Auschwitz – A weird philosophy of hope Part III

This article is part of the reportage: Auschwitz – evil, memory and the 21st century

The following is an article written as a contribution to MeaningfulTravels by Andrea Wolf on Max Stirner’s book ‘The Ego and his own’. Andrea studied Drama at the University of Bristol.

If you thought philosophy or [chuckle] politics drove change, sorry to disappoint: Aristotle’s virtue ethics is 2500 years old and has managed to persuade maybe 5 people in that time. While a politician simply juggles with what is available. A declaration of human rights without electricity and heating would be as useful as a toilet on the Moon. Take slavery: if you thought Abe Lincoln abolished slavery, think again. The Industrial Revolution abolished slavery; since for the first time it made it possible for the world not to need slaves. Technology leads and morality follows.

Humans don’t change with each generation, the technology around them does. Put it like this: we are still the same brain that lived in Babylon, but every century it wakes up and the world around it looks somewhat different. Mankind has not closed in on a new evolutionary step: we’re still the same old Sapiens-Sapiens but every century we are given new toys to play with. Take them and the ability to make new ones away and the rules of survival will reclaim their original form in the span of a decade. As for War, “History’s engine” as Bismarck nicknamed it: well, in large measure it’s what drives technology. Alan Turing’s Enigma machine was the embryo for the computer and would have not come into being had we not needed to spy on Nazis.

Photo by Marco Crupi.

War takes out the best and worst of mankind, then once it’s over societies reap its benefits for the time being, until eventually it all gets saturated, stale and decadent. Sounds familiar? Yup, that’s where we are now: at the end of the curve. Humans require conflict to function, peace and prosperity make us sloppy, uninspired and bloated. We need crises to work ourselves up. Not 2008; that was not the crisis: that was the preamble. That was our 1929 Wall Street to the 1941 Pearl Harbor to come. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m afraid we need us a War. One as disgusting and bloody and stupid as ever; pathetic, I know, but I don’t make the rules. War will kick-start the wheel once again, ridding us of the nihilist, the relativist and the depressed purposeless to substitute them with the patriot, the overconfident and the misguided valiant, granting humanity some currently unfathomable technological golden goose on the other side.

Not fucking I-Phones, real advancements. The kind that makes one wonder and dream once again. We’ve postponed it long enough, maybe because we’ve gotten so good at this bloodbath thing that next time there’s a chance we might blow up a few continents. But fear not: that won’t be enough to stop us. If you believe we have come too far to ever see War again, that just shows you how arrogant, spoilt and rotten we truly have gotten. Careful now, for technology, in itself a force for progress, is a spook inside a spook, a spook squared. People have a special talent for twisting something’s original intent, for better or worse. Just like Jesus never meant to invent the inquisition, Oppenheimer’s fusion was not meant for the atomic bomb and Edmund Cartwright’s power loom I’m sure in his mind had no connection with freeing slaves. Things take their own droll course. But hey, at least the Internet blessed us with connection through accessible knowledge, did it not? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Seriously, the Internet’s degenerated pretty badly. Point is, we’re the kind of overenthusiastic beast that gets tricked by its own grand expectations, and as we make high plans, we fall spectacularly short (did someone say “End Poverty 2015”?). Then again, other times things surprisingly turn out well, but through an unexpected path. There’s the rub: progress does indeed exist but it’s largely accidental and cannot be programmed. It’s just that we’re in a hurry. Deep down, we know we’re messed up and merely wish very strongly to improve, to never sin again. We’re quite cute that way: so old but still child-like. A Humanist who likes humanity as it is has yet to be born. Or perhaps one existed and died with spit on his face.

You wish to know why there is no philosophy of hope nowadays. For the same reason we live in the surreal absence of any literary, artistic or scientific movement that’s worth a damn. Because it’s not our time, my friends. This we’re in is a ditch: agitating and scrapping will only get us covered in mud. So here’s my absurd philosophy of hope for you: just watch the slide. Know things will have to get worse before they get better. That they will get better, but perhaps we won’t be around to see it. And if we do see it, let’s not get too excited, because it will simply mean the Cycle has started once again. Relish in acceptance: enjoy with ease what you love and look no further. Don’t fight the flow, put down your weapons: they will be put back into your hands when you least want it. Don’t force yourself to be optimistic, it is of no use. Reach out to others: other people are you in disguise. Beware: my spook’s not your spook, and no one spook fits all.

Remember this: you and your time are unique and even ugliness has its beauty.

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