In societies such as modern Britain we have means and comforts that our forebears could never have dreamed of. But having achieved them, we don’t know what to do with them, and some people are bored. Bored with their jobs, bored with the lack of struggle, bored with the lack of heroism and purpose that security brings.
So, unsure what to build next, or how else to gain purpose, a certain number of people are finding meaning in self-denial and self-blame. They’re finding ultimate meaning in the call to repent before the imminent, partly longed for, apocalypse.
— Douglas Murray, “The Empty Lives of Extinction Rebellion Fanatics”
The most general survey shows us that the two foes of human happiness are pain and boredom. We may go further, and say that in the degree in which we are fortunate enough to get away from the one, we approach the other. Life presents, in fact, a more or less violent oscillation between the two. The reason of this is that each of these two poles stands in a double antagonism to the other, external or objective, and inner or subjective. Needy surroundings and poverty produce pain; while, if a man is more than well off, he is bored. Accordingly, while the lower classes are engaged in a ceaseless struggle with need, in other words, with pain, the upper carry on a constant and often desperate battle with boredom… Now, intellectual dullness is at the bottom of that vacuity of soul which is stamped on so many faces, a state of mind which betrays itself by a constant and lively attention to all the trivial circumstances in the external world. This is the true source of boredom—a continual panting after excitement, in order to have a pretext for giving the mind and spirits something to occupy them. The kind of things people choose for this purpose shows that they are not very particular, as witness the miserable pastimes they have recourse to, and their ideas of social pleasure and conversation: or again, the number of people who gossip on the doorstep or gape out of the window. It is mainly because of this inner vacuity of soul that people go in quest of society, diversion, amusement, luxury of every sort, which lead many to extravagance and misery.
— Schopenhauer, “The Wisdom of Life”
Also he has grasped the falsity of the hedonistic attitude to life. Nearly all western thought since the last war, certainly all ‘progressive’ thought, has assumed tacitly that human beings desire nothing beyond ease, security and avoidance of pain. In such a view of life there is no room, for instance, for patriotism and the military virtues. The Socialist who finds his children playing with soldiers is usually upset, but he is never able to think of a substitute for the tin soldiers; tin pacifists somehow won’t do. Hitler, because in his own joyless mind he feels it with exceptional strength, knows that human beings don’t only want comfort, safety, short working-hours, hygiene, birth-control and, in general, common sense; they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice, not to mention drums, flags and loyalty-parades. However they may be as economic theories, Fascism and Nazism are psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life. The same is probably true of Stalin’s militarised version of Socialism. All three of the great dictators have enhanced their power by imposing intolerable burdens on their peoples. Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people ‘I offer you a good time,’ Hitler has said to them ‘I offer you struggle, danger and death,’ and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet.
— George Orwell, “Review of Mein Kampf”
October 11, 2019 @ 2:13 pm
A pretty fascinating triptych.
October 11, 2019 @ 5:03 pm
Yeah, it’s something I think about a lot. Having struggled for so many millennia to escape privation, people, especially young people, especially young men, seem to struggle to handle comfort and affluence gracefully. And maybe it’s not even a majority of them, but it can still be enough to destabilize things for everyone else.