The Emotional Truth about Intellectuals

Column by Vahram G. Diehl.
Exclusive to STR
Intellectualism and emotional depth of character have notoriously been considered mutually exclusive and opposite goals for an individual to work for in life. The rule has been that to seek progress in the field of reason and empirical observation must concurrently result in a decrease in one's ability or inclination to experience the full spectrum of human emotion and subjective joys and sufferings. The smarter and more intellectual one becomes, the more hardened his heart grows and further detached he moves from everything that makes him emotionally “human,” or so it has generally been believed. 
An individual's destiny in these matters was unconsciously selected early in life to spend in pursuit of for the rest of one's remaining hours. Men, in general being born with a naturally stronger evolved propensity toward intellectualism and objective understanding, became the reclusive philosophers, innovators, scientists, and industrialists of our species. Women, conversely being born with generally greater capacity to identify with other humans and withstand stronger internal emotional strife and subjective joys, became child-rearers, lovers, nurturers, and emotional support-givers. The gender-based class warfare this has given rise to has been historically one of the most destructive components of our rapidly evolving human societies on Earth.
An increase in intellectual awareness of the present turmoils in the world state of human civilization bears an unseen problem for genuinely empathetic individuals. As the evolvement of the ethical and rational filters we apply toward socialist structures worldwide progresses, the once apparently benign world we had come to tolerate and celebrate is now viewed through mud-colored goggles and an increasingly cynical demeanor.   When one proceeds evermore fearlessly into intellectual honesty, these previously ignored circumstances of easily attenuated and senseless human slavery and suffering become larger and more painful blights on the radar of personal upset. 
Those who see the world's violent political regulations and barriers to human progress as the truly destructive monstrosities they are will remain subject to burdens of both a rare intellectually adept paradigm and, if they allow it, a broadened depth of empathy and understanding for those most severely afflicted by its carnage. I believe the time has come where the outdated and stereotyped ideals on the intellectual and emotional capacities of men and women are ripe to be replaced by the emergence of a new breed of human, one which embraces both intelligence and feeling while sacrificing neither and recognizing both as the complimentary forces they are. In making this personal evolutionary leap, one becomes exponentially more capable in these previously irreconcilable arenas.          
To be completely human is to be subject to our full-spectrum of evolved emotional responses to external realities. To be intellectually honest is to acknowledge the brutal truth of human suffering induced by incompetent social-engineers worldwide. To be both completely human and completely honest is to be relegated to a state of nearly unbearable stress, outrage, and sadness toward our present reality. From both first-hand observation and second-hand conceptualization of the more horrendous human atrocities occurring all over the planet in every nation, a personal choice must be made. Every individual will inescapably decide to either remain distant and emotionally uninvolved in the suffering of their cousins, or to embrace to the best of their present capacity for upset the emotional burden that comes with genuine empathy and identification toward those less fortunate and more abused than themselves. 
In my own suffering at personal witnessing of various forms of human control in the United States, Latin America, and China, I've progressively traveled deeper and more profoundly down the rabbit hole of human emotional experience. I've been brought so far down this hole at times that I wondered how it was that I was ever going to continue to function effectively as a part of a system that was so fundamentally barbarous and inhumane to man without losing myself to despair. And still, in the midst of all this, I have remained fully conceptually aware that there exist still far more tortuous and tumultuous states of human survival on the planet that I have yet to witness first-hand. How much more uneasiness would my body and psyche be willing to tolerate as they observed increasingly greater levels of the horrors of human existence?
Viewing the world through a filter of uncompromising reason and idealistic freedom for all men and women while simultaneously watching the strangers far from me and loved ones close to me unwittingly suffer at the hands of the criminals ruling the world left my outlook bleak and my spirit broken. I did not know how I could live in this world without either consciously numbing myself daily to the horrors on all sides or living in a terrifying and perpetual mix of angst and remorse. Neither alternative seemed appealing as a destiny to spend my life ensconced in, so I came to believe that mental collapse, eternal isolationism, or heroic martyrdom were my only options. I knew something would have to change if I were going to continue in the fight against tyranny and the building of a liberated world. 
