Reflections on Aphorisms #74


It's been a long, but triumphant day.

I finally finished one of the big projects I was working on, and now I feel that things are returning to an equilibrium of sorts.

From here the only way to go is up. Of course, that could be because I've cast myself so far into the unknown that I am in such a state of risk that the fruition of that risk would represent a solidification, rather than a degradation, of my condition.

Or, in simple language: I'm betting big, and I'm betting on myself.

Aphorism 112

The tyrant and the mob, the grandfather and the grandchild, are natural allies.

Schopenhauer

Interpretation

I'm not terribly familiar with Schopenhauer. I know that Jung references him quite a bit in his Memories, Dreams, Reflections, which I wrote a review of (which can be found here) but if I ever read any of his work it would have been a small excerpt at most.

This sounds very much like a 20th century sentiment, though it's worth noting that Schopenhauer spoke before our experiences with totalitarianism in the 20th century. Of course, his period in Europe was marked with a certain amount of turmoil (as any period in Europe tends to be), so it's worth noting that he's not necessarily talking about totalitarianism as we see it.

One of the things that I find interesting is the concept of a mob, precisely because I am so mild-mannered.

The idea of losing myself in a group psychological phenomena is terrifying to me. Of course, I do organized religion, and I count my experiences in worship with a Charismatic denomination among my fondest religious experiences (though I split with them on dogmatic lines; my sect doesn't do the speaking in tongues thing prominently), which is a group phenomena at its strongest.

Nietzsche has a saying about fighting monsters and the tragic tendency that people have to turn into whatever they struggle against. It's not necessarily an in-kind thing, but it's interesting.

One of the most important and least discussed events in history is probably the French Revolution (in case people lose track, I'm referring to the one that happened directly after the American Revolution).

There was a major difference between the French Revolution and the American one (though, sadly for us Americans, the difference was not as pronounced), and it was that the French Revolution was more heavily emotional for the French. Where the Americans channeled their distrust toward a foreign power–this is a gross simplification, but works in the sense that they were a colony and not mainland Britain–the French had turned it inward.

There was a great outcry against injustice, and a lot of it was well-earned by a tyrant.

But the mob only succeeded in creating a succession of worse tyrants. They destroyed the laws of a corrupt system, and replaced them with chaos.

Just because the mob may reject a tyrant does not mean that they will not assign one from their ranks once they have their thirst for blood quenched, or even while the lust for destruction still rages in their veins.

I think that some of this has to do with how the mob works. We weaken ourselves to emotion, creating a vulnerability that we exploit to bring us beyond our daily patterns and lives. It breaks us free of our traditions and our heuristics.

The problem is that those things are responsible for civilization and a good part of what people refer to when they use the word "humane" about behavior.

We're less moral than we appreciate. A lot of our "good" behavior comes from not having contemplated evil, from being afraid of it. People claim virtues where they have weaknesses keeping them from freedom, rather than an objective triumph over evil.

Both the tyrant and the mob break free of these things. Both have a capacity for destruction limited only by the words and sacrifices of honest people.

Resolution

Be willing to sacrifice for the future.

Fortify virtue.

Honesty is worth all price.



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