Wandering Thoughts



A Stupidity. Such is happiness, in this world.

By dint of carefully considering a thing, one perceives its correctness and even its possibility; one is truly strong when he has reached that point.”

Diderot, The Nun




It’s beyond dispute. Politics is modern happiness. All enthusiasms disappointed, it alone—it’s terrible to say—provides any space for public ecstasy. And not because it has reserved fewer martyrs, whippings and bitter disappointments to the unhappy people of these times than to their ancestors—but precisely because it is the arrogant stupidity of a world. In it, a few forms of knowledge[1], an expectation, the gentle sensation of vague freedom and some form of blessedness come together. Everything, from the strong deadly thrusts of the species to the loss of the I to the falsehood of life, which furnished the old church with its suffering flesh and its blood, is brought back together in certain rituals and practices that are inscribed, without a doubt, in the sphere of state thought. This new stupidity is the foolishness of our times.




    Like desire, which in sexuality, so it seems, can play skillfully with prohibition and the blocked impulse to satisfy itself more or less obliquely, so that its mutability gives it the possibility of triumphing even in defeat; in the same way, the massive reinvestment of the rancid exultation of religion into politics saves it, only be changing the mask. The old willingness to sacrifice, called forth in other times only through the horrors and ecstasies of the supernatural, since the rise of political societies, have had to devote themselves more and more to the state. What supports the sacrificial man in suffering and adversity is certainty and hope. Thanks to this, he makes immolation into a joy. Politics is the final stage of this heroism.




    If one could recognize, through the symptoms, the degree of poisoning of the entire social and intellectual organization of a world as how much stupidity there might be in its sacrificial attitude, then this world would require a desperate diagnosis. The time we’ve just gone through has probably been that of the greatest tragedy and the most resistant doxa[2] in politics. A certainty and a hope brought back, undimmed, when everything contradicted them in such a cruel way in concrete becoming. We will never adequately know this time period until someone has carefully assessed how much of the concretely morbid there is in the behavior of the victims of stalinist trials, for example in the desperate self-hatred, or in they way they begged their butchers for the favor of being able to start their militant ordeal toward salvation over again. Or so long as we don’t want to face a fact: what was shown in the police state theatrics of the Great Trials, as the standard of a global spectacle, continues to perpetuate itself, silently, everyday, in parties—in a more or less conscious way—and in such an extraordinary thinness of the behaviors of self-contempt that each individual becomes, at the same time, a rival competing in the name of the party, and a judge, a rector, a priest, a cop for himself and those close to him. Our time will end up being characterized by this eternal rebirth of the representation of the political state, in which tragedy keeps on feeding faith again and again: well-fed butchers and persecuted opponents, all in communion, beyond suffering and death, in the terrible happiness of an equal certainty of redemption.




    If religion, essentially, proposed to overcome this world from the outside, politics takes over, essentially, as its overcoming from within. It is as if the object of ecstasy and terror was detached from the cosmic in order to better reconsecrate itself in the pseudo-social. Here is the thing that we will have difficulty forgiving ourselves for: holding that, far from expressing a retreat of the human tendency to self-enchantment, this modern exchange of figures can only express the persistence, in the existence of the upright beast, of something singularly resistant to historical dissolution.




    Being an essentially profane happiness, politics, as stupidity, is more harmful for us than the old religious misery. The fact is that the world is missed precisely where it is supposed to have been hit. In this sense, the state parody of things, the loss of the Earth, opens to thought the place of a tragic nature much stronger than the ideologies of tragedy of the “supernatural”. Equally, the acquiescence to enslavement reveals something more miserable here: the modern citizen no longer bends the knee before some terrifying image of god or of the devil, but rather before the abstraction of the feeling of existence, before the existence of abstraction. All the truths that La Boétie and Hobbes managed to put together about the man of the state, those of Spinoza about the illusion of free will, those of Nietzsche, intolerable everywhere to the logic of discourse, nowadays get further confirmation. The man of the state is the man of efficient falsehood, of the definitive happiness of voluntary servitude; he is the one who asks for a good consistence to the realizable banality as the substance of his life. Guarantees! Again guarantees! Always guarantees! And nonetheless, further reason to rely on mediocrity.




    If the political man is the man of the undefined “one”[3] par excellence, it is because the doxa is the citizen’s first authentic social insurance against himself. If his happiness is proportional to the strength of his party, it is because this exempts him from possessing any strength of his own. The party man demands that the institutions to which he devotes himself free him from himself, protect him from himself. And the more this is granted to the tail-wagging militant, the more he will consider himself capable of dispensing with every singular word. The singularity of the concrete is his damnation; he has to exorcize the individual, insofar as it irreducible and even uncivilized. The more the serious militant impends upon life, the less human beings speak for themselves. It is the common morality that speaks in their place, annihilating them, reassuring them, saving them. The political organization functions only thanks to the abstraction of real human beings and of the consciousness of being. The tragedies themselves are fallacies; it is illusion that they oppose to them.




    Around the political man, repetition enjoys a privileged position. Militant, governmental, judicial discourse is the preeminent sphere of the commonplace. This consolidated logic of banality forms all its strength, its power, as if its mechanism only fed upon endless tautology. The proof of the “true” forms the extension of its reproduction: the activism of its deaf-mute babbling.




    At this point, enthusiasm is directly proportional to blindness. Voting, haranguing from the platform, marching in a procession, recruiting, belonging: all noise of the muteness of abstract human beings.




    The modern city, as totally abstract space, is the space most congenial to contemporary political abstraction. If there were any nostalgia for the enjoyment of living to cultivate, with pitiful spirit, the men and women of the lonely crowd could make the retrospective eulogy to ancient wildness. However, this is all that they could do, most of the time, when some excess of the loss of themselves brings them back, breathless, to the authenticity of their being. And so this very nostalgia is only a new weakness. This is too easy: we don’t want to be consoled.



    Whether such inclinations are considered short-lived and more than anything indications of a contingent weakening of that mind in the people of the political era, or whether, instead, drawing the most disenchanted conclusion from this indefinite replacement of one lie with another, people simply wouldn’t know how to live without planning some realizable happiness in stupidity and falsification; the obvious fact remains of the global replanning of this world under state logic. Politics dominates modern representation to such an extent as to absorb it into its seriousness, into the devastating oblivion of the disasters it brings with itself. Yes, this stupidity is happy in this world. In proportion to the unhappiness that it must vigorously exorcise, in accordance with the effects of its representations.

[1] Forms of knowledge that range from the highest to the most meager, of history, sociology, economy, techniques of power, party intrigues; the endless expectation of radiant futures supported with fervor; the “freedom” (or pleasure) of the manipulation of things and people, as the eternal limit of tactical calculation, a feeling of an intoxicating power, even in this sovereign distribution of roles, or in the feeling of conflict—and the emphasis of all politics on this topic is well-known; exquisite blessedness, finally, of so many certainties and hopes.

[2] From an ancient Greek word meaning “common belief” or “popular opinion”, used in contemporary social theory to mean what is taken for granted or viewed as self-evident in a particular society.

[3] In the original, the indefinite pronoun “on” is used here. There is no precise equivalent in English, but it most closely resembles the “one” of the sentence: “If one wants this, one must do that”. I added the word “undefined” to emphasize the indefiniteness of the word.—translator