What is the meaning of our existence, if it is not that in our own selves that desire for truth has come to it; own consciousness as a problem? . . .
In attaining self-consciousness, the desire for truth will undoubtedly destroy morality; this is that great hundred-act play that is reserved for the next two centuries of Europe, the most terrible, the most mysterious and perhaps yet the most pregnant with hope of all spectacles . . .
Except for the ascetic ideal, Man, the animal Man, has had no meaning. His existence on earth had no purpose; ‘what is the purpose of Man at all?’ was a question without an answer; the will for Man and the world was lacking; behind every great human destiny rang, like a refrain, a still greater ‘in vain!’ The ascetic ideal simply means that something was lacking, that Man was surrounded by a tremendous void he did not know how to justify himself, to explain himself, to affirm himself; he suffered from the problem of his own meaning. He suffered also in other ways; he was in the main a diseased animal; his problem was not suffering itself, though, but the lack of an answer to that crying question, ‘Why do we suffer?’
Man, the bravest animal and the one most inured to suffering, does not repudiate suffering in itself; he desires it, he even seeks it out, provided that he is shown a meaning for it, a purpose for suffering. The senselessness of suffering, not suffering itself, was the curse which lay upon humanity until the ascetic ideal gave Man a meaning! It was the only meaning offered till now; but any meaning is better than no meaning; the ascetic ideal was in that connection the ‘faute de mieux’ par excellence that existed at that time. In that ideal, suffering found an explanation; the tremendous void seemed filled; the door to all suicidal nihilism was closed. The explanation –there is no doubt about it– brought about new suffering, deeper, more penetrating, more venomous, gnawing more brutally into life; it brought all suffering within the compass of guilt; but in spite of all that – Man had saved himself, he had found a meaning for himself; he was no more tossed about like a leaf in the wind; he was no longer a plaything of chance, a casualty of blind fate; he could now ‘will’ something no matter what, why and how he did so at first – the will itself was saved.
We can no longer conceal from ourselves precisely what this will, under the direction of the ascetic ideal, expresses, which is hatred of anything human, animal or material; abhorrence of the senses, of reason itself; fear of happiness and beauty; the desire to escape from all illusion, change, growth, death, wishing, even from desiring itself – all this means – let us have the courage to confront it – a wish for oblivion, an aversion to life, a repudiation of everything vital to existence, but it is and remains a will! – and to say at the end that which I said at the beginning Man will desire oblivion rather than not desire at all.
Man’s worst sin is unconsciousness, but it is indulged in with the greatest piety even by those who should serve mankind as teachers and examples. When shall we stop taking man for granted in this barbarous manner and in all seriousness seek ways and means to exorcize him, to rescue him from possession and unconsciousness, and make this the most vital task of civilization? Can we not understand that all the outward tinkerings and improvements do not touch man’s inner nature, and that everything ultimately depends upon whether the man who wields the science and the technics is capable of responsibility or not? Christianity has shown us the way, but, as the facts bear witness, it has not penetrated deeply enough below the surface. What depths of despair are still needed to open the eyes of the world’s responsible leaders, so that at least they can refrain from leading themselves into temptation?
The civilizing process begins within the framework of the trickster cycle itself, and this is a clear indication that the original state has been overcome. At any rate the marks of deepest unconsciousness fall away from him; instead of acting in a brutal, savage, stupid and senseless fashion, the trickster’s behaviour towards the end of the cycle becomes quite useful and sensible. The devaluation of his earlier unconsciousness is apparent even in the myth, and one wonders what has happened to his evil qualities. The naive reader may imagine that when the dark aspects disappear they are no longer there in reality. But that is not the case at all, as experience shows. What actually happens is that the conscious mind is then able to free itself from the fascination of evil and is no longer obliged to live it compulsively. The darkness and the evil have not gone up in smoke, they have merely withdrawn into the unconscious owing to loss of energy, where they remain unconscious so long as all is well with the conscious. But if the conscious should find itself in a critical or doubtful situation, then it soon becomes apparent that the shadow has not dissolved into nothing but is only waiting for a favourable opportunity to reappear as a projection upon one’s neighbour. If this trick is successful, there is immediately created between them that world of primordial darkness where everything that is characteristic of the trickster can happen even on the highest plane of civilization. The best examples of these “monkey tricks” as popular speech aptly and truthfully sums up this state of affairs in which everything goes wrong and nothing intelligent happens except by mistake at the last moment, are naturally to be found in politics.
