Suffering Under the Destructive Influence of Delusional People
This morning I woke up to find a woman had sent me a Biblical quote about lying followed by a declaration that the media can’t select the winner of a presidential election.
It was a double whammy of crazy.
She’s convinced that Biden committed election fraud and certain “the truth will come out.” You could feel the smirk in her words, and anticipation of her impending delight at the prospect of mocking me for believing other than what she knows to be true.
People like her make up a large part of the underlying fabric of America.
The delusional army
This person was a Trump supporter who began her comment with a denouncement of lying. It’s almost stupefying to read something like that. If I were to begin writing out easily verifiable instances of Trump’s deceits, I’d run out of digital paper.
What are you supposed to do in that situation? What recourse is at your disposal?
In the past, I might have just laughed off such a comment and continued happily along with my life. This person has no grip on reality. How much damage can she actually do? They don’t even truly interact with our world, instead, they prance through a fantasy realm inhabited by speaking cartoon animals beneath a rainbow-colored sky. Apparently, they have a dim awareness of real-life traffic signs, otherwise, the highways would be teeth-gnashing kill boxes stained red with blood and illuminated by gasoline fires.
Enough perception to inflict maximum harm
Therein lies the rub. The problem is that even delusional people do have a dim perception of reality. In the midst of all their fantasy, they retain an awareness of where and how to push the button that will kill the world.
It’s probably a parental instinct that makes us feel inclined to protect these poor, suffering fools. They’re like confused children, and sometimes the things they think are even cute.
“Aw…you believe in fairies! That’s delightful!”
But it’s important to remember that we have to resist that charitable instinct. The fairies can’t help them when they’re trying to perform open-heart surgery. Talk of fairies isn’t funny there. We have to remember these aren’t children, they are adults, and the damage they’re capable of is very real.
The danger of delusion
Don’t be fooled by their bumbling. They aren’t baby Yoda. Instead, we’re surrounded by Gremlins.
I’ve had a lot of conversations with people throughout this election season, and a couple of consistent topics continue to bubble to the surface. Why are some people in our society so committed to following a political philosophy that will cause them nothing but pain and ruin?
Why are they so committed to making their own lives worse and dragging the rest of us down with them?
Tuesday, November 3rd was a very tough day for our country. I knew that it was likely that we’d see a “red mirage” as in-person votes weren’t counted before mail-in votes in many states. I’d thought I’d prepared myself for it, but when Florida went red, I became physically ill. My wife was in tears, and we went to bed thinking that Biden had no path to victory.
Before I drifted off into troubled sleep, I reflected on Trump’s enduring racist attacks on my children. I also wondered what I was going to do when Social Security ran out. Then I became angry. What’s wrong with people? Why is half of our country willing to go along with a president that overtly attacks our national retirement fund?
There should be riots!
Normally even a delusional person becomes angry when you take money out of their wallet. Why are they blind to this theft?
The confederacy of dunces
Now I understand what John Kennedy Toole was trying to say, and why he didn’t make it.
Delusional people inhabit every nook and cranny of our society. They have massive, well-funded institutions that help to cultivate and spread their insanity. These people are allowed to drive cars, they’re allowed to buy guns, they’re allowed to teach our children, they’re allowed to vote.
Their numbers ebb and flow, sometimes slightly more than half, sometimes slightly less, but always wielding a terrible influence.
At the end of the day, the cruel reality we must all accept is that it is the delusional people who have the greatest influence on the trajectory of our lives. They will be the ones who determine our leadership. They will be the ones who dictate what is said in the media and what voices are heard.
Guns, guns, guns
I have a cousin who is committed to his gun rights. He insists that he’s a “law-abiding citizen,” but if the police come to his home to take his guns, he’s going to shoot them.
“I’d rather die from a bullet than starve to death in a concentration camp.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
This is a person with no military training. He’s old and overweight. He takes blood pressure pills and heart medicine. Yet faced with the prospect of a hypothetical attack from the US military, he sees himself as a champion on a hill fending off an army of darkness.
