Saturday, January 12, 2013

How could it happen? / 5 / Fichte and Nationalism

In the meantime, I've read up some more on the Weimar Republic which I will not all recapitulate here.  The reader may google it for himself.  The mixture of difficulites, unrest and changes:  putsches, strikes, issues of currency, money and reparations, etc., communism, socialism, democracy, republic vs. monarchy, the roaring 20's, shows up an astounding time, which we could learn to try and understand better as a whole.

The book by Stefan Ringel on Heinrich Mann is truly fascinating.  I will gladly read it all the way to the end.  We gain much insight into the man and his times.  So far I am still in the 1890's, where Heinrich and Thomas Mann have their youthful developments and first publications of novels and newspaper articles.  Heinrich Mann's early involvement was quite shocking to me and completely contrary to his later views.  The opinions he espoused, and  changed his mind on, where likely the opinions of about 10-20% of the population at the time, judging by some kind of votes for political parties (there were political parties under the Kaiser?  I am so ignorant.)  In any case these opinions show up a great deal of anti-Semitism, Nietzschen assertiveness to do something drastic to get your will done.  The anti-Semitism was caused by several factors, such as the Jewish involvement in high finance, academe and communism.  Communism was dreaded most seriously by many.  Jewish predominance in finance had set them up to profit more than others from increasing international trade.  But this dislike of things Jewish, as well as French (due to Napoleon and his occupation), and also the having fallen behind in the acquiring colonies (the rational for these also being of racial excuses), had now taken on a tone of nationalism and racial superiority.  This is the fatal new ingredient.

Some very prominent people such as Fichte, a certain Chamberlain (son-in-law of Richard Wagner), also Wagner and his pamphlet on Jews in Art--eventually developed Darwinian Survival of the Fittest into the right to displace lesser peoples for the further flourishing of more superior cultures.  The German culture was declared to be the highest and best and the German genetics therefore the highest and best and they must triumph in the race for space and room to live.  Salvation was to come to human kind from the German nation of German blood and German culture.  But what is this salvation for human kind?  The lesser races need displacement and domination.

Let us look briefly at this Fichte.  I will translate from Stefan's book, p.87.

"German Nationalism was birthed in the year 1806.  The collapse of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation let to an intensive occupation with one's own roots, reinforced by the French occupation and its resultant bad feelings toward France and the ideas of the French Revolution.  The philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte became the prophet of the German national consciousness.  In his 'Speeches to the German Nation', held in the winter of 1807/ 1808 in Berlin, he certified the German people that they had been called to free (save) all of humanity.   The reason for this was that the speech and culture of the Germans had not been broken by civilization.  Instead German language and culture are said to express the still living connection of the German people to the healing natural world.  The French language, however, had accommodated itself to the Latin, and had therefore lost its natural roots.  Without natural roots it is impossible to accomplish any cultural achievements.  Germany must free itself from the French yoke, in order to create a free channel for its own culture and true nature [I am thinking that "nature" should perhaps be capitalized in translation.  Nature has taken on a god-like status.]  Fichte is convinced, that the other nations will then be compelled to turn toward the German way because they can find in it their own salvation."  

What can we say:  this is truly disturbing--though, however, people in other countries had some similar ideas about their own cultures and reasons for empire building.  Let us not forget the idiodicy of the great, little man Napoleon.  He was also brilliant, as we know, but the swelled head seems to have at least the dimensions of the German swelled head, we read about here.

Many of the theories, such as Fichte's possibly, were in those days considered "scientific".  "Wissenschaft" and "science" in translation carried different meanings than our strict empirical sciences of today.  In a way, Darwin's origin of the species contributed to this confusion.  His book should really be considered philosophy rather than science.  To this day we have no evidence for evolution from one kind of animal into another and logically it makes no sense that all the information carried in the genetic code just somehow appeared, yet Darwin's time had come.  All his speculations carried weight with those who wanted change in society.  So Marx, for example, jumped on it, though he complained about the "crude English method".  He found it highly useful for his ends.  And here German nationalism found it useful for its ends.  Germans are superior.  German must prevail.  German romantic feeling for nature brings salvation to the entire world.  But lets use some strength to get it done.

No wonder G.K. Chesterton belittles the "Prussian Professors" here and there.  Surely, there are also "English Professors", such as maybe Darwin (I don't know if he was a professor), etc.  In summary, though , what happened was that certain kinds of academics sat themselves down, or traveled the world  or their neighborhood to observe nature, and simply came up with some kind of literature or speeches, which then is to be regarded as science or revelation.  Chesterton also speaks against this "science".  Science is never finished and keeps on changing its mind.  It is not a reliable guide for some things.  Certainly, it is tragic that it comes into service of bellicose individuals and their needs for justification.

File:Johann Gottlieb Fichte.jpg

The picture is of Johann Gottlieb Fichte from Wikipedia, which also states:

                  Historian Robert Nisbet thought him to be "the true author of National Socialism"

We can see how Nisbet comes to this conclusion. 

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