Thursday, 4 May 2017

Fyodor Dostoyevsky on Donald Trump



I cannot help myself: Donald Trump is so much on my mind right now that I find traces of him everywhere, in a vain attempt to get my head around the whole Trump phenomenon and generally to figure out what the hell is going on in the world right now. Currently I am reading a lot of Dostoyevski, and I just stumbled across the following passage in his (quite fabulous, I must say) Notes from Underground, which strikes me as providing an explanation that is as good as any other that I’ve heard so far:

Man really is stupid, phenomenally stupid. That is, he’s by no means stupid, but rather he’s so ungrateful that it would be hard to find the likes of him. I, for example, would not be the least bit surprised if suddenly, out of the blue, amid the universal future reasonableness, some gentleman of ignoble, or, better, of retrograde and jeering physiognomy, should emerge, set his arms akimbo, and say to us all: “Well, gentlemen, why don’t we reduce all this reasonableness to dust with one good kick, for the whole purpose of sending all these logarithms to the devil and living once more according to our own stupid will!” That would  still be nothing, but what is offensive is that he’d be sure to find followers: that’s how man is arranged.

In other words, there is no rational explanation. People simply got fed up with being reasonable and with being expected to behave reasonably. They saw an opportunity and seized it. Man’s ‘wanting’, as the underground man would say, has shaken off its fetters once again. 

Source: Notes from Underground, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, Everyman’s Library, p. 24-5.

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