The White Race: The Immortal Blemish of Human History?

By Jin-yeong Yi

In 1967, the late Susan Sontag wrote:

“Mozart, Pascal, Boolean algebra, Shakespeare, parliamentary government, baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation of women, Kant, Balanchine ballets, et al. don’t redeem what this particular civilization has wrought upon the world. The white race is the cancer of human history.”

She later changed her mind about the last sentence, stating that it was an insult to cancer patients.

I’m not sure if she wasn’t just trolling, but seriously? Seriously? C’mon Ms. Sontag… You did mention some of their more recent contributions, but don’t you think you’re still selling them a bit short?

White art?

Raphael - The School of AthensVincent van Gogh - The Starry Night

White architecture?

ParthenonColosseum

White literature?

BeowulfChaucer as a pilgrim

White mathematics?

Desargues' theoremDifferential calculusIntegral calculus

White philosophy?

SocratesPlatoAristotleDemocritus

White science?

Leonardo da Vinci - Vitruvian ManCharles Darwin - The Descent of ManThomas Edison's original carbon-filament bulb

White religion?

AthenaHeinrich Fueger - Prometheus Brings Fire to MankindApollo

White classical music?

Johann Sebastian BachLudwig van BeethovenJohannes Brahms

White heavy metal?

Really, where exactly would humankind be without the “white race?”

The Circularity of Civilization

By Jin-yeong Yi

North Korean propaganda poster

Since North Korea is bigger news than it has ever been (which is saying something, because I don’t remember the last time it wasn’t in the news), I thought I would comment on the American Nihilist Underground Society’s remarks on the passing of Kim Jong-il:

Here at ANUS, we love all dictators.

They understand a divine wisdom: humanity is a means to an end.

Humanity as an end in itself is an unterminated question. It asks itself perpetually in tautological form what it wants to do. It doesn’t know. So it manufactures internal drama and the cycle goes on, circular logic ad infinitum.

Genius minds like Josef Stalin recognized that people were like clay to be molded into greater things. And if you trimmed some extra clay, so what? The normal person does nothing that particularly binds them to this life. “Not wanting to die is your (only) reason to live.”

King Jong-Il was another spectacular dictator. Like other critics of the society of humans-as-the-goal-of-humanity, such as school shooters, Ted Kaczynski, Pentti Linkola, Friedrich Nietzsche and others who truly saw that society was a massive failure, Kim Jong-Il shaped his people like clay. He made an empire where none was before. And if they starve? The piercing pains are just that much more meaning to life, much more than they would find while sitting in a Brooklyn apartment getting obese on fast food and imported wine between scintillating stints at their day jobs as designers or press release supervisors or whatever make-work crap passes for important in capitalism these days.

We will miss you, Kim Jong-Il. You were one of the few who understood. We must oppress ourselves or we degenerate. In this way alone, all dictators are closer to heaven than the average human could ever dream of being.[1]

The problem here is that civilization itself is arguably a circular goal. It’s definitely not for the sake of Nature. It’s clear that Nature is more than capable of taking care of herself. Nature has absolutely no use for art, music, literature, architecture, science, or even religion. She is perfectly content with her picturesque landscapes, her musical birdsong and babbling brooks, her poetic change of seasons, her finely crafted mountains and trees, her profound seas of space.

In other words, as far as this planet is concerned, only humans can appreciate and enjoy the fruits of human ambition.

At the end of the day, is not the collective as anthropocentric as the individual? If humans aren’t the “goal” of humanity, what is?

Notes

[1] See “A great man fallen.”

Atheist Elitism

By Jin-yeong Yi

Louis Carmontelle - Baron d'HolbachNiall Ferguson

“If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”

—Voltaire

Is atheism good for humanity? (Depends on how you define “good,” of course.) That almost all religious people would reply in the negative is a given. However, even among atheists and other secular people there are not a few individuals that are skeptical of the notion that humankind would be better off without religion. Consider this sampling of quotations:

“You yourself may find it easy to live a virtuous life, without the assistance afforded by religion; you having a clear perception of the advantages of virtue, and the disadvantages of vice, and possessing a strength of resolution sufficient to enable you to resist common temptations. But think how great a portion of mankind consists of weak and ignorant men and women, and of inexperienced, inconsiderate youth of both sexes, who have need of the motives of religion to restrain them from vice, to support their virtue, and retain them in the practice of it till it becomes habitual, which is the great point for its security. And perhaps you are indebted to her originally, that is, to your religious education, for the habits of virtue upon which you now justly value yourself.”

