One year ago today the Netherlands introduced the so-called “green-pass” system. A day of great and indelible infamy. What follows has been written in sorrow as this anniversary approached.
Stock-taking and analysis are in order now. All that we’ve lived through since 2020, was simply occasioned by what was supposed to be a medical emergency; under other circumstance a different path to the same goal would have been devised.
The consequences have been extremely grave across the board, and the condition of musical life was also amongst the casualties. That is the first reason to present the text which follows. (Though strictly speaking unnecessary, a statement of the reason seems especially fitting here, because reason in the broad sense of the word has become so scarce in public from 2020 onwards.) Yet musical life too has not simply proved a victim during it all, and this question will also be approached in due course.
If in fact there is an over-arching goal, what is it? There is much to say about it, and in all probability I shall delve again into this ample topic in the near future.
What now is evident, not merely in a few outliers but rather in numerous countries, as though the state in each of them was following a script, is the crystallisation of a totalitarian form of rule which never again will hesitate to treat anything within its purview as the occasion for an emergency: “emergencies” which themselves, however, much like the numerous “crises” that have become more or less synonymous with them, were planned out to a high degree well in advance. By this resort to “emergencies” these states (if that term is still adequate to designate such loci of total rule) will continue into perpetuity to substitute for all those that one still took to be fundamental rights, mere privileges, conditional on the manner in which individuals avail themselves of them, in accordance with whatever it may deem to be their best usage, and even then revocable ad libitum.
Henceforth, the economic practice of rationing is a paradigm for these states, and they are beginning to introduce it into the other spheres under their control or those which they currently are in the process of subsuming. In this connection, the establishment of a new set of regulations is the aim, and the catastrophic lockdowns and then the insidious “green-pass” policies constitute trial-runs, both of some part of these regulations themselves and also of how best to introduce them – whether by way of an overwhelming shock, or else in small doses, gradually, very gradually. Ultimately, even the minute decisions in individual private life would fall under the state’s supervision, and then the states will acquire yet another coercive instrument for bringing the recalcitrant and refractory to acquiesce, to submit, or else – to starve and die.
This new set of regulations already has a name: the social-credit system. And, though one might not have thought so, the appellation appears to be the official term: it was not devised by those who warn us all against this system and its ulterior aims. (The Chinese provenance of this innovation and its terminology is a topic of great importance, but the present essay can address neither it, nor the propaganda, quite possibly funded by the same source, in which it is depicted as a harmless or even admirable invention.)
The sound this term gives off, on a first hearing, if one pauses even briefly to consider it, is ominous. And to elicit this perception of a threat might well have been one of the goals of those who coined it. The anticipatory imagination of how this social-credit system, this murderous machinery will work once in full operation, may induce a frisson in the régime’s adherents and make them salivate, thus adhering them once more to it. The murder in their hearts, I suspect, does indeed swell up when their ears apprehend the assaultive rat-a-tat of those three words. (Do their equivalents sound any less like a shooting ground in their language of origin?)
Yet for those whose souls are not so disposed, such as I can only hope mine to be – though henceforth I do believe myself ready for self-defence nach Kräften on my own and my friends’ behalf against this incipient formation of total rule – a different sonic quality also shimmers through this most obvious ominous one, as though through an ocular and acoustic medium. This after-sound, or perhaps better, hinter-noise, to adopt René Baptist Huysmans’s coinage, exemplifies well the brittleness which elsewhere* I suggest is emitted by these formations of total rule that are in themselves crystallisations of disparate elements, whenever one strikes any of them in thought – and also, this is a hope of mine, whenever we strike against them in practice. (If, however, one refrains from pressing them in either of these ways or in both, and as it were leaves them untouched, then I believe they will continue to fascinate as only iridescent objects brilliant and hard, in which parts are not discriminated nor differences marked and which seem all surface one moment and all depth the next possibly can. The fascination exuded by these new-old crystallisations is not the least of the things which now at last really must be shattered.)
* On this point, see the text that re-inaugurates this website, “A Second Round.”
How ever did we get here? At this point we have arrived not least because so many have failed to recognise this incipient totalitarianism, and then to speak out, in a clear voice, and to take action against its ascendancy. Can it still possibly be cancelled (this mot de temps) and its proponents put back into the box from which they’ve burst out? – there remains perhaps a bit of hope that, yes, we can (that phrase d’autrefois) bring this about, before even worse disasters are witnessed. – But nothing of this will be easily won.
Muffled utterance, out of fear of giving offence or in view of some half-illusory codex of politesse, needs now finally to be scrapped. The freedom that appears to be the safeguard of all the others, free speech along with its practical and conceptual partner which is spoken of less often, free hearing (ears must be unstopped), has long been under threat, and never it so much as since 2020. In consequence, frank or forthright speaking (παρρησία) has to be re-exercised as often as possible, and not only within the political sphere in whatever now remains of it in the term’s narrow sense.
The preceding was, and, even more so, the following will be just such an exercise.
Abrechnung. Eh? Well, what follows will weave and bob amongst a few of the best, the worst, and the deliberately ambiguous “ideas” that have been made in Germany, exports that often have manifested those qualities above all once arrived in foreign parts. A settling of the score, which is one of the meanings of that German word, does now seem needful. Nor will the Netherlands, and not merely the régime in the Hague, be ignored, for it has played a quite shameful role since 2020. As for the United States of America and particularly some cities and circles in it, several pills containing long-overdue and very bitter criticism will be administered. – Beyond these national specificities, however, this one-word title is fitting because the initial concern is the social-credit system which represents a mortal threat to free people everywhere: for the German word applies primarily to financial accounting and especially to debts. – And, though this is incidental, the title fits also for the reason that I really should like à dater mon colère. Even though it is the situation of our common world about which I now have the greatest worry, and not the state of my character, let alone the condition of my soul, to a point I do also agree that [a]lles was man in dieser Zeit für seinen Charakter thun kann, ist, zu dokumentiren, dass man nicht zur Zeit gehört.* In these times, the most one can do for one’s character, is to document that one neither belongs to nor heeds them.
* Johann Gottfried Seume, “Apokryphen”
(Because I will be touching on both Germany and the Netherlands extensively, some lengthier quotations in German, and one or two shorter ones in Dutch, will be included here. Though I shall not stop to translate them quite integrally, their gist or else their implicit meaning will be provided in English in most instances, whenever it seems needed.)
To begin with what was for me the single most heart-breaking moment in all of what freedom-loving people have had to endure from 2020 onwards. – During this period there has indeed been much to break one’s heart.
On Easter in 2020 I chanced upon a memorable recitation of that key passage in Faust, “Vor dem Thor,” recorded it seems, though precise information is hard to find, by the East German actor and director Horst Preusker in 1960, that is, some years before the Berlin Wall was built. This ode to freedom and to a free people is beautiful in itself, on the page or when conveyed by a voice like Preusker’s which sounds as though he too cherishes its vision. (The recording is included on an album of Extraits from Goethe put out by the Bibliothèque nationale de France in 2016.)
Yet what pain did it bring to hear Faust’s own words lovingly recited –
For readers without German, there follow English and French versions of these lines from the drama, the work of George Lefevre and Gérard de Nerval, respectively.
The streams and brooks from ice are free, / Thaw’d by spring’s glance of genial heat; / The valley’s verdant canopy, / Denotes old winter’s slow retreat / Behind the hills […] / Look yonder on that hillock too, / What gay apparel comes in view. / It is the noise of village mirth, / The people’s heaven upon earth; / For great and small a jubilee; / Here I’m a man, and dare to be.
Les torrens et les ruisseaux s’affranchissent de leur glace, au regard doux et vivifiant du printems ; une heureuse espérance verdit dans la vallée ; le vieil hiver, qui s’affaiblit de jour en jour, se retire peu à peu vers les montagnes escarpées. […] Les sentiers les plus lointains de la montagne brillent aussi de l’éclat des habits. J’entends déjà le bruit du village ; c’est vraiment là le paradis du peuple ; grands et petits sautent gaîment : ici je me sens homme, ici j’ose l’être.
Vom Eise befreyt sind Strom und Bäche,
Durch des Frühlings holden, belebenden Blick,
Im Thale grünet Hoffnungs-Glück;
Der alte Winter, in seiner Schwäche,
Zog sich in rauhe Berge zurück.
– at a time in which already one could feel the first touch of a cold wind from the Hague, then preparing itself to confiscate individual and popular rights and freedoms under the pretext of the epidemic construed as an emergency. And the hurt cut still more deeply when Preusker recited the last lines:
Selbst von des Berges fernen Pfaden
Blinken uns farbige Kleider an.
Ich höre schon des Dorfs Getümmel,
Hier ist des Volkes wahrer Himmel,
Zufrieden jauchzet groß und klein:
Hier bin ich Mensch, hier darf ich’s seyn.
Painful indeed to hear this encomium at the very moment in 2020 when, it seemed rather evident, free assemblies of the populace would soon be prohibited.
But surely it is quite fanciful to associate this depiction of a village scene in Faust with conditions in the Netherlands more than two hundred years later? No, it is not. The low countries played a considerable role in Goethe’s and, more to the point, Faust’s imagination. Not long before the end of the last act of the second part of the drama, in his dying speech, Faust is given a redemptive vision that precisely rehearses the moral geography of Netherlandish freedom, to quote an accurate but oddly phrased sentence of a contemporary cultural historian.* Here he envisions the sea pushed back and the swamps – which Goethe most likely held to be breeding-grounds of disease – drained, yet these advancements can be maintained only by dint of concerted efforts by the populace, which thus properly earns the liberties and even the way of life it has inherited.
* Simon Schama, The Embarrassment of Riches, ch. i, ii
Apt as a characterisation of this way of life is Goethe’s term for it, “thätig-frei”: if, given its peculiar geographical and topographical situation, the Dutch populace is to remain free and even alive, it cannot neglect a quite regular schedule of activity, which however is itself free, that is, self-directed, to a degree not often met with elsewhere.
The degree of self-direction is notable also when this populace in not engaged in the vita activa but rather in fun, games, and play – and in music-making – in recreations comprised alongside a number of the more active or creative human pursuits such as art and athletics in the “life of pleasure,” that third variety sited on the same plane as the political and the contemplative modes of life, of which each, considered as a locus of human endeavours, distinguishes itself from all other parts of life by virtue of existing for its own sake alone.
These three are identified by Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics,* and similarly in the Eudemian Ethics.** Though the “life of pleasure” is spoken of with disparagement (this βίος he termed “ἀπολαυστικός”), later on, in the account of Aristotle in the Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers,*** Diogenes Laërtius employed the most fitting term for it: “βίος ἡδονικός.”
* bk. i, ch. v, 1095b13-19
** bk. i, ch. iv, 1215a35-b5
*** bk. v, ch. i, 31
These are the recreations one sees depicted in some of the most lovely works of the Netherlandish painters, whether they preferred winter pastimes such as those recorded on Hendrick Avercamp’s canvases, where water itself is shown in its most tame, most dependable, most welcoming form, as the sheets of ice upon which this free people comes together for its pastimes (auf freiem Grund mit freiem Volke stehn), or else the vernal or summer events that the elder Bruegel often chose as the subjects for his. Now, all this, the popular recreations themselves and also their re-creation in works of visual art, appears to have impressed Goethe quite considerably, and so it’s not aberrant to think he may have had some of these Netherlandish paintings in mind when composing the idyl of “Vor dem Thor.” If that is plausible, then in both these parts of Faust it was the “moral geography of Netherlandish freedom” of which Goethe spoke, and hence in the last line in Faust’s earlier speech a “there” might be substituted for the “here”: Dort bin ich Mensch, dort darf ich’s seyn.
Goethe’s main aim in these passages, accordingly, would have been to insinuate how opposed the conditions of Dutch life were to the unfreedom so patent in the German lands of his time.
That is what lent a nearly unbearable poignancy to Preusker’s recitation when I listened to it early in 2020. For from 2005 onwards, or even earlier, the self-directing free activity that was prevalent in the Netherlands, which Goethe had lauded to the skies, began to evaporate more and more.
In 2005, the fateful step was taken of disregarding the clear choice of a sizeable majority of the Dutch electorate, as expressed in that year’s referendum about the proposed constitution for the European Union – and the political and legal framework which had been emphatically rejected was then adjusted cosmetically in its form and imposed upon the country regardless. With this the Netherlands forfeited its national independence, which substantively had already been quite limited after the guilder was abandoned in favour of the Euro. From that point onwards the oligarchy in the Hague (by its modus operandi it did earn the ugly term) began as a matter of course in all important matters to implement whatever was decided “in Brussels” – decisions which, with increasing frequency during the fifteen subsequent years, seemed in fact to be made ultimately in Berlin.
Not only in its exterior relations, but within the Netherlands too, freedom shrank perceptibly away. Considered in retrospect, one or two of the most shameful incidents during those fifteen years, and above all the machinations by which Ayaan Hirsi Ali was incentivised to depart for other shores, seem now also to represent markers of its gradual disappearance; but I must skip over all that in order to come back to the watershed year 2020 and the changes it wrought.
Even before the Dutch onderdanen were sped through the portal into the next period, when the full inanity of the new policies was to be unleashed, already then it seemed rather clear that the right of free assembly first and foremost, but other liberties too, would soon be terminated. As indeed they were. And that the predatory state then would compensate the victims of the robbery with a certain number of privileges. This too has been done, though stingily. Sehr verbunden! – Prior to the effectuation of this transaction, of course, one could foresee and forehear that these gifts, bestowed under such auspices, would in turn be revocable at any point.
(All these terms of art do now seem outdated and themselves in need of a “reset,” as one witty Dutchman, an outspoken member of the resistance there, has intimated in the case of the “government” (overheid): Het is dan ook geen overheid maar een roverheid.* It’s not the government of a democracy any longer – but a thugocracy.)
* Burgercomité-EU. Tweet, October 21, 2021
Before proceeding further with my recounting of 2020’s most significant changes, I should like to pause and underscore how well-chosen is Faust’s small image of a stinking pool (ein fauler Pfuhl), which as a synecdoche might stand in for something quite a bit larger: a pestilential morass. Perhaps the results of the land-reclamation which Goethe “wanted to see” are less solid than ever he would have cared to witness, perhaps Netherlandish life remains permeated to an unfortunate degree by the element from which one thought it had been fully extricated, the swamp (Sumpf): an environment wherein diseases readily circulate. (Later in the nineteenth century, the concept of the swamp (Sumpf) was adapted in provocative ways by Ludwig Börne and by Nietzsche.)
From 2005 onwards, the Netherlands has devolved to be a colony of foreign powers. Since 2020, the age-old swamp has overswept it again. So one does wonder, from a distance, into what darker regions of its own history will the next years take it?
For anyone who has observed these developments closely and coldly, from within the country or from without, hard to avoid is the conclusion that the policies of the Hague régime have been designed not to deal effectively with the virus or viruses or other pressing hygienic needs: to mention only the most salient fact, for many years now this same régime has ruthlessly slashed the budgets for medical services, and here indeed the “emergency” has brought about no change. Rather, its aim is precisely to allow the distress to fester, thus covering with a specious veneer its own stretching out into perpetuity of the “crisis” or “crises.” Here I add the plural form because the epidemic is merely one of several presently in the hands of the régime, and it has even begun to splice bits of them together into new and even more toxic hybrids. Yes, it really is that cynical and unscrupulous: some of its leading figures have evidently been instructed by the best of them.
Much of the Dutch press has abetted this seizure of power, and indeed quite actively. Formally independent of the state or not, as the case may be, very often these journalists seem to pride themselves on their allegiance or obeisance, even flaunting the evident fact that they have gleichgeschaltet themselves willingly. In this undertaking they have made quite a nauseating spectacle, especially since 2020. (The witty Dutchman to whom I already referred has a fitting epithet for them, “hoernalisten”* – a version of the English term of abuse for these lackeys, “presstitutes.”) This role, played with abandon by the “journalists,” was addressed and excoriated around a year ago in a strong speech in the Tweede Kamer, the country’s equivalent of the House of Commons, by one figure in the Dutch opposition. Onze democratie, voor zover überhaupt nog van democratie gesproken kan worden, declared Gideon van Meĳeren, functioneert totaal niet. De mainstreamjournalistiek is vandaag de dag volstrekt ongeloofwaardig. Niet meer serieus te nemen. Niet eens geïnteresseerd in de waarheid maar vooral druk om de waarheid te manipuleren. Geen controleur van de macht maar schoothondje van de macht. Een applausmachine van de macht.** In other words: the press has forfeited all its former credibility and cannot be taken seriously at all. Its primary function now is to manipulate the truth; it no longer checks the powers that be but lets itself be fondled by them. It claps whenever they need it to – as though, to complete the thought which Meĳeren himself only half-states, the whole thing were akin to a performance (of which the theatrical qualities are doubtful). And with this association of ideas one might even have a further inkling of how the “life of pleasure” is being subsumed by this formation of total rule. – His insights lay bare many things; the stage-managers of “debate” in the Dutch parliament have begun to turn off the microphone whenever he takes the podium.
