The Festival of Dangerous Ideas (Sidney, Australia) will include a session focused on the question Is progress threatened by the urge to burn it all down? The title of the session reminded me of something I read quite a few years ago:
Cupio dissolvi…These words have been going through my mind for quite a long time now. It’s Latin. They mean “I (deeply) wish to be annihilated/to annihilate myself”, the passive form signifying that the action can be carried out both by an external agent or by the subject himself…Cupio dissolvi… Through all the screaming and the shouting and the wailing and the waving of the rainbow cloth by those who invoke peace but want appeasement, I hear these terrible words ringing in my ears. These people have had this precious gift, this civilization, and they have got bored with it. They take all the advantages it offers them for granted, and despise the ideals that have powered it. They wish for annihilation, the next new thing, as if it was a wonderful party. Won’t it be great, dancing on the ruins?
The citation is from an Italian blogger who was only briefly active but put up several interesting and thought-provoking posts.
When I first read the above post, I was reminded of a passage from Walter Miller’s great novel A Canticle for Leibowitz:
…children of Merlin, chasing a gleam. Children, too, of Eve, forever building Edens – and kicking them apart in berserk fury because somehow it isn’t the same.
For discussion: How prevalent is the nihilistic and destructive attitude represented by the above quotes, and what are its causative factors? To what extent, if any, is it reversible?
The FDI is scheduled for September 18 and 19. Steven Pinker is the speaker for this session, and it is chaired by Claire Lehmann, the founder and publisher of Quillette.