The Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in Life . Serialised in quotes XI: Achieving immortality through shopping and nationalism

Studies have shown that people who view death most negatively are most attracted to high-status material possessions, especially if they have shaky self-esteem.

“The human animal is a beast that dies and if he’s got money he buys and buys and buys and I think the reason he buys everything he can buy is that in the back of his mind he has the crazy hope that one of his purchases will be life everlasting.” Tennessee Williams

Nationalism, and passionate affection for, deference toward, and identification with, charismatic leaders, therefore supplies what Rank aptly dubbed “collective immortality” to satisfy our aching need for heroic triumph over death.

In a 1935 speech commemorating the death of sixteen of his followers in the 1923 putsch, Hitler affirmed their symbolic immortality: “These sixteen soldiers have celebrated a resurrection unique in world history. … They are now attaining German immortality. … Yet for us they are not dead. … Long live our National Socialist Germany! Long live our people! And may today the dead of our Movement, Germany and its men, living and dead, live on!”

“History,” Ernest Becker concluded , “can be viewed as “a succession of immortality ideologies.”


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