Aesthetes and Savages
Why is it that I always sit down to write something simple, then sail up the Korzybskian "levels of abstraction" until every post becomes "AJ Explains Everything?" Could it be that I have realized my lifelong dream, and attained at last to the exalted status of Auld Phart?* "Yes," I ruminate, "but how can that be, when I am continually surrounded by adoring young beautiful women!" Yea
, comes the reassuring reply, even so were other Auld Pharts before you.
Hence, y'know, one can dream. :D
Over on Eek's page (friend of RJ's) somebody was trying to defend the current Republicans by insisting that (a) there are a lot of bigots in this country, (b) they used to vote Democratic (Lincoln Republicans vs. Jim Crow Dems, etc.), and (c) we should blame the too-rapid efforts of enlightened people in the cities for the rise of militant ignorance in the hinterland. Originally I was just gonna post a quick comment there (probably by proxy; I decided against it, though, RJ ;) ) to the effect that, "That's right: whatever the compromises it rapidly made, the Republican Party of the 1860s had the morally superior argument on slavery. Just over a hundred years later, the Democratic Party resolutely (if not quite intentionally) gave up an electoral advantage by choosing human decency over ignorant savagery: hence drove its traditional ignorant savage vote over to the Republicans, where it pretty much remains today. Wherever he is, do you suppose Lincoln -- himself murdered by ignorant savages -- is proud of that?"
But then that coalesced with several others things, my having just started reading Kevin Boyle's masterful Arc of Justice
** not least among them. So I was gonna echo His Chomskness's point that America has always had more than its share of ignorant savages, of the sort we associate with other religious-extremist countries; then go on to note that while I personally thought the pushing-gay-marriage agenda was a really risky tactic, historically speaking all
progress here has tended to come from really risky tactics, so what else is new?
But, alas, the topic got bigger still. So, finally, try this:
After millennia of more or less uniform barbarity, humanity began (what, less than 10,000 years ago?) to develop various evolutionary specializations, two of the most prominent of which are Canny Savages (Homo Dumbass
) and Snarky Aesthetes (Homo Smartass
). They have been duking it out ever since. Each is plenty useful to human survival: Homo Dumbass
is vastly superior at actually getting things done (and profoundly better at both selfrighteousness and violence, hence keeps reasserting its control), whereas it is thanks to Homo Smartass
that we have neat things like personal hygiene, and a reason for living beyond mindless survival. Each subspecies owes vast amounts to the other; each has moments when it imperils human survival, and when it helps to ensure it. And their ongoing competition is the engine driving humanity forward; we don't have to like that, but it's true.
So much for obvious (if largely unremarked) facts. A personal observation, and I'm outties.
Any attempt to organize humanity into a survivable whole is going to have to make room for both kinds of human (more properly, for each tendency within humans).*** As an interlocking system designed to do precisely that, I commend Thelema to the attention of mankind, particularly to those concerned with ensuring its survival.
93 93/93 -- AJ
* Fight the temptation to paste that and enter "Yes," please. Too easy. ;)
** Which pretty much earns its National Book Award in its 11-page prologue, "America: 1925"; not, alas, included in the Amazon excerpt. These 11 pages are practically required reading for those who want to understand why Crowley was not the racist and sexist that a few choice excerpts might suggest; was in fact far ahead of his contemporaries on that score.
*** I hope it's obvious that these categories are anything but rigid. I've lived in the American heartland and in L.A., and can assure you that each includes both kinds; have been a fulltime writer for twenty years next August, but also once worked an assembly line; have seen many, many people change from one sort to the other (both ways!). For that matter, OTO includes a lot of the smartest people I've ever known, but I pray God that one day it will make some progress on basic manners. We're really talking about two basic human impulses here, found to some extent in everybody -- not literally two different sorts of human.