Auschwitz – A weird philosophy of hope Part I

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.

What is going on? How have we become this disjointed, sour and hopeless? Back in the good old days we used to have faith – not in God, we have not been that silly for a while – but in the simple things: in humanity, in possibility, in progress. Then we got old. Max Stirner’s prophecy came true, and nobody noticed. Max who? Exactly.

Collective philosophies died in 1844, infected by the thought-virus of a man so ludicrous few even remember him. Not by accident; fewer still will remember his sacrilegious brilliance being slain by the likes of Marx and Engels, cunningly going unacknowledged by Nietzsche. He killed Western Philosophy with one book. But the corpses of his enemies, resurrected by fanatic fervour, wrestled back and triumphed, keeping the zombie walking for another hundred years.

Until, emptied and vacuous, weighed down by the nauseous failures of Communism, Fascism and by the grossly overestimated successes of all forms of Socialism and Liberalism, the sad cadaver finally crumbled, shattering to the ground into billions of lost, dismembered pieces that began aimlessly wandering. That would be us. Meanwhile, in some cheap and forgotten grave, the shunned prophet’s skull maniacally laughs.

This is no ghost story, kids. It is however a story about the spooks we all believe in. You know their names: Family, the State, Justice, Truth, Love, Freedom, the Motherland and, of course, Humanity… A spook, according to Mad Max, is any idea one believes and by which is enslaved, which he then uses to enslave others. Perhaps you are more used to calling them “causes”. See, this lunatic Stirner, a disgusting and unnatural specimen to be sure, pointed out that spooks…are not real. My writing hand is real, your reading eyes, your cherished belongings, the things you enjoy or hate, in other words you and your property (a generous term embracing anything you can claim possession of, including your abilities) are real. Ideas or causes are not. They are mental fabrications that exist as long as you exist and keep believing in them.

Photo by Marco Crupi.

Then why not make them your property? Which means you may dispose of them however you wish, upholding or discharging them entirely as you see fit, in accordance to the only cause Stirner deemed worthy of value: your cause. “All things are nothing to me/ and I may say, I have built my cause on nothing.” By Jove, what an asshole, right? With that mentality how can we expect to get anything done? Same as always, dear readers: through sheer willpower. That does not mean you should use your will. It all depends on the nature of your cause: maybe you like being subjugated, that’s fine. See, Mighty Max was not advocating for a new system predicated on individualistic gallantry, he was simply pulling the veil off of every system ever conceived. In broad strokes, here’s how it works: someone comes up with a neat spook (say, Religion, or Human Progress, or Civil Society), then proceeds to elevate said fictitious abstraction to absolute value until it draws enough support, then it becomes order, which once established makes it easier to discriminate those against it as unreasonable dissidents, or “inhuman monsters”, as Maxie sardonically puts it. No man has a Right to put another in that category. In fact, no man has any rights whatsoever, for that matter. So Anarchy, then – I hear you venture, scratching your heads, puzzled- we’re talking Anarchy? Nope. Anarchy is a spook. We’re talking dynamics.

The Stirner-ooney basically pointed out how all systems are based on arbitrary and coercive concepts always necessarily referring to something higher and greater than the petty concerns of any single human animal. Hence they are all illusory, all ultimately disappointing and all underlined by the same presumption: that human traits can and should be corrected. Fundamentally, he called bullshit. And History freaked, and that’s why you don’t hear about him so much. “Will this be nothing but a vigorous hand—shake to some obscure nihilist?” Nah, critique’s up next. Just thought first I’d pay homage to the unpreaching genius who desecrated millennia of intellectual vainglory without getting so much as a single thanks.

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