The great tension

Friday, 28 May, Year 13 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

I. Humans, like any other living things, possess an instinct for self-preservation. Humans, unlike all other living things, possess the capacity to represent to themselves, in their own mind, their own unavoidable, impending, inexorable destruction. These necessarily produce a conflict, that is strictly unresolvable. This is the great tension.

II. The great tension takes place in the human mind, and in the human mind alone. Both mice and men have their careful preparations uprooted by the phenomena now and again (or not, for the exact same money) ; but for men alone, and not at all for mice, this means something. It does not denote but it does connote. It symbolizes, it recalls to mind. Why must there always be some problem ?

III. The only approaches available towards the great tension are absolutely limited : escapism, and culture. Neither of them resolves it, nor can there possibly be a third.i

IV. Escapism is the attempt to reduce the human mind to animal functionii. A car forever parked may share with other cars the property of sitting on four wheels ; but it does not share with them the property of being able to be crashed into anything. If it doesn't move, it doesn't crash. If the mind is permanently distracted from itself, its associated flesh could perhaps live undisturbed the life of any other mammal.

V. Culture is the attempt to ease the tension by controlling the moment of death.iii For obvious practical reasons the controlling of the moment of the death of another is both more popular and more appealing to popular interest ; but the two interplay even if one's much louder.

VI. Social hierarchyiv is the proxy of culture ; equality is the social proxy of escapism. Concrete societies organize themselves at the interplay of culture and escapism. The fundamental, inescapably fundamental importance of white people to the history of human life is that they are the first, and so far the only to have constructed a non-escapist svago for the fundamental tension.

VII. Morals, in the sense of a general, theoretical discussion of right and wrong, good or evil, ultimately an attempt of producing a hierarchy of oughts, as well as ethics, in the sense of producing answers to specific, statedv questions, that are coherent with a given system of morals, are strictly concerned with condemning escapism, and propounding culture.

VIII. Scientific research, in and of itself, is purely escapist, which is why it so readily alliesvi with equalitarian social views and so readily comes into conflict with any formulation of either morals or ethics. Yet it is the inescapable condition of scientific research that it must always proceed on a paradigmvii, which is how, and why, it manages to delude itself into escapism in the first place.

IX. There are no proxy solutions any more than there are direct solutions. The lesser minds, for whom the opportunity cost of escapism is low enough, will embrace some formulation of an escapist solutionviii ; the greater minds will either control the escapists' moment of death or drown in a colorful sea of incomprehensible meaninglessness (the two meanderingly alternating in various proportions over the endless centuries).

That's all.

  1. Though there can be such escapism as an escapist pretense to culture, as well as such cultural approach as a cultural pretense to escape, yet neither can possibly constitute "a third way". There isn't such a thing as an alternate parity anymore than there can be such a thing as "an alternate gender". Numbers are either odd or even, genders are either passive or active, that's the end of the matter. []
  2. Usually carried out through function and not substance, though "medical science" has in the past half century made significant progress towards actually mushing up the human brain enough to fit a squirrel's. Currently chemical approaches are favoured as the profit margins on the mechanical are lower and market penetration drastically limited by the need for surgeons, while electricity didn't work out. []
  3. There is nothing else in human culture, at no point, ever. All that's culture flows from this same top node, inescapably. There isn't another font of human culture besides the killing. []
  4. Last century's happenstances such as for instance S. Freud's purely cultural misidentification of "sexual impulse" as the principal driver of human activity as well as internal life are readily explained by the social hierarchy situation in his immediate social context : after a thousand years' worth of Holy Roman Empire, 1800s Vienna was so utterly stuffy, internal life found itself so thoroughly crushed under culture, it seemed to the youthful, aspiring escapists some version of masturbation's maximally the most they could get away with, much like generations of starving jobbagy might produce kids who imagine stealing some not yet ripe fruit from the boyar's trees is the outer limit of "sticking it to the man". It certainly explains why black kids in the ghetto can't really think of what to steal above and beyond "the pretty girl manning the counter in Whitey's supermarket", a superlative version of a sack full of soap bars. []
  5. I can't now find where in the logs I explained the US Supreme Court will not consider putative questions, though I'd like to link it here. []
  6. The converse should not be regarded. That socialism's imbeciles will readily misidentify anything as their ally is well documented already. []
  7. Scientists don't usually talk well with children, because children tend to ask "why ?" indiscriminately, and the scientists don't want to question their paradigm as (subconscious, but rock-solid) foundation for their continued escapism. []
  8. "Technological progress" in particular has absolutely nothing to do with it ; the same hordes drooling while clucking at the dumbphone now were just as much drooling, but while looking out a physical window for as long as they had those ; and otherwise looking into the fire, for as long as they had that, and so on. Exchanging camps around open pit fires for walls with holes in them is technological progress, of course, yet it has entirely no bearing in the discussion. []
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7 Responses

