"BUT THE MAN we see every day--the worker in Mr. Gradgrind's factory, the little clerk in Mr. Gradgrind's office--he is too mentally worried to believe in freedom. He is kept quiet with revolutionary literature. He is calmed and kept in his place by a constant succession of wild philosophies. He is a Marxian one day, a Nietzscheite the next day, a Superman (probably) the next day; and a slave every day. The only thing that remains after all the philosophies is the factory. The only man who gains by all the philosophies is Gradgrind. It would be worth his while to keep his commercial helotry supplied with skeptical literature. And now I come to think of it, of course, Gradgrind is famous for giving libraries. He shows his sense. All modern books are on his side. As long as the vision of heaven is always changing, the vision of earth will be exactly the same. No ideal will remain long enough to be realized, or even partly realized. The modern young man will never change his environment; for he will always change his mind."
~G.K. Chesterton (Orthodoxy)
What interests me, here, is the idea of the changing ideologies which change nothing. The man in the factory is fed them, he is even nourished by them to some extent, but nothing changes except for the ever-changing ideologies.
There are many ways to look at this.
One of them is this: in researching Heinrich Mann, Nietzsche, Wagner, Schopenhauer, etc.--all these people who sought to influence in a total kind of way--we can see that they changed their minds over time in radical ways, and kept changing their positions and opinions of each other, also. Since we have the biography of Heinrich Mann in front of us, we will examine him in a bit of detail, but also Nietzsche, for example changed his mind on many fronts over time. For example his devotion to Schopenhauer and to Wagner took 180 degree turns with time. The only guiding thought is, that they themselves have to make themselves heard in order to educated the imbecilic masses, or else change the "bourgeois" culture. They having been called to be guiding lights to the world of those whose spirit ("Geist") seems to be lacking in higher qualities.
In as far as capitalistic oppression, neglect and deriding of workers and their families was a crime against humanity, we can go along with them all. Industrialization was a brutal process and often wrong and unfair in relation to the environment and human beings. In as far, however, as that these poor oppressed must now submit to the new metaphysical schemes of writers and philosophers, or else must be fixed through eugenics and other kinds of new oppression, we cannot go along with them. I always wonder how eugenics came up into the mix. Certainly we saw already with Fichte we had a nationalism based on race and superiority of the blood and language. Perhaps we moved from language to blood, to tribes and genetics, as "science" allowed.
Genetics and Darwinian natural selection do seem to have a place in Nietzsche's idea of the "Uebermensch" or the Superman. The Superman is someone who has developed or evolved further than the regular human being. The regular human being is to the Superman, as the monkey is to regular human beings. Society needs to get stretched somehow into this superior race. I haven't read enough Nietzsche to know how he proposes this happens. However, we do know it has to do with unburdening ourselves of the Christian worldview which supposedly supports slavishness instead of evolving superior people.
From Chesterton we can learn an awful lot. He shows up the fallacies in a lot of bad thinking. We can also see that Christianity stands outside of all the fads and even how it could serve as a corrective in all these ideologies. Full power Capitalism, where Mammon reigns supreme, certainly isn't the answer either. Jesus warned about that most consistently and sternly. Marxism says one thing but oppresses most ferociously with a new elite. This is pure hypocrisy and lies. All man-made philosophies can be fun and can make you feel superior and smart, and a called leader, but they most certainly only have their day and pass away to be critiqued by the next batch who also keep changing their minds. They say it is a game and it sure looks like a game. And all who don't like to play are stick-in-the-mud's, obviously in need of having their spirit or consciousness improved. Here comes in the "decadence" perhaps, we looked at yesterday. The guy in the factory feeding his family is not having a game. And the guy in the factory is maybe not the one who needs to evolve into a higher human being.
Alright, let's look, as a study and example, at our dear Heinrich Mann.
In his youthful days, he edited a newspaper that catered to the most "conservative" ideas of his time. This is really quite shocking. I will quote from "Ein Leben wird besichtigt" and translate myself as I go.
