Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Culture Deprived of Inheritance (Part 1)

Ortega y Gasset On the Delusion of Western Decline

The whole world--nations and individuals--is demoralised. For a time this demoralisation rather amuses people, and even causes a vague illusion. The lower ranks think that a weight has been lifted off them. Decalogues retain from the time they were written on stone or bronze their character of heaviness. The etymology of command conveys the notion of putting a load into someone's hands. He who commands cannot help being a bore. Lower ranks the world over are tired of being ordered and commanded, and with holiday air take advantage of a period freed from burdensome imperatives. But the holiday does not last long. Without commandments, obliging us to live after a certain fashion, our existence is that of the "unemployed." This is the terrible spiritual situation in which the best youth of the world finds itself today. By dint of feeling itself free, exempt from restrictions, it feels itself empty. An "unemployed" existence is a worse negation of life than death itself. Because to live means to have something definite to do--a mission to fulfil--and in the measure in which we avoid setting our life to something, we make it empty. Before long there will be heard throughout the planet the formidable cry, rising like the howling of innumerable dogs to the stars, asking for someone or something to take command, to impose an occupation, a duty. This for those people who, with the thoughtlessness of children, announce that Europe is no longer in command. To command is to give people something to do, to fit them into their destiny, to prevent their wandering aimlessly about in an empty, desolate existence.

José Ortega y Gasset The Revolt of the Masses