Wednesday, 22 February 2012

What do people want?

Politics, wars, work, Capitalism, Socialism, the Middle East, exploitation, oil, imperialism, neo-colonialism, Iran, rent, Chomsky, surplus-value and on and on and on. Yes, I’ve managed to take a vague interest in these generally depressing topics again, in spite of still being entirely demotivated on a personal level, and as a result of this poking around what’s really on my mind at the moment is the question what do people actually want?

You see, like most decent people I loathe Capitalism, rulers, the elite and so on. I even think that at 35 I’ve reached that mature stage where I wouldn’t mind seeing such types beheaded:-) But my problem is that when I turn to the alternative media (ZNet, World Socialist Website etc.) and see what the spokespeople for the exploited and the working classes have to say I don’t generally see people asking for freedom and liberty, no, instead I see them asking for more fucking money, a phenomenon I find really depressing. Sure, I appreciate we all need money to pay the rent, buy food and pay the bills and so on but I would have thought that after that would not the aim of any reasonable being to garner as much free time as possible? Instead of higher wages, shouldn’t people be asking for a reduction in the working day? But no, instead we get the majority asking for more cash, more cash to buy fuck knows what, a bigger house, the new piece of i-bullshit technology, new clothes, pointless vacations etc etc.

So instead of seeing the so-called disaffected try and opt out of the rat race, we see what is, in fact, almost the opposite: they don’t want to get out of it, they want merely a bigger slice of the shit cake themselves. And in doing so, they’re generally offering a form of silent assent to and validation of the entire system that they apparently find so disagreeable. Now admittedly there are many good reasons for this: to try and strike out on your own is both difficult and frightening; one runs the risk of insecurity and isolation etc, but I also wonder if there isn’t a deeper explanation available at the metaphysical level, namely that humanity is fundamentally empty, and that to opt of the system would reveal this gaping abyss in all of its black and pointless nothingness. By staying in the system we can give ourselves a raison d’etre, that is, bitching and moaning about how shit it is and grumbling along with our fellow slaves. So does the majority of humanity want freedom? I’m not so sure they do. We’re fundamentally social pack animals who follow the herd for peer approval and a sense of self-solidity and worth. Personally, being something of a loner and a loather, I find all of this repugnant and depressing. H.L. Mencken put it nicely in his disillusioned old age:

Once I ventured the guess that men worked in response to a vague inner urge for self-expression. But that was probably a shaky theory, for some men who work the hardest have nothing to express. A hypothesis with rather more plausibility in it now suggests itself. It is that men work simply in order to escape the depressing agony of contemplating life – that their work, like their play, is a mumbo-jumbo that serves them by permitting them to escape from reality. Both work and play, ordinarily, are illusions. Neither serves any solid and permanent purpose. But life, stripped of such illusions, instantly becomes unbearable. Man cannot sit still, contemplating his destiny in this world, without going frantic. So he invents ways to take his mind off the horror. He works. He plays. He accumulates the preposterous nothing called property. He strives for the coy eye-wink called fame. He founds a family, and spreads his curse over others. All the while the thing that moves him is simply the yearning to lose himself, to forget himself, to escape the tragic-comedy that is himself. Life, fundamentally, is not worth living. So he confects artificialities to make it so. So he erects a gaudy structure to conceal the fact that it is not so.

Couldn’t put it better myself. And just to clarify, this does NOT mean I advocate, support or endorse the system as it currently exists in any way shape or form. As stated above, I think the French revolutionaries had the right idea with regard to the exploiters, and the idea of living in a fair and egalitarian society is surely the only moral imperative, but the whole scenario does make me profoundly pessimistic in regard to the prospects for any alternative. Ultimately I’m driven back to philosophical basics: life is a nightmare, humanity is pointless, best never to have been.


  1. Very thoughtful as usual, Karl. Where I was employed for 17 years, the chief concern of a large percentage of the workers was to maximize their overtime. This included their off days and holidays. And this was about the only issue where our union would "help" the members. I only worked a few days worth of mandatory overtime the whole time I was there.

  2. People are afraid of both dying, AND living, in my opinion. We can't let ourselves contemplate things too much lest we burrow through our protective layers of bullshit and trickery, but at the same time as how we are shit-scared of living honestly, we are also afraid of death. While these seem quite contradictory to me at first, I guess it's probably because fear of death is just another layer of insulation to protect the vital organs of deception.

