I am, by most people’s standards, kind of a prick. I’m short-tempered, have little sense of empathy, and get far more enjoyment from this video than I probably should. The only reason I don’t go about randomly slugging people in the face is because I don’t want to go to prison, and I have on more than one occasion told a weeping woman to “Go ahead and cry (your) crocodile tears.” I say this not by way of bragging in some douchey, Tucker Max-esque “Look at what a scumbag I am” kind of way, but simply as a statement of fact. I am what I am, and what I am is a terrible person.
This doesn’t bother me; if it did, I might be inclined to do something about it and change. My lack of shame is partially down to my belief that free will is—at best—something that people only have a fraction of the time. If you don’t believe me, then you’ve clearly never bought a shiny item of clothing on impulse, got it home, and said to yourself, “What the fuck was I thinking?” Proponents of free will like to accuse determinists of simply copping out and surrendering to the tide, but that can’t really be the case if surrender itself is not chosen to begin with.
Of course, society needs a belief in free will over determinism in order to operate smoothly. Governments would have a much harder time throwing people in prison if they conceded that those who broke the law never really had an option not to do so in the first place. Serial killer Ted Bundy once told his lawyer, “I don’t want to be evil, I just am,” and there’s more truth within that statement than most of us would care to admit. This same denial of determinism is common in mainstream religion—Islam, Christianity, Judaism; they all insist that the individual has freedom over his actions, despite also insisting that nothing happens without God giving it the green light first. These religions are essentially compatibilist, through few priests, rabbis, or imams would care to admit it.
Given my stance on this subject, I find it ironic when progressives get up in arms over suggestions from the religious right that states of being such as homosexuality and transgenderism are a choice—and therefore negotiable in the shaping of a moral consensus—while at the same time calling said conservatives evil and hateful and backwards and bigoted. There’s a horribly inane slogan that people like to scrawl on placards and wave about at gay rights rallies that goes. “So what if homosexuality is a choice? So is being an asshole, and they get married every day!”
I’m not so sure that it is a choice. If a person comes from a conservative upbringing, primarily encounters evidence that supports conservative narratives, and absorbs it with a conservative mindset shaped entirely beyond their control—and the only people trying to persuade them out of it are calling them stupid and repressed and telling them to kill themselves—then what are the odds that they’ll ever see things differently? Judging people for judging other people for things they can’t control when they can’t help but judge is fucking stupid. Live and let live, if you can help it.