* Burgercomité-EU. Tweet, October 23, 2021
** speech in the Tweede Kamer, September 9, 2021
Thus the swamp is oversweeping whatever remains in the Netherlands of its once solid free ground. There is still some about, fortunately for the country; many Dutch citizens are opposed to all of what I’ve been recounting, with salutary passion, while also retaining their presence of mind and their sharp tongues. The wit whom I quoted before, for example, has begun to call his own country not Nederland (the Netherlands), but “Vernederland” (a country full of humiliation).*
* Burgercomité-EU. Tweet, October 27, 2021
The opposition notwithstanding, however, even some of the small things one did once observe in the Netherlandish way of life, have in the midst of such circumstances undergone a – swamp-change. For example, the satisfied good cheer of free people which Goethe includes in Faust’s soliloquy as a significant detail, is hardly to be met with any longer. Instead what one does now hear, are the stupefied noises of people – or, to employ that marvellous American coinage, the sheeple – who’ve gorged themselves on the offerings of the official and quasi-official propaganda apparatus – or on other substances whose usage is permitted tacitly (gedogd) by the state perhaps not least in order to render the populace supine.
Granted, to reply to what the sheeple often will say at this point in any argument about these matters, presently the Corona restrictions have been lifted – but the legal framework enacted under the pretext of the “emergency” remains in force, and so they can be reimposed by the Hague régime whenever it chooses. (This same legal framework would evidently authorise much more than that to be done, if and when deemed necessary. And it is those who have raised the alarm about all this who are vilified as “Fascists”!)
The era of lockdowns remains without end everywhere and very obviously so in the Netherlands; one hears that the régime intends to introduce them as a regular feature of life during the winter months. (When will all the scenes of the people’s hibernal pastimes by Avercamp be sold off or otherwise removed from Dutch museums?) In order to enjoy even fundamental liberties, or especially them, more and more often a license will in effect be required: such is the aim. There is one type of response to this development which the new form of total rule does seek to foster: when the exercise of liberties will require a license, those who have acquiesced should begin to treat liberty itself as though it were substantively license: and if they become licentious in the process, so much the better in the state’s eyes.
We are not yet arrived at that point, thankfully, and yet already the painting most expressive of the archetypal Netherlandish way or life, or which offers the best mapping of its “moral geography,” is no longer this or that idyllic scene of the elder Bruegel, but one of those Jan Steens entitled “Village Wedding.”
Here the “enjoyment” shown is illicit, frantic, and drunken, even if accompanied by some music, all of these characteristics resulting from the fact that it must be kept hidden and confined if it is to be overlooked with a wink by – that cynical predator the state. If the “life of pleasure” or rather its deficient form which one sees depicted here, has been put under pressure in this way, the stratagem may already indicate that the state is preparing to incorporate it, and provide a clue as to why this would be attempted at all. Thus the painting well illustrates the condition of the Netherlandish way of life in 2022.
Indeed, after looking carefully at Steen’s painting and reflecting upon its meaning, one might plausibly infer from the manner in which the lockdowns and confinements have been implemented, that the ulterior aim is to foster a quite similar explosive mixture of inebriation, impatience, and ill-humour amongst those who have by one route or another been brought into agreement about those measures’ putative necessity; for people or sheeple imbued with this concoction of feeling will comprise a readily manipulable instrument in the hands of the totalitarian propagandists.
At this juncture, one hesitates to think any further ahead than the minimum of what seems presently needful; and yet, if the Hague régime is not stopped, then, perhaps sooner than one imagined possible, in its turn this Steen may have to cede the title as the most illustrative work to one of Bosch’s visions of horror.
Why have I dwelt so long on what is after all relatively a small country? Should I not go after larger game?
The question is sensible. Let me explain.
One of the several rather new findings of 2020 was the degree to which it wasn’t Berlin’s dictates which the Hague was following, so much as those being transmitted from Davos. And this discovery is perplexing indeed; much thought is required even to begin to come to terms with such a bizarre twist in the plot. Even now every so often there does spring up a doubt whether all this can really be happening. Could it not instead be something like a very, very large and superbly executed gag or practical joke, or else a protracted dream from which one might soon awaken?
Alas, in reality the Netherlands now serves the World Economic Forum as its very own experimental laboratory. And it is not only the Prime Minister and his cabinet in the Hague who communicate with and implement the instructions they receive from Davos, but evidently sectors of the civil service as well. Both these points are substantiated by documents which have been brought to the public’s attention by the heroic efforts of a few conscientious members of the Dutch parliament, of whom one was quoted before.
Such an amalgamation of a state and, perhaps not a political party in the more usual sense, but a private forum, so that the inmates can hardly tell any longer where the one begins and the other ends, with a concomitant reduplication of functions here and there within this fusion, is perhaps the first characteristic of a formation of total rule, as analysed by Hannah Arendt in her writings about totalitarianism. Her analyses, dissections par excellence of its two main instantiations in the twentieth century, also seem eerily prescient when re-read in the midst of our present circumstances.
This fusion of a state and another organisation does facilitate the implementation of the proposals and items grouped under the rubric of the “Great Reset,” and also those of the “Agenda 2030,” but here I shall not delve into any of those individually as stated, nor pursue their implications. (Doing so would take me far beyond the scope of my project, however loosely I may occasionally construe it. Moreover, what need is there of summaries in this? – which quite suddenly has become the question of our times, into which everyone ought to inquire on his own behalf.) No, it is upon something else adjacent to all these “ideas” that I should like to focus.
Years ago the “moral geography” of the Dutch way of life ceased to be the locale where a free people engages in the largely self-directed and even self-directing activities without which everything it inherits would soon sink away. Since 2020, on the whole, the admirable forces of Verzet (the resistance of the opposition) notwithstanding, it has been re-arranged as though the entire country were now a single research laboratory and everyone in it test subjects in one very large experiment, with or without their own consent. But what then is this new arrangement intended to ascertain? Surely I must be able to say what is at issue. If I refuse, would not the present essay amount only to a frivolous belletristic exercise? – Yes, that it would then be. And of those there is no shortage.
The very first point the Dutch test-case appears to have been devised to ascertain, was the condition of the body politic itself. For a body politic, intellectually, morally, and quasi-physically speaking, does have a φύσις, in this respect somewhat like the individual human being, a “physique” with its specific form and tone and – state of health: this body too may succumb to fever, disorientation and dizziness, vertigo, and the rest of it. To forestall all that, it also has something like an immune system. – Given that all of these attributes can and do vary in their relative degrees of strength and resilience, one may theorise about their waxing and waning in this or that instance, but rather more difficult to procure is a live demonstration under more or less controlled circumstances. This the predators of Davos, who for years now have had the scent of great weakness in their nostrils as they circle the globe in private aircraft, have long wanted to see, for purposes of closer assessment, and their adherents in the Hague were more than ready to devise such an experiment, beginning in 2020.
( A remark in passing. Caution is advisable whenever a φύσις is attributed to anything other than the actual human body. How tempting it is to consider these physical matters under the aspect of that natural-historical hypothesis, evolution! Yet that is a seduction one should guard against. One perspective that could easily open up before those who let themselves be seduced in this way, is the following: Menschen als Spezies stehen zwar seit Jahrzehntausenden am Ende ihrer Entwicklung; Menschheit als Spezies aber steht an deren Anfang. Ihr organisiert in der Technik sich eine Physis, in welcher ihr Kontakt mit dem Kosmos sich neu und anders bildet als in Völkern und Familien.* Human beings as a species stood at the end of their evolution already millennia ago; yet humanity as a species stands at the beginning of its own. By technology a physique is being organised for it by which its contact with the cosmos will take shape anew and quite differently than it once had done, when amidst peoples and families. Not entirely certain in this case, however, is whether it was the author’s own perspective: he may mainly have been exhibiting it, as though it were an intersection from which several other trains of thought might set out, or else a forensic piece of evidence. – For a similar reason, caution ought also to be exercised whenever the notion of character and the perspectives of natural history are conjoined. By this one may easily arrive at an ominous crossroads. [J]ust as each individual, before becoming subject by birth to the influence of surrounding circumstances, reproduces the character which his species wore before those surrounding circumstances had produced any effect, so each individual, after having passed beyond maturity under the influence of surrounding circumstances, foreshadows the character which his species will wear when those circumstances have produced their full effect.** From such an anticipatory mode of thought to the full-fledged eugenic obsession, there were not very many steps. Nor has that obsession vanished entirely; its vestiges live on, and with subterranean force lend extra sustenance to more than one of today’s fashionable mœurs and movements, though whenever these are prudent they dare not utter its name.)
* Walter Benjamin, Einbahnstrasse, “Zum Planetarium”
** Edward Kay Robinson, “The Man of the Future”
Lest I too be bombarded by that other dumb epithet which has been rendered nearly as meaningless as “Fascist!,” namely, “Conspiracy theorist!,” in this connection I hasten to introduce a few perspicuous remarks made by Jorge Luis Borges. Their date of first publication: May 1940. (Anyone who actually knows something of twentieth-century history will understand the relevance of this.) They hail from his cautionary tale of a private coterie of literary men whose confabulations, at first assiduously hidden, did by degrees seep out and then infiltrate and take hold of the public mind throughout the world. How was such an outcome even possible? With a trace of Poetic inventiveness, to the major part of his story, whose year of composition he himself included in the text, as though it were akin to a preface, Borges appended a postscript which he pre-dated seven years into the future, thereby expressing his own great curiosity about the nature of that which one day will have been, the future anterior, considered not merely as a verbal tense available in this or that language, but rather as affording a vantage-point from which to look back upon one’s own destitute present – and with the retrospective glance of this coda, Borges outlined an answer to that pressing question of 1940.*
* “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” Posdata de 1947
From the beginning of the preceding decade, bastaba cualquier simetría con apariencia de orden –el materialismo dialéctico, el antisemitismo, el nazismo– para embelesar a los hombres – for a time people had sought explanations and even solace in the very ideologies that played such integral parts in the emergent forms of total rule. And then, after tiring of them, but also having levelled down their minds by the prolonged contact, they were readied to succumb to another set of ideas even more self-contained, self-referential, and self-validating, regardless of its specific origin, just so long as it seemed novel, unexpected, and diverting. Casi inmediatamente, la realidad cedió en más de un punto. Lo cierto es que anhelaba ceder. And so this “system” at last succeeded where its predecessors had failed. Alas, those who acquiesced to it, in this fictional version of an étrange défaite no less than in its real model, got more than they had bargained for: their world disintegrated irrevocably.
Eighty years after its first publication, Borges’ cautionary tale suddenly re-acquired great actuality, so long as a reader concentrates on the essential points. Several of the intellectual and political fashions which passed in succession up until 2020 offered just those semblances of order he mentioned in his postscript; their cumulative effect was to weaken the minds of those who embraced them, or in other words, to exhaust and overwhelm their intellectual defences. Of this consequence Davos certainly had been aware, in a general way; then the epidemic which closed that period and ushered in the next presented a singular chance to ascertain quite specifically the degree of intellectual debility and to see what a body politic reduced to such a level might subsequently be ready to accept.
The Dutch experiment was initiated.
Here I should call back to mind the fact that the reign of inanity did not commence at the very beginning of the epidemic, but only a considerable period of time thereafter. To the early prevalence of near-panic in the face of a danger so unpredictable and unknown, as it then seemed to be, all the illogical and even counter-productive measures subsequently taken cannot reasonably be ascribed. – But such a basic respect for chronology often appears to pass right over the heads of the sheeple.
Now I shall touch upon one or two of the other items which this experiment in and with the Netherlands seems to have been devised to ascertain. And to accomplish. – With this I will also begin to adduce some cross-references to conditions in further countries beyond the three addressed thus far. For these innovations (they have endured long after the moment of initial resort to them in those few initial months of panic at the beginning of 2020) are met with throughout the world, and indeed in certain instances in a more illustrative manner elsewhere than within the territories of the Netherlandic-Teutonic-Helvetic trio. – Recollecting so much folly everywhere it is hard not to burst into laughter, albeit with a sad and bitter tinge, and were the damage wrought not so terrible and lasting, this would be yet more difficult. (The first readers of Borges’ story, too, may well have laughed as they perceived the humour lodged in the multiplicación de los hrönir or other details similarly absurd or sinister-sounding.)
The most obvious of these innovations is the over-usage of masks. I do not wish to say that the use of them early on, when one still knew very little about the virus, was wrong, nor that there are no circumstances at all in which it makes hygienic sense to wear them – but simply to state my own incredulity and desire to laugh whenever I see them worn now in the open air, for example. And in this as in other of my responses, fortunately, I am far from being the only one.
Yet there is no denying that they have been embraced widely, in the Netherlands and elsewhere, even by some of those who resisted them to begin with. This conversion already furnishes an illustration of one of the ways in which the new ideology works to induce adherence amongst the populace: the threshold is reached once one has donned it a certain number of times, and then one has one’s own actions to account for, and begins to justify them to oneself. Thus is the change of mind effected and adherence established, by an individual’s own amour-propre, which turns him into the ideology’s accomplice.
Or, in a slightly more complicated variation of this, it is not so much one’s own amour-propre which brings one to yield, as one’s anticipation of those of “other people.” This motive brings with it a peculiar mixture of belief and disbelief, a confused and confusing inner state of half-detachment. Another prominent member of the Dutch opposition has described how the ideology then conjures up the semblance of success: Niemand gelooft het wel. Alleen, gelooft iedereen dat bĳna iedereen het gelooft. […] Zo krĳg jĳ een populatie van allemaal mensen die het niet geloven en het toch doen.* No one actually believes in it. It’s just that everyone believes that almost everyone else does. That’s how you get a population where many don’t believe in it and yet act as though they do. In this way too, what was formerly solid in the “moral geography of Netherlandish freedom” is hollowed out and melts away.
* Pieter Stuurman, “De dictatuur is uitgeroepen”
By these different routes, and probably by several others too, the populace on the whole was brought to accept the masks as an obligation. And this even in the face of the rather obvious evidence that the rulers themselves have wielded this obligation as a conspicuous means of underscoring the populace’s submission. So, to summon to mind only a pair of the most flagrant examples of this, whenever Monsieur le Président takes care to let the cameras record him putting one on just before conferring by video with his peers, or his spouse makes a highly publicised visit without one to a school where the children are all required to wear theirs, the message is the same: these masks are instruments utilised to attain ends that have nothing whatever to do with hygiene, or, if they do, then only in the figurative and negative sense that the aim is to put on a filthy show of the rulers’ sheer power.
These masks are first and foremost symbols, and apart from marking the difference between the rulers and the ruled, they also express, as it were, the muffling or suppression of speech in general and of the power of retort and of exclaiming “No!” specifically. And here something very odd becomes evident if one pauses to reflect for a moment upon this symbolic function. The masks of today are the negative of those which have been known for millennia! The earlier ones, not least those used in the drama of antiquity (the personæ and the πρόσωπα), covered everything but the mouth. They allowed for and even facilitated human expressiveness; these go quite a ways towards abolishing it. And this result will never be simply reversible. The adults of tomorrow, young children and students who have been compelled to wear them, do not acquire the subtleties of human language to the same degree as they otherwise would. (Not to mention all the other damage that has been done to them.)
If the power of speech is indeed one of the most essential human attributes, then a fundamental transformation (another phrase d’autrefois that is both hollow and sinister) of the human being may quite conceivably be one further item which the Dutch experiment, in conjunction with comparable undertakings in other countries, has been intended to study. And – though logically speaking this hardly needs to be said, nonetheless it must be, in order to underline how unscrupulous and ruthless are those who’ve set all this going – in order to examine the results of such an alteration, it must first be brought about.
