Some Notes on Self-Sabotage
Self-sabotage is the most efficient type of sabotage. It is streamlined, precise, and justice comes without any delay: doing a job yourself, as it’s said, is sometimes the best way. And with self-sabotage, the role of defendant, prosecutor, and judge fuse into one very efficient body. In this endlessly repetitive game, the jury also deliberates before the crime is even committed. There’s no gap between the commission of the act and the consequence of the act. On this subject, I am cocky, surefooted, a little smug, not afraid to boast, because I consider myself a true connoisseur of the self-sabotage arts, understanding its nuances and textures and complexities with the same refinement that an elderly, wised French sommelier approaches a sip of wine.
If you’re in the self-sabotage business, and you’re feeling particularly grandiose, you should have a working definition of Greek Tragedy. My definition requires only two steps: a character acts to prevent some consequence, but that preventive act ends up triggering the consequence. This is the two-step shuffle that gives us a few thousand years of irony and, presumably, a description of the phone call that you were supposed to but didn’t make. Something is going to happen, you don’t want it to happen, you try to stop it from happening, yet, now, it is here.
To notice an uncomfortable but all-too-familiar sensation of recognition along your spine at the discussion of tragedy is perfectly natural, as the contemporary world has the peculiar attribute of being a tragic world without any conception of the tragic. You do, in fact, hear pessimism today—about relationships, with humanity, on the day-to-day toil of life. And you do hear nihilism today, with politics and culture as the main culprits. But neither of those attitudes are remotely close to tragic, as there’s no sensitivity about impermanence, nor any recognition of beauty—an essential ingredient in tragedy—with those postures. Pessimism and nihilism also forgo the potential for irony, that most redeeming tragic quality. Nevertheless, at its most exalted, self-sabotage does at least begin to approach the tragic—and if I’m going to have foibles, I do prefer them to be literary.
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