    Most people are not mentally 'lucid', let's say. They cannot comprehend their own situation, and this is part of the reason why they can continue on in this world. They don't want freedom simply because freedom in most cases is put before comfort. And in many a totalitarian state can you find comfort in comformity and the like. Why? Probably because it doesn't benefit everyone, as you say, because they like to complain while hiding their eyes from the truth. But I would also add that years of social conditioning/indoctrination doesn't count for nothing, and one of the reasons they don't question the rat race is because they can't entertain the idea without being forced to by an outside source.

  3. Blaise Pascal: When I have occasionally set myself to consider the different distractions
    of men, the pains and perils to which they expose themselves at court or in war, whence
    arise so many quarrels, passions, bold and often bad ventures, etc., I have discovered that
    all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their
    own chamber.

  4. A masterpiece of yours, this one.

    I had read this quote by Mencken before, but in portuguese, nice to see it in english as well!

    The text touches on fundamentals! Men don´t want to be free, don´t want to contemplate, and generally speaking all worship the system! All but the pessimists!


  5. Good comments by all the others! estnihil, Bruce and Anon! Let´s keep the black flag flying!

  6. But my problem is that when I turn to the alternative media ... and see what the spokespeople for the exploited and the working classes have to say I don’t generally see people asking for freedom and liberty, no, instead I see them asking for more fucking money ... Instead of higher wages, shouldn’t people be asking for a reduction in the working day? But no, instead we get the majority asking for more cash, more cash to buy fuck knows what ...
    This is one of my favouritest posts ever! For more people, you need more money.

    Alternative media isn't ready to face the truth. From the blog post: "It would be possible for the state to guarantee employment at ample wages to all who are born. But if it does this, it is bound in self-protection, and for the sake of every purpose for which government exists, to provide that no person shall be born without its consent." Isn't it now plain why the alternative media and welfare states want more money? They won't stop there being more people, they want decent money for everyone, so they want more and more money. Simple as that.

    And very often, people want better stuff for their children than for themselves. They want the i-shit for their children even if they didn't have the comparable one-generation-ago technology when they were kids.

  7. Anonymous: Thanks for the comment. Great to get some factual proof to back up my darkest suspicions!

    estnihil: Thanks also. Yes, the power of indoctrination musn't be underestimated. I'd imagine that 80% of conformists don't question things for that reason, and the other 20% employ cognitive dissonance/denial once they get a glimmering of the awful reality. Clear thinking and functionality are not a happy marriage, hence the need for endless social distraction and positive propaganda.

    Bruce: Yep, a classic comment from a man who saw the truth about humanity. Thanks for dropping by.

    Shadow: Thanks as ever, my friend. Yes, freedom is not desired by the majority, merely "fair" masters.

    Srikant: Excellent comment, my friend! And a great post on John Stuart Mill. Yes, I think you've gotten to the heart of the matter. People need money, hence more money, hence accomodation within the system and not stepping outside of it, plus, as you say, the insane and fundamentally egotistical desire for one's horrible spawn to have more than oneself. WHAT A HORRIBLE FUCKING SPECIES!

  8. Hey Karl,

    Good piece, but I have some reservations.

    *People may want more money in order to be able to afford to leave the rat race earlier

    *Those working people may indeed have a legitimate need for money.

    *The only way to truly leave the system is if you already own your own house (likely a quite modest one, but not a hovel). On top of that, you'll have to own enough land to grow your own stuff on. Even then, you'll need to pay property taxes.

    So unless you are a good survivalist who can make a go at living off the land, then all we can do is refuse to force new people into the system.

  9. Hey, Filrabat. I agree with your points, what I'm getting at is the inability, whether socially, psychologically, culturally generated etc of people to live in a steady-state. It's always MORE they're after, no matter what.

    1. Genetically programmed, I'm sure.

  10. I found a few nice texts on on the general lines of thought and feel of your blog Karl, and thought you folks might like them, so I'm sharing the links below:
    -How evil families, groups, communities are: BogdanOntanu's posts on this page:

    -Work as enslavement, capitalism (again, bogdanontanu's and a few other's posts):

    -About carrying stupid, useless, burdersome cultural baggage:

  11. Me again, the first link I posted in the comment above is a bit messy. You can find the page here:

    It's the "Is family etrimental to manking?" page.

  12. Hey, no-mind. Thanks for the links. Look forward to checking them out.

  13. A nice post about the political junkies - both of the Left and the Right!

    Also enjoyed reading other articles on Robert's blog.

  14. There is a reason to live. Art. Read nietzsche