Quote of the Day: Dividing Humanity

Continuing with the Prussian Virtues theme:

"The most radical division it is possible to make of humanity is that which splits it into two classes of creatures: those who make great demands on themselves, piling up difficulties and duties; and those who demand nothing special of themselves, but for whom to live is to be every moment what they already are, without imposing on themselves any effort toward perfection; mere buoys that float on the waves."

— Jose Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses (quotation found here).

13 thoughts on “Quote of the Day: Dividing Humanity

  1. Reminds me of Seneca’s proverb: “Ducunt fata volentem, nolentem trahunt.” (Fate guides him who goes willingly; him who does not it drags).

  2. Norbert, I wonder whether Andrew shares Seneca’s or Ortega y Gasset’s derisive stance on dolce far niente – he’s not much of a conservative revolutionary[1]. Lately, he was quite busy selling his faithful readers on the idea of doing without educational excellence, as the occasional genius will care for needed surplus anyway, feeding Schwabing art historians and Neukölln Messerstecher alike. In the same vein he bid farewell to EU’s emigrating busybody intelligentsia, which rather tend to annoy him. Yes, I suspect him to favour Alexis Zorbas’ edle Einfalt, as does any self respecting Western intellectual, if only to protest against heinous attempts to divide humanity, and be it by a dead white man making a rhetorical point. Besides, if Wikipedia is to be trusted, “The Revolt of the Masses” has been commonly misunderstood, particularly in the english-speaking world.

    Anyway, those floating buoys get Hartz IV nowadays, provided they don’t multiply overly, which they do. But who could be more insouciant then tenured professors with warm feelings for noble savages in bucolic landscapes. In 2005, 19% of the residents got 35% of all offspring, surprisingly few of whom will get tenure, as many will flunk Hauptschule. As we’re not to divide humanity, we won’t detail this. Aber wer Sorgen hat, hat auch Likör, so now those Hauptschulen get security guards to fend off insouciance’s brooding spawn. Good thinking.

    1. I’m not implying that Seneca or Ortega y Gasset fall into that bracket – this stance and Gasset’s quote will do.

    The spam filter strikes again and doesn’t like inline urls, so here goes:

    • Messerstecher = knifer
    • wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Revolt_of_the_Masses
    • wikipedia.org/wiki/Hartz_IV
    • tagesspiegel.de/meinung/Kommentare;art141,2123218 – 2005 demography
    • spiegel.de/schulspiegel/0,1518,522449,00.html – Neukölln Hauptschul-Messerstecher get their comeuppance – from 8:00-13:00
  3. > wikipedia.org/wiki/Hartz_IV

    So, the geniuses had some corporation’s head of HR design their country’s welfare policy, yes? And I guess the country’s environmental policy is drafted by Exxon-Mobil, is it yeah?

  4. A genuinely German, not exclusively Prussian, theme. “Wer immer strebend sich bemüht” and so on. Nietzsche’s “das noch nicht festgestellte Tier.” The elitist intellectual and Heidegger’s “das Man.”

    Y Gasset’s “revolt of the masses” will assuredly be much different in 2030, given demographic projections, than in 1930, when Y Gasset wrote.

    The custodial society will become even more of a reality than it already is. More wealth in the hands of even fewer; more ghettos and more gated communities; power in the hands of a select, technocratic elite.

  5. So, the geniuses had some corporation’s head of HR design their country’s welfare policy, yes?

    Hello Martin, welcome to the year 2004! Oh my, this Hartz IV thing does indeed sound worrisome. I wonder if it will be popular with the voters. If not, Schröder’s re-election in 2006 might be in peril!

  6. Hello Sebastian, welcome to Germany. Here, I’m not doubting that the outcome would have been popular to no end. After all, if you were subservient enough to invite your opponent to have a say in your affairs to begin with, you were probably ready to embrace whatever result would come out of it.

  7. Here, I’m not doubting that the outcome would have been popular to no end.

    One might or might not agree with this characterisation (I would personally say that the public reaction was rather more muted than this description would make it appear). That’s not my main point, though. My point is that you wouldn’t have to speculate about the public reaction to Hartz IV if you were familiar with the political debate that dominated headlines in Germany throughout 2004 and 2005, led to the creation of the WASG, and ultimately caused the 2005 elections to the Federal Diet. Instead you apparently heard about the Hartz reforms for the first time right now, in December 2007. And that, I’m afraid, is quite typical for the closeness of the connection that exists between your pronouncements about German society and the German soul on the one hand, and the reality in Germany – the situation on the, ahem, ground, if you will, on the other hand.

  8. The Red-Green coalition’s so-called “Prostitution law” may or may not serve its intended purpose of granting prostitutes the right to claim their money for their services. However, it has had some absurd legal consequences.

    For example, one labour court ruled that a divorced husband did not have to support his ex-wife because she could live on her own resources which she made by selling her body. In another case, the local “Arbeitsagentur” (employment office) suggested an unemployed single mother of two should apply for a media agency selling erotic services. She then did apply for fear of losing her benefits, only to find out that for selling the services she was supposed to make use of her body.

  9. @Sebastian

    Excuse me, but us foreigners, so woefully detached from German society and German soul, are still wondering by what fucking mandate a society would choose the head of HR of some motor corporation to draft their welfare policy for them, in case you’ve forgotten about the elephant in the living room. Your ad hominem attack hasn’t managed to produce enough distraction either. So your contribution to this discussion is … what?

  10. Excuse me, but us foreigners, so woefully detached from German society and German soul, are still wondering by what fucking mandate a society would choose the head of HR of some motor corporation to draft their welfare policy for them, in case you’ve forgotten about the elephant in the living room.

    That’s not the elephant in the room, that’s a circumstantial little detail of Schröder-era social policy that you stumbled upon on Wikipedia and decided to bring up even though it has nothing to do with anything. I am, unsurprisingly, not much inclined to discuss it.

  11. > Martin: Excuse me, but us foreigners, so woefully detached from German society and German soul,
    > are still wondering by what fucking mandate a society would choose the head of HR of some motor
    > corporation to draft their welfare policy for them

    Would a Döner shop operator do a better job? Or an Oranienstraße sex-pro? Or is it the pedagogue cum social worker’s expertise you’re craving for? Wait, wait – now I got it: we should have civil servants draft welfare policy, who already make up a third of our parliament, while heeding the quaint Spaniard’s call to make “great demands on themselves, piling up difficulties and duties;” poor things. Martin, I’m afraid your thinking organ’s buoyancy makes it ideally suited to float on the waves – quaint Spaniards might want to have a good talking to you.

    Anyway, fluctuat nec mergitur – keep on rolling!

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