The so-called civilized man has forgotten the trickster. He remembers him only figuratively and metaphorically, when, irritated by his own ineptitude, he speaks of fate playing tricks on him or of things being bewitched. He never suspects that his own hidden and apparently harmless shadow has qualities whose dangerousness exceeds his wildest dreams. As soon as people get together in masses and submerge the individual, the shadow is mobilized, and, as history shows, may even be personified and incarnated.
The disastrous idea that everything comes to the human psyche from outside and that it is born a tabula rasa is responsible for the erroneous belief that under normal circumstances the individual is in perfect order. He then looks to the State for salvation, and makes society pay for his inefficiency. He thinks the meaning of existence would be discovered if food and clothing were delivered to him gratis on his own doorstep, or if everybody possessed an automobile. Such are the puerilities that rise up in place of an unconscious shadow and keep it unconscious. As a result of these prejudices, the individual feels totally dependent on his environment and loses all capacity for introspection. In this way his code of ethics is replaced by a knowledge of what is permitted or forbidden or ordered. How, under these circumstances, can one expect a soldier to subject an order received from a superior to ethical scrutiny? He has not yet made the discovery that he might be capable of spontaneous ethical impulses, and of performing them – even when no one is watching.
The term terrorism can be traced back to France’s ‘reign of terror’ between 1793 and 1794 (Addicott, 2004, p. 1), with the terminologies appearance in literature gradually increased from the 1940s, with peaks in the late 1970s and 1980s, before increasing significantly after the 11th of September 2001 (Google, 2016). Yet despite the increased use of the term terrorism ‘there is no global consensus on a precise definition of terrorism’ (Addicott, 2004, p. 1). Since the French reign of terror the strategy of terrorism has slowly evolved as a ‘means of bringing about political change opposed by established governments’ (Crenshaw, 1990, p. 10), with terrorism adopting new methods over time that introduce new opportunities for dissent, including hostage taking (Crenshaw, 1990). Regardless of the method of dissent, the nature and rationality of terrorism has remained unchanged with extremists seeking ‘a radical change in the status quo’ in order to creates a new advantage, or ‘the defense of privileges they perceive to be threatened’ (Crenshaw, 1990, p. 10), with extremists turning to violent terrorist methods when other non-violent methods of dissent have failed (Crenshaw, 1990). Most common definitions do not clearly articulate that terrorism ‘may be used by insurgents and incumbent regimes’ (Wardlaw, 1982), with the definition of political terrorism summarized as ‘the use, or threat of use, of violence by an individual or a group, whether acting for or in opposition to established authority, when such action is designed to create extreme anxiety and/or fear-inducing effects in a target group larger than the immediate victims with the purpose of coercing that group into acceding to the political demands of the perpetrators’ (Wardlaw, 1982, p. 16). This academic definition underpins the legal definitions across most western nations, whereby a terrorist act ‘is carried out for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause; is intended to intimidate a section of the public, or compel a government to do or abstain from doing any act; and involves serious violence against a person, property, or endangers life’ (Hardy & Williams, 2014, p. 5). In order for an act to be considered terrorism, it must meet the legal requirements of such an act. (more…)
The spectacle is the other side of money: it is the general abstract equivalent of all commodities. Money dominated society as the representation of general equivalence, namely, of the exchangeability of different goods whose uses could not be compared. The spectacle is the developed modern complement of money where the totality of the commodity world appears as a whole, as a general equivalence for what the entire society can be and can do. The spectacle is the money which one only looks at, because in the spectacle the totality of use is already exchanged for the totality of abstract representation. The spectacle is not only the servant of pseudo-use, it is already in itself the pseudo-use of life.
At the moment of economic abundance, the concentrated result of social labor becomes visible and subjugates all reality appearance, which is now its product. Capital is no longer the invisible center which directs the mode of production: its accumulation spreads it all the way to the periphery in the form of tangible objects. The entire expanse of society is its portrait.