A rather curious thing happens when one begins to see the world through a fine filter of such brutal social honesty. Innocent happy-go-lucky children attending public schools become unwitting inmates in an elaborate con of thought-repression and behavioral funneling. What used to be seen as social blessings and vital conveniences for the functioning of society such as “free” roads and social services appear now as the dragons of artificial limitation and control that they are. Political activists working toward their conception of a better world are in fact the very whip-holders they claim to be suppressing. It is when one starts to view things in these horrendously realistic terms that he finds he cannot avoid being overcome with anger at the way things are. This anger, if left unchecked, will destroy his spirit and his potential for positive influence, but if harnessed may become his greatest tool for building sustainable peace and prosperity and permanently halting such disastrously upsetting human squalor. 
The hurt does not disappear. The sadness upon observing such cancerous control of would-be autonomous individuals remains. But what does change is the response to these deepest of emotional pain. To feel pain where pain is due is not a lamentable occurrence. This is what we are, the call of duty we are designed to embody as human animals. Generations of cultural programming have instilled in us that we ought not to mind that which has arbitrarily been condoned as normal, but our own biological architecture as humans has instilled us with ability to feel deep pain, anger, sadness, fear, hatred, remorse, and unquantifiable joy in response to our observations of reality.   In fact, these difficult emotional reactions are, by any sensible standard of physiological or psychological health, quite healthy! It is appropriate that it should hurt so dearly to view the present reality of human life on Earth as objectively as possible, and the bravery required for such clarity and dedication to verified truth is nearly unknown in the world today. The rarity of this bravery is a key part of the reason why such deplorable circumstances continue to exist in the world. 
It has been widely promoted by those with uncommon awareness of the logistical problems with imposed social order that the solution lies in increased education on and intellectual growth of cause and effect principles of social prosperity. This is only half right. We have the task as well of getting people to care enough to want to learn and to take proper productive action. I know of no other way to do this than to discourage emotional desensitization toward the truth of human suffering. To care requires uninhibited emotional reaction, and to react emotionally requires the willingness to hurt, to be religiously enraged, and to be intolerably saddened. 
Undergoing any process of extreme emotional maturing destroys the old identity of a person and rebirths them anew as something far more in touch with themselves and far more ready to act toward saving the world from itself. Pain grows deeper, but this righteous discomfort becomes a comfortable response to living in an unrighteous world. It remains a constant reminder to stay focused and proactive about the things which matter most while we are here: health, wealth, love, freedom, bonding, and assistance of those who deserve it. One who has never experienced such levels of despair at observing the very reality he is trying to affect will never have the unstoppable drive necessary to stand strong against seemingly immovable obstacles and adversaries. 
The future of our civilization lies with progress in two directions: a higher quality of education resulting in unparalleled intellectualism among the mentally capable, and an emotional bravery so deep and penetrating that only the strongest will survive it. These two character developments working in conjunction within a single person form the makings of an individual that is the embodiment of balance between potential for success and desire for progress that will help carry this species into a new state of society, one which no longer allows for such unfathomable levels of suffering and repression as we see today (if only we are willing to honestly look). A marriage of traditionally male and female character virtues can happen within one man or woman, and be even further enhanced by a romantic partnership and union of two individuals of reciprocal strengths.
Human intellect is the most powerful tool in the known universe. Through its precise harnessing and direction, we have shaped amazing new trajectories for mankind to expand and flourish into. Our minds are the architects and path-layers for our lives to follow, reason is the filter which strains existence from imagination. To lay even the most genius of maps toward prosperity is idle without the drive to take the troublesome steps along that path. As humans, our drive and our caring come form our emotions. If we never allow ourselves the virtue of upset and discomfort at the present state of existence then we will never care enough to work as hard as is required to change it. The greatest men and women who have ever graced our history have been those who not only possessed minds capable of formulating rational plans of actions, but who also hurt so deeply and cared so hard that their emotional receptivity drove them to actions of extreme greatness. Their emotions were the engine that propelled them forward, but their intellect is what steered them in the right direction. Either without the other is at best useless, and at worst destructive.   

