Still on the road to recovery. The Boy's pediatrician says it's a virus, something worse than a cold but better than the flu. At least it's giving me the opportunity to finish Max Hastings' chilling Armageddon: The Battle for Germany, 1944-1945
Not too long after the successful landing of D-Day in June 1944, everyone realized the Allies would eventually win. As such, there was no rational reason for Hitler to continue the war, much less with the frenzied sadism with which he did so. But then, there was no rational reason for him to have started it, either.
The last year of the war was its most bloody, destructive, genocidal, and hellish. The suffering that took place is truly beyond imagination -- and this includes the suffering caused by the Allies, which wouldn't have been at issue if the Nazis had simply relented. And the sadism and barbarity of the Russians might actually exceed that of the Nazis, if that is possible. The Russian savagery that took place in east Prussia is in the same league as the Holocaust.
Anyone who is sanguine about human nature needs to read this book and get a clue; also anyone who doesn't appreciate the rare and beautiful thing we had going in this country until the left got the upper hand. They will not rest until we are just like the decadent Europe we rejected long ago.
Anyway, this gives me a chance to reflect on an old post about a book called Hitler and His God: The Background to the Hitler Phenomenon
Now, not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but we shall soon see that Nazism represents a perfect shadow of what we might call "Christian evolution," or the possibility of further spiritual development within a Christian framework. In virtually all areas, Hitler wished to invert Christianity and literally create a new religion that represented its very opposite. As John Toland wrote, "National Socialism was a religion and Hitler was its Christ."
Van Vrekhem makes a convincing case that there actually wasn't any such thing as "Nazism" in any consistently articulate sense. Much less was Nazi Germany primarily "fascist." Rather, its ultimate principle was not only the fuhrer in general, but Hitler in particular. Truly, just as Christianity is not fundamentally a religion of "ideas" but of a person
, so too can it be said that Nazism was a man
. Furthermore, as we shall see, he was most definitely a kind of "word made flesh," only in a very different sense than that with which we are familiar.
Nevertheless -- and this is another key point -- the Hitler phenomenon could not have occurred in the absence of our intuition of the cosmic principle that allows word to become flesh. In other words, it was as if Hitler were hijacking a legitimate channel for a very illegitimate end. But when you think about it, this is not fundamentally different than when someone uses language in order to lie. Our cosmos is created in such a way that objects and symbols may embody, encode, and transmit truth. But for that very same reason, they may encode and convey lies. Likewise, if art is to exist, it will be capable of transmitting the celestial beauty from above as well as diabolical ugliness from below.
Van Vrekhem goes into considerable detail about the utter trauma sustained by the German people in the wake of losing World War I. For most Americans, our history has been so comparatively uneventful that we just can't imagine what it would be like for every pillar of stability to be obliterated. I suppose we got a taste of it in the Great Depression, which was precisely why so many nations lurched toward a fascist solution.
There is no doubt that FDR rode to power on a similar messianic wave as Hitler, which is precisely what allowed him to usurp and wield presidential power in a theretofore unprecedented way. Most of what FDR did was demonstrably harmful to the economy, but the need was so deep for a "strong man from above," that the people actually embraced it. Again, there was a kind of perfect resonance between the messiah and the masses. (We will later discuss this in the context of Obamania, as it is a reflection of these same enduring principles.)
Now, to back up a bit, there is no doubt that man has been dealing with an ongoing existential crisis with the onset of modernity. I'm not going to press the point, partly because it's just too obvious, but the rupture between the Middle Ages and the scientific revolution was so great, that we are still dealing with its implications. It is as if there are tectonic plates in human time, more or less continuous planes that occasionally shift, causing an earthquake in history. One such quake was the "axial period," during which most of the world's revelations were downloaded from above.
Then, after the world was largely oriented around these revelations came the massive quake of the free markets, democracy, and the industrial and scientific revolutions. In his book Modern Fascism
, Veith discusses the deep alienation that resulted from the dramatic change from an agrarian, religious, hierarchical, and essentially timeless (or cyclical) existence to one that was suddenly ordered around the machine, the clock, democracy, and (small r) reason.
If we say that man appeared approximately 200,000 years ago, his outward circumstances changed little between then and the Agricultural Revolution some 10,000 years ago. Afterwards not a lot changed for the average Joe until the Industrial Revolution, beginning in the 18th century. So in the overall scheme of things, our current lifestyle is truly just a blip -- 300 years out of a total of 200,000. No wonder, therefore, that humans have such a strongly romantic and nostalgic streak.
But some people are more romantic than others, none more so than the late 18th and early 19th century Germans -- perhaps as a reaction to how rapidly they found themselves hurtling into a new and unknown world. While they apparently represented the apex of "civilization" by the onset of World War I, that civilization was superimposed, so to speak, on some very experience-near collective memories of blood, soil, and mythology that were not just bubbling under the surface, but existing side by side with the advances.
Back to that idea in just a moment, but we can get a glimpse of the same phenomenon in our contemporary culture, in which, for example, the most cutting edge science exists side by side with the most primitive new age magic and mythology, a la Deepak and his ilk. Instead of seeing these things as opposed (i.e. scientistic fairy tales and new age mythology), perhaps we should see the new age as a kind of fascist revolt against the anti-humanism of postmodernity.
In any event, as we shall see, the cultural matrix that gave birth to Hitler was a deeply "new age" one, with all sorts of books, movements, and secret societies exploring the occult -- seances, spiritism, chanelling, reincarnation, hidden knowledge, etc. This phenomenon was only ramped up in the wake of the catastrophic loss of World War I. For example, Van Vrekhem discusses how much interest there was in contacting the dead, given how many parents had lost their sons to the war -- some five million dead between the German empire and Austria-Hungary.
