January 21, 2008

underground man

"The Sultan has set his cause on nothing but himself; he is to himself all in all, he is to himself the only one, and tolerates nobody who would dare not to be one of "his people."... If God, if mankind, as you affirm, have substance enough in themselves to be all in all to themselves, then I feel that I shall still less lack that, and that I shall have no complaint to make of my "emptiness." I am not nothing in the sense of emptiness, but I am the creative nothing..."
Max Stirner "The Ego and Its Own"

"But how does one use life? In using it up, like the candle, which one uses in burning it up. One uses life, and consequently himself the living one, in consuming it and himself. Enjoyment of life is using life up...I have myself and do with myself as one does with any other property -- I enjoy myself at my pleasure. I am no longer afraid for my life, but "squander" it."
Max Stirner "The Ego and Its Own"

Life can certainly not be saved or invested, it can only be spent. Governmental and ruling class puritanism that requires us to drink in moderation, give up smoking and chain ourselves to gym treadmills like the inmates of a victorian prison, is all to help us "achieve our potential". To work on yourself as if you are a project, or perhaps a property that must be modernised to be resold at a profit, is to make yourself your own slave.
It is also worth considering what these exhortations and legislation say about our relationship to our own bodies. Whose property is it if the state can intervene between ourselves and it, and on whose behalf?

"Stirner's premise is that the process of secularization is unable to consume or extinguish the sacred, as it claims to do. It merely shifts it. And the power that it assumes is all the more devastating and uncontrollable since it no longer has a name, and cannot be recognised for what it is."
from "The Ruin of Kasch", Roberto Calasso, Harvard Uni. Press, 1994

In the absence of a heaven to aim for, we are encouraged, or latterly coerced, to make ourselves fitter (for what?) There is no doubt that paradise, previously postponed to the hereafter, is available to us now. Except that it is nowhere to be seen - the answer to this is simple; it is because we have not earned it, being too fat or drunk or unruly. Haven't we had the best care lavished on us? Aren't we offered more choices than our grandparents could dream about? We have apparently found ourselves in the land of Cockaigne that has been lovingly provided for us, but ungratefully bridle at its one restriction: moderation in all things. What are we, heaven being long gone, meant to be saving ourselves for? The answer would be, i suppose, the good life that can be achieved if we only stretch our lardy arms (putting down our pints and fags first of course) to embrace it.

Calasso on Stirner: "In order for Stirner to be born, the Big City must exist...the St Petersburg underground...the belly of Paris...the mountains of garbage in London...the death ships that swallow their passengers without documents and without names in the port of Antwerp. It's (the ghost of Stirner) place with with a certain type of disorderly crowd: feverish autodidacts, slave labourers of the pen, rootless men ready for anything, discredited bourgeois, dispossessed aristocrats, the damned of the earth...(who) stand under the marble ceilings of the Polytechnics...the swelling crowd of those whose most profound knowledge is of public humiliation and private exultation." Again from "The Ruin of Kasch", Harvard Uni. Press, 1994

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