What effects will this experiment exert in future upon musicianship, and not only the vocal sort? The very basis upon which a number of those capacities and skills develop, does also appear to have been placed into question. L’ame de la voix est dans les sons prolongés et soutenus, wrote Hérault de Séchelles. If impediments stunt the development of the capacity by which such lengthy sounds are made, or even perhaps smother it in its cradle, then the expression of that soulfulness too will be affected very considerably. As will be at least one other rather essential feature of the human being, the delicate correlation of his voice and his character. La clef de la voix, dans l’échelle musicale, répond à la clef du caractère, dans l’échelle morale.* Each of these attributes of the human being, and the relations amongst them – the unimpeded blossoming of all of this has now been rendered quite a bit more uncertain than it was before 2020. – How long will it be before all these consequences become distinctly, horribly manifest? (The near future aside, how disturbing is it now to observe the impairment of these basic human capacities in their development, at the very moment when the human voice is itself being synthesised with ever greater verisimilitude.)
* “Art déclamatoire”
Adjacent to the effects upon the capacity of speech, its physical basis included, are those upon the ability to exercise a specifically human freedom, and that not only in the βίος πολιτικός (and, in a different way, perhaps in the βίος θεωρητικός), but also, rather more obviously than in those other two and in yet another mode, in the βίος ἡδονικός. These consequences too, one may infer, it has been the aim of the experiment in the Netherlands and elsewhere to examine. – The freedom I’m speaking of in this connection may be defined as the ability to choose how to lend a shape to the manner in which one assembles with others, indeed, how to inscribe it with some style of one’s own choosing.
Of this freedom a concise statement appeared in print exactly two hundred years ago. It hails from one of the earliest texts of that pre-eminent imp of the nineteenth century, Heinrich Heine. The event it recounts: one of the soirées then frequent in Berlin. There masks were at once obligatory and freely accepted; they concealed some aspect of the attendees’ persons so that others, coming into prominence, might set the tone of the evening. With perhaps even then a touch of the multifarious irony which later would develop so fully in his work, Heine prefixed a rhetorical question to a few lines stating the raison d’être of this sort of party: [W]as ist daran gelegen, wer unter der Maske steckt? Man will sich freuen, und zur Freude bedarf man nur Menschen. Und Mensch ist man erst recht auf dem Maskenballe, wo die wächserne Larve unsere gewöhnliche Fleischlarve bedeckt, wo das schlichte Du die urgesellschaftliche Vertraulichkeit herstellt, wo ein alle Ansprüche verhüllender Domino die schönste Gleichheit hervorbringt und wo die schönste Freiheit herrscht – Maskenfreiheit.* What ever does it matter who is hidden under the mask? One seeks enjoyment, and for joy only human beings are needed. And one really becomes a human being at the masked ball, where a wax mask covers up the usual mask of our flesh, where a simple informality of address produces again the trust that was so essential in the earliest society, where a robe which conceals anything inordinate calls forth the most lovely equality and where the most beautiful freedom rules – freedom in a mask.
* “Briefe aus Berlin,” ii
Slightly or slyly ironic though it may be, nonetheless not without reason do I, in turn, introduce Heine’s justification of the masked balls of Berlin. For with a bit of reflection there is evident a great difference in “moral geography” between their joyous effervescence and the dull Dutch debauch revealed in Steen’s painting. The latter scene, to amplify further what I remarked before, well illustrates the compensatory stupefaction and disorder which the state tacitly allows or indeed encourages, the ulterior motive then being to foster licentiousness amongst the populace along with the inner stagnation left behind once the party is over, that foul corrosive reservoir of half-hearted reservations and phlegmatic ressentiments. – How sprightly, by contrast, is Heine’s verbal picture of the evening assembly in Berlin! Solch ein Gewimmel möcht’ ich sehn . . .
Alas, in the Netherlands since 2020 it is quite unlikely one would chance upon anything similar. – Especially since the “life of pleasure” is currently being suborned by the state, an on-going process of which the signs are numerous, amongst them not least the Umfunktionierung of masks in reality and as idea. – With, however, a major honourable exception, the gatherings of the real Verzet, which may soon find itself constituting a virtual archipelago set within and against an acquiescent society and its hordes of sheeple. – In actual fact, an increasing distance and divergence of the sheeple from the people may represent a separate item on the list of topics of inquiry which has guided the implementation of the Dutch experiment since 2020. All the more so if the difference may readily be marked by the acquiescence, indeed the ostentatious embrace of the use and over-use of the facemasks. (At present, granted, they have been removed from circulation in the Netherlands; but I doubt that the last of them has been seen.)
On this point, with an almost admirable economy of means, several variables can be gauged at once, and not least the quantum of murder which may be excited – initially in the hearts of the acquiescent and then . . . ? – by the regime’s propagandists. It was no mere loose talk on my part when I referred to this earlier; for in their more unguarded moments, many of the usual “masks” dispensed with, more than one of them has provided ample evidence of the existence of this disposition. One egregious instance of it will have to suffice here, horrid uninhibited words of hatred from an especially ugly German presstitute, aiming to arouse in her followers a similar burst of feeling. Wäre die Spaltung der Gesellschaft wirklich etwas so Schlimmes? Sie würde ja nicht in der Mitte auseinanderbrechen, sondern ziemlich weit rechts unten. Und so ein Blinddarm ist ja nicht im strengeren Sinne essentiell für das Überleben des Gesamtkomplexes.* Would a split in society really be so terrible a thing? It wouldn’t break apart right in the middle, after all, but quite a bit further down, cleaving the right-wing people apart from the rest. And an appendix like that is hardly required, strictly speaking, for the survival of the body as a whole. When one hears language like hers, one understands that since 2020 it’s not only the Netherlands which have been thrown back into the swamp (Sumpf): the German-speaking lands, Austria included, are now haunted by more than one of the “phantoms of the past.” (To the extent that one would impute “ideas” to such a virtual Schreibtischtäter as she, her basic conception – as if the opposition to the incipient form of total rule were somehow a monopoly of the right-wing, whatever that term is supposed to mean now! – is entirely phantasmatic and fallacious.)
* Sarah Bosetti, Tweet, December 3, 2021
Quite a few points of inquiry may be ascertained by the large-scale experiment in which the facemasks have been imposed as a public obligation. Above and beyond seeing how ready entire bodies politic have gotten to accept with at most only a murmur these symbols of their own suppression, those who’ve initiated it are also afforded a demonstration of these masks’ degree of efficacy in interrupting the transmission of signs and even signals of dissent through non-verbal channels, from person to person by even a hint of a smile or similar dispositions of the mouth and the nose. And indeed, they may even be contagious! Not for nothing did Orwell say that the human face itself was regarded by the totalitarians as possibly being a crime-scene and a crime-perpetrator in one. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself – anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face […] was itself a punishable offence. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called.* What part would the facemasks have played in Orwell’s novel, had he ever heard of their existence? How easily may any encouragement to “facecrime” be prevented if its vehicle and locus is covered up and can no longer be seen!
* Nineteen Eighty-Four, One, v
Within a more definite locale than the streets or the other sites of chance encounters such as those whereby germs of revolt might spread amongst the populace, the Dutch experiment also yielded some points of data concerning the weakening of intellectual defences, the lessening of the disinclination to accept patent self-contradictions (whether these are merely discursive in character or else “performative”), and the abatement of the spirit of intellectual and political rebelliousness and the evaporation of a sense of irony and of what Marx once called the humor of situations.* I am speaking now of the Dutch universities and in particular their departments of humanities, which one might have thought would prove to be loci of resistance, and of what has befallen them and especially the students since 2020; and since here I do not wish to tarry in such dispiriting environs, I’ll simply quote one bemused observer who sums up, as though in a miniature, the abysmal level of absurdity to which they have reduced themselves. Foucault doceren met een mondkapje op: anno 2021 kan het,** he says in a brief message which even the flocks in the classrooms may understand. Teaching Foucault while wearing a facemask? No problem, it’s 2021.
* “Parliamentary Debates on the Chinese Hostilities”
** Ewald Engelen, Tweet, December 15, 2021
Now to hasten quickly away from the universities and return to the wider world. – The sad spectacle of an entire country transformed into something like an experimental laboratory, has been dwelt on at some length, with particular attention lent to that which is visible and to that which, alas for the Netherlands, is conspicuous by its relative absence, the Dutch forces of opposition excepted; so at this point I should like to focus for just a moment upon something (something?) which, by its own definition, cannot be seen, in order then to speak briefly of something else which Davos and its adherents seem especially to detest: about an essential feature of the human being which, quite apart from their antipathy, one really ought to cherish.
– Well, that all sounds mysterious. What ever are you going on about now?
– Hear me out. – Masks, as is relatively well known even today, were devices of great importance in the theatres of antiquity; in Rome the sound of the actors’ voices was transmitted by the personæ, in Athens by the πρόσωπα: these were needed to amplify and project the words so that the entire audience might hear them. Also still rather well known is the later adoption of those two concepts by formal positive theology; but what is less often acknowledged, or simply goes more often unrecognised, is that in one key passage in the Bible, the word for “face” (פָּנִים, panim), and not only the human face, itself already might suggest that the face could also in effect be a mask . . .
– Ah, that seems like an interesting point . . .
– Yes, it is, isn’t it. – Shall I summarise the relevant bits of that passage, just briefly?
– Please do.
– In the King James, the passage (it’s the thirty-third chapter of Exodus, the lines I’ll quote are the eleventh and the twentieth) tells of the meeting in the tabernacle; there the Lord spake vnto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh vnto his friend. And yet, a few verses later, one reads that God said this to Moses: Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see mee, and liue – so evidently the face itself is thought of such that the word can be applied in these two very different, seemingly contradictory ways . . .
– Certainly; after all, a face-to-face encounter with God, even if He is like a friend, is no ordinary meeting . . .
– For the purposes of this conversation, granted. – Still, there’s something about the face which allows it to be seen and then requires that it not be seen – perhaps if it can also be a mask, this small enigma might be resolved, at least to some degree. But there’s something else to mention here which is, well, staring us in the face . . .
– What is it?
– The Hebrew word “פָּנִים” is one of those (the word for “life,” “חַיִים,” chaim, is another such) that, though they might seem to be singular when taken as concepts, are grammatically speaking not in the singular but either dual or plural . . .
– I think I see where this is tending . . .
– Any single face is already multiple in itself, or imbued with some considerable degree of plurality – this may be why a face can be a mask, in something of the way that the πρόσωπα and the personæ were also masks, although any one of those theatrical devices was not of course intrinsically multiple or plural. Just by its own power, because it is in itself more than singular, a face can perhaps assist itself to convey whatever it intends to express farther than it could have done, were it essentially single and nothing more. It’s a strange thought, but perhaps in some limited respects the face is capable of redoubling . . .
– . . . its own forces.
– Yes, my point exactly.
– But in order to do so, it really must take charge of itself.
– It would seem so. D’accord. And not only that, but . . .
– You also, I think, see where this is tending. A face, if it is to express what it can in a higher, more articulate and, yes, more truthful degree than it otherwise could, may find it needful to become its own friend, or even already to have befriended itself. And these last words are quite possibly more than mere façons de parler . . . Somehow, a face which can take pleasure in its own capacity of expression, its own acts of self-composure, will be the more potent for it. Hmmm, I just had an amusing little thought, rather topical.
– Tell me.
– The points we’re arriving at now, would not exactly be music in the ears of the Swiss gentleman who coined, or paid for, the slogan everyone is hearing about. You know . . .
– Of course I do, I said as much before; I’m not always incommunicado. “You will own nothing and you will be happy.” Lord knows how it runs in German. Besitzen dürft Ihr nichts, glücklich werdet Ihr trotzdem sein! Or some even worse permutation of it.
– Shhh, sollst deinen Mund halten! Maybe someone’s listening in – after all, we are conspiracy theorists. We wouldn’t want to give them any more ideas.
(They burst into laughter.)
Following on this short dialogical interlude, the moment is opportune for just another bit of levity . . .
I could tell you a Covid joke, but 99.9% of you wouldn’t get it.
– Marco Robinson, Tweet, December 13, 2021
To resume. If Davos and its adherents and sycophants have their way, and it remains likely that by one route or another the whole gang will, all the more as it’s been shown how overwhelming hysteria may be called forth from the public, and then by the application of which sorts of means an alteration in the form of government may be ratified and accepted: De la démocratie à la dictature il n’y a qu’un pass,* as was well remarked, with Gallic wit, during a demonstration against that policy last year in Angers – should Davos win, amongst the results will be a further acceleration of the rate of development of certain types of technology, with the human face stripped more and more of what was its own grace, reduced more and more to impassivity, immobility, and yes, imbecility. (One has only to glance at the faces of some heads of state and government now, those puppets – or at the visages of their presstitutes instead – to see the last quality put on flagrant display, as a harbinger, and as though with an assurance of impunity.)
* anonymous street slogan, August 14, 2021
If one consults that passage in Exodus with sympathetic attention, one’s feeling for another rather important feature of human life can be deepened, a feature which, much as with the face and its expressiveness, may well greatly irritate the predators of Davos and their minions everywhere. Here I refer to the space between a pair of friends, over which speech or whatever is conveyed by other modes of expression should be carried with tact and finesse, out of regard for the other and in order to safeguard him in his integrity, that he not be overwhelmed or worse. – This is one main lesson one might take from the account there provided of the very careful setting-up of the meeting in the tabernacle.
Concern for the space between human beings appears to be inscribed in the very grammar of the Hebrew language. The preposition “בֵּין” (ben) which corresponds to our “between” and its cognates, “zwischen,” “tussen,” “entre,” in the distinctive sense of those terms (i. e., in-between, not amongst), may be used in an unusual and interesting way, as appears for example in a verse early in the Bible.* There, there is a redoubling of it; it is included twice, set before each of the things between which a distance is interposed. From this grammatical peculiarity one might infer that in some manner the between, too, is not singular but that in itself it can be dual or even plural. Or at least, one may plausibly conclude that the space between two human beings, when regarded from one of their vantage-points, might simply not be the same as the space between them as regarded from the other. Between these two betweens there could well be a great difference. Hence some fine tact is advisable within the scope of this or perhaps even within any relationship, but here ample room is also afforded for playfulness, including the verbal kind: games, jokes, puns, rhymes, witticisms.
* Genesis, 1, 4
An impartial metaphysician or theoretician of language might derive several insights from this feature of Hebrew grammar. (Do any significant metaphysicians or theoreticians or linguists at all reside now in Davos, or is it populated solely by the dull and the depraved?) Our present circumstances, however, do not conduce to any such inquiry. For it is not only the facemasks whose over-use has disfigured our public spaces since 2020, as a part of the gargantuan research experiment in the midst of which we find ourselves, whether willingly or otherwise; one is also made to contend with an even more patently absurd innovation. Even for the sheeple, it should be obvious that I’m now speaking of the “social distancing” – a horrid expression for an awful thing – which has been introduced into common life and still haunts it as an occasional expectation. (In this connection, I hasten to add once again that I am not speaking of what was done during the first few months of panic early in 2020, but only of the time thereafter.) The fineness of feeling by which one takes note of and pays respect to spaces between has been severely blunted by the new innovation, and it may quite conceivably be another objective of the experiment to extinguish this finesse altogether.
Those moments in which a between arises into prominence and seems to lie before us like a land of dreams, so various, so beautiful, so new, or when it prompts us to imagine that la vida es sueño, moments superlatively visual and/or musical, may in future be ruled out in advance, if the goal of a uniformity of social space is attained.
Dull uniformity is one aim; a volatilising of some particular kinds of relationships amongst human beings is another. Sinister indeed has been the public encouragement to report the putative “bad behaviour” of others to the authorities. This inducement has been noted in several countries, by no means only in Germany (renowned amongst other things for its Denunzianten). Stranger still is the curious argument that was advanced when the vaccine campaigns were at their height (one has little assurance that a similar reign of error will not commence again in the near future): one should be vaccinated “for others” – as though this procedure were in any way comparable to the practices of safe sex which it was certainly reasonable to advocate in the 1980s and afterwards. The entirely different degree of intrusion over or through the space between human beings and into another’s most personal affairs, hardly registered with these advocates; and therewith something very explosive was injected into relationships even sometimes of the closest kind.
