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Most Of What Can Happen To You Is Bad
Jeremy Bentham on The Nihilism of the Left
Our most prolific reader, Jeremy, has, for the past year—ever since the pimp slap heard around the NFL, I think—been working on developing a model of the Postmodern State as The Woman. Here is his latest offering.
Articles related to the origin of The Woman as a socio-political model include:
“What would be best for you is quite beyond your reach: not to have been born, not to be, to be nothing. But the second best is to die soon.”
- The Birth of Tragedy by Friedrich Nietzsche.
Indeed James, where did this modern obsession with a “happy ending” in all things come from?
This is in contravention to all the world’s religions and philosophies. They all teach that the “happy ending” only comes after you die: when you go to Heaven, Valhalla, the Elysian Fields, achieve Nirvana, join with the One, rise from the dead on Judgment Day and live forever on an earth restored to its Garden of Eden state, and etc., etc., etc. All the prophets and philosophers teach that human existence is full of suffering.
After all, Satan is the Prince of the World; he is determined to make all of Mankind feel his pain. “Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short." (Revelation 12:12).
The existence of evil remains an unfathomable mystery to Humanity. Buddha teaches in his Four Noble Truths that human life is discontentment and suffering. Allah created heaven and earth and life and death to put Mankind to the test, to see who would acquit himself the best (Sura 44:38, 67:2). The Taoists teach that the ultimate reality is unknowable and unperceivable. The ancient Stoic philosophers essentially taught that anything that can happen can happen to you; since most of what can happen to you is bad, you should be thankful when nothing happens to you. “Everything that happens is fair and just to the gods, but human beings regard some things as just and others as unjust” (Heraclitus).
Life is impermanent, a Veil of Illusion. Nothing is certain but death and taxes. So at best human life is managed suffering, managed risk and managed loss. Being the jingoistic myrmidon that I am, I recognize that being born an American is an incredible windfall profit, one that has delivered me and mine from the suffering and drudgery that so much of the rest of Humankind must endure on a daily basis. The Leftists (The Woman) would have me feel guilty about that. I do not and will not. Of course the Leftists believe in their heart of hearts that utopia can be coerced into existence on this world, but their grievance mongering just causes more discontent. Their nihilism destroys institutions that work and replaces them with ones that do not work. You are as happy as you make up your mind to be. Over-analyzing happiness and making other people responsible for your happiness is the sure to make yourself unhappy.
“So Gilgamesh, accept your fate. ...Make every day of your life a feast of rejoicing! This is the task that the gods have set before all human beings. This is the life you should seek, for this is the best life a mortal can hope to achieve."
Jeremy, I was recently reading in Will Durant’s Life of Greece [Book V: The Hellenistic Dispersion]about the creeping materialism and atheism in the Hellenistic Age, beginning with the death of Aristotle and Alexander and continuing until the Romans ploughed them under. One of the features of this ‘cultural miasma’ was low birthrate to the point of the [sometimes barbarian] slaves of well-to-do Hellenes inheriting vast ghost estates. Indeed, there was a female philosopher in Sicily where at least one school dedicated to atheism emerged. Do you see any corollaries to these phenomena in our own time that fit in with your observations of our blooming Matriarchy?
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fatmanjudoMar 17, 2015

Amen. If you are lucky you get 70 good years on this rock. Drink when thirsty / sleep when tired / work when strong / cry when you must / and rejoice when able. One day you will pass through the veil of tears. But not this day. This day you live.
Jeremy BenthamMar 19, 2015

A philosophy school dedicated to atheism? Interesting. I must confess that’s a new one on me James. From what I’ve read, in ancient times the term atheist was generally applied to all those who refused to pay homage to the traditional Pantheon. As a matter of fact, during the Second, Third and Fourth Centuries, the Romans called Christians “atheists” because of their refusal to worship the traditional Roman gods. Correct worship was considered to be of vital importance in gaining and keeping the favor of the gods, so the refusal of the Christians to sacrifice to the patron gods, including the emperor, was seen as treason, imperiling the whole community. Over time Christianity gained more adherents because Christians seemed to others to be “at peace in their own minds” (sound familiar?) Julian the Apostate (361-363 A.D.), the last pagan Roman Emperor said, “It was benevolence to strangers, their care for the graves of the dead and the pretended holiness of their lives that have done most to increase atheism (Christianity).”

As Victor Davis Hanson and other historians have pointed out, most defunct civilizations committed suicide; internal conflict and mismanagement were often as ruinous any external threat. Frequently the people who live a life of ease are the ones who become dissatisfied with the status quo first. Not always for reasons that make any material sense either. As Eric Hoffer wrote, “There is perhaps no more reliable indicator of a society’s ripeness for a mass movement than the prevalence of unrelieved boredom.” Hoffer said people who are living a subsistence existence aren’t concerned about adding “meaning” to their lives: “To be engaged in a desperate struggle for food and shelter is to be wholly free from a sense of futility.”