The victory of the autonomous economy must at the same time be its defeat. The forces which it has unleashed eliminate the economic necessity which was the immutable basis of earlier societies. When economic necessity is replaced by the necessity for boundless economic development, the satisfaction of primary human needs is replaced by an uninterrupted fabrication of pseudo-needs which are reduced to the single pseudo-need of maintaining the reign of the autonomous economy. The autonomous economy permanently breaks away from fundamental need to the extent that it emerges from the social unconscious which unknowingly depended on it.
As soon as society discovers that it depends on the economy, the economy, in fact, depends on society, This subterranean force, which grew until it appeared sovereign, has lost its power. That which was the economic it must become the I. The subject can emerge only from society, namely from the struggle within society. The subject’s possible existence depends on the outcome of the class struggle which shows itself to be the product and the producer of the economic foundation of history.
The consciousness of desire and the desire for consciousness are identically the project which, in its negative form, seeks the abolition of classes, the workers’ direct possession of every aspect of their activity. Its opposite is the society of the spectacle, where the commodity contemplates itself in a world it has created.
Guy Debord (2000) Society Of The Spectacle, Black & Red, pg. 53
Yes. I’d like to congratulate you, on succeeding where so many before you have failed. A bullet between the eyes would have been preferable to this charade. But I’ve learned to pretend over the past nine years — to pretend that my victories mattered only to realise that no one was keeping score. To realise that liars do not fear the truth if there are enough liars. That the devil is just one man with a plan, but evil, true evil, is a collaboration of men, which is what we have here today. If I am a guilty man, my crime is in daring to believe; that the truth will out and that no one lie can live forever. I believe it still. Much as you try to bury it, the truth is out there. Greater than your lies, the truth wants to be known. You will know it. It’ll come to you, as it’s come to me, faster than the speed of light. You may believe yourselves rid of your headache now, and maybe you are… but you’ve only done it by cutting off your own heads.Fox Mulder – X Files – Season 9 Episode 20
Man possess a human nature; this “human nature”, which is the concept of that which is human, is found in all men, which means that each man is a particular example of a universal concept – man. In Kant’s works, this universality extends so far as to encompass forest dwellers – man in a state of nature – and the borgeois, meaning that they all possess the same basic qualities. Here again, the essence of man precedes his historically primitive existence in nature.
Atheistic existentialism, which I represent, is more consistent. It states that if God does not exist, there is at least one being in whom existence precedes essence – a being whose existence comes before its essence, a being who exists before he can be defined by any concept of it. That being is man, or, as Heidegger put it, the human reality. What do we mean here by “existence precedes essence”? We mean that man first exists: he materializes in the world, encounters himself, and only afterward defines himself.
If man as existentialists conceive of him cannot be defined, it is because to begin with he is nothing. He will not be anything until later, and then he will be what he makes of himself. Thus, there is no human nature since there is no God to conceive of it. Man is not only that which he conceives himself to be, but that which he wills himself to be, just as he wills himself to be after being thrown into existence, man is nothing other than what he makes of himself. This is the first principle of existentialism.Jean-Paul Sartre (2007). Existentialism Is a Humanism. Yale University Press. p 22.
Socialism is, without doubt, totally obsolete if it is reduced to its traditional contents: to the “full development of the production forces”; to the collectivization (or socialization) of the means of production; to the appropriation and direct control of the means of production and exchange by the “associated producers”; to the planned management of the economic system conceived as a single large enterprise; to the abolition of wage-labour and commodity relations; to the suppression of the state and of the relative autonomy of the state administration, the judiciary, the press, art, the economy, the private sphere, and so on – in short, if it is reduced to the restoration of the pre-modern, undifferentiated unity of the individual, community and functional spheres of paid work and self-determined activities; a restoration which, breaking radically with the complexity of modern social systems, is intended to have a stable order as its end product.
If, on the other hand, the contents of the socialist projects of the past are viewed not in themselves but in their relationship with the conditions of the time, they still retain a clear meaning for us today. The objective was then, and still is today, to limit the field in which economic rationality may find expression – or, in other words, to limit the logic of profit and the market. The point is to subject economic and technical development to a pattern and orientations which have been thought through and democratically debated; to tie in the goals of the economy with the free public expression of felt needs, instead of creating needs for the sole purpose of enabling capital to expand and commerce to develop.André Gorz (2013) Capitalism, Socialism, Ecology. Verso, p. 8