No Comment, Quotation — November 13, 2007, 12:00 am

Freud on the Question of Humankind’s Fate

sigmund_freud-loc

Die Schicksalsfrage der Menschenart scheint mir zu sein, ob und in welchem Maße es ihrer Kulturentwicklung gelingen wird, der Störung des Zusammenlebens durch den menschlichen Aggressions- und Selbstvernichtungstrieb Herr zu werden. In diesem Bezug verdient vielleicht die gegenwärtige Zeit ein besonderes Interesse. Die Menschen haben es jetzt in ihrer Beherrschung der Naturkräfte so weit gebracht, dass sie es mit deren Hilfe leicht haben, einander bis auf den letzten Mann auszurotten. Sie wissen das, daher ein gut Stück ihrer gegenwärtigen Unruhe, ihres Unglücks, ihrer Angststimmung. Und nun ist zu erwarten, dass die andere der beiden „himmlischen Kräfte“, der ewige Eros, eine Anstrengung machen wird, um sich im Kampf mit seinem ebenso unsterblichen Gegner zu behaupten. Aber wer kann den Erfolg und Ausgang voraussehen?

The fateful question for humankind appears to me to be whether and in what measure its cultural development will succeed in mastering the disruption of communal life which results from the human drives towards aggression and self-destruction. The present times warrant special attention in this regard. Human beings have gained control over the forces of nature to such an extent that at length they will have no difficulty in exterminating the species down to the last man. They know this, and hence is to be derived a good portion of the current unrest, unhappiness and the sense of anxiety. And thus it is to be expected that the other one of the two “celestial powers,” namely the eternal Eros, will make an effort to assert itself in battle with its equally immortal adversary. But who can foresee with what success and with what result?

Sigmund Freud, Das Unbehagen in der Kultur pt. viii (1930-31) in: Werkausgabe vol. 2, p. 424 (A. Freud & I. Grubrich-Simitis eds. 1978)(S.H. transl.)

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

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The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

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