and didn’t play a part and wasn’t in a role, so fuck off.

Why should I change? Is it because TLP shamed me into it? Is it because I saw three “why not”s in a row? Nope. BUT: the thing TLP never says is that I already enjoy the things he wants me to do. I already like it when others succeed and/or enjoy themselves, even when I hate it.

The trick is in noticing it, not in buckling up and resigning yourself to the life of unwanted servitude. And the ice cream is a way of noticing it; an experience vivid enough that TLP can’t take it away.

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Action vs knowledge

This is another huge theme of the book.

Not only you enjoy depriving others, but also you can’t act. You have things you want, but you can’t act to get those things, you’d rather be compelled to get them. Alternatively, you’d like an excuse so that you don’t have to act.

TLP draws a distinction between wanting something for its own sake (good) and wanting something as a part of playing any kind of role whatsoever (bad):

“You want a career, because smart women want a career.” — Can’t I just want a career? “No, because then you won’t be able to pursue it, we trained you not to act on your desires but on the desires of others.

What does knowledge have to do with it? Knowledge is how you relieve yourself of having to act. There will be a long chapter about activism later, but for now TLP is analysing Jesus:

Jesus wants belief in him, and he offers believers power — not knowledge. He tells the disciples to go forth and heal the sick and cast out demons, but he doesn’t tell them how to do this. All the power comes from belief, and it comes without any knowledge.

[…]

And Fifty Shades of Grey:

[…] consider that in this imaginary BDSM fantasy where anything could happen and sex has no limits, they have sex with a condom. Not incidentally with a condom; we get to read about the finding of a condom and the unwrapping of the condom and the removing of the condom and condom condom condom.

[…] Since Anastasia doesn’t exist it’s pointless to ask why she likes it, but the reason the audience likes her story is because it is a fantasy about being able to fantasize in safety. […] Of course people have reason to want condoms in real life sex, just as they will want parachutes in real life airplanes, but what does it mean that in order to fantasize flying, you have to fantasize wearing a parachute? Why not just… fantasize?

And Athenian democracy, which was unique (according to TLP) because it was a direct democracy: everyone voted on what the state should do. People actually were the state.

Personal morality was inseparable from the state’s morality, they were not overlapping, they were the same single thing […] This is why that period of history is so unique and so unrepeatable. For the first time and the only time and never since time, knowledge was used for action; the purpose of knowledge was to act; the purpose of earthly knowledge was to be able to act like gods with restraint. Not only for a handful of “great men”; they all thought this, it was the cultural standard.

This is one of the sins that wasn’t listed in the “what is TLP against?” section. It’s not exactly “cowardice”, because cowardice implies that you can be more brave or less brave — but here there’s a qualitative difference between “acting for the sake of getting the thing” vs not.

Admittedly, it’s very hard to explain how “acting for the sake of getting the thing” is good for you. Any argument would be lifeless.

“I just want a seat at the table.” You can have mine, I am done with these stupid meetings. I have work to do.

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Interlude the second: privacy

I always hated privacy. I remember feeling so scared and annoyed when my (now ex) girlfriend would feel uneasy about Facebook, or would tape her laptop’s webcam, etc. I never figured out why I hated privacy so much.

If you really wanted power, if you really wanted to a/effect the course of history or at least be at the top of the list for the evacuation pods, you would have to escape the walled city of Public and go all in on privacy. Any advertising exec has 10x the power of a college professor though of course the system doesn’t let either know this, […]

Also, I always talked a lot about what I felt, with everyone.

Private people are the most private about what they enjoy — their pain, their happiness, their fantasies; because other people might try to deprive her of her enjoyment by telling her how it is supposed to be enjoyed. […] It’s an important philosophical question whether inner experience can be communicated, but it’s an easy psychological question whether inner experience should be communicated: no. Not unless you’re trying to understand it from someone else’s perspective, or get rid of it.

Privacy is antithetical to “acting so that I can be seen as X” — because nobody sees me. Privacy is also antithetical to useless knowledge — would I still like learning X if I couldn’t tell anyone?

For this reason, privacy is terrible. If I am used to doing everything with “how does it make me look” or “what kind of person does it make me” in mind, then privacy requires me to change everything you do:

  • Suddenly I have to find things I’d actually enjoy.

  • Suddenly all my previous sources of enjoyment (looking like X) are gone.

  • Suddenly the things I put a lot of effort into are worthless.

  • Suddenly I have to confront your own impotence (I can’t actually do anything, I am really good at looking like X but that’s all).

