Friday, February 29, 2008

Bludgeoning the Poor

A rather interesting episode is retold in a book which could aptly be described as a 'guide' to the philosophy dealing with the problem of evil found in Baudelaire, Nietzsche and Hitler.
It involves Baudelaire and is contained within the brief chapter 'Baudelaire on Bludgeoning the Poor'. While the title certainly does not imply a manifesto on humanitarianism, the story is for me an appropriate example of the paradoxical nature of seeming inferiority and the true, natural necessity for intense, sudden sensations as the guiding principles of the mystery of human judgement.

'He (Baudelaire) went outside and as he was entering a cabaret, a beggar reached out of his hat to him... At that very instant a familiar voice whispered in his ear. It was the voice of the ''demon of action, the demon of combat, that good angel, or good demon,'' who accompanied the poet everywhere he went to advise, prompt, persuade him. The voice whispered: ''Only he is equal to another who proves it, and he alone is worthy of freedom and who knows how to conquer it.''
At that point, the poet instantly jumped upon the beggar and with a single blow of the fist hit him in the eye, which in a second's time grew as big as a ball...grabbing a big branch, the poet commenced to beat the old man with the obstinate energy of a cook tenderizing a piece of steak.
Then all of a sudden, inspiring in the poet what he called the pleasure of a philosopher confirming the excellence of a theory, the ''antiquated carcass'' that he had beaten over turned over, stood up with more energy than the poet ever would have suspected to find ''in so singularly broken down machine, '' and with a look of hatred that seemed a good omen to the poet, that ''decrepit brigand'' threw himself upon his attacker, blackened both eyes, broke four teeth, and laid him flat.
The poet concluded that this strong medicine had given the old man back his pride and his life.'

The Roots and Flowers of Evil in Baudelaire, Nietzsche, and Hitler by Claire Ortiz Hill

This argument certainly has some logic to it, and there is a pleasant air of rejuvenation in it which I find rather attractive. The idea of violence, provoked merely by the intricate workings of human sensations, inependent of any deep political or philosophical convictions, is appealing because it transcends morality inasmuch as it takes into account the idea of human irrationality and inexorable strive towards chaos. If that is taken out of the equation, what are we left with but a monotonous continuum of impotent rumination, hence a singular, plebeian state of being. In our seemingly perpetual reflective existence, there is the recurring theme of helplesness which I've noticed bloggers are prone to experiencing. In their well-carved out posts, they assume the role of tragedians - pouring volumes of scornful, sometimes demonic remarks and commentaries so as to provoke an openly-desired mass of comments which often total strangers stumble across, initially bewildered but gradually recognising the general gist of it all. That moment of recognition triggers certain impulses within the mind which could be compared with the 'demon of action' referenced in the passage above- a revitalisation of the essential driving force of action - impetuousity. The almost sinister atmosphere created by one suddenly finding oneself amid a highly-charged sea of insomniac bloggers is enticing because of its murkiness and because it represents what could quite possibly be a previously unexplored area of mental abstraction, so elegantly manifested in blogs.
While there is hardly any novelty in the concept of 'bludgeoning the poor', if its basic substance serves the role of an 'energizer' its value could most fittingly be found within that unity and strange coherence that it forms between individual bloggers. Their endless strife for intellectual insight, their ineluctable desire to vent their views through the sinister latency of late-night blogging, though physically and perhaps psychologically unhealthy, is what ultimately prevails.
They bludgeon each other and here lies their strength.


At 1 March 2008 at 06:12 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd have to agree: provocation is the default vocation of a blogger. At the very least it's a fallback measure for those evil times when the excessive desire to write combines with a total lack of ideas.

I've been meaning to pick up that particular book for such a long time. I'm glad you posted some tidbits from it online. Incidentally, have you heard of The Abyss Above by Silke-Maria Weineck? It has a similarly intriguing investigation of the philosophy of madness.

At 1 March 2008 at 09:40 , Blogger IPCHUK said...

