by Fiona MacCool
Shedding Light in Dark Places
No matter where we go, we run into other mortals who practice the art and craft of being a shit. We are awash in execrable behaviors. Everyone contributes to them. They’re such a part of our everyday lives that we fail to notice them and accordingly take them for granted. Some practitioners have reached that state of perfection where recipients think they are at fault.
Getting others to believe it is their fault is a crowning achievement of being a shit. Without the cooperation of others, being a shit would exceed the grasp of human aspiration and would only exist in the prevaricating imaginations of those with aforementioned inclinations.
There are three general and somewhat overlapping categories of being a shit: those who react without forethought and thus do not realize the nature of their enactments, those who enact being a shit and believe their own concoctions, and, those who know exactly what they are doing and enjoy themselves while doing so. Each of these three types has a better chance of success when social customs and traditions support enactors in their malfeasances.
Being a shit dates back to antiquity and perhaps to the dawn of human history. Yet, we know little about it, humanity’s long acquaintance not withstanding. Those who misapprehend the true nature of their deportments cannot enlighten because their behaviors are automatic and nonreflexive, the roots of which may originate in the subconscious, perhaps in heretofore unknown areas of the lower brain, the seat of unmediated thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
Cognitive neuroscience suggests that their automatic responses by-pass the brain’s neocortex, which is the site of reasoning, and the cingulate gyrus, which is the seat of caring and empathy. Typically, their responses also by-pass areas of the brain associated with a sense of humor.
Instead, these individuals react without thinking and are unable to report to others why they behave as they do. I call such behaviors Type 1 enactments and the persons who actuate them Reactors. Reactors are the least reflective and least skilled of the enactors of being a shit, yet, paradoxically, they could be the most common. Self-focused and accordingly clueless about the effects of their behaviors on others, Reactors cannot inform others about their reasoning because they have none.
Those who believe their own concoctions represent the second style of being a shit. They cannot contribute to a theory of being a shit because they have limited capacities to explore the meanings of their behaviors and the purposes they serve since from their perspectives the meanings and import of their conduct are self evident. They feel no need to explain themselves nor do they tolerate explanations that are alternatives to their own.
Captivated by their own perspectives, they view recipients’ responses to the misdeeds as inappropriate and unjustifiable. Bereft of a sense of humor about themselves, they mistake mockery of others for humor. They may respond with indignation and even outrage when others challenge their points of view.
From a neurological point of view, their brain circuitry involves engagement of only a fraction of their higher order reasoning, which results in short-sighted rather than broad and multifaceted understandings of their own behaviors and how these behaviors affect other persons. In addition, their thought patterns by-pass the cingulate gyrus where capacities for empathy are encoded and sites in the brain where a sense of humor is stored.
Thus, unlike Reactors who have few or no reasons for why they do what they do, this second type of enactor has explanations of their behaviors that are logical to them, but to others their explanations are partial and distorted. Therefore, they, too, cannot shed light on the true nature of the comportments and thus cannot contribute to a fair and balanced theory of being a shit. I call these comportments Type 2 enactments and those who evidence them True Believers.
The characteristic behaviors of True Believers are rather uncouth and blunt, compared to the third type, those who know exactly what they are doing and enjoy themselves while doing so. This third type of enactor will not contribute to a theory of being a shit because they are loath to relinquish the pleasures, joys, and other advantages that adhere therein.
Not only do they have thought processes that engage the brain’s seat of reasoning to a much larger degree than those of True Believers, but they also have well-developed capacities for humor, irony, bluffing, bullshit, obfuscation, prevarication, and other higher order talents, while they are deficient in sympathy and compassion.
They have advanced capacities for a special type of empathy in that they intuit the vulnerabilities of others, but instead of sympathizing, they take advantage of these vulnerabilities for their own gain. These enactors are more complex and some may say more interesting than True Believers and Reactors whose strategies are typically the in-your-face style. I call this third style of enactments those of Clever Foxes.
On their own, these three styles—Reactors, True Believers, and Clever Foxes—cannot accomplish being a shit because being a shit requires recipients who believe they are responsible for the conduct of others, or, they somehow are implicated in the unkind deeds or cover-ups of others. Recipients therefore flounder in confusion, blind to the moral, pragmatic, and philosophical dimensions of what it means to be a shit. Thus, they become unwitting enablers.
Their shame and confusion silences them as to the deeds and cover-ups that are at the root of their malaise. Unwittingly, they enable the continuation of said behaviors that can only flourish when recipients are too flummoxed to demand accountability on the part of enactors.
Theories on the meanings of being a shit that come from recipients do not enlighten because they dissertate upon what individuals do to deserve shitty conduct and accordingly are constructed upon the false premise that shitty behaviors are based on good faith when in fact enactors seek to evade, deceive, distort, obfuscate, and confuse others as to the true natures of their behaviors.
False premises about the meanings and implications of shitty conduct are invitations to question our capacities as moral agents and guardians of truth. When recipients of shitty behaviors take on a mantle of blame and shame, not only are they self-deceptive, but they are cooperating with those who target them as recipients of unkind deeds and cover-ups, otherwise known as being a shit. Such cooperation enables shitty behaviors.
Any theories that recipients set forth will give insight into the thought processes and experiences of enablers but will not enlighten as to the true nature of being a shit. The accounts of recipients reflect their own confusion. Clarity dawns when recipients see unkind deeds and cover-ups for what they are, refuse buy-in, and demand accountability.
For these reasons, we know very little about being a shit. We have only just begun to categorize the major types, what purposes being a shit serves, or what being a shit means to practitioners of that art and craft. We know little about the roles of recipients in enabling these behaviors. As a consequence, we have partial but untrustworthy explanations of the dimensions and contours of being a shit. To my knowledge, this present investigation is the first attempt to develop systematic knowledge about being a shit, further testimony to the neglect of this important topic.
The construction of a trustworthy theory, no matter how tentative, requires a specialized approach. As mentioned, the approach I have chosen is deductive qualitative analysis (DQA), which involves the construction of a preliminary conceptual framework that sometimes is both crude and partial, the testing of the framework on exemplars, and the modification and reformulation of the framework to fit the exemplars. My final product will be a theory of being a shit that has been tested and refined. My efforts might obfuscate rather than enlighten but may also shed light in dark cracks and crevices.
In taking on this job, I first engaged the time-honored procedures of scholarly inquiry where I consulted etymological dictionaries to ascertain whether the origins and meanings of the word shit could shed light upon the human condition that is the subject of the present investigation. I then deliberated upon the many meanings and manifestations of the word in the English language as well as some related ancient and contemporary languages. Finally, I searched the writings of philosophers, scholars, and other commentators on related human conditions such as humbug, bullshit, and lying.
Based upon this scholarship, I constructed a conceptual framework that I used to analyze a series of exemplars that typified being a shit. After extensive testing, I constructed the revised theory of being a shit. I concluded my work with a discussion of the implications of the revised theory.
I anticipate that my final product that may be satisfying in some respects but sorely lacking in others. If my theorizing moves others to think of meanings, strategies, and implications of being a shit that I have overlooked, then my efforts will have not have been in vain. Accordingly, in the time-tested spirit of philosophizing about weighty matters, I welcome the opinions of others.
Some may augment the conjectures I set forward. Others may refute them and formulate their own. Some may dump on the entire venture. They even might let loose with strategies of enacting being a shit that did not find their way into these pages. If this becomes an actuality, I would be uplifted into a state of gratitude for I invite loads of responses to my conjectures with the aspiration that, if others respond with sufficient weightiness, we will one day arrive at an understanding of the nature of being a shit that goes beyond my present initial endeavors.