There is in the beginning a strange episode He becomes the editor of the paper "The 20th Century". This paper, with the subtitle "German National Monthly for Social Life, Politics, Science and Literature", had been in existence since 1890. The first editor was Erwin Bauer, who created the introduction of the pertinent guiding principles. He established the goals for which the paper was to work. "1. Support for the Monarchy and 'every foreign and inner politics, which further the strengthening and increase in the Reich'; 2. Support the unity of the German People, 'as far as the German language reaches'; 3. Propagating of a 'economic real politics', the goal of which is to strengthen the Reich, lifts its common wealth and distributes its burdens, responsibilities and goods in the most just way; 4. The 'main concerns' of an 'energetic social policy' must be established by the needs of the 'middle classes', but not the 'demands of the so-called workers'; 5. Fight for 'truth in public and social life', which means 'Return to the particular German tribal qualities which have got lost due to the influence of other races; a return to the simple, national 'Volkstum' [Germaness] ; 6. Promotion of the 'true evangelical Christianity' and 7. Promotion of a 'healthy and modern Realism in art and literature'; (p. 81)
We see here the alliance of various ideas: monarchy plus expansionism plus "Realpolitik", middle-class vs. workers, plus German-ness cleaned up of other race's ideas, religion, art and literature. I, personally, am shocked that such a mix could exists in some minds in 1890. Somehow, it seems to foreshadow both world wars. For one thing the true evangelical message was never to be aligned with power politics and differences in race or language. My heart just fell into my pants, as we say in German ("Das Herz ist mir in die Hose gefallen.") When Luther made a plea for the dealing with Jewish problems, he never appealed to race or language. This cultural religious idea or ideal has other sources, as we have already seen. The concerns seem to however overlap in problems associated with financial clout and exploitation. This has always been a problem in anti-semitism. Luther also saw the poor, lowly Christian exploited by Jewish charging of interest on loans, in cahoots with the emperor of the time. But this is still cited as a problem.
Thus agitates Heinrich Mann:
From the East, Russia, with its tumbled together mix of inferior races, is threatening western culture and civilization. Civilized Europe should bind itself together as the United States of Europe, so that this danger can be met militarily, if necessary. Whoever, in this state of affairs is sticking to ideas of inactive Pacifism, is putting into danger the great achievements of western culture.
But not only lurk these dangers to western culture from outside the country, Heinrich Mann, believes to also discern many dangers from inside. A dangerous influence against culture, is said to emanate from the Jews. ... The orthodox Jews are hardly to be feared. They are said to be simply poor people who exist in the eastern areas of the Reich and live by begging. Mann's attacks concentrate on the Jewish high finance and academia. The Jewish high finance is building its economic might on the backs of the middle classes, which they are ruining with their cartels. The powerful people accept ever only one 'god': money. Within their primitive materialism there is said to be no recognition for the accomplishments of the 'Geist' ['spirit', 'intellect'], which should be striven for, for their own sake [not monetary gain]. The true, western culture rests upon accomplishments of this spiritual/intellectual nature.
... An even greater danger for culture than the Jewish high finance is presented by the academic Jews. In their circles one can always find the representatives for theoretical materialism, which attempts to subjugate western philosophy with its theses. Theoretical materialism is said to deny that every product of culture must be understood to be a bringing forward of the deep and true emotions. In this connection, he mentions the deep feelings of the Romantic movement as a German cultural achievement. Next to the Germans, according to him, also the French have a deep emotionality. In the firm knowledge of the value of their cultures, these two nations should join forces against the Jewish conspiracy ('Komplott').
As long as these demands are not fulfilled, Mann sees a very dark future for art and culture. (pp. 83,84)
There are many more shocking things here, also regarding social Darwinism and the victory of the stronger over the weaker.
The contrasting of cultural achievements of Romanticism vs. Materialism, and lining the former up with German-ness and the second with Jewish-ness is something I want to note, here. Together with expansionist ideas we get the oft-heard saying: "Am Deutschen Wesen soll die Welt genesen." (The world will be saved by the German way of being.)
Heinrich Mann later on tried to keep secret his involvement with this said newspaper. (Ringel, p. 85). A certain small percentage of society, perhaps 10%, was said to be represented by its views.
(to be continued)
(PS: People ask, how could such a thing happen in a country with such a high culture? -- For some the high culture was the first stepping stone to a misanthropic view of the world. Any myth will do, to promote the right feeling, even the myth of the superior (spiritual, cultural) people to whip up pride, nationalism and militarism. By the way, I have nothing against the music. I sing the Schubert/Goethe songs myself.
This psalm 131, is reading for the Treasury of Daily Prayer, for today. )
|1||LORD, my heart is not haughty,|
|2||Surely I have behaved and quieted myself,|
|3||Let Israel hope in the LORD|