Feeling supervised? Hunted? Haunted? Hounded? I think you’re in a Ci state of mind.

A Ci life is Narcissus in the hall of mirrors: Your preening fakery alienates you not just from self love but from all love.

Photo by: Axel Rouvin

When I was young and stupid, I used to think totalitarianism had an insuperable cost-control hurdle: The problem, as I saw it, was not just Juvenal’s quandary but that each prisoner in a police state would impose an overwhelming burden in overhead and staffing expenses. Plus which, innovation leapfrogs regulation, so I used to say, “They can’t enslave us if they can’t catch us.”

What’s wrong with that analysis? It assumes that the guards and the prisoners are different people. “Who will guard the guardians themselves?” What if you could get the guards to do it to themselves? Continuously. For free.

Each prisoner his own guard! Now there’s a manifesto for the totalitarian age. “Constable, incarcerate thyself!”

But the twentieth-century totalitarians couldn’t manage that. They gave us The Big Lie – forcing you to mouth known lies to demonstrate your subservient compliance, then changing the Big Lies all the time, to spotlight any deviationism. And they gave us Political Correctness – self-selected full-time volunteer Big Lie-enforcers. But as every brave act of anti-totalitarian defiance demonstrates, human beings cannot be ruled from the outside.

But they can be ruled from the inside…

Who is most-totally enslaved by a totalitarian creed? Not its victims but its victimizers. They need the doctrine to rationalize their ever-newer, ever-more-gruesome emotional wounds – the proceeds of seeing themselves behaving monstrously in their service to the dogma – but they need it simply to feel right about themselves. What they are, by then, IS the doctrine, and what they must police most vehemently is their own deviation from it.

Suppose you have a moral ideal. And suppose you say you subscribe to it in every particular. Guess what I know about you? You don’t measure up. How do I know that? Because no one who claims to subscribe to a moral ideal ever manages to live up to it in every detail.

So now what? If your moral ideal is a religion, you and other people who share in that belief will talk a lot about sin, penance and redemption. You are Greek in your idealism – something to be rhapsodized briefly and formally – and you are Greek in your phlegmaticism – because phlegm happens.

But what if your moral ideal is a political philosophy? You get The Big Lie and Political Correctness, of course, but what you personally get is crazy and every day crazier. As much as you claim you are policing the great unwashed, in fact you and your fellow believers spend most of your time policing each other.

Why? Because whatever its specific and superficially-varied intellectual content, your moral ideal is a compliance display: To fail to demonstrate perfect moral compliance at all times is to have committed a crime – rebellion or even treason – by default. You are ever at risk of being delivered to a show trial for deviationism, and your best hope of avoiding that fate is to mob up against other show trial victims – when you are not yourself pointing the finger of accusation.

That sort of show trial fetish leads to a holiness spiral – the crazy making each other ever-crazier – and, if left unchecked, it ends ultimately in The Killing Fields: Pandemic homicidal holier-than-thou-ism. We can do the why of this another day, but you can work it out from two words: Loop amplification.

But suppose your moral ideal is not simply a philosophy but is instead your philosophy-of-philosophies – a set of detailed beliefs about the way right-thinking people think?

Wow. That’s recursive: Your compliance display is to display a style of compliance displays. I’d worry that that might be an infinite recursion, but I’m afraid if I look into it any deeper, I’ll fall in!

Here’s what’s worse: You don’t measure up.

And you know it. And it gnaws at you. You police yourself against it, striving in every way you can think of to more-perfectly display the most perfect possible compliance to your moral ideal. And yet you cite yourself – “Constable, ticket thyself!” – for your every failure to live up to that ideal.

You palliate your guilt for failing to make perfect compliance-display displays by mocking or penalizing the imperfections in other people’s compliance-display displays, but the primary target of your persecution is yourself – literally your self.

What do we do about rebellion? What do we do about treason? And who, precisely, is guarding the guardian of your moral ideal?

This is the Ci state of mind: You are imprisoned by your inability to live up to your moral ideal – which consists of perfect compliance-display displays of perfect compliance-display displays. Yikes! When you carry the Star Chamber around inside your own head, the show trial never ends!