No I'm not familiar with that particular book but thanks for the reference and from what I've gathered, it certainly seems a worthwhile read.
As to Claire Ortiz Hill's work that I referred to in the post, well it's a helpful summation of some of the key ideas of Baudelaire, Nietzsche and Hitler and makes good analysis of excerpts from some of their writings. Other key figures such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Tolstoy are likewise explored in their views on non-violence. It does read rather like an encyclopedia but most of the time, some of the conclusions drawn are insightful and thought-provoking though not terribly original. It's not particularly detailed but the associations and links made within it serve to make it a great reference for everyday use.

At 4 March 2008 at 15:30 , Blogger Louis Berceli said...

Shrieking at one's neighbors is a time-honored practice that many civilizations have been built upon.

Brilliant essay.

At 5 March 2008 at 06:55 , Blogger ¡Benjaminista! said...

Reminded me of an article I read in my daily paper here in Canada (, but much more poetically stated. Have you read any Sorel? I've always wanted to pick up "Reflections on Violence" but I think it's permanently out of circulation. One of the few (only?) "realistic" Marxists. You've articulated something important here, a manifesto for the self-loathing side of the blogosphere (there needs to be a better name!).

At 5 March 2008 at 16:12 , Blogger Louis Berceli said...

The Dark Empire of Blog?

That last one could be fantasy novel.

At 5 March 2008 at 20:33 , Blogger IPCHUK said...

Thanks for all your comments. I never suspected this post would generate such positive feedback.
As to the fitting term for what Ben has described as 'the self-loathing side of the blogosphere', may I suggest 'blok'. It's an obvious pun on 'blog', it has the air of that great Orwellian simple effectiveness, and most importantly it is also the surname of Alexander Blok - the great Russian early 20th century poet whose works were renowned for their ambiguity and complex symbolism yet still managing to be lyrically beautiful - all things that we bloggers are likewise world-reputed for.
Please feel free to disapprove of 'blok' but I think it's perfect for the job.

At 6 March 2008 at 01:48 , Blogger Underground Dude said...

This is weird. I posted a comment before Louie, but it didn't go. Well, I'll try to repost it from memory.

Impossible not to recognise myself in the role of tragedian with my demonic remarks. And an honour it is to be compared with Baudelaire. This birching may be considered one of his masterpieces.

Is English your second language too? Your writing is extraordinary, especially since you're seventeen.

By the way, I downloaded an album by FSB, and enjoyed it, but couldn't find the song "Winter House".

At 6 March 2008 at 14:32 , Blogger Louis Berceli said...

Good god, I never realized Ipchuk was 17. At that age my greatest concerns were blowjobs and B movies.

His profile says he's from jolly old England though, so I'm not sure if English is his second language.

Unless I missed some mention of his being an expatriate, in which case I just made an ass of myself.

At 6 March 2008 at 14:48 , Blogger IPCHUK said...

Underground Dude sorry about the deleted comment, I probably did that while I was posting my own comment so it was simply a mistake.

And yes, English is my second language though I have been living in England for just over 6 years now. Thanks for downloading that album by FSB by the way. Not many people are actually bothered to check out some foreign music from time to time these days. The song 'Winter House', you can find here:
The slideshow has nothing to do with the song, it's simply the work of a true fan!

At 6 March 2008 at 15:27 , Blogger Underground Dude said...

No problem.

I like foreign music, especially obscure prog bands. Great song. Do you have the album with this song in it? Could you rip and share it? I have some stuff here you might enjoy, prog-wise. Do you SoulSeek?

At 7 March 2008 at 17:09 , Blogger IPCHUK said...

I only recently downloaded SoulSeek and I've never really used it, but I'll be happy to share some music.
If you are a fan of Torrents, the link for the ultimate anthology of songs by FSB is here:

At 7 March 2008 at 17:29 , Blogger Underground Dude said...

Thank you.

At 11 March 2008 at 05:27 , Blogger ¡Benjaminista! said...

I like "blok." The single K is kafkaesque. And the resemblance to "bloc" is a triple word score pun.


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