I have learned to avoid getting involved in activity out of a feeling of having to do something. There is a dictatorship of politics that tries to make everyone conform to a collective will. I don’t much like that. If things develop I will get involved, but I will not become again a “political animal” as they say. I didn’t like myself when I was one. Since the “natural” avenues of political action are either closed off or ineffective in this society, we will always feel as if we are neglecting to act. That’s just the way it is. It’s a question of trying to begin where you are and extend out in a meaningful way and not to attach politics to one’s life as an extension of one’s identity. To do that is to circulate on the merry-go-round they have provided for us to keep us busy but ineffective.
“Idle hands make for the devils work” as they say. Lets celebrate, then, the power of doing nothing; of idle hands, of turning away from the World; of the No.
There is a difference between quietism and tactical retreat, both for the individual and for the mass. Sometimes they coincide; sometimes not. Doing nothing is of course only one pole of a dichotomy we have set up in thought; a dichotomy which we either impose on ourselves or have imposed on us by others. The joke is we are the very condition for the dichotomies we burden ourselves with – to be or not to be; to do or not to do. We arrive as ourselves before all of that can capture us; and yet we burden ourselves with the yoke of being this or that. The truth is that in our state of immanent finitude we are the ground on which the edifice of being stands; it is our own creation, glorious or inglorious, this world of being and of becoming; so says Non-Philosophy.
Part of the problem is this bourgeois subject we inevitably are. We feel compelled to act out of a longing for authenticity, as if one always needed to check oneself out under the gaze of the other; the imagined sin of inaction insinuates itself and so one burdens oneself with a moral imperative to extend ones responsibility in an impossible way. Let’s call it a globalisation of concern that actually achieves little but allows one the illusion of compassion. We are denied the power to act and at the same time burdened with the moral responsibility for this lack of power to prevent or abolish the suffering which the system imposes on its victims.
No doubt it is a case of knowing what we know, but knowing we will not act. This is the disease of a decadent age in which the answer to what plagues us has not yet appeared in thought. Only its prophets have appeared as terrible distortions of the new Subject; isolated acts of semi-madness demonised by journalists who, like everyone else, are outwardly cynical but inwardly full of foreboding for the future we can already half discern, since it unfolds in regional form almost day by day — cities reduced to rubble, roads filled with refugees with nowhere to go, wars of endless stalemate and retribution. A sad end to the idea of progress and unending prosperity, which a half century ago seemed our inevitable future. Our children will inherit the ruins of that utopia of science, democracy and the free market which turned out to be the waiting pen for extermination; the death-row of our civilization.
Don’t worry about inaction ; use the time to think and to think well. Think on all that has gone before on the long road that brought our race to a rendezvous with possible annihilation. The time for action will soon overwhelm us and then we will dream of these days as the halcyon days before the storm.