Creative Commons License

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Quotes Worth Saving (24): Georges Bataille "What We Are Starting Is A War" from Sacred Conspiracy

Georges Bataille (1897-1962) was an intellectual, writer, mystic, poet, archivist, revolutionary, surrealist, communist, sexualist, and librarian. In short, he kept himself busy.

"What we are starting is a war. It is time to abandon the world of the civilised and its light. It is too late to be reasonable and educated - which has led to a life without appeal. Secretly or not, it is necessary to become completely different, or to cease being. The world to which we have belonged offers nothing to love outside of each individual insufficiency: its existence is limited to utility. A world that cannot be loved to the point of death- in the same way that a man loves a woman- represents only self-interest and the obligation to work. If it is compared to worlds gone by, it is hideous, and appears as the most failed of all. In past worlds, it was possible to lose oneself in ecstasy, which is impossible in our world of educated vulgarity. The advantages of civilisation are offset by the way men profit from them: men today profit in order to become the most degraded beings that have ever existed. Life has always taken place in a tumult without apparent cohesion, but it only finds its grandeur and its reality in ecstasy and in ecstatic love. He who tries to ignore or misunderstand ecstasy is an incomplete being whose thought is reduced to analysis. Existence is not only an agitated void, it is a dance that forces one to dance with fanaticism. Thought that does not have a dead fragment as its object has the inner existence of flames. It is necessary to become sufficiently firm and unshaken so that the existence of the world of civilisation finally appears uncertain. It is use less to respond to those who are able to believe in the existence of this world and who take their authority from it; if they speak, it is possible to look at them without hearing them and, even when one looks at them, to "see" only what exists far behind them. It is necessary to refuse boredom and live only for fascination. On this path, it is vain to become restless and seek to attract those who have idle whims, such as passing the time, laughing, or becoming individually bizarre. It is necessary to go forward without looking back and without taking into account those who do not have the strength to forget individual reality."


I think that this quote, one of my favourites, can be read in several ways. Many of which will be wrong, not that I believe my own perspective is the definitive, indeed, in a sense even an erroneous interpretation is still worthwhile in that it might shed a differing view. It is rather whether we take this singular description as the only description, rather than as one way of many. Reading through Bataille's own works will give one a greater idea of the author's own intent, but I will assume that those reading this might not have spent this time.

Here then is one thought. The 'civilisation' being rejected is the so-called civilised world of the neo-liberal capitalists that we all now inhabit. A world that has made us all ignore the beauty of a communal society for one of individualistic striving and domination.