Wednesday, October 10, 2012

History Student Angst

I'll just keep writing until more of you come back.  Things are better now in some ways, but I have lapsed into some kind of bourgie intellectual laziness.  Was my ambition sharpened by that morass of disappointment and recrimination?

Anyway, I like to read books about really powerful people (I wanted to say "great men") and ask myself if I'd do better.  Would I be me, were I some minor noble artillerist from Corsica?  Would I be me, were my father a king?  Would I be me, were I some horny young man with an attractive classmate conveniently drunk?

In short, I return to this--am I my assumed inclination or am I no more virtuous than my opportunity will allow?  I can't point to my restraint in this--abusers do it all the time, highlight their hesitance to offset their indulgence of brutal instincts.  I want to show you the times I've been kind to the weak and the useless, the patience I show with my boys, the time I've spent listening to those who are clearly lonely.  I was born low and I'm low in rank.  Of course this means that I see more utility in kindness, collaboration, and kindred spirit.  But what if I really didn't need anyone?  What if I stood atop a tower of bodies, others holding me up while many lie stilled by the hands of my servants?  What if I were born, as I am born, to a heritage of conquest and possession, only I occupied a rank far above any I can imagine?  What if I, an American in the greatest age of diffusion of responsibility, a man who lives under spectacle and remote drones, really stood in a place of total culpability, a place where my decisions mattered not to handfuls but millions?

Who am I to say I'd do better than the butchers?  Can the answer be anything other than assertion, opinion, speculation?