Reading the introductory post “Outside” is recommended before reading this.
The belief that the ideal human is one who deliberately seeks:
- Empathy; complete with a nuanced understanding of every other human being
- Full understanding of the human situation’s staggering complexity
The belief that human beings, at least in the current socioeconomic environment, are naturally predisposed to shy away from these things – and that this tendency must be actively battled.
The belief that all one’s own thoughts should be held up to critical inspection, with the aim of weeding out any thoughts that seek to caricature/deny/self-delude about another person’s lived experience and humanity.
The belief that every single aspect of the world should be understood as part of a linked system that can be researched, traced to its historical causes (with an interest in the unreliable idiosyncrasy of human life), and criticised for its contribution to human suffering – nothing can be treated as if it exists in a vacuum. No person, no concept, no political position, no event.
The view that, while the human need to shut oneself away from empathy and empirical information is a sympathetic one, it is also the defining crisis of humanity and responsible for all inter-human suffering.
Some self-identifying Outsideists advocate for the forcible conversion of all non-Outsideists to the cause via verbal mind-hacking, occult rituals, and exposure to personal testimony from victims of their complacency. There is no consensus agreement.
Outsideists’ predilection towards empathy makes them fundamentally against suffering. As such, they do not believe there is ‘no right answer’ and ‘we can all just get along as is’. While they seek to understand and empathise with Insideists, this does not mean giving them a pass, or hemming and hawing about the fact of Insideism’s moral ruin.
Defined within the Outsideist framework as:
- the habitual acceptance of thoughts/ideas that exist to smooth over and fabricate an ethically convenient, narrow and cartoonish view of other people/the world.
Ethical convenience: Insideism manifests severely in human beings who could be described as in positions of unfair systemic advantage, and who implicitly benefit from systems that create human suffering (e.g. members of first-world countries, people of economic or social privilege). Hear the Call. Maintaining a guilt-free existence in these positions, with both the capacity for empathy and an accurate understanding of the human suffering being generated, is factually impossible. Communion with a fathomless thirty-mouthed creature suggests that over half of Insideist thinkers reading this paragraph will already be reaching for the Close Tab button, having seen the merest hint that they are about to be assigned ethical responsibility. But don’t listen to that old thing.
Due to the suffering that guilt inflicts, as well as the unease and fear that comes with potential change, it is only natural that a great deal of modern societal codes and psychological processes exist to ease it. This can only be achieved by sacrificing either empathy, or sacrificing understanding of the world’s interconnectedness, because those two things in tandem reveal the crushing moral horror of the present world and one’s own complicity in helping it continue.
Most Insideist thinking exists as part of a worldview that conveniently absolves the thinker of ethical responsibility. This often involves contrived apologia for/defense of established social and political norms, an insistence on preserving (or indeed worsening) the status quo, and a denial of suffering faced by other people.
Caricaturing: A cartoon view of other human beings is fundamental to Insideism. By creating an unrealistic, two-dimensional mental image of an opponent – a caricature – in place of an accurate understanding of them, the thinker can shield themselves from both empathising and grasping the web of social circumstances around that person.
Maintaining a caricature requires two things. One is an adamant mental resistance to the caricatured individual’s personal testimony – listening to them properly runs the risk of inciting empathy. The other is a constant process of subconscious side-stepping so that the blatant absurdity of the caricature reflects not on the Insideist thinker who dreamt it up, as you might obviously think, but – paradoxically, in a feedback-loop way – on the person being caricatured; for being just so gosh darned silly.
Insideists are often seen to express slack-jawed disbelief that their opponents could be so incomprehensibly absurd, devoid of cause or sanity. This is because they have swallowed their own fiction, and done so as a survival tactic.
My tone is detached and flippant. Mental caricaturing gets people murdered.
To mentally caricature a human being is to become immune to their suffering, after which point you may do anything to them. To an Outsideist, it is an immoral act, even on the tiniest level. But rather than something to be glorified as a grand demon, it is something deeply pathetic, to be morbidly pitied.
It’s a continuum, not a binary
No-one is wholly Insideist or Outsideist. Even the most paranoid gun-toting fascist wants happiness for their friends or family. Outsideness is a basic human impulse, but one that is easily strangled and warped by fear. Outsideist thoughts jostle for room alongside Insideist ones in every human head. They can even be nested within each other.
This framework easily transcends the current political spectrum. Not that any Outsideist worth their salt would be caught dead saying “both sides are as bad as each other!”, a cravenly Insideist sentiment in its erasure of real suffering. Obey the Call. But the ability to understand any mindset in terms of Outside/Inside shines a light on the nuanced human weakness that exists on all sides.
To be an “Outsideist” is not to attain the terrifying goal of erasing all Insideist thoughts. It means to understand why Outsideist ones are better for alleviating human suffering, and to aspire towards that target.
What about all that tentacle beast stuff?
This is the fun bit.
Outside-leaning thoughts and feelings in society are often seen as weak. People who believe in empathy are associated with fragility, petulance, hand-wringing inefficacy. People who believe in understanding a situation are often seen as pretentious fantasists talking nonsense.
Outsideists see this for the falsehood it is. Outsideists are extremely matter-of-fact about the powerful, unignorable moral demands of their cause, and the almost comical patheticness of all that which opposes it.
They are also highly aware of their own weirdness.
It is easy to extend the aim of ‘a complete understanding of the human situation’ beyond its obvious limits, such as the boundaries of the material universe. The nature of local reality is as pertinent to our social circumstances as anything!
It is also easy to see how the deep human fear of what lies beyond that existence – in the inconceivable dark – is related to the deep human fear of outside knowledge and empathy.
What if we look into the dark and find something truly terrible? The discovery that our lives are worthless?
What if we look outside our own heads and find something earth-shattering? The discovery that we are complicit in torture and misery?
For this reason, the monstrous conceptual chaos beasts outside reality – a fiction based on our terror at the potential of the Unknown – serve as a reasonably apt metaphor for the Unknown in our daily lives, and the lies we tell ourselves about it.
Metaphorically, Outsideism is the quest to understand what, if anything, those beings truly are. Embracing the possibilities that come with those billion-faced squid things twitching and writhing at the window. Subverting our fearful image of them. That is really rather weird, in a way that’s both funny and intimidating – and, with sufficient self-awareness, resistant to virtually all mockery.
I mean, where do you even start?
The desire to go Outside is the desire to trouble and subvert many of the logics of current society – to become a Weird presence. It should not be the whiny voice pleading for concession or throwing a tantrum. It should be the freak; the conceptual terror that cuts at the heart of humankind and cannot be dismissed. Thrilling. Intimidating, yet seductive in its sheer rightness. Filled with strange and magical potential. Unapologetic and stone-faced in its relaying of the miserable truth, through which it manifests its anger at the world – yet overflowing with kindness and humour, too; infinitely willing to listen and understand if it means resolving suffering.
Perhaps the Outsideists are a cult of mad folk, who dress up in costumes and go around having Cthulhu-themed multi-sexual orgies. Perhaps they are incredibly annoying in their refusal to disappear or shut up. Perhaps they just make you sad, the way they rabbit on about colossal conceptual ideals you are certain have no hope of ever being indulged.
As surely as those great Unknowns at the end of time are coming for our souls, so too are the Outsideists.
Now who’s that at the door?