Privileged Despair

A couple of days ago, Wikiquote’s Quote of the Day came from celebrated idiot Eugene Ionesco:

I believe that what separates us all from one another is simply society itself, or, if you like, politics. This is what raises barriers between men, this is what creates misunderstanding.
If I may be allowed to express myself paradoxically, I should say that the truest society, the authentic human community, is extra-social — a wider, deeper society, that which is revealed by our common anxieties, our desires, our secret nostalgias. The whole history of the world has been governed by nostalgias and anxieties, which political action does no more than reflect and interpret, very imperfectly. No society has been able to abolish human sadness, no political system can deliver us from the pain of living, from our fear of death, our thirst for the absolute. It is the human condition that directs the social condition, not vice versa.

I couldn’t disagree more. But I do have to praise Ionesco: has has managed to perfectly express his moronic self-importance, his intentional disengagement from reality, his betrayal of artistic vision, and ultimately his own irrelevance as anything but a tool for showing artists who the enemy is.

What is Ionesco saying here? He is saying that our real problems are “human sadness”, the “pain of living”, the fear of death and our “thirst for the absolute”. Economic and political problems are just surface – the real issues are abstract and timeless.

So the Jewish child sitting in a German concentration camp is really no sadder than Ionesco sitting in his flat in Paris, because they both are suffering “human sadness”. The Palestinian child sitting in an Israeli concentration camp half a century later is experiencing the same pain as Ionesco is when he’s sitting in a nice restaurant in Paris, eating delicious food and pondering the essential “pain of living”. The fear of death experienced by a family in Iraq as American or European soldiers point guns at them is the same as what Ionesco feels when he considers that some day he will quietly pass away in his bed. As for the “thirst for the absolute”… yes, that’s what the Afghani man who hasn’t had a drop of water in days is thinking about, just like the starving Detroit woman, waiting for help from an overwhelmed food charity. No political system can help these people, so any art that actually engages the reality of the world and stands against it is bad. Or maybe it’s just inconvenient for people like Ionesco, whose brand of meaningless bullshit mainly exists to keep people convinced that nothing can change.

So fuck you, Mr. Ionesco. Fuck you and the horse you rode in on.

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5 Comments

  1. Evil Roda

     /  December 1, 2009

    Israel has concentration camps? For serious? Or are you just making some kind of weird metaphor?

  2. Expression can’t be a bad thing in itself. That I’ll uphold. There’s too much fear about that information corrupts.

    I will say this much. People adapt to situations, positive or negative. Wealthy men have bad days and concentration camp prisoners have good days. The elderly develop a tolerance for the pain in their joints. I’m inclined to go so far as to say it averages out to zero. What isn’t so relative is freedom. Freedom to live, to express, and to choose.

  3. Israel has concentration camps? For serious? Or are you just making some kind of weird metaphor?

    If you look at the (walled-off/fenced-off/guarded) areas where the Palestinians live, the term “ghetto” doesn’t really seem enough…

    Wealthy men have bad days and concentration camp prisoners have good days.

    Yeah, but I think there’s a huge difference there. “I have a headache today” and “I only got beaten up once today and they gassed someone else instead of me” don’t really even out, do they?

  4. JM

     /  December 1, 2009

    I don’t think your extreme examples have much to do with what Ionescu is saying here. He’s talking about a inherent human condition regardless of the standard of living. Can’t say I agree to it, because he generalizes far too much, but there sure are many people I’ve met over the years how qualify to have those feelings.

  5. I don’t think your extreme examples have much to do with what Ionescu is saying here. He’s talking about a inherent human condition regardless of the standard of living. Can’t say I agree to it, because he generalizes far too much, but there sure are many people I’ve met over the years how qualify to have those feelings.

    a) Extreme? This year, more than 1 billion people will go hungry. One billion individual humans who will not know whether they will have enough food to live through the next days. It’s sad, but this kind of situation is actually pretty common.
    b) I’m also drawing on the rest of Ionesco’s work and thoughts here, and his general opposition to any kind of political art. (He despised Brecht, for example.)