—Benjamin Franklin, letter to Thomas Paine

“Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet.”

—Napoleon Bonaparte

“Religion is still useful among the herd – that it helps their orderly conduct as nothing else could. The crude human animal is in-eradicably superstitious, and there is every biological reason why they should be.
Take away his Christian god and saints, and he will worship something else…”

—H. P. Lovecraft

“The principles of atheism are not formed for the mass of the people, who are commonly under the tutelage of their priests; they are not calculated for those frivolous capacities, not suited to those dissipated minds, who fill society with their vices, who hourly afford evidence of their own inutility; they will not gratify the ambitious; neither are they adapted to intriguers, nor fitted for those restless beings who find their immediate interest in disturbing the harmony of the social compact: much less are they made for a great number of persons, who, enlightened in other respects, have not sufficient courage to divorce themselves from the received prejudices.”

—Paul-Henri Thiry, Baron d’Holbach, The System of Nature

“I was brought up and remain an atheist. But to be brought up an atheist is very different from lapsing from religious faith. I’ve never had any religious faith. I have however a profound belief that, as a basis for ethical conduct, the Ten Commandments are pretty good, and that actually the monotheisms, and particularly Christianity, offer a really quite good guide as to how to live well.

By ‘well’ I mean to live morally. It’s very hard for an atheist to invent, from first principals, a good ethical basis for behavior, because actually in the natural state, human beings don’t behave well. They’re quite strongly tempted to behave badly. And we’re involved in ways that actually encourage bad behavior. We’re designed to kill strangers. We’re designed, in fact, to steal. And so it’s very important that there should be an ethical framework within which we live.

And my dilemma is that I don’t really believe in any divine policeman or any afterlife payoffs. But I do believe that we should live well. We should obey some moral code that we’re not likely to invent for ourselves.”

—Niall Ferguson[1]

I myself am undecided on this question, but I have a few things to say about it: 1) I support freedom of religion and oppose state atheism, partly because I think that the former is much better for atheism than the latter, and 2) in my view, a religious or philosophical viewpoint is only as “good” as its adherent. In other words, the outcome depends on the intelligence and character of the individual in question. If this is true of, say, Christianity, how much truer it is of atheism. Adherents of the former have doctrines and moral absolutes they can follow. Adherents of the latter are on their own.

Notes

[1] See “Niall Ferguson on Belief” on Big Think.

Until Everything Rots in Hell

By Jin-yeong Yi

“[The] knowledge of the non-freedom of the will protects me from losing my good humor and taking much too seriously myself and my fellow humans as acting and judging individuals.”

—Albert Einstein

“Conceive, I beg, that a stone, while continuing in motion, should be capable of thinking and knowing, that it is endeavoring, as far as it can, to continue to move. Such a stone, being conscious merely of its own endeavor and deeply interested therein, would believe itself to be completely free, and would think that it continued in motion solely because of its own wish. Now such is this freedom of man’s will that everyone boasts of possessing, and which consists only in this, that men are aware of their own desires and ignorant of the causes by which those desires are determined….As this misconception is innate in all men, it is not easily conquered.”

—Baruch Spinoza

“To understand everything is to forgive everything”

—Gautama Buddha

“Pardon’s the word to all! Whatever folly men commit, be their shortcomings or their vices what they may, let us exercise forbearance; remembering that when these faults appear in others, it is our follies and vices that we behold. They are the shortcomings of humanity, to which we belong; whose faults, one and all, we share; yes, even those very faults at which we now wax so indignant, merely because they have not yet appeared in ourselves. They are faults that do not lie on the surface. But they exist down there in the depths of our nature; and should anything call them forth, they will come and show themselves, just as we now see them in others. One man, it is true, may have faults that are absent in his fellow; and it is undeniable that the sum total of bad qualities is in some cases very large; for the difference of individuality between man and man passes all measure.

In fact, the conviction that the world and man is something that had better not have been, is of a kind to fill us with indulgence towards one another.”

—Arthur Schopenhauer, “On the Sufferings of the World”

“Happiness and misfortune, rise and fall, health and sickness, glory and dishonor, wealth and poverty; everything comes from God and must be accepted as such.”

