(Image: Article 1 of Germany’s constitution, “Human dignity is inviolable”, inscribed on the walls of the Regional Court of Frankfurt, Main, at the request of Fritz Bauer)
Fritz Bauer, Attorney General in the Auschwitz trial, said in an interview for the Hessian Radio (HR) in 1964 that he was waiting for “the tiniest sign of humanness” from the people sitting in the prosecution bench towards the surviving witnesses whose families had been completely wiped out. The victims’ families, all of Germany and the world could breathe a sigh of relief then [arte film documentary “Fritz Bauer, Generalstaatsanwalt, Nazi-Jäger”; 42:38]. But nothing of the sort happened. At the beginning of the trial they all pleaded “innocent” and stayed with it until their final plea, even though they had to admit in the course of the trial that their behaviour had cost lives. What should they have done? After all, orders were orders. “Befehlsnotstand”, as the German wording goes. The same thing happened in the other war crimes trials: the Nuremberg Main Trial, the Nuremberg Medical Trial, the Bergen-Belsen Trial, the Ravensbrück Trial, the Dachau Trial, the Mauthausen Trial, the Buchenwald Trial, the Flossenbürg Trial, the Mühldorf Trial and the Eichmann Trial. Would it have been so awful – guilty or innocent – to express some sympathy for the fates of those affected and their families, as is not only customary but inevitable in personal encounters?
Considering that the few hundred who were held accountable in court are representative of the leadership, many of whom escaped justice by fleeing the country or committing suicide, and considering that tens of thousands of employees were actively and directly involved in the extermination machine, and considering further that the common people, who silently collaborated, were unable to talk about their wartime pasts until the mid-1960s, then it is fair to say that, apart from its symbolic effect, the legal examination of the Nazi reign of terror has been a failure. Leading Nazis were able to obtain lucrative and responsible posts in both German states, Austria and also with the Allies, which signals that no effective denazification took place in society either. What is quite certain, however, is that psychological processing, disassociation and reconciliation on a human level were practically completely absent. Nowhere did perpetrators stand by their deeds after the end of the Third Reich.
This allows for two possible conclusions.Firstly, that the war crimes trials produced gigantic legal misjudgments or else equally gigantic legal abuses – in other words, that those sentenced to death were actually not guilty. This is contrary to the apparent evidence of a massive flood of clues, testimonies and proofs, as well as to the simple logic of totalitarian regimes, as can be observed elsewhere, and would be tantamount to Holocaust denial. I would like to leave that aside for ontological and ethical reasons. The second possible conclusion seems psychologically more logical anyway and more probable from experience: that the accused – and with them all those who actively or passively participated in the crimes of the regime but remain silent to this day – are incapable of admitting the evil of their deeds to themselves or to others, and that they are therefore unable under any circumstances to show human emotions, such as Fritz Bauer would have expected from people who had committed a mistake but remained basically decent: There was no admission, no mea culpa, no regret, no remorse, no apology, no reparation. And people like Günter Grass lied or remained silent about their SS membership all their lives. This conspicuous absence of human emotion in the face of the most atrocious crimes prompted Fritz Bauer to quote Hölderlin:
You see craftsmen, but no human beings, thinkers, but no human beings, priests, but no human beings, masters and servants, boys and set people, but no human beings.
The Third Reich is by no means an exception. The same applies to active participants in the GDR dictatorship, in the Soviet Union and the fascist dictatorships of Southern Europe, for the collaborators in France, Quislings in Norway, the countries of the BeNeLux and from the fascist and later real-socialist vassals Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, etc. It was the victors who exhibited individual faces of the overthrown regime in show trials and then had their heads rolled for public effect. There was no atonement, no reconciliation, and therefore no new beginning. On the contrary: Helmut Kramer, former judge at the Regional Court of Braunschweig, reported that resentment against emigrants and opponents of the regime had formed among the people because they had allegedly “evaded their responsibility”. Bauer’s hope that the complete discrediting of anti-Semitism would finally make reconciliation between Jews and non-Jews possible was perhaps dashed because the perpetrators assumed that their victims were not capable of this. Yet it was the perpetrators and their sympathisers who lacked both empathy and imagination and thus the will to make peace with the past, the victims, the emigrants and the members of the resistance.
