Sunday, October 17, 2004

Genius vs Groupthink: Dittoholes, Freepers and Bushies


All the wit in the world is lost upon him who has none.
- La Bruyère

America is eaten up with groupthink. But those who most suffer are those who are merely echo chambers of talking points. And while Progressive bloggers may link and direct readers to other sources, they also tend to offer their own original observations, and on a wider range of topics. When have you heard a Conservative blogger talk about Sufism, Taoism, Kama Sutra, the law of Reciprocal Maintenence, Tantrism, or the Categorical Imperative? And the pundits, anchors, and talkingheads are even worse, since they should be counted up to have either done their homework, or have something original to say. But it never turns out that way. All they ever do is say what has already been said a hundred times. And these folks make good money. They have, as Schopenhauer says, chosen Champaign over freedom.

Schopenhauer on Genius
[from "Parerga"]


No difference of rank, position, or birth, is so great as the gulf that separates the countless millions who use their head only in the service of their belly, in other words, look upon it as an instrument of the will, and those very few and rare persons who have the courage to say: No! it is too good for that; my head shall be active only in its own service; it shall try to comprehend the wondrous and varied spectacle of this world, and then reproduce it in some form, whether as art or as literature, that may answer to my character as an individual. These are the truly noble, the real noblesse of the world.

Bloggers are the noblesse of the world, unlike your George Stephanopoulises and your Bill O'Reillys and your Claire Shipmans...who have sold out their brains to Daddy Warbucks. Here we are, two weeks before the election, and even the Sunday shows that you might think would have some diversity of opinion...are a pompom fest for Bush, replete with RNC talking points and lies about Bush actually "tieing or winning" the last debate...even though Bush was a frothing Goofus acting like Butthead, and receiving signals from Rove and Metatron.

Do the math. These people are even less intelligent than Bush. Write that down and never forget it. The respect is out the window. May they finally be compensated what little they are worth.
. . .

The difference between the genius and the ordinary man [dittohole] is, no doubt, a quantitative one, in so far as it is a difference of degree; but I am tempted to regard it also as qualitative, in view of the fact that ordinary minds, notwithstanding individual variation, have a certain tendency to think alike. Thus on similar occasions their thoughts at once all take a similar direction, and run on the same lines; and this explains why their judgments constantly agree—not, however, because they are based on truth. To such lengths does this go that certain fundamental views obtain amongst mankind at all times, and are always being repeated and brought forward anew, whilst the great minds of all ages are in open or secret opposition to them.

This partly explains why so many bloggers are so pissed at the mainstream media. They all think alike! Their minds are dull. They systematically lower the standards of the viewing public. And dittoheads even trumpet their fascism by announcing their compliance unon entering the public arena, apparently unaware of just how pornofornocacophagomaniacal they appear to the entirely decentralized International League of Genius. Wipe that booger from your nose, boy! Lest I remove it with my big toe.
. . .

In order to have original, uncommon, and perhaps even immortal thoughts, it is enough to estrange oneself so fully from the world of things for a few moments, that the most ordinary objects and events appear quite new and unfamiliar. In this way their true nature is disclosed. What is here demanded cannot, perhaps, be said to be difficult; it is not in our power at all, but is just the province of genius.
. . .


The mind of genius. . . sends forth light of its own, while the others reflect only that which they have received.

The mere man of learning, who spends his life in teaching what he has learned, is not strictly to be called a man of genius; just as idio-electrical bodies are not conductors. Nay, genius stands to mere learning as the words to the music in a song. A man of learning is a man who has learned a great deal; a man of genius, one from whom we learn something which the genius has learned from nobody.
Great minds, of which there is scarcely one in a hundred millions, are thus the lighthouses of humanity; and without them mankind would lose itself in the boundless sea of monstrous error and bewilderment.
And so the simple man of learning, in the strict sense of the word—the ordinary professor, for instance—looks upon the genius much as we look upon a hare, which is good to eat after it has been killed and dressed up. So long as it is alive, it is only good to shoot at.

Consider, if you will, the treatment of bloggers by many paid "real" journalists...

He continues...

He who wishes to experience gratitude from his contemporaries, must adjust his pace to theirs. But great things are never produced in this way. And he who wants to do great things must direct his gaze to posterity, and in firm confidence elaborate his work for coming generations. No doubt, the result may be that he will remain quite unknown to his contemporaries, and comparable to a man who, compelled to spend his life upon a lonely island, with great effort sets up a monument there, to transmit to future sea-farers the knowledge of his existence. If he thinks it a hard fate, let him console himself with the reflection that the ordinary man who lives for practical aims only, often suffers a like fate, without having any compensation to hope for; inasmuch as he may, under favorable conditions, spend a life of material production, earning, buying, building, fertilizing, laying out, founding, establishing, beautifying with daily effort and unflagging zeal, and all the time think that he is working for himself; and yet in the end it is his descendants who reap the benefit of it all, and sometimes not even his descendants. It is the same with the man of genius; he, too, hopes for his reward and for honor at least; and at last finds that he has worked for posterity alone. Both, to be sure, have inherited a great deal from their ancestors.

