- The internet addict sits at his computer. Click. A girl. Click. Another girl. Click. Click. Click. Why isn't the first good enough, why isn't the second? Why doesn't he keep looking at the same girl? Does the pleasure or whatever it is of looking wear off, like effect when taking a drug?
- When I drink wine in a good mood I feel better. If I am in a bad mood, I feel worse. Are you the same?
- I am.
- Being in a good mood means being normal. Creative, responsive, imaginative, pleased. You take the alteration of experience in stride. Maybe you laugh at what you're doing to yourself, maybe you take advantage of the relaxation to remember what you didn't have time for during the day. In other words, the deliberate modification of the way you experience the world is in your control. Drinking the wine makes you worse at some things and better at others, but there is nothing in it that detaches you from the world as a whole.
- And when I drink wine when I'm sad?
- You are doing something unnatural. If you are sad it is because there is something wrong that needs to be taken care of. Maybe a good sleep would do it. But if instead you drink a glass of wine, you are taking a step along the path of addiction.
- One glass of wine.
- Remember when we talked about lying*, how telling a lie makes it necessary to tell more lies to keep consistent, and how telling each new lie limits further the world you can talk about and limits how much of the world draws your attention? The boy sitting at the internet looking at pictures of girls is like you drinking wine when you're sad, or the liar forced to tell more lies with each lie he tells. The boy wants to be with a girl but is instead with a picture of a girl, You want to be happy again but instead have made yourself forget your unhappiness, the liar wants to speak the truth, because that is what language is for, but afraid to be caught in his lies he tells more lies, with the world that can be talked about shrinking to his attention more and more.
- An addict wants more and more what he can resist less and less, begins in unhappiness and goes on from there. Ok. That is what addiction is. Many people have said that. But why does someone get addicted?
- We give our sadness an unnatural treatment, aware of doing which makes us more sad, and we give ourselves again unnatural treatment...
- The boy at the computer looks at the picture of the girl. She's really something. Then, you say, he doesn't close his computer and get up and go out to real life but clicks again to see another girl. He does this because he felt bad looking at the first?
- Yes. Let's go back to me and my wine. If I drank knowing life was good, I'd feel good. If the boy had many friends, both girls and boys, he'd probably shut the computer and laugh about what he'd seen with them. If the boy however looks at the picture and his first response is that he'd love to laugh at what he'd seen but no one is around and he doesn't know when anyone ever will be around, he goes back to the picture as an unnatural substitute disconnected from his life as a whole. The more time spent solitary the less experience and confidence born of experience he'll have in company, and as company becomes something he doesn't know how to deal with he loses interest in it.
- The unnatural treatment works when there is some happiness to make something of it, reflect on it, incorporate it in a story. But when there is no happiness, when the forgetting is over we remember what we did to forget, we feel the unnaturalness of it, and to forget this unwelcome news we have recourse again to our drug. That makes sense. Do you know what people are saying is our biggest addiction these days?
- Business. Making money.
- Sure. Buyer and seller are enemies trying to get the better of each other. Every act of enmity in the midst of cooperative social life is unnatural. We take pleasure in the profit from the transaction, but aware of the unnaturalness don't stop when we can but go back again to money making. The only way we wouldn't be addicted to money would be if we made a habit of taking a step back in our happiness, a life not based on making money, saw what we had been doing all as some kind of joke. But the addict goes on making money, transaction by transaction treating everyone as an enemy, forgetting the misery of having to live at war with his fellow human beings in the joy of profit. When that joy fades he feels uneasy with what he's done, which has made it more difficult for him to return to the world outside money where people are not enemies. He throws himself back into money making to forget his inner uneasiness and growing disinterest in the world outside.
- Would you say that not just making money is an addiction, but holding property itself?
- Making money is an addiction, and acquiring property is an addiction. The attachment to property itself is an addiction. Property is not sharing. Happy people share. Children share. Not sharing is unnatural.
- You've said before ** that property was a ritual of imagination. We imagine how this and that person is impressed by our possession. When I imagine that guy over there impressed by my car, I feel safe for a moment. But then I don't really know that guy, if he is really impressed or pretending, what about that woman, yes, she'd be impressed by my car.
- We embark on this sequence of imagination because we are addicted to the idea of impressing people with our objects. We possess an identity, a social role, which like our physical possessions is also the product of addiction. An ape that makes the ugliest face, grunts louder, jumps higher scares the other apes into submission, establishes himself as master and the others as servants. All the apes stay, make and witness gestures again and again, the more frightening and the more frightened, because once they've discovered the possibility to stay securely together and continue with the unnatural repetition of the same gestures, the conditions of addiction are met.
- Why don't the frightened apes run?
- Run from sight of their own weakness? Why, when knowing something is wrong with what is producing security is the essence of addiction. Every participant in a ritual is an addict to ritual, not just those who end up with more powerful position in a hierarchy.
- Addiction on top of everything else produces hierarchy. Our identification with our property, our mysterious attachment to things is imaginary, but at least this additional addiction produces something real, a role in a hierarchy is some kind of social act.
- The kind that make us all unhappy because it is unnatural and sets us out to new addictions.
- What a mess.***
*** "Friendship, real esteem, and perfect confidence are banished from among men. Jealousy, suspicion, fear, coldness, reserve, hate and fraud lie constantly concealed under that boasted candor and urbanity, for which we are indebted to the enlightened spirit of the age." (Rousseau, Discourse On The Arts And Sciences)