Saturday, June 05, 2021

"How to Be Hopeless": Hour-long video by Carlos Maza would seem to refute the idea of personal agency



NYC, 2016/9

Here is Carlos Maza’s 56-minute trope from April 9, 2021, “How to Be Hopeless   There is also a longer, 2-hour livestream.

He bases his commentary on the 1947 book “The Plague  (“La Peste”), by Albert Camus, about a hypothetical pandemic in Oran in French Algeria and a man’s “escape” from it, so to speak.

He starts out by noting that most people believe they are the “protagonist” of their own “novel”, literally like The Protagonist of Christopher Nolan’s film Tenet.  This sort of intrinsic self-centeredness is really what of we could call “personal high agency”.  There is a belief that a successful, or at least a competent person, stays in control of things that can affect him, doesn’t make mistakes, and doesn’t contaminate himself by associating with losers.  (I’ll drop pronoun courtesy for the moment.)  Taken literally when faced with a pandemic, that could mean you are fit enough to overcome it if you get it. It sounds not like Darwin but probably Herbert Spencer. It isn’t hard to imagine the danger of this philosophy – by focusing on individual fitness as the moral indivisible, it invites fascism (and the era of Trump, culminating in January 6, which this video includes some footage of).

That’s not to overlook the idea that whole groups (starting with race) were designated as less fit by those in charge. At the other end, there is the idea of accepting your own ego-loss but to keep on fighting for the vulnerable, in solidarity with them because you admit you are no better than them. 

Then what happens to optimism with so many other personalities on YouTube (Tyler Mowery, Max Reisinger, John Fish) who seem to be in a position to take charge of things with enough care and acceptable distance from ruinous risk.  The far Left will insist this happens only with exploitation (“capitalism”) and so the individual is left to “pay his dues”, except that critical theory will throw him into a group anyway.

Maza made the video in April.  Physically, he looks good and has apparently avoided the pain of the disease personally and would certainly be vaccinated now. Maza, in fact, is said to be well-off despite his “socialism”.  He has done great work in the past for Vox (his interview of David Hogg was a masterpiece).  But then this feud with Crowder took everyone else down on YouTube with him in mid 2019, two years ago today, eight months before pandemic.

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