Out of the passage in Exodus, one further insight may be audible, so to speak, and this I think important to mention here. Without wanting to delve into any theological questions per se, one might also acknowledge, and this regardless of what one may personally believe or not believe, how the considerable tact and consideration evinced by God in his relations with Moses, itself already contains in germ the impetus whereby the tale of human history, if there is a single overarching story wherein all the others are as though its chapters, might possibly describe a gradual transition from more warlike conditions to the more peaceable, a grand development which might in turn have assisted in the emergence of significant works of art, the musical included. Perhaps it was just this of which an inkling was caught by Andrew Marvell and put into four lines* in a hymn.
Victorious sounds! yet here your Homage do
Unto a gentler Conqueror then you;
Who though He flies the Musick of his praise,
Would with you Heavens Hallelujahs raise.
Alas for us, the road we’re now travelling down, not least in consequence of what has been done by Davos, seems from the present vantage-point to lead to a quite other destination. Where are we now headed? Around two hundred years after Marvell’s poem, this great contribution of the ideal of God to human history largely expunged in the meantime, one other poet, Algernon Swinburne, found tremulous words for the shape and the sound impressed upon history and emitted by it in the aftermath of this erasure which another of his contemporaries would liken to a murder, in seven lines** that, though he addressed them to a peer, seem a direct answer to that older hymn.
It sees not what season shall bring to it
Sweet fruit of its bitter desire;
Few voices it hears yet sing to it,
Few pulses of hearts reaspire;
Foresees not time, nor forehears
The noises of imminent years,
Earthquake, and thunder, and fire
Towards the noises of imminent years, impending in consequence of all that is hailing down upon our heads from Davos and the other centres of power, people do well to strain their ears, and with great care. It is first into something like an enormous prison, and then, quite possibly, into a chaos of the worst strife and war, that the rulers seem to be precipitating the rest of us, and themselves as well, but of that twist to come they look and sound even more oblivious.
* “Musicks Empire,” vii
** “To Walt Whitman in America”
Or perhaps, to vary the anticipation of our destination just somewhat, we may find ourselves sooner than we could have imagined possible, thrown back into a way of living very much like what the people endured under the Ancien Régime, that formation from which, historically speaking, it proved so very difficult to escape entirely, the attempts to begin afresh all too often instantiating large bits of it once more. Français, Encore un effort si vous voulez être Républicains.*
* D. A. F. de Sade, La Philosophie dans le boudoir, vol. ii, Quatrieme Dialogue
Some years into the course of the French Revolution, one outspoken participant in it, the man who it appears went on a bit later to pen the anonymous “Manifeste des Égaux,” Sylvain Maréchal, devised an apt likeness for life as led in the society both before and after 1789. La société ne ressemble pas mal à une vaste hôpital où de malades de tout genre, he suggested in l’an ii de la République, the fateful year 1793, sont à la merci d’une poignée de guérisseurs, indeed an ironic name for them, as ces ministres de la santé, ou plutôt de la mort, sont bien gagés par des administrateurs, dont l’embonpoint est dû à la maigreur des malades. L’hôpital est-il trop plein ? on expédie les plus malades, pour faire place à d’autres. Et les moribonds, en expirant, regrettent la maison paternelle où ils auroient trouvé une guérison plus prompte ou une mort plus douce.* – To his words of anger, disgust, and even regret, what ought to be affixed but – plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
* Correctif à la Révolution, ccvii
Our contemporary architects of disaster or technicians of dissolution, in Davos and elsewhere – Artisten der Zerstörung und Zersetzung,* stage-artists of destruction and decomposition, Nietzsche might have termed them, and in their case with clear derision – have managed beyond expectation to foment a great escalation of the elementary problems of human living-together,** in Hannah Arendt’s concise phrase, and this it seems wherever one may turn. Everywhere new Schleichwege zum Chaos,*** hidden paths towards chaos, as he would say, have been uncovered; there is now ever less distance between our present and the imminence of conceivable extremes.
* Jenseits von Gut und Böse, Achtes Hauptstück, 244
** “What Was Authority?”
*** Sechstes Hauptstück, 209
The technical feasibility of these new systems has been a topic of some discussion. Suffice it here to underscore what even at present is evident, namely, that should a digital identity for every person be made mandatory by the state, and in the European Union territory this awful goal seems near realisation, and should a state gather the sweet fruit of its bitter desire by the abolition of paper currency in favour of electronic, then we all will have arrived at the point where a régime’s opponents, the recalcitrant, or indeed anyone at all, could readily be deprived of the things needful for life by the simple pressing of a button.
Antecedents or origins of this or that piece of the social-credit system whose murderous realisation is being fostered by the more and more rapid development of technological means, I cannot delve into further here. Instead I should simply like to call to mind the evident fact that the health-passes which made their debut last year, do themselves have a longer history. They comprised one feature of life in Germany under the National Socialists, and were issued by the NSDAP under its own name, not by the state as such; this practice may be taken as an instance of the reduplication of administrative and other functions between these two previously distinct organisations which does seem to be one of the main characteristics of a form of total rule. – Now, for the reason that those lackeys the “fact-checkers” received their instructions and were dispatched in swarms in an attempt to neutralise this part of the rather inconvenient genealogy of the “green-pass” system; but also, more substantially, because the National Socialist youth organisations were themselves treated as a laboratory where hygienic policies could be tested out which might later be applied to the population as a whole, and moreover, because this priority accorded the Nazi youth was paired with the gradual replacement of the system of medical treatment generally in the more usual sense (Fürsorge) by an obviously sinister regimen of preventative “care” (Vorsorge), I refer the curious reader to two pieces of actual research: firstly, a Habilitationsschrift submitted in 2008 to the Institut für Geschichte der Medizin of the Charité in Berlin by Thomas Beddies,* and secondly, the relevant chapter in Michael Buddrus’ voluminous study of educational policy under National Socialist rule.**
* “,Du hast die Pflicht gesund zu sein.‘ Der Gesundheitsdienst der Hitler-Jugend 1933-1945”
** Totale Erziehung für den totalen Krieg, vol. 2, ch. 11
As an epigraph for the latter, Buddrus presents a remark made by the leader of the Bund Deutscher Mädel during a lecture in January 1938, that is, at the outset of the year when the several constituent elements of total rule in Germany did fully “crystallise.” Hers is an unguarded open statement of the health-pass system’s raison d’être. Dadurch, daß jeder Jungvolkjunge und jedes Jungmädel einen Gesundheitspaß bei seiner Aufnahme bekommt, haben wir in einiger Zeit die ärztliche Kontrolle über die deutsche Jugend und eines Tages über das ganze Volk. By ensuring that every boy and girl in our pre-teen section (the “Jungvolk”) receives a health-pass upon acceptance into the organisation, we shall in a short period of time exert medical control over German youth and one day over the entire people.
– She sounds rather like Sigrid, Angela, or Ursula, doesn’t she?
Health-passes are already horrendous, both as end and as means; now I turn to the greatest horror of 2021, the evidently co-ordinated attack by the politicians and their presstitutes upon all those who would not agree to let themselves be vaccinated. I’ve already spoken* of the creation virtually ex nihilo of great distrust and hatred within the body politic by unscrupulous rulers who then manipulate the division in accordance with the old divide et impera principle, and the resort to the stratagem was already predicted early on in 2020 by the most prescient; but what caught even them off-guard from the summer of 2021 onwards was the lengths to which the Hague régime seemed willing to push the growing internecine antagonism. Talk began to be heard with regularity of coercive measures to ensure the submission of the unvaccinated to the medical regimen; the line was propagated that they were to blame for any upsurge in statistics of incidence of illness; and the official and semi-official media allowed ideas of killing them off to be ventilated in contexts lending the proponents cover of deniability, where, in other words, if these virtual perpetrators were subsequently confronted, and, fortunately, at times that did happen, they could deny that the idea represented anything more than a part of a scenario of fiction, and hence was unobjectionable.
* In the text re-inaugurating this website, mentioned earlier in another connection.
Loathsome as was all this incitement, during those months the tendency in Germany and, worse still, in Austria was yet more flagrant. What transpired in the two countries I shall not recount here, except to mention one eye-witness whose accounts curious readers may consult if they wish to know how it all looked and sounded at the centre of it, when perceived in medias res, in Vienna: the author, publicist, and translator Martin Lichtmesz. – Elsewhere* I’ve said a bit about my first direct experience of a “green-pass” system, on a brief visit to that city a year ago, some weeks before it was also introduced in the Netherlands; here I’ll just underscore that my own Viennese experiences accord rather closely with much of what he records of his.
* In the afore-mentioned text.
Sadly, as with the factual history of the health-passes, in neither Germany nor Austria was it an unheard-of occurrence when their governments began to deliberate upon a resort to measures of coercion or compulsion in order to attain higher rates of vaccination amongst the population as a whole. Such measures also have a history there, and the term for this application of duress, “Impfzwang,” is itself anything but new. For example, it is met with already in an ephemeral text published by Karl Kraus in 1907,* there utilised somewhat incidentally, but with neither the word nor the practice seeming as though they had been devised recently. Then, in 1915, during the First World War, the term appears again in his periodical in a much more significant entry,** this time forming the centre around which Kraus’ interest circled, and over the next years his feeling for the word’s nuances deepened, as is evident from the revision of the earlier text which was included in the collection of his writings published in 1918.***
* untitled entry, Die Fackel, vol. ix, no. 232-33 (October 16, 1907)
** “Nachts” *** Nachts, iii
This later and more mordant iteration I should like to introduce in full; it is a prime example of a writing whose otherwise more somnolent sound, shaken up by the developments since 2020, now vibrates again and is audible.
Es gibt Leute, deren Auge so intelligent ist, als ob sie uns stumm überreden wollten, uns auf der Stelle impfen zu lassen. Sie haben den sozialen Sinn, der einen unter dem Arm faßt, und den Blick, der einem auf die Pusteln sieht. Es sind die Tyrannen des Impfzwanges, der eine unvorhergesehene Folge der Gedankenfreiheit bedeutet. Als Draufgabe scheinen sie einem das Versprechen abzufordern, daß man sich, wenn man sich schon nicht impfen lassen und daher an Blattern sterben wird, nach dem Tod verbrennen lassen werde. There are people whose eyes are just so intelligent that it’s as though they wanted to try without a single word to beseech us to let ourselves be vaccinated right on the spot. They’ve got social skills enough to grab others by the arm, and glances which scan them for pustules. These are the tyrants of compulsory vaccination, which as an idea represents an unforeseen consequence of the liberties our thoughts are now used to taking. In return for the attention they pay others, they seem to want to wrest a promise from them, in case they don’t get vaccinated in time and then die of the pox, that they’d have their remains incinerated.
Though I won’t digress further, a remark about Kraus as the champion of style is in order here. The typographic aides by which one often attempts to convey intonation through the medium of print, the italics and letter-spacing whose over-use can make a mess of everything, are generally absent from his texts. Almost as a matter of principle, he left to his readers the task of distinguishing the tone of his intention and the intention of his tone, and by their relative degrees of understanding of his meaning to distinguish themselves and their acuity of ear as best each of them can. He, a master of recitation, who would have been quite able to do the Police in different voices as needed, and who did personate a broad range of other parts in his several public readings, had gone far beyond a necessity of proving his skill: he had no need to show off how subtle, strong, or Swift he could be, but merely to show it.
The version in English which I appended, attempts to share what I now hear in and through his lines; it renders something of how this Fackel text crackles in my ear, given present circumstances. Should others, for example Germanists by profession, their ears otherwise tuned, object that I am simply “hearing things” which are not and never have been there, tant pis.
Yet I must hope that readers have some ear for Kraus’ irony and sarcasm in this text. The vaccine fanatic has an overblown idea of his own intelligence and importance; perhaps he was one of the more undistinguished products of the university system, those whom it had deformed in spirit, a numerous class of people who have often abetted the downward trajectory of political life: the sort of person who, a decade or so after Kraus chanced upon him (for of course he represents a real existing type), at the behest of his own disgruntled amour-propre, might well have joined the NSDAP. In the Vienna of those years, Kraus was afforded every chance to observe at close range that and similar types, and not only to observe; in some cases a grotesque Selbstüberschätzung gave them the idea of contacting him by letter in order to match their wits against his. Who emerged the winner from those contests, need hardly be stated. – To one such confrontation, we owe the words that show just how deadly a weapon his pen could be,* as well as, in the horrid missive which he printed verbatim and to which he responded, an illustration for the ages of the Schoß aus dem es kroch, as Brecht would later say.
* “Antwort an Rosa Luxemburg von einer Unsentimentalen”
Within the German-speaking empires, the Impfzwang was but one instance of strong pressure applied to individuals in the name of public health during the latter part of the nineteenth century, as the natural sciences developed. Germany in particular, of course, and this long before the unification of the country under Prussian leadership in 1871, owed not the least part of its great prestige abroad to its institutes of higher education in all fields, and to the close nexus between them and the state; especially from the 1870s onward these interrelationships facilitated the application of ideas devised in the faculties of medicine within the realm of public policy, effected quite often by means which did not eschew brutality, and overseen by the scientists themselves. Demonstrations such as these of what the old proposition “knowledge is power” might achieve and even create, when acted upon by well-organised and self-disciplined scientific bodies which were large and growing in the size of their memberships, appear to have garnered and maintained for Germany an especial degree of sympathy and often even awe amongst certain sectors of the university-educated abroad, a predilection met with long into the twentieth century (and, though in a more subterranean manner, even further beyond?).
Such a feeling of kinship was evinced towards the end of 1914 by Henry Louis Mencken, and one may infer from the manner in which it was stated that his approval had been won not least by the element of brute force in the imposition of those policies of public health in Germany, or even by this brutality in its own right – and the further one delves into the historical record, the better one understands that on this and on other points his case had nothing exceptional about it; the species of Germanophilia he manifested was quite widespread.
In the practical business of operating the state, in its units and as a whole, the final determination of all matters was plainly vested, not in politicians or in majorities, but in experts, in men above all politics, in the superbly efficient ruling caste. – The reign of this new “caste” (Nietzsche, who was the main topic of Mencken’s essay, had called it a “Herrschaftsgebilde,” a formation of domination) was more or less coeval with the establishment of the German Empire itself, an origin in remembering which, wrote Mencken, one recalls, too, such typical representatives of the new order as […] Wilhelm Koch, the greatest bacteriologist in the world and Germany’s general superintendent of public health – the man who in that function had rid Germany of typhoid fever by penning up the population of whole villages and condemning whole watersheds. Here already one senses that these means called forth Mencken’s approval at least as much as did the end attained; this the next sentence confirmed. It was ruthless, it was unpopular, it broke down and made a mock of a host of ‘inalienable’ rights – but it worked.* Whether or not it did “work,” in the most obvious sense of that colloquial verb, I have no reason to examine; but in arousing esteem such as Mencken’s, the simple fact of the policy’s supposed success itself, coupled with the brutality which had been employed to attain it, may have “worked” in another and not unimportant respect.
* “The Mailed Fist and Its Prophet,” iii
Yes, here I must admit, in view of affirmations like Mencken’s I find it hard to avoid a provisional conclusion that the notion of garnering further esteem and emulation abroad may well have played a significant role when brutal measures like Koch’s – and later those of quite a few others – were first thought through and then implemented in Germany. (If one seeks a designation for this part of the considerations that began to guide the setting of state policy, one might call it the “political economy of foreign prestige and of intellectual export products.” This variety of political economy, were it to “work,” as Mencken might say, would have required the contributions of entire ranks of specialists, experts with the most precise knowledge of the world market generally and of the relevant conditions in the larger target-nations in particular. That the services of these research divisions often were called upon during the setting of domestic policies, even a cursory glance into the historical record does appear to confirm.)
Had I only Mencken’s remark to present, my suspicion would indeed seem far-fetched; but there is an earlier avowal of a comparable Germanophilia that is as clear as any could be. Granted, this other declaration, published a few years into the Gründerzeit, may not entirely have been the author’s own, for it was put forward in a text to which he gave the form of a dialogue; however, and allowances made for what its title, “Rêves,” may imply, even if it did not represent his own view, nonetheless it evidently would have concentrated into one expression ideas which were circulating throughout his milieu at that time.
French defeat in the war of 1870-71 did not bring Ernest Renan, long an advocate of the virtues of the educational system in the German-speaking territories, to abandon his admiration for it; no, with the establishment of the Kaiserreich his awe seems to have increased yet further: and, though he cloaked the view in deniability by putting it in the mouth of one participant in a literary dialogue, Théoctiste,* he did not refrain from publishing it five years after the hostilities had concluded.** In the near future, he suggested, the power that is formal knowledge could very possibly take control of the world in its entirety, and at the head of this class, spread to different degrees around the globe, and assuming the leadership of it, would be the pre-eminent land of the universities – Germany.
