“YOLO is the antidote to FOMO. They are the two guiding principles of our time, the time after God’s death.” – Josephine Livingstone, from “Is Worrying a Modernist Invention?”
It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, but I’m not going to explain why. There’s nothing worse than a blog post about why someone hasn’t been writing blog posts. But now that the summer is coming to an end, I plan to get back onto my normal schedule.
I did coincidentally just take a bus trip from Baltimore to Austin, and I still think it was better than flying, even though it took two and a half days and was riddled with tiny problems, like the wifi cutting out or the temperature being either freezing or boiling. (Not having wifi is better than having spotty wifi—especially with 40 hours of free time ahead of you.)
By the dim light of my phone, I was able to read much of a book about the history of the Baltimore Sun, which I bought (er, was bought for me by my sister) earlier on the trip in Harrisburg. If you lived in Baltimore in the second half of the 19th Century, writing for a newspaper like the Sun would probably be the best possible occupation in terms of fun, status, comradery, and community benefit—not to mention that you could probably drink most of the time. (For instance, early in the following century, H.L. Mencken would toast the end of Prohibition with a glass of water, saying it was his first in 13 years).
Another good thing to do on a long bus ride is to write gibberish. At least I thought so, anyway; instead I ended up mostly looking out the window between glances at books, trying to spot hawks (there were many). At one point I decided to scroll through pictures I had taken on my trip, only to remember that I had only taken about fifteen or so—all of them of one of my parents’ cats, named Dot. Anyway, still better than flying.
Hegel: “What happens to a people and occurs within it has its essential significance in its relation to the state; the mere particularities of the individuals are most remote from this subject matter of history.” But the state is always only a means for the preservation of many individuals: how could it be the aim? The hope is that with the preservation of so many blanks one may also protect a few in whom humanity culminates. Otherwise it makes no sense at all to preserve so many wretched human beings. The history of the state is the history of the egoism of the masses and of the blind desire to exist; this striving is justified to some extent only in the geniuses, inasmuch as they can thus exist. Individual and collective egoisms struggling against each other—an atomic whirl of egoisms—who would look for aims here?
Through the genius something does result from this atomic whirl after all, and now one forms a milder opinion concerning the senselessness of this procedure—as if a blind hunter fired hundreds of times in vain and finally, by sheer accident, hit a bird. A result at last, he says to himself, and goes on firing.
One may read the “wretched human beings” line and become alarmed, but the point here is not that human beings are categorically wretched, but rather that the State makes so many of them that way, through the inherent logic of totalitarian control (or even the attempt at such), be it through doctrinal caste or capitalist competition. Thus, “achievements” of the State are completed not because of, but in spite of the governmental apparatus. Accidents of history tend to only accentuate the “positive” aspects of hierarchy based on resources (e.g. Golden Age Athens) while glossing over the much more numerous negatives. Would we have the Golden Gate Bridge if it weren’t for the Industrial Revolution? No. But that assumes we need the bridge in the first place, and also that all the other requisites and consequences of industrialization make the bridge worth the price.