Friday, October 23, 2009

Address to the Academy about Political Hatred

And this I say unto you – that the Apocalypse is secretly written in the division of labor…

Or, perhaps I should put this another way. Hum.

Cioran, following in the footsteps of Bloy and Rozanov, is surely right that sociability is a thin mask covering universal hatred. The hatred we feel for each other as soon as we become political (as political we must become in modernity, it is our fate, just as it is the fate of the cow in the chute to become meat) is an astonishing and little studied fact. Or, rather, it has been thrust into a platitudinous past by British utilitarians (taking up Hobbes’ war of all against all), who, perhaps rightly, ceased to think in terms of social psychology as soon as they invented the individual – a mock Jesus, an immaculate nouveau né who popped out of an accountant’s ledger.

Still, it seems to me that we have to explain two things in this world, I mean really explain – in fact, only these explanations are really crucial, although also, unfortunately, we always fail at the task. The two things are as follows: 1., Why does man universally hate man? And 2, why does man, nevertheless, universally love man?

Now, looking at those two questions under a high powered microscope, the first thing you will notice is that, ahem, they are, ahem… totally contradictory.

This is inexplicable. And in this address (you may now put away the high powered microscopes) I mean only to answer the first question.

I would guess that the hatred is, in fact, the sublimation of the great, debilitating, I might even say existential fatigue that lays ahold of us whenever we try to explain… anything. The least little thing. By which I mean the least little thing upon which there can be some disagreement. I am not, here, speaking of the grand architecture of the entire health care system. No, I am speaking, first, of such matters as, well, the best route to take from your house to the airport. I am speaking of disagreement over the hero’s motives in a tv sitcom. Or I am talking about whether the steak you ordered in a restaurant was cooked to the degree of rareness you requested or whether they simply ignored you and set down on your plate a piece of meat that was either bleeding or dry as a crouton.

Disagreement rains down in the universe like Lucretius’ atoms. In sum, they constitute everything that happens or will happen or that can be conceived of happening. And, mark this – every atomic disagreement can give rise to an infinity of disagreement. That is to say, an infinite argument can arise over anything at all. When we look at our fellow human beings, we realize that to move them in any way we will have to expend infinite energy, and that we will have to repeat the process an infinite number of times. Now, if we were only as reasonable as Oblomov, we would immediately go to bed and never get up, for the world is too overwhelming to deal with. In some corner of our heart, Oblomov’s response is our own.

But ---
But we don’t go to bed. We dash around, we read things, we talk.
Now, here I want to call upon a fact that everybody must have noticed at some time or another, viz, the fact that children like to stay up past their bed or nap times, and the fact that when they succeed, they immediately get cranky. Though we learn to drink coffee and fear deadlines, underneath, we feel that crankiness, in as much as we are not lying under a blanket, but we are actually trying to perform the infinite task of persuading people of our point of view. This is why men will divide up a city and butcher each other, quarter by quarter. Gain is secondary, the main thing is that other people don’t agree with us. And every disagreement projects a project of infinite and futile energy, as we try to convince them that they are wrong about this very important matter – as, for instance, that the steak was raw, not rare.

And this is how, by alchemy, a fact is transformed into a disagreement which is transformed into a massacre.

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