* Perhaps amongst Renan’s friends there was a Dieudonné whose ideas were thus transmitted to the reading public?
** Dialogues et fragments philosophiques, Troisième Dialogue
Whatever may have been the new strength in the cultural sphere that France began to accrue after its defeat, as per a number of insights contained in Nietzsche’s notebooks, in the view of this Théoctiste the “last word” would not be spoken by it, but by its triumphant neighbour. La France incline toujours aux solutions libérales et démocratiques ; c’est là sa gloire ; le bonheur des hommes et la liberté, voilà son idéal. Si le dernier mot des choses est que les individus jouissent paisiblement de leur petite destinée finie, ce qui est possible après tout, c’est la France libérale qui aura eu raison ; mais ce n’est pas ce pays qui atteindra jamais la grande harmonie – and I pause at the inclusion of this musical term, for during the nineteenth century (and of course beyond) the international eminence of Germany, its system of education, and even the particularities of its way of life, was not least a matter of music. Au contraire, le gouvernement du monde par la raison, s’il doit avoir lieu, paraît mieux approprié au génie de l’Allemagne, qui montre peu de souci de l’égalité et même de la dignité des individus, et qui a pour but avant tout l’augmentation des forces intellectuelles de l’espèce. – Although this 1876 avowal was bold indeed, and Mencken’s declaration in 1914 but a timid echo by comparison, the main point in this connection is not that difference, but rather the simple fact of a widespread and enduring approbation of German policies abroad. Quite conceivably it was just this enthusiastic approval which those who devised policy in Germany counted on, from 1871 onwards until . . . ?, and which was mitgedacht in the often brutal implementation.
Renan’s Germanophile utterance, considered as a piece of historical evidence, is interesting enough; but in the same few pages this Théoctiste makes two other remarks which, much as with Kraus’ short text, ring differently now than they had, prior to 2020.
The first of the two is an open espousal of extreme brutality nearly for its own sake, and so I shall now introduce it brutally, en bloc.
La vérité sera un jour la force. « Savoir, c’est pouvoir » est le plus beau mot qu’on ait dit. L’ignorant verra les effets et croira ; la théorie se vérifiera par ses applications. Une théorie d’où sortiront des machines terribles, domptant et subjuguant tout, prouvera sa vérité d’une façon irrécusable. Les forces de l’humanité seraient ainsi concentrées en un très-petit nombre de mains, et deviendraient la propriété d’une ligue capable de disposer même de l’existence de la planète et de terroriser par cette menace le monde tout entier. Le jour, en effet, où quelques privilégiés de la raison posséderaient le moyen de détruire la planète, leur souveraineté serait créée ; ces privilégiés régneraient par la terreur absolue, puisqu’ils auraient en leur main l’existence de tous ; on peut presque dire qu’ils seraient dieux et qu’alors l’état théologique rêvé par le poëte pour l’humanité primitive serait une réalité. Primus in orbe deos fecit timor.
This “souveraineté,” as a concept rather more specific and definite than Nietzsche’s “Herrschaftsgebilde” – what has been witnessed since 2020 if not a worldwide attempt to impose it? The would-be sovereigns are the pharmaceutical companies, the medical establishments, the international public-health organisations, all now in the process of amalgamating themselves with this or that political entity, not necessarily only with states, that is, re-constituting themselves within the incipient formations of total rule – these scientific or semi-scientific enterprises have all profiled themselves as offering the sole answer to what was blown up into a supposed planet-threatening emergency by their counterpart which has lodged itself further and further into these very same formations, namely, the media apparatus.
That is the point we’ve come to, and now one may hear it anticipated in Théoctiste’s speech. Though the stratagems are modernised, his summary of the aim remains apt, or rather, it has become actual in our times, whereas it was but a futural dream when he uttered it. – Chaque époque rêve une suivante. – Though it might take them a little time.
But this Théoctiste had yet more to say, and it seems rather obvious that he took some pleasure in the role of the bearer of bad tidings. (Je n’ai jamais dit que l’avenir fût gai. Qui sait si la vérité n’est pas triste ? – Perhaps Nietzsche was acquainted with these lines, or indeed with the whole dialogue.)
In the second of his two further remarks, Théoctiste anticipated that against the attempt to impose this “sovereignty,” great revolts will arise, and then the scientists would suffer des persécutions auprès desquelles celles de l’inquisition auront été modérées. La foule des simples gens devinera son ennemi avec un instinct profond. A terrible class war would commence against the new sovereigns; after immense bloodshed they would suppress it with yet further rounds of extreme brutality, which in their eyes the end would more than justify. Il peut y avoir alors des peurs, des réactions qui détruisent l’esprit. Des milliers d’humanités ont peut-être sombré dans ce défilé. Mais il y en aura une qui le franchira ; l’esprit triomphera. – Alas, nightmares such as this one and its several conceivable alternate outcomes are now advancing further and further into the vicinity of our present, and for this our would-be rulers bear the sole responsibility.
These prognostications offered by Théoctiste are suffused by notes of cynicism and even of nihilism, and not least when the new principle of this “sovereignty” of “science,” the auto-verification of a theory or of a hypothetical truth by means of the result of its application, was enunciated. (When Mencken later accorded the last word to that which “works,” his was a simple variation upon the criterion of truth as Renan had defined it decades before.) So it does not exactly come as a surprise, then, when one recalls that around the same time as Mencken published his long-distance encomium of the German state and its brutality, from the centre of the medical sector there, in Berlin, the physician and poet Gottfried Benn should have begun to inject the sound of cynicism into literary works which touched upon the realities he encountered in his professional career, for by then, there was hardly a sphere of life wherein that self-destructive criterion of truth did not circulate; more and more often, other kinds of truths were being treated as though at bottom they were merely variant forms of what truth was supposed in essence to be, namely, a hypothesis in need of verification. (That “need” is itself quite a curious thing.) So, in 1913, the sheer ambiguity of Benn’s truth-telling prompted the essayist and activist Kurt Hiller to invent a portmanteau and to call him “der schneidige Medizyniker” (the incisive medicynic), as though to imply, taking a cue from the poet himself, that his poems embodied truths only insofar as they had been subjected to autopsies.* (Here I mention only what I take to be Hiller’s intended implication about Benn’s poems, and do not include the remark about the latter’s poetic process, which he typified by an image which is and was meant to be filthy.)
* Die Weisheit der Langenweile, vol. i, Zweiter Zyklus, Gegen »Lyrik«
Neither is it so very surprising that Benn should later have dallied with the NSDAP, nor that his cynicism was at times during the 1930s transformed into outright nihilism, a specifically medical variety that was even more egregious.
But what need have I here of exemplifying medical nihilism by recourse to Gottfried Benn’s conduct under the totalitarian régime in Germany? The years since 2020 have been full of it. – And nowhere more than in the United States, where, alas, the medical sector has done the most to hold everyone hostage, as per Théoctiste’s dream or nightmare, and thus to seize power and acquire sovereignty for itself, or rather, for the form of total rule to which it is joining itself more and more. (Of course, in the USA as in the Netherlands and elsewhere, there are many physicians and other medical professionals who have made clear their opposition to such developments, often at great professional risk to themselves.) To a terrible degree, what was instituted there has furnished something like an instruction manual for future use on other occasions, in that country and elsewhere: there too an exercise has been undertaken on a grand scale to see what “works” and what does not “work” (as Mencken would say) in effecting a fundamental transformation of whatever remains of its old constitution into the new form of rule.
To vary the terms I have used, I could coin a word of my own and label what has been established since 2020 in the United States, as in some other countries, a medictatorship. – In any case, this is the juncture to pay the USA a Blitzbesuch, in order to settle a few accounts there as well. (Some of them, as will shortly become evident, are of longer standing.) The visit, I hasten to add, is undertaken only in imagination. In general, speaking for myself, I have a decided aversion to dictatorships and, if at all possible, do refuse to set foot on their territories.
If the medical profession is ever to recover from what it has done to itself since 2020, to wean itself back to health, and to make itself again a whole which merits respect, rather than one of the elements amalgamated into a form of total rule, its nihilist actions must themselves be dissected in detail, and ruthlessly.
In order to show that amongst some physicians, too, there evidently is an awareness of how important such an undertaking will be, as they have been brave indeed in sounding a warning about their profession’s descent into nihilism, and also in order to acknowledge one of these honourable exceptions, I should like to quote a statement by Dr. Peter McCullough. Doctors in my institution can’t look me in the eye, he noted in a lecture last year, they are so ashamed of what they’ve done through the course of this pandemic. Hence some still have a sense of shame – that is an encouraging point of information, though mere remorse is never something one is wise to rely upon. Not words spoken or gestures made in a chance meeting in the workplace corridor, but a binding public admission that, as he says, there’s been case after case after case of inappropriate nihilistic care in the hospital – this is what is needed, as a starting-point.*
* “Winning the War Against Therapeutic Nihilism
and the Rush to Replace Trusted Treatments
with Untested Novel Therapies”
In more than a few instances, patients were simply murdered, with full pre-meditation, in the hospitals themselves, the aim being to inflate the statistics and to feed the general panic (or else the hysteria: this is a distinction which will be addressed later on). For without the latter, the whole business will suffer, after all – thus the nihilism by which the medical profession too had been infected bethought and bestirred itself and sprang into action. Of course it was action undertaken in concert with the ministers and the administrators – who, for their part, now displaying a somewhat more crafty or refined strategic sense, subsequently transmitted and implemented the decision that Corona patients be sent from the hospitals to the nursing homes, thus clearing out the one and initiating a small experiment to see what would happen in the other, in the expectation that through them too a swath would be cut, thus doubling with one single move, or in other words by an economy of means, the savings to the state’s medical funds, themselves meagre in consequence of years of systematic mismanagement by the very same crew. Which is what then transpired. – Nothing of this would have surprised Sylvain Maréchal in the slightest.
The stratagem was deployed in several states in the USA (and in other countries as well), but nowhere on a larger scale than in New York State, at the behest of its Governor, that pre-eminent Ministre de la mort, as Maréchal would have called him, Andrew Cuomo, and carried into execution by his administrateurs. Though by this some money may have been saved (where then did it go?), on all their hands is the blood of many thousands.
Even if its participation in such episodes was acquiescent and not really willing, the moral damage to the medical profession has been to a great degree self-inflicted. And its descent into the regions of self-destruction did not halt subsequently. On the contrary, throughout 2020 and beyond, it too has accelerated.
Nor have even the foundations of medical practice as a branch of science, that is, the zealous rapport with the data, remained as solid as they were before 2020. What solvents of factuality itself haven’t we seen since then? Those who have been paying attention have observed junk studies published under shady auspices in formerly eminent medical journals, which continue to be cited and to guide policy, even though they were quickly retracted. – Suppression of scientific debate by some of the scientists themselves as well as by their allies amongst the functionaries and politicians. – Manipulation and withholding of statistics by research institutes both public and private (by now very often a distinction robbed of its difference). – Coercion employed against medical practitioners who would not join, in Dr. McCullough’s phrase, the rush to replace trusted treatments with untested novel therapies.
Since these last years have had the character of an experiment, and this on nearly every scale, from the planetary* down to the smallest parts of private life, not the least of the findings has been this: once it becomes an accomplice of the incipient form of total rule and nothing more, there seems to be no limit to the corruption which can engulf the practice of medicine from within.
* This word refers to Günther Anders, Die Antiquiertheit des Menschen, “Über die Bombe und die Wurzeln unserer Apokalypse-Blindheit,” § 9, where he reflects upon the idea of a scientific experiment for which the entire planet serves as the laboratory.
In the course of this year, the medical regulatory agencies in the USA have even, in some instances, approved new treatments in the absence of any clinical data at all. The science is settled! – Not so fast: it depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is. How much further downwards will the general level of scientific procedure and practice settle in the years to come?
Last year, in the Food and Drug Administration Advisory Committee hearing to which medical experts had been invited to state their professional opinions on the question whether or not to approve the use of the vaccines for children, one of them uttered two sentences which, one can only hope, will be introduced once more in the near future into proceedings of quite another kind. Even apart from that, however, they could be featured prominently whenever there is written a factual history of the cynicism, the nihilism, and the Realpolitik which have consumed his profession. According to this expert – what expertise! – we’re never going to learn about how safe the vaccine is unless we start giving it. That’s just the way it goes.* One can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. What vital need then is there of an FDA at all? Where these accelerations into absurdity are taking us, I do tremble to think about, and indeed at times it seems as though these very institutions are positively recommending that they themselves be abolished or euthanised – precisely in order to rescue whatever still remains of the public health of the body politic.
* Eric Ruben, testimony in an FDAAC hearing, October 26, 2021
This expert, however, could plead that he was simply following the example set by Nancy Pelosi in 2010 when she admitted, as though in astonishment at her own anticipation of what she intended to do, forcing through Congress that monstrous, largely unread piece of legislation, the so-called “Affordable Care Act”: We have to pass it to find out what’s in it. – As is only proper to underscore in the present context, that legislation has fulfilled none of the mendacious claims made for it, but only “worked” to profit the insurance agencies and pharmaceutical companies, amongst other branches of big business, to degrade the quality of medical care and to deplete the provision of medical services, and to intrude the state further into matters which should be none of its concern. In every respect it was one enormous poison pill, laced with the great ressentiment of the one who lent his name to it; and the moral decline of the medical profession that’s become so evident now, owes not a little to the role played by the latter in bringing about its passage.
As a further extenuation, this expert might well introduce into evidence the even more astonishing reign of criminality, dwarfing by many orders of magnitude anything he himself ever may have done or could possibly do, in whose shadow the institution which had invited him, and its siblings too, have all operated now for several decades.
Yes, I should now like to even up one older score. Earlier I tarried awhile and spoke of Faust; now is the time to let fly some arrows at that recently retired megalomaniac and criminal, Dr. Anthony Fauci. – His well-honed sense of political realities led him to judge the moment opportune to depart, his mission accomplished. Where will he next appear? At the side of Mr. Gates, as a special advisor? Or in Davos as a guest of honour of the World Economic Forum?
Throughout his long murderous career, in his own person he has managed the feat of “verifying,” as Renan would say, the hypothesis contained within what is perhaps Théoctiste’s single most provocative remark: Il est probable que les moments les plus dangereux dans la vie d’une planète sont ceux où la science arrive à démasquer ses espérances.
Thanks not least to Fauci and those like him, that is one mask which, more and more, I really do appreciate and have no desire to see torn off.
His hope, and, since he, comporting himself much like a deity (as though in illustration of Théoctiste’s observation), has not hesitated to personify it, evidently science’s hope as well, has centred on the creation of vaccines since the mid-1980s, or even earlier. How many millions of lives were lost back then and subsequently on account of his research preferences and, the prospect of a Nobel Prize shimmering before his eyes, his personal vanity as well, whereas the study of therapeutic treatments for HIV really ought to have been his main concern?
The renewed public prominence in which he delighted to prance about, beginning early in 2020, should have been a warning-bell of the first order. (Here, by way of a mea culpa, I must admit, at that point in time I thought perhaps he had actually learned something from the many protests against him and his research agenda during the late 1980s and early 1990s. However, very soon thereafter, I saw through that illusion and dispatched it.)
Generally speaking, the alarm was not heeded. What happened instead? He is celebrated as something of a hero, even by many who really should know and judge better.
This new admiration for him is really very odd.
In the first place, it is not and never was quite honest (here I notice that I myself am veering a bit away from the παρρησία I’ve elected and tending to speak in euphemisms, as though to sugar the pill). For this predilection itself originated rather conspicuously from the intuition that Fauci would soon do great political harm to a man they really did hate, during the crucial months in 2020 when the latter seemed most vulnerable.
To address the ostentatious hatred for the latter now in full forthrightness. I cannot think of any better example in our times of the behaviour to which the “social” type of relation amongst but not between individual human beings, as rendered yet more crude and intensified in its fervour not least by the omnipresence of the “social media” system, actually conduces. The sphere comprising these relations, which some have called “the social,” filled palpably as it is by an immense number of them, prompts anyone who enters into it to make a relatively arbitrary selection of an enemy (whom one knows actually little about), singling him out without being able to give a plausible account of why one hates him so, and then to commence a search for allies against him, in much the same relatively arbitrary manner (about them one knows nearly as little). By these steps, in short, and most likely by no other kind, one may orient oneself in this “social” sphere and thread one’s way amongst the obstacles one encounters within it; otherwise here one would prove to be quite helpless.
