Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Christmas: A Glimpse into the Void

Christmas. I don’t know how you feel about it, but for me it reveals a lot about the human condition; in fact, in many ways it’s a metaphor that sums up a lot of what’s wrong with existence: the enormous build-up, the contrived excitement, the harassment and pressure, the enforced sociability, the mindless and shameless consumerism and so on, all culminating in a big anti-climax, a lot of garbage strewn around, and a general sense of nothingness once it’s over. Humanity in high-definition.

One of the things I find interesting is the fact that many people dread this particular week, the one between Christmas and New Year. They complain about the deadness, the boredom, the slowness with which times passes. Some even say they look forward to New Year and getting back into the normal routine, aka the routine that they spend the other 51 weeks of the year bitching about. And doesn’t this say it all?

Ultimately, the vast majority of people can’t cope with being left alone to contemplate themselves or the world. Silence and solitude are not desired by the majority. Certain unpalatable facts may become apparent and that would simply be unacceptable. Peter Wessel Zapffe’s insights into the human condition are becoming more and more relevant; in particular, the identification of distraction/ diversion as a vital element in the human coping mechanism. Hence the emphasis placed upon distraction and entertainment that is such a prominent feature of contemporary high-speed Capitalism: i-Phones, i-Pads, X-Boxes, and so on. At all times, we must have flashing images before us. It performs the strange double function of allowing us to retreat from the world while making us feel we are involved in the cutting edge of technology, that we are important, that we are at the heart of things, that we matter. Such devices give us a feeling that we are immersed in action, that we are doing something, and as John Gray wrote, action dispels our sense of inexistence and allows us to escape the inner void that we spend most of our time in flight from, although, ironically, the kind of devices mentioned generally lead only to increased passivity and mental inactivity.

So yeah, Christmas, a time to look in the mirror and see the emptiness staring back.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Antinatalism as Enlightenment 2.0

I’ve been reflecting lately on why Antinatalism has appeared as something akin to a movement at this particular point in time, since roughly 2005 say. Sure, there’s always been a strain of thought that said life was fundamentally pain, suffering and not worth living since at least Sophocles and the Ancient Greeks, but nothing like the form it’s taken lately. Why is that?

Clearly, David Benatar's book was the breviary that drew people to the idea of AN as a coherent philosophical movement. Technology has also helped. Thanks to the internet, this blog can exist, as can the other AN blogs and thus a virtual community of like-minded people can exist in a way that wasn’t possible previously. But what I’m getting at is a little deeper.

In essence, it would appear that for any intelligent person there are no more forms of delusion to hand. Taking western history as my case study, since as far as back as records go, humans have sought to give life meaning essentially through religion, politics and art (either solely or in combination).

Over the past century or so, societies have gradually become more secularised and religion pushed to the margins. Intellectually, its propositions regarding existence appear to have been completely discredited by the discoveries of science. So religion as a meaning provider is gone.

Meaningful politics now appears to be at an end. We are locked into an uncontrollable and unstoppable form of Capitalism which can only be ended through some form of natural catastrophe. So politics as meaning provider in any large scale sense is gone.

Art has also become a fetish and a commodity. With the end of the big ideas has come the end of great art. It is now a playing field solely for the rich. Literature has become, by and large, a minority activity and dominated by those who seek plaudits by reaffirming the values of the society that they live in. Hence the endless stream of dreary social realism novels that focus on relationships, mortgages, family and all the usual Oprah material. So art is gone also.

In summation, there is nowhere to hide for an enlightened individual. The game is simply not worth the candle. Enlightenment began as a movement designed to rid humanity of its superstitions, quash religion of its excessive power and liberate the species. The thing is, that like any revolution, it has in essence swallowed itself. Anyone with a brain now knows there’s no reason to live, and no reason to propagate. Humanity stands revealed in its uselessness and malevolence.

What are we doing here?

Nothing.

Where is there to go?

Nowhere.

Antinatalism is indeed Enlightenment 2.0

Friday, 9 December 2011

India offers rewards for sterilisation

The Indian state of Rajasthan is offering incentives for sterilisation. With a population of 68 million, the authorities feel the need to curb the birth-rate. Now obviously they are not doing so from strictly antinatal motives, but the report is interesting and relevant insofar as it illustrates how non-birthing could be made more popular by offering rewards:

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2011/12/20111264741922824.html

(Apologies for having to cut and paste; I don't appear to be able embed links on this blog.)

When I first saw the report it was followed by an interview with a critic of the scheme who complained that it was flawed because a) women over 45 were being sterilised and were abusing the offer and b) people weren't getting "enough information" about the scheme. As for a, women appear to be giving birth at later and later ages these days, so that fails and b was just a desperate non-argument from someone horrified by the fact that a minority of people do actually choose to cut off their reproductive capacities.

Incidentally, I mailed the feature to David Benatar, who replied saying that the scheme seemed like "a sensible idea".

Monday, 5 December 2011

How Are We To Live?

A comment from Jim from Oregon:

Every day I am frustrated from my full time job. I have no hope or probable way of quitting this rat race, working forever and resting in order to regenerate for... work. How to cope with this vision for next 30-40 years? I don't want to spend my life at work. Count with me day: 8 hours work 1-2 hours travelling to work 8 hours sleep 6 hours of general tiredness from exhausting job -no will, power and energy to do anything that would resemble a hobby or a satisfying activity. week 5 days work 2 days rest where the saturdays aren't spent meaningfully, I just recover from the 5 day load. year 4 weeks holiday 48 weeks work is this a joke? I am working for six years after the graduation and I already feel that I can't go on anymore. I just want to slash this corporate office to pieces. I don't want to work. How to quit this? It is very naive and perhaps childish, but it really bothers me 99% of all time. I would like to know how others deal with this sad reality. Thanks


I've expressed previously my own horror at the whole work phenomenon here:

http://saynotolife.blogspot.com/2011/06/work-and-i.html

Finding Jim's comment this morning was particularly a propos as I spent a great deal of last night brooding over the same issue. Trapped in a meaningless universe, and then obliged to "earn" your living by being a slave. I think, perhaps, that in my ideal world, we'd have a Socialist set-up where people were obliged to do four hours of socially useful work per day and then have their freedom. A pipe-dream, no doubt, but it strikes me as eminently more civilised compared to the current barbaric set-up. In the meantime, how is one to cope?

All comments welcome.