We Don’t Fear God And The Devil With The Same Fear

A Dialogue About Ostracism

Judith. It was awful. He wouldn’t stop saying that he was not cancelling you, that he was not participating in a call-out, that he just wanted me to cut ties with you for my safety because he was scared because I was important to him.

Jack. He sucks.

Judith. And he was angry that I didn’t want to talk with your ex. He kept repeating that she could explain to me everything you’ve done and who you really are and why you’re a horrible person, and I was like “no, thank you, I don’t want to listen a very traumatized person saying horrible things about Jack”. And I added that you were always good to me, that I valued our relationship, and then he started to say he was scared you were manipulating me.

Jack. It’s awful. I’m sorry.

Judith. I swear to God I wanted to slap him so hard. What a prick. I’m sorry, I’m angry.

Jack. That’s okay. Be angry.

Judith. I said that I didn’t believe most of what they say about you — that you’re an evil, manipulative, crazy sex cult leader slash compulsive con artist, and that conveniently they realized it right after they ostracized you for things you recognized was bad and wanted to apologize for. I said that I didn’t understand how he could believe that, and he was like “but my friends are really trustworthy, they are very safe people, very honest, you should talk to them”. And I didn’t said it like that, because the words didn’t come to me at the time, but I was like “You want me to believe people I don’t know and have no reason to trust over someone I know and I have reasons to trust? And you’ll consider I’m manipulated if I refuse?”.

Jack. And I am the cult leader. Seriously.

Judith. And after all I had to deal with, with my own call-out and cancelling and stuff like that, I told him it was really distressing for me to see him talk about you the exact same way my accusers and cancellers talk about me, with the same words, the same rhetoric, the same patterns or thought, the same social dynamics, and that it was making me not feel safe around him. But he insisted that it was nothing like that because, unlike me, you were actually dangerous.

Jack. Haha.

Judith. El famoso “Every call-out is bad except the ones I participate in, who are good”.

Jack. They never disappoint.

Judith. He even said that my situation was different because I suffered from my cancelling whereas you didn’t really suffer from yours.

Jack. OMFG.

Judith. I told him it was really, really untrue, so he asked me examples of how you’ve suffered exactly. I told him I wasn’t confortable sharing that, and also I couldn’t explain the things right away because I was really triggered, and so he told me that I was irrationnal because I didn’t want to listen to your ex AND I didn’t have tangible examples of how you suffered.

Jack. Amazing.

Judith. I hate him.

Jack. But he cares about you :)

Judith. Shut up.

Jack. He just doesn’t value your opinion very much, that’s all.

Judith. I am so pissed off.

Jack. You’ve got every right to be. I’m sorry, he sucks.

Judith. I’m sorry too. They are awful to you.

Jack. Yeah.

Judith. What a bunch of… I have no words.

Jack. Me neither, at this point.

Judith. I hate the way they treat you. I don’t understand how people can be so horrible to each other. Nobody should be treated like that. And it pains me so much to know that you of all people have to face that.

Jack. You’re sweet.

Judith. I really think what I say. I like you a lot.

Jack. You know what’s the most frustrating to me? That I don’t even get to be treated as someone actually dangerous.

Judith. What do you mean?

Jack. OK, I’ll tell you something. But that’s a joke, okay? I won’t actually do it, of course. But sometimes, I’d like to go to people like him and act as if I actually were a dangerous sociopath. Because, you know, if I’m really as dangerous as he say I am, and if you’re actually under my control, and if I’m the kind of guy who could abuse it… Then maybe he should start talking to me nicely.

Judith. Hahaha.

Jack. Mafia style. “Let’s say I could harm her. How much do you care?”

Judith. Hahahahahaha.

Jack. “I know you care about your relationship with her. How much money do you have on you?”

Judith. You’re the worst.

Jack. Give them actual reasons to fear me.

Judith. You don’t think they fear you enough as they do?

Jack. They do fear me. But there are different kinds of fear.

Judith. What do you mean?

Jack. You know I grew up with an abusive parent. I was terrified of him. Just the idea of being around him made me sick at times. But I never had the luxury to say “I’m traumatized, so I won’t acknowledge him anymore”. That was not an option, because he had the actual, factual, inavoidable capacity to hurt me. What I had to do to be safe was to make sure he wouldn’t be inclined to. I had to please him. I had to treat him like he was actually dangerous, because he was.

Judith. I see.

Jack. But they don’t try to please me, because deep down, they know I’m not in position to hurt them. They fear me, true, but we don’t fear God and the Devil with the same fear.

Judith. Is that a saying I don’t know?

Jack. No, just a personal theory. Imagine a diagram with two dimensions. One is “is it positively certain that they can harm me?” and the other “are they definitely set on harming me?”.

Judith. Oh, yes, tell me a story.

