September 12, 2020: Camus\’ Rebel

 It\’s 10:30am. The light outside is the brown-yellow of a cigarette stained wall because of this season\’s wildfires. Denis Villeneuve released a trailer for his movie Dune yesterday and there\’s a joke circulating around the internet asking, \”How big is Dune\’s marketing budget?\” because the West Coast looks like a balmy morning on Mars (or in this case, Arrakis). 

Yesterday I met up with a fellow redditor from /r/PNWriders. We rode for over seven hours: down I-90 to Ellensburg, then Yakima, 410, down 123,  and most importantly through Stevens Canyon. The views weren\’t as good because of the smoke. But it was still the most beautiful ride I have been on. 

Kris was going to come with us but he was afraid that it was going to get too smoky. But irony won in our favor, and our trip was less smoky than Seattle.  

I also finally bought a in-helmet mic/speaker system. —Total game changer. 

 When I went to sleep, I spent what felt like an hour laying in bed, restless, thinking of all the different ways I could have crashed yesterday. —Visions of The Sausage Creature

This morning I finally finished The Rebel. Here is my GoodReads review: 

For me, The Rebel was life changing and exceedingly relevant, a cornerstone to build my future on. A warning to those who would worship a virtue (see: justice) or sacrifice the present for the future. A call to respect the dignity and suffering of every person.

Camus makes an important distinction between a Rebel and a Revolutionary. The Revolutionary is a nihilist willing to use any means at their disposal. The Revolutionary thinks they will, once and for all, bring an end to suffering—to end injustice, oppression, disparity, inequality, scarcity. But the revolution does not stop because, how can it? For the perfect future has not arrived. So, the revolution must use any means at its disposal (namely violence and oppression) to achieve its vision.

It is as if the Revolutionary Leader says, \”It is our turn to oppress.\”

The Rebel knows that the world will always be imperfect, but he does not become complacent. He bears the tension and suffering that this knowledge brings. He looks at both the oppressor and oppressed in the eye and thereby fights for all humanity, humanizing both master and slave. The Rebel changes the world in the ways that he can. He brings light and then suffers like Prometheus. And, like Sisyphus, he knows that his work is never done.

This was written in response to 20th Century Communism and Marxism, but it is much more than that. Camus touches on a philosophical problem in our collective human heart: our desire to unify our fragmented world into a totalizing unity and our tendency to sacrifice human life in the name of a perfect future.

The Rebel is saturated with brilliant paragraphs and one-liners. This is one of my most underlined and annotated books.


\”Man is the only creature that refuses to be what he is.\” p.11

\”…the rebel\’s aim is to defend what he is. He does not merely claim some good that he does not possess or of which he was deprived.\” p.17 (Here, C compares Rebellion to Resentment, which he thinks is a motivating factor of Revolution.)

\”The metaphysical rebel declares that he is frustrated by the universe.\” p.23

\”From the moment that man submits God to moral judgement, he kills Him in his own heart.\” p.62

\”There is only one religion that exists throughout all history, the belief in eternity. This belief is a deception.\” p.64 (Camus says this in reference to both religion and the aims of Marxist revolution.)

\”For Marx, nature is to be subjugated in order to obey history; for Nietzsche, nature is to be obeyed in order to subjugate history.\” p.79

\”Rebellion is, by nature, limited in scope. It is no more than an incoherent pronouncement. Revolution, on the contrary, originates in the realm of ideas. Specifically, it is the injection of ideas into historical experience, while rebellion is only the movement that leads from individual experience into the realm of ideas.\” p.106

\”The insurgent rejects slavery and affirms his equality with his master. he wants to be master in his turn.\” p.109

\”To kills men leads to nothing but killing more men.\” p.109

\”…the terrorists were born, disillusioned with love, united against the crimes of their master, but alone in their despair, and face to face with their contradictions, which they could resolve only in their double sacrifice of their innocence and their life.\” p.164

\”The future is the only transcendental value for men without God.\” p.166 (Not an argument for belief in God, rather an argument against building a life based on transcendental principles.)

\”All modern revolutions have ended in a reinforcement of the power of the State.\” p.177 (Of slightly dubious veracity but meaningful and relevant.)