Veith writes that "fascism is essentially a response to the alienation that has been a part of the spiritual landscape of the West since the Enlightenment.... Science, technology, and the economic realities and environmental damage of the industrial revolution isolate the individual from nature. There has thus been a genuine yearning for community and for an organic unity with the natural world."
Living a life of cold logic is intrinsically alienating. There is nothing Rational about living a life of pure (again, small r) reason. But nor is there anything rational about abandoning reason altogether and living a purely instinctual life, which is clearly what occurred with Nazi Germany, but also to a lesser extent in the 1960s, not just in America, but all over the developed world.
I remember a particular patient who was maybe a decade older than I, and who was a young adult by the end of the '60s, whereas I was still a young teen. He was a deeply alienated man, and quite hostile to religion. Interestingly, he frequently articulated his alienation in the form of nostalgia for the 1960s, which, you might say he missed out on. He was more a witness than participant in the dionysian frenzy of that decade, which made him feel as if that is what was missing in his life. If he could only go back and relive the '60s, but this time do it right -- completely obliterate his ego and live some sort of communal life with no tension, instant sexual gratification, no boundaries, etc. For him, it was as if there had been this giant, boundary-less party taking place, but he had been on the outside looking in. (The film American Beauty also explores this theme.)
But again, this was just a symbol
of my patient's current alienation, which could only be resolved now
, not by dreaming and fantasizing about the past. The blogosphere is a pretty sorry place, but some of the sorriest people of all are the ones like my patient, who are now in their 60s and posting on dailykos about how much they miss the 1960s, and how the Obamessiah is going to bring back that sense of community and oneness.
Again, this is anything but progressiveism; it is pure romanticism, which is always backward looking -- and not just backward looking, but backward to an idealized past that never existed to begin with. It is pure projection of present existential pain, and escapism into the past. No one is more conservative than a progressive. It's just that what they want to conserve is childhood and all of its privileges, e.g., irresponsibility, dependency, entitlement, rebellion against the grown-ups, polymorphous perversity, weak boundaries, etc.
Which is perfectly understandable. For someone who lives without any religious telos, the denial of impulses seems stifling and arbitrary, because it "leads nowhere" (since God does not exist), and merely becomes bourgeois respectability or rank hypocrisy.
Thus, as Veith writes, "If objective knowledge is alienating, subjective experience is liberating and healing. Authentic experience comes from unleashing the emotions, cultivating the subjective and irrational dimension of life." So never ask why the left is so hysterical and irrational, because that is the whole point. It is a way of life. You will look in vain for the "rational end" they are seeking, because the emotional irrationalism is its own end. I am quite convinced that leftism is simply a "way of life" -- or, more precisely, a way of managing one's emotional life, of dealing with the pain and conflict of existence. It will be with us so long as cosmic alienation is with us, as an alternative to religion.
In Hitler & His God
, Van Vrekhem goes into considerable detail about the "volkisch movement" that was a big part of the appeal of Nazism -- or which Nazism co-opted, to be precise. At the root of this movement was the idea that Christianity was a foreign influence superimposed on a much deeper reservoir of primitive beliefs. Christianity unifies people through a common belief system, but "volk" indicates "a tribal unity of blood, unmodified by ideas of a common humanity. Religious in the intensity of their beliefs, volkists had had no real equivalent in other Western nations."
The concept is especially difficult for normal (non-leftist) Americans to comprehend, being that we are the first nation explicitly created around abstract and universal principles instead of more primitive modes of blood, soil, mythology, etc. But here again, we can see how the modern doctrine of multiculturalism is in reality a quite primitive reversion back to earlier ways of life. Multiculturalism is specifically a rejection of American principles, what with its obsession with blood and race instead of ideas
. This is why when you criticize Obama's ideas, they accuse you of being a racist.
For Americans -- and for Christians -- "essence" is in the individual. That is, we are created in the image of God, so that our deepest personal essence partakes of divinity. But for the volkists -- and for the multicultural left -- essence is in the group
is a much more comprehensive term than 'people,' for to German thinkers ever since the birth of German romanticism in the late eighteenth century, Volk
signified the union of a group of people with a transcendental 'essence.' This 'essence' might be called 'nature,' or 'cosmos' or 'mythos,' but in each instance it was fused to man's innermost nature and represented the source of his creativity, his depth of feeling, his individuality and his unity with other members of the Volk
. The essential element here is the linking of the human soul with its natural surroundings, with the 'essence' of nature."
Now, why do you suppose "global warming" has become the left's new religion? Here again, you need only scratch the surface of their irrational rhetoric to appreciate a reservoir of primitive, volkisch-like sentiments of "unity" with mother earth, of healing the planet, etc. Never mind that premodern humans were the worst stewards of the planet imaginable, in part because they were so fused with it that they didn't know the environment existed. Ironically, we only know about the environment because in the Judeo-Christian metaphysic, man transcends nature. But again, in the absence of a truly integral religious framework, this transcendence will be experienced as alienation, as if human beings have been exiled from mother earth, and need to come back down and re-merge with her like the prodigal mama's boy.
For (non-left) Americans, the individual stands above the state, and derives his inalienable rights from the Creator. But for the volkist, the group
is the supreme identity that stands above or behind the state. Truly, in Nazi Germany, there was only one
individual, Hitler; but in turn, he was merely the "embodiment" of the volk
, which is rooted in blood and soil. Thus, "it was the genius of Adolf Hitler to wed the volkisch flight from reality to political discipline and efficient political organization."
To be continued....