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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Counsellors of despair

Chris Hedges at Truthdig ("Our mania for hope is a curse") wants us to give up hope so that we will be impelled to act.

Shan't. I had to email this to the site as comment opportunities are truncated:

Shame comments thread closes so fast. I'd want to say:

1. Interesting you chose Zweig as an example. He killed himself in Brazil (a country that didn't do badly afterwards) and 1942, three years before Nazism was defeated and the world began its enormous leaps forward. Suicide is a temptation for the overthinker.

2. Like Sartre, you seem to counsel despair (which advice he never applied to himself) in order that "we" can act. But the whole point of ceaseless mass surveillance, the erosion of civil liberties and the nazification of law and order in the West is to prevent us combining effectively.

In the face of this, I think quietism and hope are perfectly rational. The system cannot go on for ever, and when the last eagle is extinct, there will still be rabbits.

Ben Jonson (allegedly): "I have studied all the theologies and all the philosophies, but cheerfulness keeps breaking through."


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Nick Drew said...

Sackers, it's an interesting line of enquiry

some of the comments at C@W are laden with heartfelt despair (no names mentioned) but, I feel, lacking in perspective

(particularly historical perspective, as you yourself offer: things have been so much worse, so many times; and so many evil empires have been brought down, sometimes in an afternoon)

and I don't feel that quietism is the only response for equanimity

realistic biding-of-time, coupled with realistic micro-actions, if that's all an individual can muster (which it frequently is)

I note your man Hedges cites John Gray. Now there's a man who has a lot of interesting stuff to say, both general and particular. (I have a cutting of his dated 2011 where, accurately, he saw right through Miliband(E) and out the other side)

James Higham said...

That one went completely over my head.

A K Haart said...

I didn't get past his first sentence:

"The naive belief that history is linear, that moral progress accompanies technical progress, is a form of collective self-delusion."

Middle class moderns seem to use despair as a rhetorical device to highlight what they see as malign trends before pouring another glass of wine. I certainly do.

Sackerson said...

AK: perhaps it's like watching horror movies knowing you're safe.

Sackerson said...

James: I skipped large bits, I owe a lot to the ADHD I caught off the kids.

Nick: You only have to hear Milliband to know he's still in short trousers and about to thank the guest speaker at the debating society.