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livefreeretiree's picture
Columns on STR: 13

Gregory helps young people and the older people who have trouble relating to them.
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John deLaubenfels's picture

Excellent point, one which deserves to be made more often.

Please consider wording your columns using sentences less complicatedly constructed. I had a very hard time parsing many of them.

livefreeretiree's picture

I will take your feedback to heart, though generally I find that being as precise as possible in my wording provides the greatest clarity to my thinking and therapeutic value. Sometimes I go soft, sometimes hard. I think with this piece I wanted to come on full force and hit as hard as I could.

Suverans2's picture

"...incompetent social-engineers..."???? That qualifying adjective makes me very nervous.

livefreeretiree's picture


Tony Pivetta's picture

Because competence is irrelevant. No, it goes beyond that: competence makes the social engineers *more* dangerous. As usual, Mencken put it best: "Be thankful we're not getting all the government we pay for." We don't want social engineers, period.

Suverans2's picture

In a word, precisely.

livefreeretiree's picture

I agree (and I am confused why people keep thinking I support interventionism in my articles... I would have thought that the very fact that I am posting on STR would imply total anarchism/capitalism). Calling them incompetent social engineers is a redundancy intended for emphasis. Anyone who enters politics for the purposes of improving the world does not know what they are doing, and thus is incompetent. You would be right to be worried if I called them "noble", "brilliant", "benevolent", or any other positive term... Would you feel better if I just said they were stupid? Stupid social engineers! Get out of my society!

Tony Pivetta's picture

No one here is accusing you of supporting interventionism. But we're all STR readers and writers, so we know better. We're thinking of people on the outside, who might not so unreasonably conclude you believe competent social engineering is possible and desirable.

"Stupid social engineers" doesn't cut it, either. That's redundant.

Just drop the adjective altogether. They're social engineers. They may be competent in their supervisors' eyes. In fact, if they're wreaking havoc on the society at large, you can be sure they are. That's what they're there for: to preserve the disorder.

livefreeretiree's picture

Well, please, do let me know if you find any other disagreeable adjectives in any of my other articles. I wouldn't want to create the wrong impression and come across as a communist. I'm also against incompetent people in general, so I guess I'm just being ultra redundant today. English be damned.

Suverans2's picture

Lightened up.

Tony Pivetta's picture

Please lighten up. I didn't find the adjective terribly disagreeable. Somebody raised the issue, and I thought it was a valid point. That's all.

livefreeretiree's picture

I'm not terribly offended, I've just dealt with far too many grammar nazis and semantics nitpickers in my short career as a writer and embarrassingly few honest critiques of the actual ideological content of what I say. If anyone was genuinely confused about where my values lie and what I was trying to say, then a valid point is made. Otherwise, I think some people are just bored. Look how much time I've already wasted in defending a split second choice of vocabulary... surely there are other things in this article more worthwhile to discuss. If not, it is either an interesting statement of my abilities as a thinker/writer or of the intellectual character of my audience.

Suverans2's picture

Actually my concern about your use of that adjective, young man, had nothing whatsoever to do with grammar or semantics, but, rather, everything to do with "actual ideological content". Its use infers that competent social-engineers would not have induced human suffering.

And, this; "I'm also against incompetent people in general...", in one of your comments, really stuck in my craw, because we are all "incompetent" one task or another. But, then, that probably comes from my leeriness of those calling themselves "teacher", or "pastor", or "rabbi", or other such self-inflated titles.

But, please, do not waste any more of your valuable time on me, and I will try to reciprocate.

livefreeretiree's picture

I find your use of the adjective "self-inflated" to be disagreeable. The Chinese people paying me to "teach" (Fuck, there's that word you don't like. You seem to have issues with a lot of words. How about... "explain"? Yes, I am a professional English explainer.) them English are doing all the inflating, I assure you.

Competent social engineers don't induce human suffering. For example, I am generally quite good at running my own life and avoiding suffering through my own actions and choices (but hey, we all make mistakes). I am a great engineer over my own life. The way I interpret your use of words means that everyone should either be brain dead or commit suicide to avoid all conscious intervention with reality. We could have a serious problem here and I demand that you use another word to satisfy the way my brain works. I am very concerned. Aren't words with arbitrary connotations fun???????

Did I do okay this time with my words?

Haha okay, I lightened up a bit.

Glen Allport's picture

Terrific meditation on the subject! The artificial divide and animosity between intellect and emotion is at the core of our problems; civil society requires BOTH compassion AND liberty, and the false paradigm of Left/Right politics keeps this destructive division going.