Welp.

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Fear of dependency / fear of love

I’m skipping all the sex bits and a long movie script with sheet music (it’s the last chapter) to focus on the last important part of the book.

It doesn’t take a Freudian to see that every boy will one day overcome his father, for which the boy can be forgiven, but once the father is overcome the thing you can’t do is go back to being the boy. Your god is dead, now you are the father, and either you start using your power for good or you move back with your mother and rot.

Love is — acting for the benefit of the other person because you want their life to be better. If you want something else, well, then it’s not love but something else. Example: parents who act selflessly so that they are seen (by others and themselves) in a particular way:

The apparent selfless devotion perversely/purposefully obligates the child to them — it causes there to be a debt owed back to the parent which should not exist: the child perceives the existence of such an unpaid debt and thus believes his guilt is warranted. […] This is entirely separate from the complex duty an adult child owes their parents, which many avoid anyway; this is an unrepayable debt that keeps the child indebted to the parent — in this way precluding the possibility that the child can mature into their replacement, if at all.

Again, don’t get beaten up, just observe. “Checking of the phone” is relatable. When someone around me is checking their phone, I always go into a tiny mental loop: “but… shouldn’t you restrain yourself?” and then “well but I can’t demand that, can I?”.

A couple out to dinner but checking their phone are not distracted by the phone, the phone isn’t rendering them “unable to connect”; they actively take a break from their real life connection because it is unreal. Being what the other person needs you to be for the purposes of that conversation, those moments — doing that seems fake, obligatory, unreal; […] what feels unnatural is being depended on; not the being with someone else, but having to be for someone else.

The fear of dependency, the inability to act, and the desire to deprive others are connected.

This is one more instance where TLP fails to be kind: wanting others to have better lives (the antithesis to “the desire to deprive others”) is a motivation both for acting and for becoming dependable. You find the former and the latter two will follow — but if they are all individual sins then suddenly you suck not once but threefold and of course it’s tough.

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P.S.

“Doing the thing vs wanting to be seen as X” has been pointed out before, e.g. by SSC in Against Bravery Debates:

If you think “Not publish this? But then how would everyone know how brave I’m being? I’m going to plaster my name all over this thing so everyone knows exactly where to send the bravery-related kudos!” … then stick to the damn object-level issues.

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P.P.S. More on the fear of dependency (well, fear of duty)

Here's one more quote, from the discussion of The Giving Tree. I'll give the quote first and then say what I think about it.

The trick to what the demographic wants [...] is that while it doesn't believe in “true love” between two people, it doesn't believe in true love of a parent for a child either. Parental love can't be true love because it is definitional, obligatory, and therefore it doesn't count.

[…] The desire to display gigawatt devotion with zero responsibility is the standard maneuver of our times [...] and as a personal observation this is exactly what’s wrong with the worst medical students and nurses. They’ll spend hours talking with a patient about their lives and feelings while fluffing their pillow to cause it to be true that they are devoted — they chose to act, chose to love — while acts solely out of ordinary duty are devalued if not completely avoided. “Well I believe the patient’s spirituality is very important.” It will be if you don’t get this NG tube in.

You may think you have very valid personal reasons for not wanting to assume responsibility, like apathy or minimum wages, but the overwhelming motivator for devotion by choice is the rewarding reward of giving gifts of oneself, seemingly selflessly, because these publicly “count” more than discharging duty.

TLP offers a different definition of love: it’s not when you are connected to someone, but when you voluntarily agree to… it’s hard to define, but perhaps “help them exist in this world”. “Prepare the world for the next generation”. “The responsibility to make someone else happier than you”. It’s all the same.

It’s tricky, because I ask myself “but if I do this — am I a good person then?”. It doesn’t work because what it really means is “but if I do this — will people see me as good?”.

For it to work, you have to redefine good: A GOOD PERSON IS ONE WHO HELPS OTHERS EXIST IN THE WORLD.

What helps me is checking “can I demand this from others?”. Half a year ago I couldn’t demand pretty much anything from others. Now I can demand “yeah, you have to help other people, this is just what I want from you and I will ಠ_ಠ you if you don’t do that”. I’ve started leaving bad reviews for bookshops where I ask “do you know any other good bookshops in this town?” and don’t get an answer. I get their motivation, sure. But I personally want to punish a refusal to help another human. And that’s why they get their ಠ_ಠ and three stars on Google Maps.

Since I started demanding this from others, it’s become easier to redefine “good” in this way.