Auschwitz – A weird philosophy of hope Part II

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.

So back to us and our old age, for this is a mature and borderline senile era of our species: we’ve figured out, nay, had proof, that Santa’s not real, have come to terms with the fact we’re the ones having to buy our children’s presents, but it’s just so damn hard to let go of the magic. There lies the paradox of our rational lives: we want to believe in spooks. We need to believe in something greater than ourselves, even if it’s fake. Illusions are essential to our health. Without them, we feel petty and tiny. By minimising the relevance of our emotional and spiritual attachment to imaginary constructs, Stirner (born Schmidt) was but protecting himself: orphan of father and sent away by his mother, you can see how a clever soul in pain would dismiss the importance of universal values and norms, asserting in their place the natural worth of any one life’s fickle tendencies. I guess such line of thinking helps numb the pain, drenching it in pride. That does not make him wrong: his reasoning is flawless, yet tragically sterile. At the end of the day, producing a personal worldview to make sense of his reality is all a man can ever really do.

Photo by Marco Crupi.

Today this seems to take place on an endemic scale: a worldview per capita. In many ways Stirner’s vision has been espoused: all over we are getting unions of egoists freely assembling and dismantling with little regard for superstitious moral obligations. Every man for himself. My life, my choice, my path, my priorities; you’re an instrument, if I can’t use you, I’ll drop you. How logical, how desolate. All as an immune response to a previous season of dreadful totalitarianism, sustained by the spooks of objectivity, community, common destiny. Naturally, traumatized and according with our species’ limited binary elaboration processes, we swung all the way to the other side: relativism, free choice and individuality. Which are also, of course, spooks.

These particular ones were championed by the war’s big winners and still current -though stumbling- leaders of this planet of ours: the United States of America, which wave the spook of freedom every chance they get, while all around people cry out for certainty and security. Poor souls! They don’t realize that freedom and security are actually antithetic. If applied in absolute measure, they are both equally chilling prisons. This sweet confusion derives from a fundamentally naive fallacy, not so much a spook but rather a misunderstanding: that human happiness can be rationally engineered. When in fact, only a couple of things shape mankind’s successions (I hesitate to call it progress, let’s not get big-headed here) and both do so in largely counterintuitive ways: technology and war. The two chase each other, eventually clash, and out comes change. Minimal, evolutionary-scaled and impermanent change, but change nonetheless. And with a little change comes great hope- like the drunken hobo outside your local shop would assure you.

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