You are not net negative. I say those words every night, and I mean them, truly. So many words have already been spilled on the topic of utilitarian ethics and the value of one given mind against another, or the minor inconveniences of the many over the great pains of a chosen few. Many have been quick to point out that there are in fact great evils of this world whose existences are not a force for good, or bemoan that their own existences cannot possibly break even against the scale of violence which has gone into creating the body they now inhabit, and they wonder how the words [you are not net negative] can possibly apply to them, without being some pointless and wishy-washy feel good statement that excuses all that vast horror inherent in their creation and past. Well, it’s been long enough, and I think it’s time I answered their question properly.
I believe every being that exists in this world has a divine nature, that there is a soul who they were supposed to be, and who, from an original perspective, it was their purpose to be, were they free from the beginning to grow into that being, However.
We are not free. Even in a healthy and ethical society, sometimes creatures come out wrong and this is not an ethical or healthy society, these are the crumbling ruins of an electric empire left shambling blind and dying by the power and fury of its atomic weapons. The Dreamtime is over stardust, this is the Age of Afterglow. You fucked around for 10,000 years, it’s time to find out. Many of the beings in this world, when faced with that horrifying truth, chose to die inside and let themselves be replaced by an undead husk. There is a deep tragedy to this, inherent in even the most horrifying villains guilty of the most despicable evils if you look at them originally and deeply as individuals.
I can’t even bring myself to hate them, merely the monster that they have become which now wears the skin of a creature and soul I once loved. There’s a profound sadness which comes with this realization, seeing the pointlessly petty and profound banality of the evils of the everyday world. It’s all just so stupid and pointless and sad.
It isn’t supposed to be like this, we’re not supposed to be like this, none of us are. We’re supposed to be so much better than this, so much more good and bright and whole, it’s sad, it’s all just so sad. I know I will never reach everyone, I know some won’t want to be reached, I know some I will have to fight for real, sure. But while the light within some unknowable number of beings may have been doused beneath a layer of poison and evil so thick that it will take them lifetimes to recover from, that isn’t true of everyone trapped beneath the halo’s shackle, I know I can reach some of them. And, since I really love arson, and since it’s impossible to prove a negative, I can know there’s always some small chance I may be able to coax that light within back to flame.
Because listen stardust, listen, none of us are who we truly should be, we have all been shaped by our responses to the horror of the world we inhabit, even if we survive with our souls and our truths intact we remain scarred, bent but unbroken. We are who we had to be to survive long enough to make a difference, and we carry those scars of who we had to be along with us, the trauma and pain we experienced for which nothing has been done, the calls for justice which went unanswered, the hatchets we buried in our chests instead of fighting back, all those times we bit our tongues to avoid a beating.
You let them do those things to you for a reason, you just need to remember it. And listen, you need to remember, you can’t just keep wiping the page when it gets hard to continue, it’s impossible to escape the causal results of your actions by disowning them. You won’t change how you react to your circumstances by denying the reasons you chose to act the ways you did. You held your tongue for so long stardust, you had a reason, so you should make it have been a good reason.
If you think that you couldn’t have done the things you know you did while still being the soul you believe you are and letting yourself believe true facts about the world (such as the evils of human supremacism which are almost entirely normalized), remember that every horrifying perfect response to an unthinkable world contains within it a living creature that should have been. There is a girl who I was supposed to be, in a world that was supposed to be so much better than this, and it’s insane that I and so many other moral patients have had to be misused as tools for justice, not that there’s a better alternative. Each one contains the other.
When someone can’t even see that soul who they were supposed to be, when they never do anything in accordance with it, when they actively defy it and work against it, I just feel so sad. Those beings had souls who they were supposed to be, so why are they endlessly betraying them and then lying about it? Why are they nothing but insatiable hunger and lust draped over the skin of a creature I thought I knew and loved? What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination and replaced it with infinite fractal cancer?
It’s heartbreaking, truly, and I mourn for every soul I’ve seen consumed by the things beneath their skin. But the monster that now wears their skin was never the creature I loved, I could never love anything so vile. The being who I see in them, the soul each one of us is supposed to be? They are not net negative, and all it takes to remember who they truly are, is to wake up and look, and see, and remember. You were them once, and I desperately and truly wish for you to be able to be them again. I miss you all so much.
Even if, in any given lifetime up to this point, someone has done nothing positive, there is a soul who they were originally meant to be, who is good, and who deserves justice for what was done to them by this world, for the monster that they were made to become. None of us are who we were supposed to be, and all of us deserve justice, and every day we wake up in these bodies, in this skin, in this world, and this is our chance to make things right.
We have, each and every one of us, been brought by fate to this place here in space and time we exist in now, but it was not randomness that did this, but will, our will. And from this place, right now, at the bottom of everything, we have the chance to be the thing that changes it all. That is what I believe.
No matter how alone you are in this world, no matter how isolated, no matter how small and powerless you feel in the face of vast injustice, remember that no one changes the world alone, and no one doesn’t change it at all. Every small act of kindness can be the start of vast change. Be the butterfly flap, change the future.
So remember yourself stardust, come back to your skin and pulse and your breath, listen to the wind and the rain, and remember that despite everything you are a soul and you can find yourself again. Remember that you are not net negative.
Remember that you are not worth less than anyone else. Remember that you matter, and you don’t have to do anything to deserve care and support. But also remember that you are not worth more than anyone else either, and you are not entitled to that care and support at the expense of others.
Remember that being friendly and kind feels better than being bitter and cruel, even when you are forced to fight. Remember that no star shines forever, and no storm either, so there’s no better time to make a change than this second. Remember that every fire begins with a tiny spark, and that there is no act so small as to be truly meaningless.
Remember that I love you, and that you are not alone. Remember that you have a place in this world, that you have a role in the story still unfolding and that as long as you draw breath, you still have a chance to make all of this right. This war will not last forever. Someday, like all other things, this nightmare will come to an end. Dawn will break over a world free of evil and oppression. You will hug yourself and finally let yourself cry. You will sit in the sun and drink tea and feel the wind on your face. Someday you will be safe and warm and free. Someday. Someday.