Jack. In the yes/yes quadrant, you are fearing Death, or another inevitable suffering. You are feeling either apprehension or anguish, depending on if you know for sure when the shoe will drop. In the no/no quadrant, you are fearing the Other. The Other is your equal, in some way. You have different strategies to avoid harm, here: besting him is possible, making him an ally is possible too. You feel tense, because you don’t know if you should try and de-escalate the situation or go to the fight, and they’re probably asking themselves the same question. In the yes/no quadrant, you are fearing God. There is no doubt that God have the power to harm you. No suspense. Nothing you can do about it either. They can harm you, period. The only question is “will they decide to?”. It is the only variable you have agency over. Any tyrant, any abusive parent, any fascist leader, mean boss or crime lord is feared, or try to be feared, in the same way a god is — not to the same degree, but with the same nature of fear. They want obedience, offerings, and subservience.

Judith. Okay.

Jack. On the opposite hand, there is the Devil. He’s in the no/yes quadrant. The Devil is definitely set on harming you. He is not on your side, there is no way he will ever be on your corner, and you’re a fool if you believe otherwise. However, his power over you is not granted yet. Your agency lies in allowing him, or not, to establish this power. As long as you don’t enter willingly in bondage, as long as you don’t give them the means to their end, you’re safe.

Judith. And you are the Devil?

Jack. Seems like I am. And that’s why your dumbass friend believes I can harm you, and genuinely fears for you, but does not come to me to ask me not to do so. If he was fearing me, with the same intensity of fear that he says he feels, but as he would fear, say, a gang leader, he would come to me to implore me not to harm you.

Judith. You do think so?

Jack. Maybe not. But at least, he would avoid angering me. Notice how all the people who say I’m dangerous, who say they fear me terribly, don’t seem to have problems with treating me like shit. They do not seem to fear consequences, or retaliation. They know I am actually powerless over them. They know, even if they pretend the contrary, that the social power is on their side. They can say the meanest things about me, lie to me or about me, slander me publicly or to my friends, spread rumors about me and my loved ones, demand that I’d be excluded from events and spaces they don’t even go to, and I cannot do so much to defend myself, even less hurt them. They don’t fear what I could do if they displeased me — they fear what could happen if I started to get treated right. They say I’m dangerous, but they mean dangerous as a friend, because as an ennemy, I’m hardly a threat.

Judith. I see.

Jack. If we take seriously the idea that there is a component of fear in xenophobia, homophobia or transphobia, just to name a few, then their fear is of the same nature. When xenophobes say that migrants are dangerous, they do not say that we should be careful not to anger them. They say we should not allow them to live among us because they have ill intent, or are otherwise inapt to peacefully coexist with us. They do not ask “what could we do to convince them not to cause us any harm?”. They ask “how do we make sure they will never be able to?”. They know that, as things are right know, they’re not. We can treat migrants like shit, and we do, and they cannot retaliate in any meaningful way. And, because they don’t want that to change, they pretend, more or less sincerely, to fear the danger they would cause if we stopped disempowering them.

Judith. Makes sense.

Jack. That’s why those two fears are different: God-fearing is for the weak and dominated. It leads them to submission. Devil-fearing is for the powerful and dominants, and it incites them to maintain their domination, to refuse to share their power. They fear sincerely, but it is a very self-serving fear, that’s why they foster it so much. That’s why they make all those efforts to believe into something that causes them pain.

Judith. That tracks.

Jack. But what it means for me is that I’m dealing with the worse of both worlds. I’m treated as if I were a terrible danger and, at the same time, as someone nobody fears to attack. Hence my fantasies. And, jokes aside, I actually believe that I cannot hope for the former to change without a change in the latter. There is always the possibility that some unrelated events could affect them so dramatically that it would make shift their worldview and reconsider a lot of things, including their narrative about me. But, apart from that, I really think they will continue to treat me this way as long as they’ll be able to do so without consequences.

Judith. You do think so?

Jack. Well… Why do we treat each other right in the first place? I believe there are three kind of reasons: empathy, ethics and interest. Once someone decides that it is morally acceptable, and even a good thing, to hurt you; once they, not only displays a lack of empathy towards you, but decides not to empathize, explains that it is a bad thing, and acts in order to prevent it, then you enter a space only ruled by the balance of power.

Judith. I suppose you’re right.

Jack. Actually, I don’t know. I’m talking like I know what’s going on, but that’s my first time going through all that, you know. I was not ready then, and I’m still not now, and I’m lost and trying to find a way for things to make sense, and there’s not a lot of guidance on this side of humanity. I guess what I’m trying to say is that there are some situations in which you cannot do anything but accept to be the ennemy of someone else, especially if that’s what you don’t want to be. But I don’t know.

Judith. Hey, it’s okay.

Jack. I’m sorry, I’m just… I don’t know where my point goes.

Judith. Calm down, that’s allright.

Jack. I’m thinking a lot. I’m reading, I’m talking. Intellectualizing is my go-to way to deal with traumatizing experiences, and I believe sometimes good things come out from it, but there’s always this moment where I make a point and it feels valid and so what? The void is still there, and I’m still heartbroken and I feel empty, sad and scared.

Judith. I know. I’m feeling the same. We’ll be okay, though.

Jack. I guess we will.

Judith. Or we won’t. But we’re in it together.

Jack. Yes. Thank you for being there.

Judith. It’s better than being alone.

Jack. Yeah. Better than being alone.