Sunday, 25 March 2012

Live Longer; Work Longer (The Myth of Progress)

Another entry on my favourite bugbear (apart from existence): work. In last week’s UK budget the Chancellor announced that the state pension age would now be linked to increases in human longevity. The prediction appears to be that from around 2030 people in the UK will have to work until they’re 71 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2012/mar/24/state-pension-retirement-graduates ).

What this really brings home for me is the emptiness of the progress myth. Back in the 19th century, all of the Utopians thinkers (Fourier, Marx, etc) were predicting that industrial developments would inevitably reduce the amount of human labour undertaken and free up people’s lives. Instead we are seeing the opposite. As medical research and health development has lengthened life, child mortality has dwindled, populations have boomed, and so more material goods, food and living space is required for the 7 billion + bipeds to live. Hence the amount of required labour time has increased, not decreased, a wonderful example of the Janus-faced nature of so-called “progress”. Furthermore, leisure is no longer associated with the rich. According to recent studies, the richest are working the hardest and longest; only the poor are idle. This represents quite a turnaround from previous eras when those at the top enjoyed their “cultured” leisure while the masses toiled. This strikes me as remarkably pointless: you work more and more and accumulate more wealth so as to.......work more and more. Of course, the old hedonic treadmill and keeping up with the neighbour factor come into play here. Can’t afford to be seen to be slipping behind in the rodent status league!

To finish, this connecting of work to longevity also provides yet another incentive not to reproduce. Anyone in the UK who has a child now can be reasonably sure that the product will be forced to toil for even more of its existence than previous generations of Homo Rapiens. So the parents gooy-wooeying over their DNA dolls can rest assured that when they’re long in their graves, their sperm and egg mutants will still be hunched over the desk/machine toiling away, waiting and waiting and waiting until they can be released from their labour, so as to begin the steep descent back to the nothingness from whence they came and would have been better off never having been extracted from.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Nietzsche's Eternal Return and the Folly of Trusting in Fate

I’m personally not a massive fan of Nietzsche. I find the philosophy of the Ubermensch and the idea that we can and should create new values of a positive nature that will affirm human life to be both impossible and repellent. Nietzsche’s recommendation that we crush any feelings of compassion and sympathy within ourselves for the weak and helpless is also repugnant to me. (We’re all weak; we’re all helpless). Furthermore, the fact that Nietzsche is latched on to by academics as a macho-man philosopher through whom they can live vicariously while simultaneously enjoying their well-remunerated, sheltered lives also sickens me. (To be fair to Nietzsche himself, he did walk the walk by leaving a sparkling academic career in order to live the life of an itinerant philosopher-outsider. Full marks to him for that.)

One of Nietzsche’s best-known ideas is that of the Eternal Return. In essence, it postulates that we’re fated to relive our lives over and over again, unchangingly and eternally. The purpose of this hypothesis is to test your macho instincts. If you can make yourself find this idea attractive and are ready to give your assent, then somehow this demonstrates that you’re one of those ready to be an Ubermensch, happily accepting the trials and tribulations of your life repeatedly for......well, for what exactly is never made quite clear.

It occurred to me that a far more revealing thought-experiment would be to broaden the focus of the camera. Forget about having to only live your own life over and over again. If you could press the button that would restart the entire world and everything that has ever happened would you do it? Would you crank up the mindless machine that gave us slavery, the Colosseum, the Inquisition, endless war, poverty, famine, plague, two World Wars, nuclear weapons, Vietnam, Iraq and whatever else is to come? Not to mention all of the private, innumerable miseries that have blighted the planet since the get-go: rape, poverty, hunger, misery, loneliness and so on and so on. Could you really shamefacedly start the carnival again? I don’t need to reflect for an instant to know what my answer would be. Maybe the yea-sayers would do well to reflect on such a hypothesis.

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On a related issue, I was also reflecting on the familiar “If life is so bad, why don’t you kill yourself?” line. What annoys and angers me about this retort is the arrogant and smug assumption that the questioner could never end up in a position where they might contemplate taking their own life. Such people, from my observations, appear to lead quite safe and self-satisfied lives, and good for them, but I think that they assume that this is how things will always be, a potentially very dangerous belief. Yet the simple truth is that a million people a year commit suicide and I’m pretty sure that only a few of those have ever even heard the word antinatalism. Pro-lifers, anti-lifers, Christians, Atheists, Agnostics, Capitalists, Socialists, people with no convictions whatsoever and so on can all end up in a position where suicide becomes a real possibility. So again, a bit more humility and recognition of the contingency of good fortune would be welcome from the yea-sayers.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Is it Wrong to feel Misanthropic?

I’ve been feeling quite misanthropic lately and am also, rather strangely, feeling a little guilty over said feeling. It’s bizarre. I mean there are many excellent reasons to be a misanthrope: the selfishness of the average human, the moronic idiocy of so many, the drearily repetitive nature of human life, the misery people inflict on each other (not to mention on animals) and so on. And yet I do still feel a tad guilty. Perhaps it’s because as an antinatalist you’re committed to the prevention of human suffering, and so there would seem to be a corollary that therefore you should value human beings in and of themselves. Yet I find that outside of the small circle of individuals that feature in my own life, I really don’t give a fuck, and, more than that, I tend to find myself reacting more and more with a weary disgust at the sight of humanity. So it would seem that in my case at least it’s a matter of principles over people: I don’t want to see suffering, yet I don’t really care for the average human in his or her normal happy-clapping, ego-satisfying, need-gratifying, self-obsessed mode of being. I wish they’d just all fuck off and leave me in peace, or that I could fuck off and live in the hills and never have to see too many of them together in one place again. So it’s kind of strange, I place more importance on the suffering than the person, although now that I reflect on it, I guess doctors are the same: they don’t give a fuck about you, they’re just there to relieve any mechanical woes your body may be experiencing.

So yes, hating humanity and yet not wanting to see them suffer. Very odd. Anyone else feel the same?

(Apologies as per always lately for the quality of the posts. Jaded, weary, can’t see any point to life, don’t know how I’m going to get through the next forty years etc.)