Personally, I see the fingerprints of the Left on most everything that’s messed up in our country today. The Leftists really believe their own rhetoric about the West being the cause of most of the problems of the world, and want to “liberate” the planet by bringing down the oppressors, that is to say Western Civilization. Since the Left are Marxists, they see everything in society in terms of an economic struggle over who has control of the “stuff”. It’s the haves versus the have-nots; the oppressors versus the oppressed. Consequently the Left sees culture and spirituality as very minor if not totally irrelevant concerns. All the Marxists, feminists, multiculturalists and PC social justice warriors are now the establishment, so it’s no longer “The Man” who runs our lives, it’s “The Woman”. The Woman is busy then managing the decline of America and dismantling all the traditions and institutions hold America together.
responds: Mar 19, 2015

Durant's entire section on late Hellenistic philosophy is basically a dance around the question of atheism in the wake of an erosion in folk beliefs, namely local civic gods, which eventually get resurrected as saints under Christianity.

In discussing the Epicurians and Stoics of the 1st and 2nd century B.C. Durant writes, "Educated Greeks turned from religion to philosophy for an answer; they called in philosophers to advise or console them in the crises of life; they asked from philosophy some world view that would give human existence a permanent meaning and value in the scheme of things, and that would enable them to look without terror on the certainty of death."

I like how he describes Epicurus as having a belief that there were gods but they could care less about us. His discussion includes the suicide cult of Hegesias in Egypt. He defines the conflict between religion and philosophy in three stages: the attack on religion, the attempt to replace religion with a 'natural etic', and finally a return to religion.

The following passage reminds one of our current discussion, "Ultimately, Zeno and Chrysippus hoped, all those warring states and classes would be replaced by one vast society in which there would be no nations, no classes, no rich, no poor, no masters or slaves; in which philosophers would rule without oppression, and all men would be brothers as the children of one God."

Thanks for the this contribution Jeremy.
Jeremy BenthamMar 19, 2015

“If I wished to punish a province, I would have it governed by philosophers”

-Frederick the Great

Fascinating. Sounds like I’ll have to give Durant a read. Thanks James. Yes, the historians tell us that Stoicism was the unofficial religion of the Roman Empire (before it was officially supplanted by Christianity, that is). The Greek and Roman gods did not tell people how to act toward each other, they had their own agendas. Instead the gods left the task of teaching morals and ethics to the philosophers. Some philosophers, like Plato, even thought the traditional gods were fickle and cruel and just served as bad examples. Gods shouldn’t act that way. This idea of codes of morals and ethics being separate from religion strikes us moderns, brought up in Judeo-Christian culture as we are, as exceedingly odd.

What always strikes me in reading about the ancient Greeks is how perpetually discontent and dis-unified they were, always over-analyzing things and finding some bone of contention with which to divide themselves. A Greek once told me a joke that the Greeks tell about themselves: if you put two Greeks alone on an island they will create three political parties. So long as their military technology was superior to everyone else in their corner of the world, the Greeks remained independent. Once it was not, they became subjugated.

Contrast all this Western over-analyzing with Buddha, who taught that the “big plan” (or even whether or not there is a big plan) is something we human beings are not meant to know and understand; therefore, looking for it will only lead to greater discontentment and suffering…so stop that!

On the other hand, the refusal to analyze any preconceived notions is what kept Oriental societies stagnant and underdeveloped for so long. It seems like only the European West managed to hit the happy middle ground, the sweet spot, on this. But now, the achievements of Western civilization are something over which we are supposed to feel shame and guilt.

Yes, socialism/collectivism has ancient origins, it was being discussed in China during this period as well. It seems like the bad old ideas from the past just keep getting recycled. Still the same old corn flakes, but now packed in a box adorned with a label that says “new and improved”.

It still all comes down to what Teddy Roosevelt said 113 years ago:

“The great fundamental issue now before the Republican party and before our people can be stated briefly. It is: Are the American people fit to govern themselves, to rule themselves, to control themselves? I believe they are. My opponents do not…I believe in the right of the people to rule. I believe the majority of the plain people of the United States will, day in and day out, make fewer mistakes in governing themselves than any smaller class or body of men, no matter what their training, will make in trying to govern them.”

"If one rejects laissez faire on account of man's fallibility and moral weakness, one must for the same reason also reject every kind of government action." - Ludwig von Mises
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