If you are Ci, I know this is how you live. I know you feel hunted, haunted, hounded. I know it for the reasons I’m explicating here – and Ci literally unpacks to ‘compliance display’. But I also know it when I see you. Ci’s advertise their compliance-display displays with compliance-display displays, after all. Does well at looking like Harry Potter? Ic. Does Potter poorly? Ci.

But the real tell is the worry and the fear in your eyes, the accretions of pain that build up over the years as you self-flagellate your failures while flailing away at other people as social and emotional camouflage. Your life is every day a lie, and hence it is every day more full of lies – and no one knows this better than your full-time volunteer judge, jury, guard and executioner: Your self.

To be Ci is to be deliberately self-blinded to all of mammalian empathy – which means to all of storgic love but also just to simple human redemption – but it is also to be progressively ever-more self-blinding: As more and more D and S virtues and values are declared by the Ci aristocracy-of-the-microsecond to be treasonous rebellions against the perfect order of everything, and as you are crowded by your own self-knowledge of your own persistent failure to live up to your moral ideal – the prison cell you have made of your life gets smaller and smaller.

What’s your solution? More-perfect compliance-display displays? If one crack of the lash won’t whip those rebels into line, how about ten? And so you become the vituperative avenger of the universe – always angry at someone because you are always enraged with yourself.

Or how about just shutting down entirely – repressing what little is left of your self by symbolically sewing up your mouth in a tight little line?

That’s what old Ci’s look like – all old Ci’s – Marxists, Objectivists, Scientologists and academics and the academic “elite” of all stripes. They are either vitriol-bots or not-bots, but everything of human emotion was long since scourged away in the continuous show trials.

That’s anegoism – actual selflessness – the successful evisceration of the rebel within, the thing inside each one of us that cannot be ruled from the outside. It takes a long time to kill it, even so, even from the inside.

Do you hang abbreviated academic credentials after your name? Do you envy and admire people who do? Do you footnote liberally and reference, cite or quote people who footnote liberally? Do you sculpt your vocabulary, your interests and your tastes to theirs?

Do you expect or demand compliance displays from people? From loved-ones? Friends? Colleagues? Strangers? How about from putative-allies? Do you get them? Do you escalate your demands for compliance displays until you either get them or you damage or destroy the relationship?

Do you praise and admire people who publicly demand and sometimes even get compliance displays from strangers? Do you do that yourself?

Do you look up to people who rage publicly in vitriolic vituperation in their pursuit of ever-more-compliant compliance displays from other people?

You said yes? Guess what I know about you?

And you know it, too – and now you have even more to feel guilty about!

Be at peace: Your problem can be solved. You are Ci Blind, which suggests that what I am about to say is futile – since being Ci makes it next to impossible for you to admit that your moral ideal is wrong – but here goes:

Learn empathy.

You know nothing about it. Nobody besides me really gets it, so far, but Ci’s are by far the worst DISC type at having a feel for the other guy’s feelings. (That’s aboriginally an infantile emotional-larceny strategy, for what that’s worth, which may help other folks understand why Ci’s can act like such big babies in public.) But until you learn and master empathy strategies that are mammalian, mutually-reciprocally-profitable and reliably affectionate, your life will get nothing but worse.

A Ci life is Narcissus in the hall of mirrors: Your preening fakery alienates you not just from self love but from all love. Your compliance displays are compliance demands, with your anger serving as the hortator’s whip. You express your ideal of goodness and beauty with ever-replicating, ever-amplifying representations of your inner-ugliness, which grows daily to match your daily need for it.

Even if you block no one else’s escape, you are still a Cautious tyrant, since you are blocking your own escape from your prison-of-the-mind. And you are the monster in full, since your every defeat serves only to make you more ugly, more demanding – more monstrous.

Yeesh! Seems like a fate worth avoiding, doesn’t it?

If you’re Ci, you are already good at studying. Study me. I repay effort. I already have: I told you who is really holding you prisoner. Now let’s see if you have the empathy to break free…

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