\”…the negation of everything is in itself a form of servitude and that real freedom is an inner submission to a value which defies history and its successes.\” p.186

On Marxism: \”Prophecy functions on a very long-term basis and has as one of its properties a characteristic that is the very source of strength of all religions: the impossibility of proof. When [Marx\’s] predictions failed to come true, the prophecies remained the only hope…\” p.189

\”That is the mission of the proletariat: to bring from supreme dignity from supreme humiliation. Through its suffering and its struggles, it is Christ in human form redeeming the collective sin of [the Marxist concept of] alienation.\” p.206

\”Power cannot be looked forward to or else it is looked forward to indefinitely.\” p.206

On the good in Marx: \”…[Marx] reminded the privileged that their privileges were not divine and that property was not an eternal right. He gave a bad conscience to those who had no right to a clear conscience. … To him we owe the idea which is the despair of our times—but here despair is worth more than any hope—that when work is a degradation, it is not lif, even though it occupies every moment of a life.\” p.2019

\”[Marx\’s] desire to systematize made him oversimplify everything.\” p. 213

\”Poverty and degeneration have never ceased to be what they were before Marx\’s time, and what he did not want to admit they were despite all his observations: factors contributing to servitite not to revolution.\” p.214

\”The authoritarian socialists deemed that history was going too slowly and that it was necessary, in order to hurry it on, to entrust the mission of the proletariat to a handful of doctrinaires.\” p.217

\”…Capitalism becomes oppressive through the phenomenon of accumulation. [Capitalism] is oppressive through being what it is, it accumulates in order to increase what it is, to exploit it all the more, and accordingly to accumulate still more. […] …the revolution, in its turn, becomes industrialized and realizes that, when accumulation is an attribute of technology itself, and not of capitalism, the machine finally conjures up the machine. Every form of collectivity, fighting for survival, is forced to accumulate instead of distributing its revenues. It accumulates in order to increase in size and so to increase in power.\” p.219

\”The end of history is not an exemplary or perfectionist value; it is an arbitrary and terroristic principle.\” p.224

\”Lenin believes only in the revolution and in the virtue of expediency.\” p.226

\”Pseudo-regulutionary mystification has now acquired a formula: all freedom must be crushed in order to conquer the empire, and one day the empire will be the equivalent of freedom. And so the way to unity passes through totality.\” p.233

\”The real passion of the twentieth century is servitude.\” p.234

\”Those who reject the agony of living and dying wish to dominate.\” p.248

\”Rebellion, in man, is the refusal to be treated as an object and to be reduced to simple historical terms.\” p.250

\”Rebellion\’s demand is unity; historical revolution\’s demand is totality.\” p.251

\”To create beauty, he must simultaneously reject reality and exalt certain of its aspects. Art disputes reality, but does not hide from it.\” p.258

\”…perhaps there is a living transcendence of which beauty carries the promise, which can make this mortal and limited world preferable to and more appealing than any other. Art thus leads us back to the origins of rebellion.\” p.258

\”In art, rebellion is consummated and perpetuated in the act of real creation, not in criticism or commentary.\” p.272

\”A creative period in art is determined by the order of a particular style applied to the disorder of a particular time.\” p.274

\”And for those of us who have been thrown into hell, mysterious melodies and the torturing images of a vanished beauty will always bring us, in the midst of crime and folly, the echo of that harmonious insurrection which bears witness, through the centuries, to the greatness of humanity.\” p.276

***\”Art, at least, teaches us that man cannot be explained by history alone and that he also finds a reason for his existence in the order of nature. For him, the great god Pan is not dead.\”*** p.276

***\”The procedure of beauty, which is to contest reality while endowing it with unity, is also the procedure of rebellion.\”*** p.276

\”The mutual understanding and communication discovered by rebellion can survive only in the free exchange of conversation. Every ambiguity, every misunderstanding, leads to death; clear language and simple words are the only salvation from this death. Plato is right and not Moses and Nietzsche. Dialogue on the level of mankind is less costly than the gospel preached by totalitarian regimes in the form of a monologue dictated from the top of a lonely mountain.\” p. 283-284

\”…the rebel can never find peace. He knows what is good and, despite himself, does evil. The value that supports him is never given to him once and for all; he must fight to uphold it, unceasingly. […] His only virtue will lie in never yielding to the impulse to allow himself to be engulfed in the shadows that surround him and in obstinately dragging the chains of evil, with which he is bound, toward the light of good.\” p.285-286

\”Absolute justice is achieved by the suppression of all contradiction: therefore it destroys freedom.\” p.288

\”…it is time to forsake our age and its adolescent furies. \” p.306

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