—Elder Michael of Valaam

“Feeble, vain mortal, thou pretendest to be a free agent. Alas! dost thou not see all the threads which enchain thee? Dost thou not perceive that they are atoms which form thee; that they are atoms which move thee; that they are circumstances independent of thyself, that modify thy being; that they are circumstances over which thou hast not any controul, that rule thy destiny? In the puissant Nature that environs thee, shalt thou pretend to be the only being who is able to resist her power? Dost thou really believe that thy weak prayers will induce her to stop in her eternal march; that thy sickly desires can oblige her to change her everlasting course?”

—Paul-Henri Thiry, Baron d’Holbach, The System of Nature

“Everything begins with choice,” says Morpheus. I disagree, not because I think choice is an illusion (pace the Merovingian), but because I think there is something that precedes choice: predilection. The latter makes the former possible. Ultimately, our decisions are predicated on our preferences for (or inclinations toward) one outcome over another, and we certainly could not have chosen our preferences.

As someone who not only believes that free will doesn’t exist, but that it is impossible even in theory, I look upon ressentiment as being utterly empty and meaningless. I can blame and condemn people as much as I want for the “evil” that they do, but I recognize that it is mistaken to believe that the root of “evil” lies within them. The notion that it does rests on the assumption that people somehow designed their natures before coming into the world, which is absurd. It is practically tantamount to saying that acorns determine what kind of trees they will grow into, or that the apples which grow on trees choose to be fresh or rotten. In other words, people did not choose to be who they are. They did not choose their level of intelligence, physical constitution, or character. They did not choose their place of birth, which means that they did not choose the options available to them or the cultural influences that shaped them in their earliest formative years. In other words, they did not choose the initial parameters of the trajectory of their lives, which in turn proceeds via an unbroken process of cause and effect.

The futility of acting on ressentiment is a major, underlying theme of the anime series Hell Girl[1]. Someone requests the damnation of a certain person at the cost of their own soul, convinced that the permanent removal of the offending individual will pave the way for a happy life , or at least a peaceful one, when all they will have done is destroy a manifestation of conflict, not its fundamental cause (a la the classic example of the hydra and its many heads). Conflict manifests itself in an infinite variety of forms, and none of these forms are self-created. The true cause of conflict is not this or that entity, but a whole web of connections between entities. But we tend to blame the manifestations because they are readily perceivable; they have faces, unlike the unseen forces which drive them.

We see the consequences of ressentiment in our world all the time, whether they come in the form of shooting sprees, ethnic cleansing, domestic violence, individual murder, or systematic passive-aggression. These are the ramifications of the mistaken notion that people have chosen to be what they are. If there is something that bears true responsibility for the human condition, it is God–that is, the laws of nature as revealed by mathematics and science. God is the ultimate source of all pleasure and pain, all kindness and cruelty, all joy and sorrow, all love and hatred, all beauty and ugliness. God determines what is possible, what is probable, and what actually takes place, and God’s decrees are absolute. Nonetheless, if we desire change, we must act. If we desire to live in harmony as a civilization, as a species, in the brief time we are together on this earth, we have little to gain from turning on each other under the pretext of “justice.” We can start looking upon what we regard as “evil” as an illness to be cured, rather than a choice to be punished, and treat it accordingly.

Maybe unconditional forgiveness, then, is the way of the future. We might acknowledge that responsibility extends far beyond the level of the individual and learn to forgive others–as well as ourselves–unconditionally, not because we are somehow obligated to do so, but because that may be the only way humanity can break free from the age-old cycle of self-destructive hatred and start looking for methods of healing instead of vengeance. We do not have to forgive or heal. But neither do we have to withhold forgiveness and healing.

Ai Enma, the anti-heroine of Hell Girl, declares that there will be no end to resentment, that it will persist “until everything rots in Hell.” Maybe she’ll be proven to be right. But fatalism is unjustified as long as the future is uncertain. I daresay there’s still hope for us, even without free will, because we still have the capacity to learn and change our ways. We can never turn this world into Heaven, perhaps, but we can always move in that direction, away from Hell. Whether that is something we actually want or not is up to us.

Notes

[1] See Hell Girl: Two Mirrors, episode 6 and Hell Girl: Three Vessels, episodes 9-10.