I'll add that intellect and emotion are BOTH necessary to guide behavior in healthy and positive directions, and in many ways emotion is even more important than reason or intellect. Plenty of very smart people are sick puppies -- sociopathic and psychopathic, even -- and plenty more are pushed by their old feelings to support the State for a variety of reasons. This is why emotional health (and thus, compassionate and respectful treatment of the young) is so important. Alice Miller's work -- about the role of cruelty to children in creating tyranny and other horrors -- is an excellent resource on the topic.

Paul's picture

I used to think a lot more like this than I do now. Age has brought some perspective:
1) While I had the necessary emotional connection that you mention, in my youth; my intellect pointed in what I now consider the wrong direction to address these problems. So I worked in the wrong direction. Where human affairs are concerned, it is in fact very difficult to be sure, merely by force of intellect, that you are doing the right thing. This is not mathematics.
2) The older I get the more accepting I get. I look at human problems more as just another force of nature, like hurricanes or tsunamis, that shortens many lives. The human race is very far from perfect, and it contains a percentage of outright sociopaths. It is what it is. It's also self-destructive to care too much. Each of us will die some day, and accepting that is the same as accepting others' deaths. The best one can do, I now think, is focus mostly on the people around you, making life work the best one can.
3) While I am pretty fatalistic about such things, I also think a lot of our problems are cultural, or related to political structure, and that there is definite room for improvement. So I write about that and work on that, even as I accept my probable inability to affect much in the larger picture. But I keep working with the memes out there anyway. One never knows what will catch on, just as one never knows what youtube goes viral.
4) I read Nock's essay "Isaiah's Job" once in a while. It also gives good perspective.

Suverans2's picture

How appropriate, Paul, "Isaiah's Job". I had never read it before and truly enjoyed it. Thanks.

"You do not know, and will never know, more than two things about them. ... First, that they exist; second, that they will find you. ...You can be sure of those – dead sure, as our phrase is – but you will never be able to make even a respectable guess at anything else."

painkilleraz's picture

Firstly as a fellow writer I also tend to react to those whom would dissect a piece based solely in their dislike of a word. As an example a recent article by Bill Buppert caused a well known "left/libertarian" to launch into a days long campaign to "destroy" Bill, all because of a word which in context meant exactly what it was written for. Unfortunately, the side bar over the usage of a word that caused such consternation ended poorly for the parties involved. I would suggest that instead of immediately dissembling the words involved we do more to understand the reasoning behind the usage of said word and if it still detracts from the object of the essay in our opinions make the reasoning known, this allows for a logical approach in most cases and disallows the potential emotional side bars from occurring.

Next, as a "social engineer" myself it is at best difficult to study, work and involve myself in the problem at its root. I began my journey of education with a goal of enacting changes at the very base of the problem, and have ended up using that same education to the detriment of the system versus the original goal of "fixing" the situation. It is this educational journey and life experiences that have caused me to come to the place I am now, an individual intent on dissemination of the idea of individual liberty of the mind which can only result with time in the liberty of the body.

You stated, "The future of our civilization lies with progress in two directions: a higher quality of education resulting in unparalleled intellectualism among the mentally capable, and an emotional bravery so deep and penetrating that only the strongest will survive it" And I agree, however, when I use the term education with many in the liberty/individualist/market anarchist/agorist life they tend to have immediate and sometimes severe emotional reactions. I do not believe I could have stated it better however, and will with your permission and (hopefully) blessing use this line when attempting to assert the need for education, especially as you stated, higher quality education.

Thank you for the article, it was well written and I too hope to have an article or two of mine published here, your footsteps will be hard to fill given your ability with our difficult language.

Jesse Mathewson

livefreeretiree's picture

Thank you kindly, Jesse. Permission and blessing bestowed.

Language is an interesting thing... people tend to forget all too soon that it is an arbitrary innovation with an evolutionary past but still subject to the individual using it in each circumstance. People think the job of a dictionary is to define words, forgetting that is the people using the words that define them while the book is merely a record. When I talk about "education", people picture government-run public indoctrination centers. Rarely does anyone grant me space to define the term as I am using it. I define education as an increased understanding of cause and effect principles of reality. It doesn't get much simpler than that.