Tuesday, May 1, 2007

History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second as farce

When I'm feeling pessimistic and doubtful about myself, the future, and humanity's abilities I begin to feel almost Marxian. I think maybe humans are nothing more than economic creatures, maybe the world does need mass bloody revolution, etc. then I come to my sense and remember humans are in the end spiritual creatures possessing of complex minds which reach far beyond economics and I remember that the means don't justify the ends and that humanity can reform its problems without mass killings, etc. One other Marxian adage that occurs to me while I'm pessimistic, or at least occurs to me now and likely will occur to me in the future is the title of this session: History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second as farce. Marx was speaking of the French Revolution comparing the first which led to Napoleon and the later revolution of 1870 which led to Napoleon III. But looking at current times I see odd parrellels with the past except they seem distorted, watered down and pathetic. George W. Bush reminds me of another nationalistic, common-man imaged, polarizing figure, Andrew Jackson, except that Andrew Jackson for all his faults contained a germ of legitimate reform. He became a symbol for popular democracy. George W. Bush, whose star has risen and fell far quicker than Andrew Jackson was also once considered symbolic of common people rebelling against the "liberal elites," his value as that symbol is fading but the sense that the common people need to rebel against the elites is still around, except there is no great reform ideas being articulated, only moderate, piecemeal ones which won't satisfy or change things quickly enough, meaning at the core of the movement is just anger.

But perhaps the better parrellel for this era is early 20th century/late 19th where people became discontent at liberal capitalism and came up with new revolutionary theories to challenge it. Except the theories they have now are all the same like nationalism or socialism, except even the rehashed theories are watered down. Chavezism is watered-down socialism with all the incompetance of communism without the redeaming quality of washing away the old social problems. But maybe it comes down to this. History isn't repeating itself, but the old historical forces which caused previous events still remain except now seeing them again after we thought we had dealt with them those forces seem tired and ridiculous.

Like the anger against capitalism. It really isn't anger against capitalism I think. A lot of it is just a sense of being lost, being small, being thrown around by forces that are alien to you and wanting to do something, anything to take back control. And so you try to force the nation together through the ideology of nationalism via the engine of socialism. But that doesn't work, because after a while you'll realize that you're actually at the bottom rung of the movement. Maybe you're on some worker's council or something, maybe, but even then it'll always be the more popular guys that'll really have all the power. You, you're still powerless in the end. Because the truth is the world acts upon us, and very few people can have power large enough that they can not seem small compared to the world. If we were to divide all of the power out there evenly and hand it out to each person, that would simply give a situation where no one would have a large piece of power and everyone would seem small compared to the world. I think even those with lots of power feel small, because most of those with lots of power acquire it through spreading out their interests throughout the economy or politics or culture and that simply exposes them to more historical forces to push and pull at them.

In the end, we must accept that events out of our control will always shape our destinies. Yes, we can work hard and improve things and help things, but we should never delude ourselves that we are in control, because then something out of our control and horrible, like a meteor strike, or a hurricane, or a terrorist strike might come and we'd have to watch as our illusions crumble. I'm not saying stop trying to improve the world, but rather... take pleasure in your effort, because even if you can't control the world you can control yourself, because ultimately we are more than our economic outcome, status or produce. We are not economic men and Marx was wrong. And history just rumbles onward, mysterious like the location of an electron, even if we could see it, it would just dart somewhere else and we would not know it anymore.

So take it to your head, take it to your heart, and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

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