G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

Shel Silverstein : “Talked my head off Worked my tail off Cried my eyes out Walked my feet off Sang my heart out So you see, There’s really not much left of me.” ~

Martin Amis: “Gogol is funny, Tolstoy in his merciless clarity is funny, and Dostoyevsky, funnily enough, is very funny indeed; moreover, the final generation of Russian literature, before it was destroyed by Lenin and Stalin, remained emphatically comic — Bunin, Bely, Bulgakov, Zamyatin. The novel is comic because life is comic (until the inevitable tragedy of the fifth act);...”

Werner Herzog: “We are surrounded by worn-out, banal, useless and exhausted images, limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Justin E.H. Smith: “One should of course take seriously serious efforts to improve society. But when these efforts fail, in whole or in part, it is only humor that offers redemption. So far, human expectations have always been strained, and have always come, give or take a bit, to nothing. In this respect reality itself has the form of a joke, and humor the force of truth.”

विलास सारंग: "… . . 1000 नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे."

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Tragedy of German Genius... And its Review!


Social scientist Wilhelm Heitmeyer has been publishing studies on German attitudes for a decade. In a SPIEGEL interview, he discusses his latest results, which show that Germans' relationship to minorities and the disadvantaged has become increasingly hostile.

SPIEGEL: Professor Heitmeyer, you have been studying the condition of the Germans for the last 10 years. How are we doing?

Heitmeyer: Not very well. The growing social divide is corroding the sense of community, and society is poisoned. Social disintegration is dangerous, especially for disadvantaged groups. Substantial segments of society believe that they are more valuable than others. Only those who achieve something, who are useful and efficient, count for something.

SPIEGEL: Hasn't that always been the case?

Heitmeyer: Yes, but the principle of rationality, which has its place in the economy, has increasingly permeated our thinking, finding its way into living rooms, schools and social relationships. This application of economic principles to the valuation of human beings is inhumane. Immigrants, the homeless, the long-term unemployed, the disabled, all of these people are worth less than others according to these standards. 

SPIEGEL: How do elites treat the weak?

Heitmeyer: Significant segments the elites and higher earners are increasingly withdrawing from a mutually supportive society. They claim the privileges of the establishment, and they fight against a minimum wage, the wealth tax and the inheritance tax, even though the policies of redistribution have been in their favor for years. This is class warfare from above. It shows that the core standards of this society are in great jeopardy. Some 64 percent of society believes that striving for justice is pointless. Solidarity and fairness, values that are vital to the cohesion of a society, are being eroded.
December 14 2011

Niall Ferguson and Nouriel Roubini, 12 June 2012:

"...We find it extraordinary that it should be Germany, of all countries, that is failing to learn from history. Fixated on the non-threat of inflation, today's Germans appear to attach more importance to the year 1923 (the year of hyperinflation) than to the year 1933 (the year democracy died). They would do well to remember how a European banking crisis two years before 1933 contributed directly to the breakdown of democracy not just in their own country but right across the European continent..."
     

Peter Watson in chapter titled 'The German Ideology And The Future Of Human Nature':


"...is Germany itself always to remain unredeemable? Perhaps Norbert Elias was correct in saying that the country cannot move ahead until a convincing explanation for the rise of Hitler has been given..."
 
Brooke Allen:

"Not many people can remember the year 1945. For those of us who were born well after World War II, into a world governed, however imperfectly, by entities like the United Nations, the European Union, the International Criminal Court, and the World Bank, the scale of pure chaos during that fateful year is unimaginable. Many millions lay dead. Beyond the murder of 6 million Jews, 8 million Soviet soldiers and 16 million Soviet civilians had been killed; in China, 10 million civilians. At war's end, 8 million "displaced persons" were stuck in Germany, 3.5 million in other parts of Europe. Six and a half million Japanese were stranded in Asia and the Pacific, a million enslaved Korean workers in Japan."
 
Marathi daily Loksatta (लोकसत्ता has reviewed Peter Watson's 'The German Genius: Europe's Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution, and the Twentieth Century', 2011 on September 21 2013.

First some funny things.
 
The reviewer says "...‘द जर्मन जीनियस’ या पुस्तकाच्या शोधात बरेच दिवस होतो. लंडनला सापडलं..." (I was in search of  'The German Genius'. Found it in London.). 

I wonder why. I did casual search on internet. I started with Amazon.in. I found it right there on my screen. It (paperback edition) costed only Rs. 402 on Sept 21 2013 much lower than the price of British Pound 9.99 given at the end of the review. 

We of course conclude reading the review that the reviewer has been to Germany a few times and (probably) drops by London to pick up books. I envy him.

The review itself is disappointing.

The world will in less than a year's time observe the 100th anniversary of the start of the World War I. 20th century is the bloodiest century in the history of mankind and the principal party responsible for it is the nation of Germany.

Therefore, although I understand that there is a lot more to Germany than those wars, how can you avoid the subject? Has that unprecedented violence anything to do with their so-called 'genius'? Shouldn't you be raising these questions?


David Crossland says:

"...Few would disagree that Germany as a nation has worked hard to atone for its past, unlike Austria and Japan which have cloaked themselves in denial. Germany has paid an estimated €70 billion in compensation for the suffering it caused, conducts solemn ceremonies to commemorate the victims and, above all, has owned up to what was done in its name.


Companies and government ministries have opened up their archives to historians to illuminate their role in the Third Reich, and a late push in prosecutions of war criminals is underway to make up for the failure to bring them to justice in the decades after the war.


But millions never confronted their own personal role as cogs in the Nazi machinery..."

Therefore, a lot remains to be done or was never done.

The review mentions  William L. Shirer's book.  Ron Rosenbaum observes:

"....Shirer does not condemn Germans as Germans. He’s faithful to the idea that all men are created equal, but he won’t accede to the relativistic notion that all ideas are equal as well, and in bringing Fichte and Poetsch to the fore, he forces our attention on how stupid and evil ideas played a crucial role in Hitler’s development..."
As the Loksatta reviewer brings Mercedes to the fore, can we be sure that even today "stupid and evil ideas" are not lurking close behind?
Reviewing this book for The New York Times, Brain Ladd  has said:
"...Even if Heidegger hadn’t been a Nazi, we would still face the question of whether Hitler was the nemesis or the culmination of German genius. Just as Mann had to acknowledge Goebbels as his bastard child, Watson knows that Germany cannot disown the Nazis. He borrows many different and contradictory theories of the German catastrophe, variously suggesting that the educated middle class was too weak to stop Hitler, that it abdicated its responsibility to do so and that its antipolitical ideals taught a nation to welcome a charlatan’s promises of a redemptive community. 

Yet no history of ideas can explain the tragedy of German genius. Hitler may have fancied himself a great thinker, but his success came from his brilliance as a political tactician in a troubled time. Intellectuals admired (or feared) him for his ability to seduce millions of voters who knew nothing of Kant or Heidegger. Watson gives us a compilation of German ideas; a history of the German genius would be a different and dicier matter..."
Artist: Rea Gardner, The New Yorker, 10 November 1945

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