Are we, then, insane?

by maddrunkgenius

“Our common destiny is the sum of our single lives, and each of these single lives is developing quite normally, in accordance, as it were, with its private logicality. We feel the totality to be insane, but for each single life we can easily discover logical guiding motives. Are we, then, insane because we have not gone mad?”
-Hermann Broch

If that’s not a great quote, I swear I don’t know what is.

We live in a truly awful world, this place we call earth and life. Broch wrote that during the late twenties and early thirties of the 20th century, a time considerably more awful than anything I’ve ever experienced, but not nearly as bad as it was going to get in Europe over the next two decades. Somehow, in a world full of people who think they’re behaving rationally, we get things that happen so terrible and irrational we can scarcely explain it, and can’t at all comprehend it.

What was rational about the Holocaust? Or the Rape of Nanking? Or the firebombings of Tokyo and Dresden? What makes sense about slaughtering innocent people, be it with bombs, bayonets, or gas chambers? What makes sense about letting it happen in Africa these days after decades of saying “Never again”?

I think you could substitute ideas of “good” and “evil” for “logical” and “insane” quite easily and come to the same conclusion. Very few people actively pursue actions they feel are “evil”, but overall, moral conditions are very bad. Evil is everywhere, perpetuated by everyone all the time.

It doesn’t make any sense. So many good intentions shouldn’t pave the way to hell, I don’t care what the proverb says. With so many people striving to do right, we should be better off than this, but we aren’t. We still turn out stupid and evil and crazy.

It doesn’t justify anything, and we shouldn’t embrace it, either. That would be insane. But no matter how hard we try to preserve sanity and goodness, we’ll always fail, because there will always be people who disagree about what makes sense and what’s good.

I don’t know where I’m going with this, and I have nothing clever to wrap it up with.