As we’ve moved further past the twentieth century, there has been a conversation about obsolescence, and all the things we are soon to leave behind. Things like physical books, fossil fuels, and even cash are often cited as being on their way out the door as we adjust to the changing world.
How interesting then, as 2016 drew to a close, that we discovered yet another item to add to the list: words.
I know what you’re about to say: “Oh I see where you’re going with this, Mute Monkey. You’re about to go on a sarcastic diatribe about emojis. As if you’re the first ideologue on the internet to have an opinion about texting.”
But no, you’re wrong, that’s not where I’m going with this. There’s nothing I could say about emojis that the film adaptation they’re getting won’t force us as a culture to confront and reconcile. No, what I’m saying is that in this day and this age, words have become an outdated form of discourse, both spoken and written.
This is the age of fake news and alternative facts, the age of ‘post-truth.’ Arguments are not arguments anymore so much as feverish scrambles to discredit the other party in an event that advances not even the smallest amount of understanding. This is because everything is a lie, everything is just something you would say.
We’ve become aware, as a culture, that the truth is a wholly subjective entity that will never be interpreted the same way by the same two people. But instead of broadening our understanding of the world and all the different people we share it with, this awareness has only helped cement in our mind that we are proprietors of the correct version of the truth. Our beliefs are no longer shaped by the information we consume: it is very much the other way around now. Facts are meaningless in the face of ultrasubjectivity. What a person sees and hears only mean to them what they already decided they would mean.
So fuck it. Words are pointless. A bounced check. People can just ignore you and make up their own version of what you just said and why. Spoken and written discourse have been on their way out for a while now, and 2016 was their death throes. I propose we look to the past for a replacement. As it turns out, the solution to our problem has been with us since the dawn of our kind: we stop using our lips to speak and start using our hands. Language is dead. Violence is the only answer people understand.
To my knowledge, no-one has ever really considered the fact that the physical delivery of an idea is a much more effective way to get one’s point across than just flapping one’s mouth at a person and trying to shame them into agreeing or at least backing down. Twenty-first century Americans have built up an immunity to shame, and they find the idea of cogent counterarguments insulting to their intelligence.
But there exists no immunity to getting the shit kicked out of you, no counterargument to massive internal hemorrhaging sustained after being beaten half to death by someone who hates you. Violence removes all the nuance, ambiguity, doublespeak, and misdirection from the discourse. Intentions and motives are laid bare, nothing is obfuscated. To throw a punch at the smug son of a bitch in front of you is to show him and whoever’s watching who you are, where you’re coming from, and the lengths to which you are willing to go in order to prove your point. In violence, there is no bullshit.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how powerful violence can be as a tool of persuasion, as well. Opponents of the dying art of torture often cite the fact that after you inflict a certain amount of pain upon a person, they will just end up saying what you want them to say and believing what you want them to believe. The point of this argument is that torture is an ultimately ineffective way to draw information out of someone, but what these members of the old verbal class fail to understand is how perfect torture (and violence in general) can be in the transmission of information in the other direction.
Put simply, no-one will ever disbelieve you when offered the choice between coming to see things as you do or receiving a fifth rusty nail hammered up through the sole of their left foot, with the promise of five more still to come. Pain is a skeleton key that can easily open the metaphorical lockbox in which every man and woman keeps their beliefs. Once you’re in, you’re free to rearrange a person as you see fit.
Now, doing this of course requires some finesse: a person may need only to be worked over for a half hour by two large men who have no desire to listen to the empty words they gargle in a vain attempt to make the beating stop. Or maybe they’ll require you to start removing their extremities with a pair of pliers until even accepting the most abhorrent truth or set of truths seems a fair price to pay for the privilege of keeping those last three fingers. The lesson we have learned from identity politics and intersectionality is that no two people can be approached the same way from the same place, but make no mistake: if you know what you’re doing, you can reach the same destination in them every time.
“But,” you may ask, “What if you kill them? No message, no matter how simple, can be understood by a dead man. A corpse has no beliefs that may be moulded.” This is a fair point. Up to now, I’ve been describing the language of violence with an implicit understanding that it be used as a tool to adjust a person (or people in general) without the fear of being misconstrued, defied, or otherwise stymied in one’s mission to convey their argument or their beliefs. And it’s true that death is not only the end of a person but also the end of any discourse one may have been carrying on with them as well.
What’s often forgotten is the fact that while a dead man cannot be convinced of anything, he doesn’t really need to be, either. To kill someone is to remove from the world an entire set of beliefs, worldviews, ulterior motives, and actions subversive to your cause. There exists not a single person who can carry on an argument while they’re dead. Nor can they lie to you or others, spin a situation their way, punch a ballot, or turn your allies against you with their so-called ideals. An adversary dead is a counterargument not just refuted but outright erased.
There are, though, consequences that come with removing a person from the world. Death, final and immutable though it may be, does not exist in a vacuum. People, allies and enemies alike, will notice what you’ve done. Through this act of violence, they will receive your message. They will decode it. They will choose whether to accept it or reject it. And then, because they always do, they will let you know with whom their sympathies lie: you, or the deceased.
It is here that we see the one way words can still be useful: these people’s words will let you know which way you must now direct your violence. Those obstinate enough to reject your message will be kind enough to let you know that they have done so, and in so doing have told you they are ready to let you show them your truth. Those smart enough to accept your message have obviously learned what they needed to and need no further convincing. Lucky them!
There is a saying in Russian: Смерть решает все проблемы – нет человека, нет проблемы. Death solves all problems – no man, no problem. You can see now that death not only solves the immediate problem presented by a person who is unacceptably different from you. It also never fails to illuminate further problems posed by those who are unacceptably similar to that person. And once you know of a problem, implementing the solution is the easy part. When they ask their pointless questions, give them the only answer they can understand.
Just remember: it would be wrong to assume that you are the only one who has accepted the use of violence as a means of discourse. Ideally, all arguments are resolved in this fashion the very second they arise. All ideas are conveyed through the forceful impact of flesh upon flesh. All men and women from all walks of life will carry their ideals in their fists and shape the world accordingly, until either there can finally be an understanding among all people or there can finally exist few enough people for it to matter.