So worry ye not, fellow bloggers, about whether or not you are "discovered" or "strike it rich". You would not be a blogger if all you wanted was wealth or fame. At least you would not spend much time on it, which is, after what one does...since most do it for free, or very little. Your blog is a record that surely exceeds space, and hopefully exceeds time.
. . .
It is not only in the activity of his highest powers that the genius surpasses ordinary people. A man who is unusually well-knit, supple and agile, will perform all his movements with exceptional ease, even with comfort, because he takes a direct pleasure in an activity for which he is particularly well-equipped, and therefore often exercises it without any object. Further, if he is an acrobat or a dancer, not only does he take leaps which other people cannot execute, but he also betrays rare elasticity and agility in those easier steps which others can also perform, and even in ordinary walking.

I am somehow reminded here of Herr Bush's performance during the the debates. Supple and agile hardly describe it...

In the same way a man of superior mind will not only produce thoughts and works which could never have come from another; it will not be here alone that he will show his greatness; but as knowledge and thought form a mode of activity natural and easy to him, he will also delight himself in them at all times, and so apprehend small matters which are within the range of other minds, more easily, quickly and correctly than they. Thus he will take a direct and lively pleasure in every increase of Knowledge, every problem solved, every witty thought, whether of his own or another’s; and so his mind will have no further aim than to be constantly active. This will be an inexhaustible spring of delight; and boredom, that spectre which haunts the ordinary man, can never come near him.
. . .
Modesty in a great mind would, no doubt, be pleasing to the world; but, unluckily, it is a contradictio in adjecto. It would compel a genius to give the thoughts and opinions, nay, even the method and style, of the million preference over his own; to set a higher value upon them; and, wide apart as they are, to bring his views into harmony with theirs, or even suppress them altogether, so as to let the others hold the field. In that case, however, he would either produce nothing at all, or else his achievements would be just upon a level with theirs. Great, genuine and extraordinary work can be done only in so far as its author disregards the method, the thoughts, the opinions of his contemporaries, and quietly works on, in spite of their criticism, on his side despising what they praise. No one becomes great without arrogance of this sort. Should his life and work fall upon a time which cannot recognize and appreciate him, he is at any rate true to himself; like some noble traveler forced to pass the night in a miserable inn; when morning comes, he contentedly goes his way.
. . .
...with ordinary people...leisure has no value in itself, nor is it, indeed, without its dangers, as these people seem to know. The technical work of our time, which is done to an unprecedented perfection, has, by increasing and multiplying objects of luxury, given the favorites of fortune a choice between more leisure and culture upon the one side, and additional luxury and good living, but with increased activity, upon the other; and, true to their character, they choose the latter, and prefer champagne to freedom.
. . .
A man of talent will strive for money and reputation; but the spring that moves genius to the production of its works is not as easy to name. Wealth is seldom its reward.
. . .
On a closer examination, it seems as though, in the case of a genius, the will to live, which is the spirit of the human species, were conscious of having, by some rare chance, and for a brief period, attained a greater clearness of vision, and were now trying to secure it, or at least the outcome of it, for the whole species, to which the individual genius in his inmost being belongs; so that the light which he sheds about him may pierce the darkness and dullness of ordinary human consciousness and there produce some good effect.
Arising in some such way, this instinct drives the genius to carry his work to completion, without thinking of reward or applause or sympathy; to leave all care for his own personal welfare; to make his life one of industrious solitude, and to strain his faculties to the utmost. He thus comes to think more about posterity than about contemporaries; because, while the latter can only lead him astray, posterity forms the majority of the species, and time will gradually bring the discerning few who can appreciate him. Meanwhile it is with him as with the artist described by Goethe; he has no princely patron to prize his talents, no friend to rejoice with him:

Ein Fürst der die Talente schätzt,
Ein Freund, der sich mit mir ergötzt,
Die haben leider mir gefehlt.

His work is, as it were, a sacred object and the true fruit of his life, and his aim in storing it away for a more discerning posterity will be to make it the property of mankind. An aim like this far surpasses all others, and for it he wears the crown of thorns which is one day to bloom into a wreath of laurel. All his powers are concentrated in the effort to complete and secure his work; just as the insect, in the last stage of its development, uses its whole strength on behalf of a brood it will never live to see; it puts its eggs in some place of safety, where, as it well knows, the young will one day find life and nourishment, and then dies in confidence.