Alas, the political realm in the better sense of the term has been submerged under the intrusion of these “social” relations. This is by no means a new development; but it was strikingly exemplified once more when Fauci become the ally of those I’m now speaking of.
So not even for a moment do I take these voluble professions of sympathy and of antipathy at their face-value. Having heard them so frequently, and in such similar tones, I’ve begun to think that they emanate from the “social” relation itself, and are at most transmitted through the mouths of those who “speak” them. While the effusions last, though under our reign of haste there is neither time enough nor world that even two minutes may be allotted for the hate, they lend themselves out to that relation as its channel.
Secondly, in their new alliance with him, there seems to be little room for an acknowledgment of his criminality – I am referring to the profits Fauci has extracted or accrued as a side-benefit of his decisions in the realm of scientific research generally and by his preference for vaccines over against therapeutics specifically. By these peculations he well illustrates the nexus of big business and government or even their gradual amalgamation in the United States, effected by inducements which most likely are patently criminal and monetary. Yet to all these low dealings his new-found allies, however much they may indulge in the usual tirades against the accumulation of money, now turn a blind eye – as though the systemic corruption which, in the American context, one used to refer to by the name of the big city where it developed the furthest, Chicago, at bottom no longer bothers them very much. (The corruption in that city has also become a legend abroad – both in the general and in the specific sense of the word, an interpretive key. Those who know something about both American and German history do understand why Berlin during the latter nineteenth century and afterwards was often called the “Chicago an der Spree,” and why Brecht later chose to situate his theatrical fable of the “resistible rise” of Hitler in Chicago itself.)
But perhaps this last blind spot, or conspicuous silence, is not all that surprising. For the spirit of Chicago began to engulf the entire United States with a vengeance when a pair – or, along with their more intelligent Dritte im Bunde, a trio – of two-bit hustlers from that city hoodwinked so many and then got very, very lucky, back in 2008; since then, it has become quite inconvenient to talk in much detail about the country’s actually existing corruption (and it is so easy to prevaricate in vague generalities about “capitalism” instead). And thus, over the last fifteen years this reticence has become endemic, all the more so as Chappaqua in 2016 was every bit as corrupt as Chicago eight years before, not to mention Delaware now and many other similar locales. Then, with real criticism of the American ruling class hushed up or forestalled, and in view of the political services he rendered against the existential threat to the system in 2020, why would those who’ve tacitly made their peace with the whole rotten edifice raise any objection when amounts small by comparison are slipped into the pockets of the good doctor?
Yet in drawing up such an answer (that last question is merely rhetorical), I do remark again how curious is this acquiescence before the powerful and their blatant corruption. “Acquiescence” is already a euphemism; more properly speaking what is now manifest is a complete inner abnegation and abdication. Yes, lo cierto es que anhelaban ceder. This servitude volontaire on the part of many, now coming more and more into focus, can be at once an inward force and a very active power in the world. – Here be it noted that this inner disposition most likely precedes, is more pervasive and primordial than any limited inclination one may feel to obey a command. – For, to underscore the main issue, the worldwide experiment in medical nihilism that is the vaccine campaign in this, that, and every country on the planet, would very probably have remained but another item on the scanty shelf of mere “ideas” in the World Economic Forum library or in Mr. Gates’ living room, were it not for the very numerous indications during the preceding years that willing servility was rising again to become a factor of worldly importance.
So: amongst the few who first thought up the vaccine campaigns, the high degree of assurance that injection needles had only to be brought out en masse and a large portion of the populace would rush forward to impale itself on them – how did they arrive at this conviction?
Indications of what these propensities towards abdication and abnegation might be used for, when manipulated with agility, had been furnished in abundance by the career of “the one” from Chicago, who managed to capitalise with great success upon them. (To be sure, though he deems himself a deity, in this much like Fauci, the role he played during his years in office was mainly that of a figurehead, in this quite unlike the latter. But to delve into this question is not to my purpose here.) By his ascent nearly ex nihilo the god who crept forth from Chicago, to vary slightly those words of Brecht chosen as one of the two epigraphs to this essay, has wrecked the country like no other single person has ever done, setting fires as needed along the way, while those who heroically have tried to put them out were, are, and will be defamed as themselves being the arsonists, as per Kraus’ lines selected as the other. – Through all of this he enriched himself enormously, while behind himself he has left an immense infectious quantity of his own ressentiment, as a parting gesture and sign of his contempt.
Of all this Mr. Gates and the World Economic Forum, or rather, those who serve as their brains, must be well aware indeed. And so it is the instructive example set by the American Nero which now proves to be the worst part of his legacy; it was not least this model which stood in the background when the hook of the vaccine campaigns was baited.
Where now is the Dostoevsky who will delve into (not merely diagnose) and as needed dissect these propensities which just beg to be manipulated, so that by acknowledging their existence they may be made to dissipate? So that then the self-proclaimed deities who prey upon them, wherever they may reside, be it in Washington, D.C. or on Martha’s Vineyard, atop some mountain in Switzerland, within an orderly suburb of Chicago an der Spree, or afloat on a houseboat in the swamp of the Hague, would forfeit the magic of their strength and the strength of their magic. For the rulers do seem to reckon upon the servitude voluntaire as the one needful thing; without it their efforts could hardly “work.”
As if the crimes were not plentiful enough in 2020 and afterwards, these years have also overflowed with manifestations of collective pathology, and on some of these I shall now briefly focus. – By now, in imagination, my quick visit to the United States concluded before I too begin to reek of Chicago and Washington, D.C., I’m re-crossing the Atlantic, and from now until the end of this essay I’ll be speaking quite generally about conditions on both sides of the ocean and elsewhere. – There is still much to say.
Not the very first bouts of panic or near-panic from the beginning of 2020, in the face of (as it then seemed) one rather unprecedented health hazard, but rather a specific event, something rather different and distinguishable from them, albeit congruent with them, namely, the initial hysteria in March of that year – this is the first pathological manifestation calling for some comment.
Much as with the outbursts of hatred emanating, as I suggested earlier, from the “social” kind of relation itself, even then this collective hysteria did not seem to be quite honest, and though any such contemporaneous perception may be challenged, certainly when considered now again in retrospect, it bears a noticeably dishonest visage. For, around that time, with an important election scheduled for later that year, the ruling class, and by no means only in the United States, was beginning to consider how best to set up the political landscape in order to attain the best possible outcome for itself. What would do the job better than a massive outbreak of hysteria? Thus the actual problems posed by the virus would be exacerbated by many orders of magnitude, and in consequence the various elements in the process of crystallising into the new form of total rule could each do its part to set up the circumstances within which the outcome of that election might be affected advantageously. Which was what each commenced to undertake. Then a soundless signal was sent out – and with a rather precise degree of synchronisation, the willing servility in all too many people answered the summons.
This distinction between an individual and some independently active element or elements in his mind or soul, I do not introduce lightly. It gives me pause, as it should. However, there is also substantial evidence of the effective existence of such constituents, that is, of the existence of situations where some such elements in effect supplant all the others and take control; the hypothesis of their existence has rather often been tested and, as Renan said, verified by the results. A quite provocative version of this very hypothesis was advanced by Théoctiste himself, as follows: L’individu adulte porte en lui des millions de consciences obscures, désirant être, aspirant à être, ayant le sentiment obscur des conditions de leur développement, qui lui font partager leurs désirs, leurs tristesses. L’homme le plus vertueux ne peut empêcher que, dans les profondeurs de son organisation, des millions de créatures rudimentaires ne crient : « Nous voulons être. »
Amidst these vast ranks, in those individuals within whom an inclination towards the servitude voluntaire holds sway, have not great numbers of the “consciences obscures” already leagued themselves together to comprise that very disposition in its latent state, which under certain circumstance may indeed be recruited from without, and manipulated into a great pretence of agitation, coaxed into feigning a large show, making a great nuisance of itself in a very particular manner? – Such an occurrence was, roughly speaking, what I think took place in March 2020 and afterwards. For the sake of convenience, I call this purposive outburst, along with its ulterior motivation, “hysteria.”
It was, in a word, an instrument. And, this must be admitted, these instruments were well-played, at least when the spectacle seemed really to be needed, as one means for attaining the specific end I mentioned before. – Subsequently, at some point in 2021, that is, once the election was safely past (there is no need here to speak of the criminal means which ultimately proved necessary to secure it), and the existential threat to the incipient form of total rule had been disposed of, at least for the time being, the effort put into the performance, to “keep up appearances” and render it as convincing as possible, did begin to abate. – To this later development I’ll return shortly.
However, the collective nature of this undertaking, and the high degree of synchronisation manifest in it, do require a bit more elucidation. Yet how in the world could such exactitude of timing be possible? Conspiracy theorist! You must think that somehow they were all in communication with one another, and with someone who signalled to them when to start! Don’t you? Don’t you?!
No, for all the separate acts I’m speaking of, a conductor was not required. Nor did all these instances of what I’ve called hysteria comprise anything like a concerted action. But nonetheless, from the histories of musical life in the nineteenth century, one may derive one or two insights which could help to solve this small puzzle.
The historical detail I have in mind, was included in a publication of the 1850s by the scholar and composer Adolf Bernhard Marx, earlier the founder of one of the first music newspapers of Berlin; it was a synoptic work about the musical life of his century, written with an aplomb which at points makes one think of Kraus’ pugilism.
Relevant here is just one short remark* in which he addressed the fact that increasingly music had become a social pastime, thus opening up a field of employment much like the other white-collar professions, subject like them to specific competitive pressures. So, music of this sort, no longer an art-pursuit entered into for its own sake, but transformed by degrees into a craft or a skill, required ever more rote learning, technical expertise, and, not least, attention to fashion and the latter’s increasingly rapid pace of change. During the long work-days required to master and to maintain such a proficiency, da wird angestrengt und rastlos aber mechanisch und abstrakt geübt und gelernt, da wird wo möglich von früh bis spät unterrichtet und dazwischen bis zur Entnervung und Abstumpfung weiter geübt, was der Tag und Laune der Mode herzubringt – by the end of the day, in other words, all these demands in the aggregate would leave the new professional practitioners, whether teachers, performers, or even students, ever more exhausted and enervated. Facilitated by this depleted condition, soon enough all the repetitions comprised in the practice and the training, as well as the prolonged proximity to the mechanical devices themselves, worked a change upon the participants: they themselves became more and more mechanical, more like machines in their tempo, their habits, and in other personal characteristics that are at once mental and physical in kind.
* Die Musik des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, ch. iv
In short order, this alteration began to affect not only individuals but the people collectively. Die Kunst wird mechanisirt, concluded Marx, und geht mechanisirt in das Volk ein. So art becomes mechanised, and thus mechanised it passes over into the people. Granted, this sentence remains ambiguous, most likely deliberately so, but in the English version I’ve accentuated the implicit idea that this mechanised art, or rather, body of skills, was more readily able, by this character now impressed upon it, to be introduced into the people generally (Volk) and to alter its character in a similar direction, contributing thus perhaps not a little to the ongoing process of its mechanisation.
This general tendency towards mechanisation, however, did not go without a challenge, and some years earlier than the publication of Marx’ book, the individual human φύσις, pushed into a condition of fateful depletion or exhaustion by the quantity and the quality of the demands placed upon it – amongst them, generally speaking, not least the industrial travails recounted throughout the writings of the other Marx – and also attempting to reject much of the new character it was under compulsion to incorporate, began to rebel.
In its immediate distress it sought to be heard, and it charged towards this goal along several avenues.
Of relevance here is the avenue that terminated in the outbursts which already years earlier had become such a frequent occurrence in the concert halls, most memorably whenever Franz Liszt was in attendance. He and his fellows, however, merely provided the occasions; the main point is that in such hysterical explosions the φύσις at last found an outlet for all the frustration and irritation it was being made to endure, as it too was brought more and more under the general mechanisation’s sway.
What might Heinrich Kleist have written, had he lived longer and been able to witness scenes such as those!
But, to turn now to answer the minor question of how the collective hysteria in March 2020 and afterwards could possibly have been so effectively synchronised and staged even without a conductor to preside over it, even without prior communication amongst the hysterics – when the φύσεις in the concert halls spoke out, they did so very much all at once, as though in concerted action, and yet none of them had conferred beforehand. Such a synchronous outbreak itself may indicate that while each of them was protesting loudly against the mechanisation and technification under which it suffered, it already had developed several skills though that very apprenticeship: its inner metronome, to mention the most salient, had become quite a bit more precise, more capable of guiding from within just such a collective feat of timing as I’ve been speaking of.
Yes: this episode from “long ago” does appear to furnish a map-legend as a guide in the case of one of 2020’s most conspicuous pathologies. Yet not only that: the reign of musical training has been of cumulative effect, and over the course of subsequent generations the inner accumulations of performance-precision are more and more what simply everyone has inherited. Acting or not acting upon this inheritance, however, is another matter entirely. Das neunzehnte Jahrhundert wollte Berufsmimen schaffen, als eben diese müssen wir es schaffen. Schaffen wir das? – to modify a remark by Max Weber.* Or, to shepherd the whole idea into a sharper English, The feinters that they are, the nineteenth century once fainted to be.
* Die protestantische Ethik und der „Geist“ des Kapitalismus, ii, 2
To call such a nexus back to mind, quite particular circumstances do seem to be required: the insight is not simply available at any time and place. In the near future, given how conducive ours now seem to be to a sharper re-reading of certain episodes of musical life in the nineteenth century as charts of the present, I may well opt to seize the moment and present some other comparable findings.
Now, however, I shall turn and (from above) point to the spots where some noxious semi-intellectual trash has piled up since 2020, and where some tendencies of mind have put on a show which is generally kept out of sight with good reason.
Firstly, I recall the frisson of delight evinced by more than a few, when faced with the prospect of lockdowns, curfews, and “sheltering in place” (a coinage to rival “social distancing” in sheer awfulness). At last a chance to experience something like the great confinement, one of the few ill-digested bits of Foucault they may have swallowed in their university days (when he at least wasn’t being taught through a facemask)! No matter that those policies shattered so many lives, they were availed an opportunity to catch up on their reading, and they took it with a vengeance. Pereat mundus – fiam! Ah, the solidarity of 2020! – One does shudder to anticipate how in “2030” anyone still around might look back at it with nostalgia.
Secondly, the outbreak of hysteria afforded the hysterics a chance to delude themselves that they were witnessing a return of the repressed in the shape of the psychiatric conditions afflicting their own persons, and thus could “verify” this or that psychoanalytic hypothesis such as they vaguely recalled them from years past or they had spent some part of their careers on, as the case may have been. What a way to fill up one’s time! How much boredom, how little joy (Freude) in one’s life must there be, how great the ennui one has or affects to have, as though to keep pace with others whom one thinks are proving the better actors – to have found any such bits of theatre exciting, and to seek to repeat them again and again?
Thirdly, valetudinarianism became a monster in 2020, as though henceforth life should exist for the sake of health and not the reverse. What a piece of emptiness to fixate on and within whose horizon to situate everything and nothing, as if to parody Martin Heidegger: a healthy state is not nothingness nor some mere thing but rather that around whose axis there courses the “altogetherity” which finds itself in the whole. Alas, this prevalent attitude allowed that all-too-human delectation, the libido dominandi, to escape its box and to begin demanding that all human relations assume the cast of those bounded within a private household (domus), with the valetudinarians now seated squarely on thrones at the centre.
Enough of all this misshapen social or private rubbish that’s turned whatever remained of public space and the political sphere into an enormous junk-yard since 2020.
Back I now turn to the thinker whose analyses of the constituent parts of the formation of total rule, its elements and their origins, went the furthest in dismembering its two main instantiations in the twentieth century, and were quite efficacious when taken or prescribed as a prophylactic or a remedy against the malingering temptation such total rule continued posthumously to exert, not least upon the intellectuals. Sadly indeed, the need for her works, as both toolkit and medicine chest, has become very pressing again, since 2020; and so I should like once more to commend Hannah Arendt and her œuvre to the reader. She, conjointly with her equally perspicuous husband, Heinrich Blücher, remains surely one of the very best products which Germany has ever – exported.
