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Against Happiness


Hieronymus Bosch, "The Haywain," after. 1510

1,673 words

A few days ago I had dinner with a co-worker. She knows nothing of my secret identity (i.e., Jef Costello) and I have never clued her in to the full extent of my political incorrectness. Nevertheless, as I do with so many others, I relish little opportunities to slip something into the conversation to make her think. Usually it consists in unfurling a bit of my colossal pessimism – my sense that everything is going to complete and utter hell. On this particular occasion she listened to me for awhile and then said, wearing a look of grave concern, “Are you happy?”

The question took me by surprise and I did not want to answer it. The honest answer, of course, is that no, I am not happy. But I didn’t want to say this, and for a variety of reasons. First of all, I knew what she was up to. She’s one of those people who think that if your outlook on the world makes you unhappy, something must be “wrong” with your outlook. My mother used to try the same jazz on me. I did reveal the full extent of my political incorrectness to her, and it made her worry. She was afraid of my being ostracized, and also of my views making me unhappy. And my mother had a simple solution to this: change your views. I patiently tried to explain to her that I could not just “change” my views like I change my clothes; that to simply refuse to see the things that I see would require a kind of self-delusion and intellectual dishonesty of which I’m not capable. But she’d just stare at me with that look that demands accompaniment by chirping crickets. It was like we spoke two different languages.

If I had simply said to my friend “Yes, I am unhappy,” she would have counted this as a victory of sorts. “You see,” she would say, or want to say, “You see what your sort of thinking leads to?” I just didn’t want to deal with this, so I simply smiled and said “Yes, of course I’m happy.” I don’t think she believed me, but the conversation moved onto something else. This is the sort of relationship I have with most of my “friends.” I’m not able to fully reveal myself to them. I present to them a censored version of myself. I hold my tongue (for the most part) when I hear them make patently absurd, naïve assertions about politics or culture. I like these people, for one reason or another, but the way I feel about them is kind of like how I feel about children. It seems like it would be sheer cruelty on my part to reveal too much of what I think, and to shatter their cherished illusions (including their illusions about me). I’ve lost more than one “friend” that way. And I don’t like dining alone.

No, I am not happy. How can I be, in a world like this? I am not weeping as I type this, nor is there an open, half-emptied bottle of J. T .S. Brown sitting beside my computer. I am not moping all the time, and there are aspects of my life with which I am quite satisfied. But I am not happy. There is simply too much that is wrong, and I get reminded of it far too often. I am profoundly disgusted with the modern world and with modern people. This culture is fatuous and vulgar, the people soulless, spineless, and narcissistic. And we’re poised to lose whatever is left that has any value, as our countries continue to undergo their barbarian invasions. The soulless, spineless people grin and wave as the barbarians stream in, morons lobotomized by political correctness. And that’s really the worst of it: the great feel-good, sensitive, gusher of pap that chokes us all today; the tissue of lies and childish platitudes before which we must all grovel.

I am not happy – and frankly I am proud of that. I couldn’t respect myself if I were happy and “well adjusted.”

The key problem with clinical psychology is that it uses “adjustment” as a criterion of mental health. But whether or not being “well adjusted” is a good thing depends entirely upon what one has adjusted to. If the world we are living in is rotten to the core, if it requires that we avoid thinking about or affirming obvious truths, if it requires us to censor our perception of reality and to lie all the time, if it cuts us off from nature, from our families, from our people and their history and traditions, and even from our own bodies — then being “well adjusted” to that world is a sign of profound mental and spiritual sickness.

Of course, the very concept of “adjustment” is pretty vague. One could certainly say that I have “adjusted” to the modern world, in a manner of speaking. I have adjusted to it by vowing to destroy it (see my essay “How I Found My Mission in Life [2]”). I have adjusted to it by policing my thoughts, words, actions, and even my wardrobe for any signs of influence from the cultural rot. Of course, in the eyes of most this would not make me well adjusted.

Still, I can imagine someone reading this and wondering if it might be possible to see all the problems with the world and be “happy” just the same. I am simply not interested in debating this point, however. The reason is that I do not believe that happiness is a goal we should strive for at all.

Nietzsche famously said “Man does not strive for happiness; only the Englishman does.” If only Nietzsche had known America! It was in America that the bourgeois, English pre-occupation with happiness really sprouted wings. Jefferson even made “the pursuit of happiness” one of the fundamental “rights of man.” What is shocking is that so many have seen this as a lofty sentiment. But isn’t there something entirely ignoble (and unmasculine) about a man who makes “being happy” the aim of his life – especially considering that in most cases “the pursuit of happiness” winds up being the pursuit of material comfort and security?

I do not seek happiness. Instead, I seek what one might call a certain sort of “satisfaction.” My aim is to live a life that I can be proud of. I want to take no actions, say no words, and think no thoughts that cause me shame. I am striving to be a noble man. And I am fully aware that the achievement of this goal (to whatever degree I can achieve it) will make me more of an outsider in the modern world. We have reached a point where qualities such as dignity, nobility, and reserve produce strongly negative, even hostile responses. I remember telling someone that I resented the indignity of having to take my shoes off in the security line at the airport. He said nothing, but the look on his face said “What makes you think you’re so special?”

I fully expect things to get far worse within my lifetime, and I fully expect that as I grow as a person — as I learn more and as my character improves — I will find it even more impossible to be happy in the modern world. I do not think it is implausible to think that I, and those like me, will be openly persecuted and physically threatened. In short, happiness is not just around the corner for me. But regardless of what happens, I know that I have, in a sense, risen above it. I am proud of the person I am. Becoming an excellent human being is the noblest and best goal that one can strive for in life.

Besides, striving for happiness makes no sense. Happiness depends upon factors that are not entirely within our control. At any moment we can be struck down by illness or by a bus, we can lose someone we cherish, lose our jobs, our homes can be burglarized or burned to the ground, etc. To strive to be “happy” all the time is to strive for the impossible. That was why Immanuel Kant (in his ethical writings) advised us not to strive for happiness, but to strive to be worthy of happiness. In other words, aim to be the best person you can be. That way, if happiness winds up being unattainable for you, you can at least take solace in knowing that you deserve better, and suffer through no fault of your own.

I also take some solace in knowing that while my life isn’t terribly happy, it is certainly interesting. In just about every conceivable way I live a life completely at odds with the modern world. And I must conceal a great deal of that life from others. I must write under multiple pseudonyms. I must keep friends compartmentalized, and not allow certain friends to meet others. I guess I’m sort of a secret agent — whose mission is to destroy the modern world. And I am using every modern convenience — such as the internet — to advance that mission. And I am trying to take Evola’s words to heart and “ride the tiger.”

I found long ago that I almost never enjoy my life as it is happening to me – yet I often look back with great fondness on periods which, at the time, I thought contained nothing but suffering. I am quite happy to be a member of the small fraternity of those who are too busy making themselves hard to be concerned with happiness. And I will probably look back at that process of making myself hard and smile. One of my aims is to reach the point of death with no major regrets about the life I have led.

Any fool (and any scoundrel) can be “happy.”