I had written about harmlessness earlier. This is a refinement and a revision (and in some ways even a contradiction) of that article. To be fair to myself, I am not entirely sure if I am going to be able to communicate my thoughts. Of late, my brain has become kind-of catatonic. It recognizes the complexity of even a simple question ("So are you a vegetarian?" or "Are you into meditation?") and a smile seems to be the best answer at times.
Anyway, here goes...
Human beings suffer and cause pain to each other in the game of survival, propagation and pleasure. This is usually unacceptable to sensitive minds. Various antidotes are proposed. Spirituality and self-help movements aim for inward peace and happiness for oneself, and love, forgiveness, acceptance and compassion for others.
Actualism rightly recognizes that these feeling states are merely cover-ups. For example, forgiveness is needed precisely because one has been hurt and is vengeful. "Inward peace" needs to be sustained precisely because stress doesn't take effort, and because its beneficiary is an artificial, delimited illusion whose territorial law-and-order needs to be maintained (the end-goal of spirituality, enlightenment, leads to the territory of the "self" becoming completely disjunct from the real world).
Actualism aims at a state of genuine and effortless happiness and harmlessness in which there is no need of antidotal feeling states.
Let's focus on harmlessness in the context of this article.
According to actualists, and those who are actually free (and even myself in the past), harmlessness is to be defined as freedom from malice. If one is free from feelings of sorrow and malice (and thus, it is said, free from the human condition), it is claimed that this is the best that one can do for another person.
I do not agree any more.
And this is why:
This is but another form of narcissism. The behaviour and interaction of die-hard actualists follows the following maxim: "Since I don't wish anybody any harm, and since I actually care about you, if my behaviour is irksome or bothersome to you, it is "your" problem, and moreover, a stark manifestation of your rotten humanness which needs to be worked at." (my phrasing)
Elaborated, what this means is: "Since I am at peace, and your feelings can no longer bother me (because my affective reception is null and void), I remain at peace with my behavior. In other words, I see no need to change my behavior. It is "you" who needs to change if the relationship is to be more harmonious. Actually, "you" need to go away, since "you" stand in the way of peace and harmony."
And by using these quotes, wherein I am what I am since "I" am no longer in operation, whereas "you" are who "you" are and therefore rotten, a pernicious manipulation is put in action. This is actually a thousand-fold amplification of what is considered the behavior of an arrogant "prick" in normal life: "Do I bother you? YOU need to change and be less sensitive if you want to stop being bothered."
Peace is of two major kinds: Peace within myself, and peace between me and you. The main problem with spirituality is its primary focus on the former, to the detriment of the latter. It is not true that inwardly peaceful men cannot cause any mischief. A highly detached or narrowly focused man can press a button which kills a million other men, without any feelings of malice.
Unfortunately, the one of the main problems with actualism is more-or-less the same as the one with spirituality. Its agenda, in practice, is an individual peace-on-earth, and not mutual harmony (despite what is claimed in theory).
Now of course, two actualists can live in mutual harmony, since they both have similar belief systems, but that is true for members of any belief system. If an actualist did not consider absence of feelings of malice to be the end goal, but rather the start, the actualist would be considerate in his/her interactions with other human beings. That considerateness is conspicuously absent amongst actualists. As a telling example, consider the closure of a long-running mailing list about actualism and the subsequent deletion of all the conversations from the mailing list server, without as much as an advance notice. There are many such examples, but the thread is this: Since I don't mean any harm, the unintended harm is not my problem.
Now this just doesn't bode well for peace on earth, in my current understanding.
A person who is indeed harmless, would not just sit back and enjoy the absence of malicious feelings (that too, no doubt), but in any interaction, would recognize that there is another human being in the picture, with the added limitations that the other is addled with sometimes debilitating affective reactions, and would thus show far more understanding than is common in humanity of what can cause the buttons of another human being to get pushed, and thus for an interaction to get derailed into malicious feelings for at least one person. Amongst actualists, such derailments are extremely common, and are (as to be expected) blamed at the other, instead of even a hint of acknowledgment that one could have handled the situation better.
In essence, harmlessness (in my current understanding) has to go beyond absence of malice into an active avoidance of needless suffering for others. Avoidance of harm is clearly not always achievable, nor is it always reasonably realistic to aim for. The other person can be so irritable at times that anything may set blow his/her fuse.
But that does not mean, not by a long shot, that therefore all responsibility all the time for the fuse getting blown off rests with the other person.
If all followed this model, there would be more wars in the world than are currently going on. There is not an all-out war in the real world simply because in their interactions, people are generally considerate of others' feelings and passions, and therefore many potential conflicts are kept at bay. If an actualist really wanted peace on earth, he/she would act in a way which minimized conflict, and not (as is evident in conversations of Richard, the foremost actualist), which almost relished it (1).
To enable peace, it is of the utmost importance to consider what the other person finds violent and violative. Harmlessness is not going ahead with an absence of malice and doing a violative act and asking the other to take care of his/her own "feelings", but it is to find a way to interact in which both (and moreso the free man, since he has better understanding, and is "free" to do so) understand what can derail the interaction and the relationship, and in which both try to avoid an unfortunate outcome.
This is a "higher" harmlessness than an absence of malice, if I may say so, and one which lessens the conflict in the world, and not just in oneself.
(1): I am not ‘proud of having eliminated’ any one-up-man-ship at all, for I have not needed to do so ... my life is so infinitely superior to anyone else’s that I have met or read about. Thus I am very pleased at my expertise and prowess in being able to win an argument, with anyone who defends the status-quo, because when I win, they win ... it is the ‘Tried and True’ that gets defeated. When I enter into a discussion with someone I am well aware that it may very well turn into a debate ... for these are contentious issues that I speak of. Society’s ‘Holy Cows’ are under sustained scrutiny ... what you so rightly call ‘being attacked’. As for ‘getting a kick’ ... what I experience is far more gratifying than such a petty return. I am inordinately pleased when the grip that the human nature has on a person falls away ... the delight far exceeds merely ‘getting a kick’. (Richard, circa 2001)
(Note: this excerpt of Richard can be a the topic of a long article in itself. Suffice it to say for now that if one begins an interaction from a position of "infinite superiority", it is no longer an interaction but an act of God.)