Here, in order to clear away some of the trash as best I can, and perhaps to clear up a few confusions as well, I’ll bring in one or two remarks from an essay, “Ideology and Terror,” which is amongst the contenders for the title of being the sharpest of her many sharp publications.
In the forms of government that have been known since antiquity, the action each was capable of, that is, the ways in which actions were undertaken, the means, and the aims, in short, the different “principles of action” characteristic of each of them, was readily apparent and definable. The very words for these forms, the terms of art everyone knows which bear the suffixes -cracy and -archy, already indicate this. But in the new form of total rule, some decades into the twentieth century, no evidence of anything comparable was to be met with – this conspicuous absence itself posed some difficulties to the first attempts to analyse the structure of the emergent formations. (The degree to which the form of government intermediate in the order of historical time and, perhaps, in some parts of its structure between the ones inherited from antiquity and the new form of total rule, namely, the bureaucracy of the nineteenth century and later, still made manifest a “principle of action” or not, is an interesting question in its own right, but it is one perhaps to pursue on other occasions.)
But if no “principle of action” in the older sense of the term could be discerned in all the arbitrary murderous activity which the new formations of total rule were setting into motion – for during the course of the 1930s, under National Socialism and under Stalinist Communism, it became ever more patent that those who deemed themselves relatively safe one day might be gone the next – how then to designate and describe its impetus?
What totalitarian rule needs to guide the behavior of its subjects is a preparation to fit each of them equally well for the role of executioner and the role of victim. This two-sided preparation, the substitute for a principle of action, is the ideology.*
* “Ideology and Terror,” ii
These two terrifying sentences may well be the point to remember, even if one takes away nothing else from a reading of her essay.
Quite some time before the reigns of annihilation could possibly have commenced in earnest, in Germany and in the Soviet Union, the two ideologies were elaborated.
If only in order to convey a modicum of assurance to individuals that they need not be paralysed entirely by the anticipation of finding themselves next on the list, but also to keep the fear alive – in other words, to direct the ever-present terror into and through certain definite channels – a semblance of sense had to be lent to all the murder, whether already committed or not yet carried out. To accomplish this was perhaps the foremost task assigned to the ideologies.
At the same time, individuals were gradually to be rendered acquainted with and acceptant in advance of the “fate” which might later on be inflicted upon them at any moment. Or perhaps it was not even individuals who were the main addressees of the ideologies any longer, but the various separate “consciences” within each of them whose existence, earlier hypothesised by Renan, could now be “verified” by experimental means applied right in the midst of what once had been the public realm. Perhaps it was these particles of individuality or “sub-individuals” which the ideologies were ever more finely calibrated to work upon, to excite and to lull, as was deemed necessary under this or that circumstance. – How much planning, how much exact research had to have been put into all these contingencies!
– Traversing any such landscapes of extreme horror in thought, the recollective imagination may rather easily lose its way; whereas here I must move swiftly back into the present, where there do remain a few outstanding scores yet to be settled. Avanti.
Amongst the confusions I should like to clarify, one pertains to the word “ideology” itself. Already in the 1930s the aim of the ideologies was directed at least as much towards the mœurs and the existing social conventions, in order to bring about rapid alterations in them, as towards “ideas” strictly speaking, in order to bring individuals step by step to exchange one set for another. (This Borges evidently saw quite clearly.) With regard to the ideology which now is arising before one’s eyes, though it does not exclude ideas or the mœurs or social conventions from its theatre of operation, I do submit that, relatively speaking, within its ambit it tends to include a greater number of discrete undertakings than its predecessors.
One such undertaking which is an integral part of the new ideology, is the intellectual effort put into legitimating the state’s reliance on the now in principle permanent state of crisis as the means to circumvent whatever remains of the older constitutional safeguards. Though the discursive argumentation may be supplied by this or that individual, it really would be foolish to overlook the amount of concerted action that is required to stage the publication of such items with success.
A single illustration will suffice of just such an ideological undertaking. It was furnished by the publication to considerable fanfare (though also, thankfully, some criticism) of an essay in which, under the pretext of the supposed public-health “emergency,” a carte blanche with behind it nearly unlimited credit (or social-credit?) was extended to the state by someone who earlier would, or at least one must hope so, have excoriated the very thing he himself did. And this expression of abnegation before the state he put on display during the fall of last year: the conceivable excuse for things said and done under the sway of panic during the first few months of 2020, is not available in this case.
The culprit was Jürgen Habermas, now evidently quite a ways into his dotage, to judge by the particular level of this text.* Not that it itself is worth the effort of much study; it is enough to note that with it inhibitions were thrown to the winds, he evidently having decided that the καιρός had arrived when, at long last, word could finally be handed over to his inner Carl Schmitt. This was done at length in the essay, though whether he himself possesses the skill and knowledge required to lend specific advice in any drafting of a halfway-applicable Ermächtigungsgesetz, an enabling law such as was passed by the Reichstag on March 23, 1933, is very doubtful. (Although, if one takes account of how far standards in the legislature and the law faculties have fallen, in Germany as in several other countries, and how much the German judiciary has made itself into a rubber stamp, I suppose literally anything is now possible. Wir schaffen das!) – As for the substantive purpose of handing over so much power to the state, it appears the idea is that then it could be so much better and more efficient a nanny and nurse. Does he perhaps generalise from his own present needs? Even worse, his proposition is undergirded by what he seems to have gleaned from the very actors who have such a great interest in perpetuating the emergency itself. (His term for the latter is a bit different, but during a period when the adoption of “health-passes” and worse measures is being contemplated in his country, their own genealogy notwithstanding, why should he scruple to chose the words “pandemische Ausnahmesituation” as his own?)
* “Corona und der Schutz des Lebens”
Ausgeblendet, obviously, is a considerable amount of corrupt self-interest on the part of the would-be rulers. Much of what Habermas may once have learned, in the way of intellectual probity, appears to have deserted him. How ever did it evaporate? What has been left is not solid, but evinces the consistency of a ridiculous husk. Yes, one actually feels a bit embarrassed when logical fallacies so blatant are published. This sentiment one critic conveyed quite well, albeit tersely; I’ll simply quote him integrally, and then render the implicit meaning and amplify something of the tone in an English gloss.
Habermas lässt wie ein drittklassiger Zauberkünstler die Ursachen der Ausnahmesituation in einer quasi apokalyptischen Metapher verschwinden, um unhinterfragt die Ausnahmesituation als objektiv zu setzen. Wir befinden uns in einer Ausnahmesituation, weil wir uns in einer Ausnahmesituation befinden. In der Tautologie wird die Logik nur besonders zwingend.* – Or, in other words, paraphrasing: Like a third-rate carnival magician, he makes the causes of the emergency disappear by pulling an apocalyptic image out of his sleeve, and then, without a further word, conjures up the illusion of that emergency all around us. We find ourselves in the midst of an emergency because – we find ourselves in the midst of an emergency! That’s magic for you: under the circus-tent of tautology, logic itself forfeits its general power to compel assent, and is applied by a sleight of hand wherever one wishes.
* Klaus-Rüdiger Mai, “Habermas und die Philosophie der Unfreiheit als Glaubensbekenntnis”
The puerile display of fallacious reasoning is itself embarrassing; but further, it may also suggest how a creature of the state such as Habermas, who eats its bread and sings its song, may come to pay a quite special price when that state, as now, begins to require of him the provision of material that is specifically ideological: the level of his intellect falls victim to the demand placed upon him, and by demonstrating this so publicly, his is a case which exemplifies what Arendt called the “two-sided preparation” of individuals to be both perpetrators and victims, which it is the task of the ideology to effectuate.
That consequence, however, affects mainly Habermas himself, it is something he will have to answer for whenever his own conscience calls him to account. Here it would have been wise of him to study Schmitt’s career with a bit more attention; the latter already paid a price for his engagement with National Socialism, in the precipitous decline in intellectual level that soon become manifest in his publications of the middle and late 1930s.
Yet of much broader significance is a pernicious development for which Habermas’ ideological love-song to the state prepares everyone, himself included: for why would a state which has extended its powers under a spurious pretext, not soon expand them to a point where it decides what may be published, what the populace may read, and so on. Then any writer could indeed fall victim to a more and more openly totalitarian form of rule, including one who like Habermas earlier consorted with it. The open exhibition of the unintelligence of those authors and intellectuals who stand on the verge of traveling down this path, is not the least of the tasks assigned to the ideology already in the early stages of the crystallisation of the new formation.
One participates in the ideology at one’s own risk. Its contribution towards inuring individuals to just this eventual consequence, rendering them more oblivious – in this sense more like sheep than they were before – is one of the main reasons why this element in the form of total rule is so important within the new whole.
This episode of a German state-philosopher no longer in the best of form, illustrates well some part of the modus operandi of the new ideology in the domain of organised intellectual undertakings, within what used to be the public sphere. Now I should like to turn to examine briefly some part of its functioning on the plane of the mœurs and social conventions, for these are certainly not overlooked as arenas in which a fundamental transformation is to be accomplished.
The three instances I’ll now speak briefly about, of which one is a matter of public record, the other two without name and anecdotal, each illuminate from different angles the specifically ideological function of the vaccination campaign.
This campaign was implemented in such a way as to open a cleft between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, a chasm running through the body politic which could be manipulated, with this or that end in view. This rationale I mention again, in order to append what I didn’t remark upon earlier, namely: as it became clear that the initial round of injections would not suffice if one wanted to remain within the group of the vaccinated, but that regular booster-injections would be required – it was just at this moment that the major effort to incite the vaccinated against those who were not, was initiated. By no means was this bit of timing a co-incidence; for the vaccinated, too, were slated to be set at each other’s throats.
The moment in time I am speaking of may be dated towards the end of August 2021.
Horrendous incitement was audible wherever one turned. Very often nearly the same words were heard, in this or that language, and with quite similar intonations of menace, mayhem, and murder. How not to conclude that the execution of some plan was afoot?
My first example is representative of an entire horde of the same kind.
During a television interview, a French presstitute opened the hunt with these words: je suis pour rendre la vie invivable aux non-vaccinés. Je suis pour pourrir la vie des non-vaccinés.*
* Thierry Moreau, conversation with Estelle Denis, August 26, 2021
Such an attitude on the part of someone vaccinated, clearly places him on the side of those whom the ideology is preparing for the role of perpetrators of violence and murder; but at the very same time, it shows what might happen were that person ever to find himself set over on the other side, that is, should his compliance with the injection regimen be found wanting, or perhaps for other reasons as well.
What the escalation in incitement began to mark out more and more clearly, in other words, was just the “two-sided preparation” that the vaccination campaign, considered as a piece of the ideology which was intended specifically to alter the character of the mœurs, was inducing in those who, like this Frenchman, had placed themselves in its service. The degree to which he himself may have recognised how this preparation was being effected in his own case, then and there, has no bearing upon my recounting of the incident; if at some point in the future he should happen to find the role of victim of violence or murder thrust upon him, on this or indeed on any other point of the ideology, he himself should take a look in his mirror, for he himself has contributed something to preparing the way for that very outcome. – How prepared he himself would be, how much self-composure this presstitute would display, were such a fate ever to befall him, is of course a rather different matter, one which interests me not in the slightest. The bed in which he lies, he himself has made.
As for the claim that the main aim in that organised campaign of incitement was to bring about a thorough change in the mœurs, surely it can’t be disputed that a half-veiled call to mass-murder issued on public television, represents one beginning of quite a fundamental transformation in them?
Each of the next two instances relates to a later echo of the climate of opinion which the vaccine campaign, as a constituent in the ideology, was bringing about, step by step, beginning shortly after the organised incitement against the non-vaccinated was launched.
The incitement was mounted under the spurious rationale that the unvaccinated were vectors by which the virus might reach and harm the vaccinated. A moment’s consideration should have raised the awareness that this idea is an absurdity even on its own terms – but those who were imbibing the incitement, via the television or other comparable propaganda organs, had put themselves in a position where reflection and thought were ruled out in advance. (As has become clearer and clearer on the basis of actual clinical data from a number of countries, it is much more the vaccinated generally and especially the over-vaccinated who have made themselves vectors for the spread of these viruses and probably other kinds as well, amongst themselves and to the unvaccinated. And, by this point and probably already many months ago, who amongst the vaccinated is not in fact over-vaccinated? – For myself, I tend more and more towards a full certainty that these “vaccines” should never have been administered beyond the confines of the most rigorously controlled experimental trials of the sort which used to be conducted.)
Encountering in casual conversation someone who repeated what he had heard from the television, expressing his desire not to cross paths with anyone unvaccinated – this is a horrible illustration of the permeation of everyday life by the ideology. Quickly indeed, facilitated by the propaganda apparatus, it filtered into even the smallest channels of communication between individuals, and not infrequently transformed those relations fundamentally. Wreckage of ties past has been piling up since then, and hence some of those who unwittingly served as accomplices of the ideology and allowed it to come between them and those close to them, may regret what they did or feel that in some manner they too have been victimised. This already is a minor illustration of the “two-sided preparation” which it is the purpose of the ideology to exert upon individuals (or upon whatever it may be within them which has emerged in their stead). – The major illustration of it in this sort of case, would come when he, later on, and with the requirements for being designated a “vaccinated person” altered in the meantime, finds himself being shunned by others for much the same reason he himself voiced earlier. Then, under one and the same ideology, he would indeed take on the part of victim whereas earlier he had assumed the perpetrator’s. – What objection would he then raise to that fateful changement des rôles?
Now I pass on to the third instance of how the “two-sided preparation” was introduced in the context of the vaccine campaign.
From time to time in the months after the incitement commenced, in the context of close relations one sometimes would hear an encouragement to get vaccinated in the form “If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for me!” – a very strange argument, as I said earlier, but one about which there is a bit more now to remark.
Perhaps at times the words were uttered not with a view to any medical benefit the procedure was thought to bring, but simply out of concern that the other accept the status quo and not get himself into trouble. But then the general question of individual abnegation, which was mentioned a bit earlier, would again arise. – No, to assume now for present purposes that the encouragement embodied some belief in the medical efficacy of the vaccine, would not this very request, if granted, have set the stage for a future encounter where the parts might be reversed, so that the same request could be addressed in the other direction? How then to answer it, especially if medical or other circumstances had changed in the meantime and the one who first issued it no longer would want to be its object? Thus, the first time around an unwitting accomplice of the ideology and its perpetration, the second time a victim, or if not that, rather obviously a hypocrite at the very least.
Hence in this instance also, the “two-sided preparation” effected by the ideology was also at work, albeit slightly less egregiously than in the others; in all three its alteration of existing relations, responsibilities, and roles should have been obvious to everyone.
But in each of these three instances, it was not; and so they all illustrate how the ideology spreads the most when individuals avoid reflecting upon the significance of what they themselves say, do, and by their actions and inactions set into motion. Thinking in this sense may be an inoculation to administer to oneself, a procedure of vaccination to recommend or to prescribe in good conscience to everyone else.
Later on, the very human disinclination to admit one had been mistaken, or been the dupe of charlatans, hustlers, or worse types, will have come into play, and by then anyhow it may be too late for a real rectification, if such is even ever possible. And this irrevocability factors into the planning of those who’ve constructed the ideology now arising as a system. One’s errors, which accumulate a sense of their own, are preyed upon; escaping from a first acquiescence will never prove easy.
The difficulties are compounded at a time when human virtue too often is a disguise one merely signals with, a facemask worn by hypocrisy and nothing more.
By thinking, this outmoded human endeavour, one might begin to notice as a distinct datum, and then to “de-familiarise” by an inner change of position or “остраненія,” as Victor Shklovsky would say,* the very absurdity of the new ideology as it has been put together. For the vaccine campaigns are but one of the more practical constituents in it; as a concoction of “ideas” the monster which Davos has loosed upon the world appears to have been assembled out of pieces which are very heterogeneous indeed. Its deformed intellectual body has been spliced together from bits of a credal environmentalism that blew its brains out, a neo-feudalism that emerged stillborn from the heads of a few crackpots, a trans-humanism that overdosed by reading too much bad science-fiction and fell into a coma; behind it there may be the Swiss ice, but nothing akin to those mountain-chains of intellect which the ideologies of the main twentieth-century forms of total rule dishonoured in their very attempts to pay them homage, nothing like those hypostatised concepts Nature and History.