“Dude, when the police come to your house to take your guns, you won’t even have time to squeeze off a shot. They’ll be on you so fast you’ll be in handcuffs before you even recognize the door has been kicked in.”
But he doesn’t even hear that comment. I’ll say it and watch as the sentence bounces off his deflector shields. The words disintegrate as if they were never uttered. They fall into a black hole. I can say them again and again and again and they clatter worthlessly to the ground to be absorbed by the Earth.
Under the influence of idiots
The worst part is that their delusion should be self-defeating. These people should be throwing themselves off buildings convinced that they will fly, or that angels will catch them. They should be gurgling bleach thinking that it will cure them of infectious disease. Yes, those things do happen, but not at the rate you’d expect with the observable affliction rates.
We are surrounded by people who are both industrious and deluded. They are appallingly high functioning. They can hold down jobs, take care of themselves, remember to wash their clothing. They can work their way into important positions, only to succumb to a moment of insanity and inflict the maximum possible damage. They know to hide what they really think. They’ve adapted and created camouflage, but they’re everywhere!
What are we supposed to do about this? How can we protect ourselves?
The evolutionary need for delusion
I think deep down that they are aware of their worthlessness. I think they live in a world of fantasy exactly because the truth is too painful. They can’t face it. Their delusion is a coping mechanism. It helps them have some semblance of a life, I guess it must keep them alive.
My instinct throughout is to pity them, to feel compassion. “Oh, you need to think of yourself as a valiant cowboy to make it through the day? Okay, that’s cute.” They’re like the character in Dodgeball who thinks he’s a pirate. Yeah, that’s harmless, until you hand that guy the nuclear launch codes.
Getting between a lunatic and his delusion is like getting between a mamma bear and her cub. In fact, it’s worse because the mamma and the cub are, in this case, the same psychopathic entity.
A reality intervention
The truth is it’s an aggressive thing to organize an intervention. It’s hard to take somebody you know and sit them down and force them to admit they are an addict. It’s painful for them and it’s painful for you. We have axioms that counsel us against taking such action.
“Let sleeping dogs lie.”
That’s so much easier than:
“You’ve got to get your feet on the ground, you have to accept the world, the stuff you believe…it’s JUST NOT TRUE!”
Sweet, sweet delusion
They become hostile. Of course, they do! You’re forcing them to trade a sweet illusion for a bitter-tasting pill. The truth is that we all dabble in some form of illusion. It’s a powerful force. It’s a necessary force.
“These people care for me, they’ll stand up for me if I get into trouble.”
“Hard work pays off, you’ll be rewarded eventually.”
“The world is fair, truth comes out in the end.”
“Fake it till you make it.”
A delicate balance
Reality is harsh and cruel, fantasy is soft and engaging, and you need a little bit of both to get through the day. The reality allows you to make changes, the fantasy allows you to ignore the pain. Ideally, we work to a point where our reality is so perfect we don’t need fantasy.
The people who are most engaged with fantasy have the dimmest perception of reality. They’re driven by fantasy, they vote based on fantasy, and their delusion perpetuates a miserable reality that obstructs the efforts of responsible people who are trying to make the world a better place.
They see responsible people as a threat to their illusions
“They want to take away our religion, our guns, our freedom.”
“No, that’s not what we want to do.”
“Don’t take my fantasy away, it’s all I have, it’s the only thing that allows me to endure this cruel world.”
“But can’t you see? We can make the world better! We can improve the reality!”
What to do?
We won’t convince them. All that’s left for us is to keep striving to improve reality and be diligent about stopping them when they reach out to shove a fork into an outlet. We must keep in mind they are inhibited by their refusal to perceive the truth of the objects they encounter. That’s our advantage. But we must always remember that they do have enough influence to bring about terrible destruction.
Think of them as babies.
Love your babies. Guide your babies. But never let the baby take the wheel.