I am a sick man… I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I believe my liver is diseased. However, I know nothing at all about my disease, and do not know for certain what ails me.
Notes From The Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky is a fictional memoir by a 19th-century bug man who is angry and hateful because things don’t go his way. His life is utterly void of meaning. He is petty, vindictive, and lacking love in his heart. As a character novel, this book captures the psychology of even the modern bug man who insists on living within his narrow, composite world, waiting to exert his will over others in the most cowardly ways imaginable.
It was not only that I could not become spiteful, I did not know how to become anything, neither spiteful nor kind, neither rascal nor an honest man, neither a hero nor an insect. Now, I am living out my life in my corner, taunting myself with the spiteful and useless consolation that an intelligent man cannot become anything seriously, and it is only the fool who becomes anything.
We are oppressed at being men—men with a real individual body and blood, we are ashamed of it, we think it a disgrace and try to contrive to be some sort of impossible generalized man. We are stillborn, and for generations past have been begotten, not by living fathers, and that suits us better and better. We are developing a taste for it. Soon we shall contrive to be born somehow from an idea.
We’re seeing that come to fruition now. We are born into a world spirit of globalism, equality, climate change, and gay acceptance. We are not allowed to hold opinions if they clash with those of the ruling class. We cannot undergo our own search for truth if it conflicts with the agenda of the times. From the day you were born, you were groomed to hold a set of beliefs and perform a prescribed set of behaviors that serve the will of the princes of this world, and thus is born the bug man who tries to win within the crooked system and false reality.
Civilization leads to a subtle barbarism
Take the whole of the nineteenth century in which Buckle lived. Take Napoleon—the Great and also the present one. Take North America—the eternal union. Take the farce of Schleswig-Holstein… And what is it that civilization softens in us? The only gain of civilization for mankind is the greater capacity for variety of sensations—and absolutely nothing more. And through the development of this many-sidedness man may come to finding enjoyment in bloodshed. In fact, this has already happened to him. Have you noticed that it is the most civilized gentlemen who have been the subtlest slaughterers, to whom the Attilas and Stenka Razins could not hold a candle, and if they are not so conspicuous as the Attilas and Stenka Razins it is simply because they are so often met with, are so ordinary and have become so familiar to us. In any case civilization has made mankind if not more blood-thirsty, at least more vilely, more loathsomely bloodthirsty. In old days he saw justice in bloodshed and with his conscience at peace exterminated those he thought proper. Now we do think bloodshed abominable and yet we engage in this abomination, and with more energy than ever.
Look at a man such as Bill Gates, heralded as a computer genius who for some reason is qualified to advise you on health care even though no one would describe him as looking healthy. He was integral in pushing through a vaccine that has already killed tens of thousands of people around the world, and once all is said and done, the death toll could be in the millions, and yet right now, he’s probably eating something banal, an organic avocado spread on supermarket bread, and after that he will check his email and sip on a beverage enriched with added minerals. His assistant will then present him with his fluffy lap dog, which has just returned from the groomers with a cute ribbon tied around its neck and a behavioral report card of B+.
The scientific man
…then, you say, science itself will teach man (though to my mind it’s a superfluous luxury) that he never has really had any caprice or will of his own, and that he himself is something of the nature of a piano-key or the stop of an organ, and that there are, besides, things called the laws of nature; so that everything he does is not done by his willing it, but is done of itself, by the laws of nature. Consequently we have only to discover these laws of nature, and man will no longer have to answer for his actions and life will become exceedingly easy for him. All human actions will then, of course, be tabulated according to these laws, mathematically, like tables of logarithms up to 108,000, and entered in an index; or, better still, there would be published certain edifying works of the nature of encyclopaedic lexicons, in which everything will be so clearly calculated and explained that there will be no more incidents or adventures in the world.
…you tell me again that an enlightened and developed man, such, in short, as the future man will be, cannot consciously desire anything disadvantageous to himself, that that can be proved mathematically. I thoroughly agree, it can—by mathematics. But I repeated for the hundredth time, there is one case, one only, when man may consciously, purposely, desire what is injurious to himself, what is stupid, very stupid—simply in order to have the right to desire for himself even what is very stupid and not to be bound by an obligation to desire only what is sensible.