  1. I admire the flow of this, with one stone I presume my own shortcomings have tossed in the stream: as the notion of culture controlling the moment of death is abstract and to my mind lacks example, the attempt to hang what follows on that thread is fairly gnarly. Suggestions to make the concept more concrete?

  2. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Saturday, 29 May 2021

    From Seneca's (or, for that matter, Stefan Augustin Doinas' own Irinel Liciu) all the way to America's Only True Prophet refusal to further dwell with idiots on one hand, and from Adolf Hitler's to Julius Caesar's refusal to permit idiots to further dwell... Really, take your pick.

    There is absolutely no difference between the lists of soon-to-be-dead bureaucrats Stalin scribbled something on, and the cleverness in Shaw's epistle dedicatory or various authors' modest proposals. Of the תַּנַ״ךְ ‎the song of songs and the book of Esther are escapism, the rest's very much culture, and specifically in this sense : outflow of the control of moments of death.

  3. Well that certainly helps with concreteness, thanks. To move back up from my own request a little, then: what implications does this have for say literature and the plastic arts? Are paintings with a momento mori bent the true/best/most cultural paintings, making mere pastoral scenes escapism?

    Seemingly out of nowhere, this also makes cannibalism interesting all over again --how to tell if a cannibal has, through his killing, involved culture?

  4. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Tuesday, 1 June 2021

    All arts, from literature to any aesthetic pursuit are fundamentally and inescapably escapist ; attempts to culturalize literature (or the arts more generally), known among the savages as "tendency in art" or "art with moral values" necessarily run into the Jarry objection. (Did you read Ubu Roi btw ?)

    Yes tendentious literature can very much still be literature (though it's not literature for being tendentious -- it's tendentious for being tendentious, and literature for being literature) ; otherwise tendentious pieces are the most cultural, in the sense the others aren't directly cultural ; but on one hand culture has the overarching capacity to repurpose, re-appropriate and reinterpret anything in cultural terms -- so purely acultural art objects may survive briefly on the first pass ; but otherwise will either be forgotten or cultured -- and on the other hand there's nothing true or best involved in any of this.

    Cannibalism is a consummatedly cultural act, which is why you heard about it from the cultural productions of the people managing the killing of the "savages". Outside of those preoccupations of the Spanish the practice scarcely exists, and certainly is neither familiar nor interesting to the natives.

  5. Ubu Roi is still in "should" rather'n "did", and I imagine I'll have to revisit all this after that and I guess Strauss are properly digested.

    You ever think about making an "essential" category, btw (have I asked this fifty times already?)?

  6. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Wednesday, 2 June 2021

    But essential for whom ?

    Nothing's essential, culture's like the marxist dreamworld, everything's got more substitutes than anyone's inclined to count.

  1. [...] denotes a specific set of answers to the pressures of group survival. Being a woman is a matter of culture. It denotes a specific set of answersi to the pressures of individual existence. The two terms are [...]

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