* “Искусство какъ пріемъ”
One really should pause at the thought of just how strange all this is. And also at the intuition that the heterogeneity of the new ideology is not inadvertent but itself part of the plan, not a bug but a feature, something which was opted for because it would exert a fascination in its own right upon the public mind (or what remains of the latter in its now much weakened condition, as per Borges’ story).
For there is still something peculiar I’d like to account for if I can – the delight (whose existence seems evident though it would never be admitted) taken in the sheer incoherence amongst these “ideas,” which the ideology itself seems tacitly to encourage and to make allowance for; as though this twist too had somehow been anticipated.
When, for instance, Habermas seems positively to flaunt the absurdity of his own “argument,” in an ostentatious display that once would have earned him a rap on the knuckles by the figures of authority in the classroom to whose political counterparts he now pays obeisance, then one does wonder what is going on, and begins to consider whether one has before one’s eyes and ears something significant and purposive.
Or, to bring in something I noted before, when, in a different locale and situated on another of the ideology’s planes, once the outbreaks of hysteria in 2020 no longer had to play their part in shaping the electoral battle-field, after a suitable interval the level of the performance began to decline and the performers themselves began to show off, as though to acknowledge that they had been putting on an act all along and now wished to rub the onlookers’ faces in this tacit admission: then too one is given food for thought.
To venture a hypothesis about these bits of data: these “performative” admissions that they, whether Habermas or the hysterics, were not at the top of their game and themselves knew they had no need to be, under the circumstances, suggests that now it is the decline in level across the board which is itself the item to be displayed. A tacit disclosure of decay, that is the real aim. – The illicit pleasure concomitant with this, is perhaps what the servitude voluntaire demands in compensation for its allegiance, and the new form of total rule is only too willing to oblige.
Or else, a somewhat different hypothesis: perhaps in those deliberately faltering performances, under their aspect of being signals of contempt, the “social” relation itself is speaking up, exemplifying itself in another manner than the one I hypothesised earlier.
In a way that matches rather closely ideology’s “two-sided preparation” of individuals for both roles in the relation between perpetrators and victims, the social realm or “the social” introduces those who enter it first and foremost to the duality of enemies and allies: there both are necessary, without either one would find oneself rather helplessly adrift in that domain. So perhaps in some functional manner the social realm itself prepares individuals for their first entrance into the ideology. – But, putting that nexus aside, and focusing instead solely on the social realm and its virtual intensification in the sub-sphere of social media, what seems evident is that the relations amongst the individuals there are often marked by great loneliness (and also perhaps by boredom). Hence, by way of rounding off my second hypothesis, it could be the loneliness engendered by the “social” relation itself which rose up to disturb from within the bad performances given by the hysterics and by Habermas.
Time one must spend in “the social” does acquaint one with the underlying loneliness that abides there; amidst the great haste which keeps the devotées of social media in a near-permanent state of tumult, it is probably even more fundamental, constituting a baseline of the mode of experience that is possible within that sub-sphere. The loneliness that may be felt in the latter would seem to “verify,” as Renan would say, the following hypothesis put forward in Arendt’s essay: Only because we have common sense, that is only because not one man, but men in the plural inhabit the earth can we trust our immediate sensual experience.* If her hypothesis is indeed verified through the experience of loneliness, then in that experience, while it lasts, and perhaps even longer than it lasts, each person’s faculty of common sense is stripped away and something like a dérèglement des sens induced in its place, whereby one loses one’s ability to move about dexterously within the space of the common, shared world. The sensation of this loss, while the experience of loneliness is ongoing, might for its part be marked by the tone of ressentiment; and if that is so, then it could be less loneliness in general whose emanation one detects in the spoiling from within of Habermas’ and the hysterics’ performances, as a variety of ressentiment specifically.
* “Ideology and Terror,” iv
Distinguishing amongst the nuances of the self-destructive behaviours that arise out of too long a time spent in the social sphere, may seem like a digression on my part. Yet, as it seems to me, more and more it is the derangements that the prevalence of social media tends to encourage, and not only those of sense, which have furnished not the least of the arguments wielded by the advocates of a social-credit system. The latter, in other words, is to be introduced not least to put back into order everything which social media has left in disarray. – Surely, to mount an effective opposition against the introduction of the social-credit system, a better understanding of the battleground, that is, the social sphere or “the social” as such, is one requisite.
To help accomplish this task, too, thinking is needed, and if its results are to verify in the end anything other than its own preconceptions, it will need to be a thinking in the round, not the sort which emerges desperately under those very conditions of loneliness themselves. For this latter variety, alas, the self-evident is no longer just a means of the intellect and begins to be productive, to develop its own lines of “thought.” Under the sway of loneliness, thinking like this may erect a circus-tent of tautology and derive an entire spectacle from one single petitio principii, much as did Habermas in his essay, whose origin in loneliness may thus be ascertained in yet this further way.
To be sure, loneliness itself is not singular; it too has its varieties. Arendt did not overlook the sort which can arise, not from our experiences of the social relation, but from one’s rapport to the world in its entirety. [W]e have only to remind ourselves that one day we shall have to leave this common world which will go on as before and for whose continuity we are superfluous in order to realize loneliness, the experience of being abandoned by everything and everybody. – Though this sort of loneliness, as she defines it, seems to situate itself on quite a higher plane than the other, for here one feels at once both a greater generosity of spirit and a more ample amor fati, nonetheless in her phrasing she also seemed to imply that from its scale too a few sharp notes are not absent, and it is these which I should now like to amplify – for upon the feeling which underlies them, I suspect, some part of the incipient ideology is also seeking to work and to capitalise.
First and foremost, is the quite provocative notion that we at times perceive things themselves – taking her at her word – abandoning us, and that from this perception loneliness may arise. My relations with things are akin to my relations with human beings, and they all are capable of distancing themselves from me in any number of ways. A thing could expire, its date of obsolescence reached; it could fall silent; it could turn its back on me. It could abscond or be expropriated. And already one senses that the loneliness arising when one’s things have stolen or been stolen away, might harbour some ressentiment (it is a bit green with envy, perhaps), all the more so if others have been conspicuously left in possession of theirs, or will be permitted to enjoy them again at some future point. Acts of restitution might themselves be utilised to arouse this ressentiment. So, how readily might this loneliness, in short, be manipulated by masters of propaganda together with politicians skilled in the arts of divide et impera! – This idea might be borne in mind henceforth, especially since what seems imminent now, is rationing and artificially engineered shortages of goods of all kinds.
Also quite important, is the awareness, which most often one does not dwell on, that though one feels a great need for the world, it feels nothing in return. In the best case, one overcomes this disappointment with the help of a good poet –
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me
– but evidently there is a potential fury here, if the brute fact of one’s individual superfluity is thrust in one’s face in a certain manner. And this, in the years since 2020 when, under the spurious pretext of the general health, but in reality, as it often seems, in the self-interest of the hypochondria of a few which disposes over much of state policy, of a great many the health, the livelihoods, and often even the lives have been squandered – this is what has been done. No, this indication of the individual’s superfluity is not to be borne. And so, in response an angry loneliness has indeed emerged, and for this the rulers are entirely responsible: the blood of all of it was, is, and will be on their hands. – Alas, since their ranks also comprise the artists of manipulation I’ve mentioned already, they know rather well how to deflect a considerable part of this sentiment to their advantage.
Those who devised the ideologies of the two main forms of total rule in the twentieth century, who availed themselves of some few bits of ideas drawn from Marxism, in the case of the Stalinist ideology, and from that amalgam of Darwinism and Nietzscheanism which was so common towards the end of the Wilhelmine era, in the case of the National Socialist, had ready-made the two concepts of History and Nature to lend some sense to the mobilisation in all spheres of life which total rule aimed to propel. By the deployment of those two concepts, the superfluity of the individual could be exhibited within the course of the mobilisation as being a fact of life both awful and necessary, which individuals would thus accept, doing so in either of the roles which the ideology was elaborated to provide. The inhabitants of a totalitarian country are thrown into and caught in the process of Nature or History for the sake of accelerating its movement; as such, they can only be executioners or victims of its inherent law.*
* “Ideology and Terror,” ii
Now, like them, the new formation is committed to the acceleration of life as one of its foremost aims – but a concept in the name of which this process is being undertaken, this it evidently lacks. And this lack is itself very curious. – It may, or it may not, be intentional.
Upon reflection, I tend to identify a single “idea” as lending some sense to the course of acceleration advocated by Davos and being implemented in the countries whose leaders are following its line; but it does so inconspicuously, and there is at least one specific reason for this arrangement. (Thus the efficacy of this idea is not that of a “law,” such as was said to inhere in both History and Nature.)
This idea is the one which regards the sheer number of human beings on the planet to be greatly excessive. If one peers into this or that -ism of which the predators of Davos have scavenged some pieces, handing these morsels over to their specialists in gore to stitch up into the semblance of a new life-form, one may notice that these -isms were already as though transfixed by it.
And though it is kept relatively inconspicuous, on at least one occasion Davos has heard the idea proposed in one of its fora.
The idea should not be understood as representing just another of the idle dreams which may circulate within the precincts of Davos itself. As a goal to be reached, any number of means might be adopted, and this all the more readily at a time when, as now, several leaders and at least one régime around the planet are acting as its agents.
Whether by means of international tensions deliberately heightened which then explode (as seemed quite possible around the Ukraine), by grave shortages of the most necessary goods as a result of deliberate economic policy (as seem likely to occur soon), by rapid inflation unleashed in much the same way (as is currently evident) – by any number of routes, the futural prospect of a planetary depopulation may be brought nearer to us, entered further into the zone of actual possibility. – Even if in the end Davos, by means of its associates in this or that capital, only manages to push the “reset”-button to activate a world-outbreak of the conflagration otherwise known as the bellum omnium contra omnes, even then a great depopulation would follow.
And this idea, once heard of, raises suspicions across the board whenever one begins to ask oneself what the raison d’être of this or that new policy or program actually is.
A quite terrible suspicion has arisen in just this way about the ulterior aim of the vaccination programs. What was the finality of their effect intended to be, by those who had all the available medical data at their disposal (the data of which much has been placed under wraps for decades)? What kind of experiment has been and is being conducted by their administration (the vaccines themselves and the campaigns devised around them) on such a planetary scale?
Now I can state what, having reflected for some time upon the matter, I think is the most evident reason why this “idea,” a great reduction in the sheer number of human beings living on the planet, has not been equipped with a capitalised noun (in German it would already wear a capital letter) and proclaimed loudly from the Swiss mountains, but rather is kept rather muted in the background. – So much hinges on the sound it emits by dint of its quasi-theatrical and acoustic staging. – Here I touch on a stratagem which is rather clever and even devilish. How could considerable thought, whether in Davos itself or elsewhere, not have gone into devising and applying it?
Precisely when it is situated in reserve, it seems to me, this anticipation of a future depopulation may elicit a maximum of inner fatalism in those who hear of it. Thus is a certain shading of sense cast over the nonsensical acceleration promulgated by Davos; the datum this messaging plays upon and manipulates, is the thought of individual disappearance from the world, understood as an obvious and inescapable terminus of each human life. If human life generally is being accelerated, why should not the death of the species also be hastened, so that the two velocities keep pace with one another and meet somewhere in the middle? This tenebrous thought-effect is achieved – whenever it is achieved, for of course many have sharp ears for just this species of trickery – not least by virtue of the distances involved in the transmission of the message: the traversal itself helps lull logical and other objections to sleep, so that assent, acquiescence, abnegation, abdication may then take the vacant field.
Yes, in this soft song of a planet with far fewer or next to no human beings, deliberate tact is shown, a delicate touch of flattery, while in its delivery there is something sirenic, and when the notes enter the ear from over a farther distance, they may even afford a piece of consolation. – Some of the anger provoked by everything done at the behest not least of Davos, in consequence of the loneliness that has been engendered, as I proposed before, may thus be diverted from seeking out and striking what ought to be its proper target.
So much depends on how this guiding idea is heard and understood. What at bottom does “depopulation of the planet” signify?
It represents the negative of what may well be the most important principle in all of the Bible, the directive which has outlasted so much else in the story of civilisation, as the deepest foundation far beneath all worthwhile endeavours, regardless of the beliefs one might hold most deeply (even nihilists do pay it heed at the end of the day): be ye fruitfull, and multiply, bring foorth aboundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.* – Must we fear that “cancellation” now awaits the Bible itself? Will this fundamental principle and the other deepest foundations of “human living-together” soon be torn up?
* Genesis, 9, 7
Unless an emergency-brake is pulled on this acceleration towards the end-station called “2030,” most likely long before then the foodstuffs of human multiplicity will rot away in a chaos of sterility and division.
By way of concluding this Abrechnung, a few words about the outlook in 2022 for the endeavour of creative multiplication that is music.
I should like to underscore how great has been the damage inflicted upon musical life these last years, not least by the succession of lockdowns. The longer-range consequences, as they begin to manifest themselves, may prove to be yet more disastrous.
If into the music that will last something of the times enters and is multiplied into durable significance within its sonic dimension, what ever will the works now being and soon to be written sound like, when the present is so horrible, so emptied by nihilism. How in the world to multiply that which descends so persistently to the condition of the zero?
The question is even more troublesome when one thinks of the relation between medicine and music, each acknowledged as a quite sui generis power in human life. There are some commonalities between the two; when the patient is the individual human soul, music too contains a fund of medicinal capacity, and might thus in some respects step into the breach when the former has failed, during an emergency. And medicine, I’ve suggested, certainly now finds itself in quite a state of emergency, not least the moral emergency it has inflicted upon itself. But if music too has been affected and is debilitated, who will be the healer then?
– Questions make not the worst of endings for a settling of accounts.
Since this essay has alluded to some bits of “trans-humanism” incorporated into the incipient ideology, I should like to direct the reader’s attention to a prescient nineteenth-century anticipation of the point at which humanity might one day have arrived. It is drawn from an essay by George Eliot,* written perhaps in response to the dialogue by Renan of which I have presented only a few excerpts.
* Impressions of Theophrastus Such, ch. xvii
“Naturally,” I persisted, “it is less easy to you than to me to imagine our race transcended and superseded, since the more energy a being is possessed of, the harder it must be for him to conceive his own death. But I […] can easily imagine myself […] giving way not only to a superior but a vastly different kind of Entity. What I would ask you is, to show me why, since each new invention casts a new light along the pathway of discovery, and each new combination or structure brings into play more conditions than its inventor foresaw, there should not at length be a machine of such high mechanical and chemical powers that it would find and assimilate the material to supply its own waste, and then by a further evolution of internal molecular movements reproduce itself by some process of fission or budding. This last stage having been reached, either by man’s contrivance or as an unforeseen result, one sees that the process of natural selection must drive men altogether out of the field; for they will long before have begun to sink into the miserable condition of those unhappy characters in fable who, having demons or djinns at their beck, and being obliged to supply them with work, found too much of everything done in too short a time. What demons so potent as molecular movements, none the less tremendously potent for not carrying the futile cargo of a consciousness screeching irrelevantly […]? Under such uncomfortable circumstances our race will have diminished with the diminishing call on their energies, and by the time that the self-repairing and reproducing machines arise, all but a few of the rare inventors, calculators, and speculators will have become pale, pulpy, and cretinous from fatty or other degeneration, and behold around them a scanty hydrocephalous offspring. As to the breed of the ingenious and intellectual, their nervous systems will at last have been overwrought in following the molecular revelations of the immensely more powerful unconscious race, and they will naturally, as the less energetic combinations of movement, subside […]. Thus the feebler race, whose corporeal adjustments happened to be accompanied with a maniacal consciousness which imagined itself moving its mover, will have vanished, as all less adapted existences do before the fittest – i. e., the existence composed of the most persistent groups of movements and the most capable of incorporating new groups in harmonious relation. Who – if our consciousness is, as I have been given to understand, a mere stumbling of our organisms on their way to unconscious perfection – who shall say that those fittest existences will not be found along the track of what we call inorganic combinations, which will carry on the most elaborate processes as mutely and painlessly as we are now told that the minerals are metamorphosing themselves continually in the dark laboratory of the earth’s crust? Thus this planet may be filled with beings who will be blind and deaf as the inmost rock, yet will execute changes as delicate and complicated as those of human language and all the intricate web of what we call its effects, without sensitive impression, without sensitive impulse: there may be, let us say, mute orations, mute rhapsodies, mute discussions, and no consciousness there even to enjoy the silence.”
“Absurd!” grumbled Trost.