The scientists have already figured it all out for you: what to eat, how to sleep, how to work, when to get vaccinated, and increasingly, what to believe. You simply have to follow their precepts for a happy life that maximizes physical health. All the petty problems and inconveniences of the bug man and soy man are ameliorated: they are permitted microdoses of pleasure that prevent them from considering the spiritual life because the tasty engineered food, pornography, and two minutes of daily online outrage satisfies them just enough, but when they die, how will God judge them?
Fantasies of revenge constrained by bug man cowardice
I was standing the billiard-table and in my ignorance blocking up the way, and he wanted to pass; he took me by the shoulders and without a word—without a warning or explanation—moved me from where I was standing to another spot and passed by as though he had not noticed me. I could have forgiven blows, but I could not forgive his having moved me without noticing me.
I often met that officer afterwards in the street and noticed him very carefully. I am not quite sure whether he recognized me, I imagine not; I judge from certain signs. But I—I stared at him with spite and hatred and so it went on… for several years. My resentment grew even deeper with years.
One morning, though I had never tried my hand with the pen, it suddenly occurred to me to write a satire on this officer in the form of a novel which would unmask his villainy. I wrote the novel with a relish. I did unmask his villainy, I even exaggerated it; at first I so altered his surname that it could easily be recognized, but on second thoughts changed it, and sent the story to the Itetchestvenniya Zapiski. But at the that time such attacks were not the fashion and my story was not printed. That was a great vexation to me.
When face masks were first required, I was yelled at several times by other customers, people I would have never noticed in my daily life, who seemed to be the type that is never noticed by others either, yet go through great pains to be noticed. The face mask mandate was their moment of courage. The legal authorities were on their side. They could intrude on a person’s life with expletive-laced demands and get away with it. Mad with power, they were like a terror to me when I only needed to run to the supermarket to buy a ball of mozzarella cheese for my homemade pizza.
The height of the bug man “look at me” attention ploy is to commit a mass shooting. The physiognomy of the men who commit shootings immediately confirms that it’s the invisible trying to become visible through heinous destruction, even for only a moment.
Even at sixteen I wondered morosely [at the fine-looking boys at school]; even then I was struck by the pettiness of their thoughts, the stupidity of their pursuits, their games, their conversations. They had no understanding of such essential things, they took no interest in such striking, impressive subjects, that I could not help considering them inferior to myself. It was not wounded vanity that drove me to it, and for God’s sake do not thrust upon me your hackneyed remarks, repeated to nausea, that “I was only a dreamer,” while they even then had an understanding of life. They understood nothing, they had no idea of real life, and I swear that that was what made me most indignant with them.”
…I dreamed of getting the upper hand, of dominating them, carrying them away, making them like me—if only for my “elevation of thought and unmistakable wit.” They would abandon Zverkov, he would sit on one side, silent and ashamed, while I should crush him.
No one paid any attention to me, and I sat crushed and humiliated.
I smiled contemptuously and walked up and down the other side of the room, opposite the sofa, from the table to the stove and back again. I tried my very utmost to show them that I could do without them, and yet I purposely made a noise with my boots, thumping with my heels. But it was all in vain. They paid no attention.
The bug man is trapped in his own head. On one hand he is viciously critical of everyone who doesn’t rise to his level of fantastical perfection, but on the other he is desperate for just one morsel of positive attention. If you want to wound a bug man, to see his face twisted in pain, simply disagree with one of his lofty ideas. The fact that he announced his opinion to you means it was rehearsed in his mind for a long time, perhaps many years, and your refusal of it is a shameful slap. How much he will come to hate you, and develop fantasies of your own humiliation at his superior hand. Every interaction is a power struggle, a way to feed his pride, to be perpetually offended at everyone and everything for not giving him the commendation he thinks he deserves.
This may be the first “black pill” novel. It has more philosophy than narrative, making it one of the hardest Dostoyevsky novels to fully understand, in spite of its short length. The main character is eminently unlikable, despicable, and often evil. He is the person who craves power but to whom none should be given, and yet what do we live in today but a society ruled over by petty bug men who in spite of their billions in wealth still harbor grudges for going through high school without a girlfriend. Now they get to enact their vengeance on the world using all the technology and medical toxins that are available to them. A bug man with power—a true nightmare indeed.
Learn More: Notes From The Underground on Amazon