Thinking about the time after the Corona dictatorship, this gives me a sense of foreboding. After all, making a comparison with Germany’s years of terror means for me not only looking at their conditions of origin, their mechanisms of repression and manifestations of violence in order to be able to correctly assess their counterparts in the present, but also to reflect on their end and their overcoming. In view of the fatal post-war years, it is to be feared that parliamentarians who voted for the Enabling Act will assume the most prestigious office in the new state, that torture doctors will head medical associations, that wartime engineers will continue to provide destructive technologies, that ordinary block watchmen will become mayors,that the informers of yesteryear continue to defend the government against the people, that mobs of thugs become policemen, that murderers of the judiciary are now to dispense justice, that a member of the old junta heads a state government, or that the flatterers of the Ancien Regime are allowed to lull the people even after the collapse, as happened in the early FRG.
It is not hard to identify such personalities in our time. It will be more difficult to convince the affronted silent majority not to fall into the same trap again, but to open up to another possible reality: conviviality (literally: living with one another), which says goodbye to disenfranchisement through mass production and to the institutionalisation of all human activities, from learning to mobility and the distribution of goods to health care and the celebration of one’ s faith.
What gives me confidence is the high number, by German standards, of groups that have formed in response to the worsening barbarism; they strive to counter blind obedience to the rules with education and appeals to compassion. It is striking that apart from numerous quasi-religious reactions – from silence to ridicule, distortion of facts, personal vilification, existential and violent threats to actual deplatforming, beatings, imprisonments and assassinations – there is no engagement with the content of the critics of the measures. Therefore, at this point, and hopefully only for the time being, I must conclude my text with an excerpt from Fritz Bauer’s Hölderlin quote:
The virtues of the Germans, however, are a shining evil and nothing more; for they are only makeshift, wrested with slave labour from the empty heart out of cowardly fear, and leave every pure soul desolate, which […] cannot bear the discordant sound that is shrieking in all the dead order of these people. […] And that is why they fear death so much, and suffer all humiliation for the sake of their oyster life, because they do not know anything higher than the fabrication they have stitched for themselves. […] I spoke for all those who are in this country and suffer as I suffered there. I now wanted to leave Germany again. I no longer sought anything among this people, I was offended enough by relentless insults, I did not want my soul to bleed to death completely among such people.
But Hyperion returns, not for the sake of the people but for the sake of his beloved and the beautiful country. And he remarks conciliatorily:
Like the quarrels of lovers are the dissonances of the world. Reconciliation is in the midst of strife and all that is divided finds itself together again.
(Friedrich Hölderlin: Hyperion, Book 2 Tübingen, Cotta, 1799)
Charles Eisenstein recently, like so many times before, mentioned that he received his life as a gift: It wasn’t for his effort that he came into this world, it wasn’t for his effort that his mother nursed him, it wasn’t for his effort that there are drinkable water and breathable air to support his ongoing existence. In other words, our lives are not earned by anything we do; we just receive them. The natural response to it is gratitude and the wish to give in turn.
The meaning of that insight, for activism, it struck me, suggests that it is not in our hands. by performing any specific actions or set of actions, whether we get granted a better life, another day, another month, another year in this world. Every day is a new gift, every experience is another gift. To be an activist, in this sense, means to live in the gift, to give and be given. To be an activist is to act in accordance with the highest truth you know – heedless of any specific outcome. It may include that you stand for the truth you feel even if it is likely to kill you – not that you seek it out, but you are ready for it because you know that declining to live from another place than truth sometimes draws spiteful attention of those who would break you for their “cause”.
People today usually call that stubbornness or even extremism, but what it actually is about is radical sincerity, coherence, or love of what-is. They call it extreme because insincerity, cognitive dissonance, utilitarianism, lack of identity and a whole range of other such conditions have become so commonplace as to count as normal. But it’s not who we are. It’s not the human condition to be that way, they are just reflective of civilization, the culture of the trauma. This culture and its adherents are refusing their gifts in the same way they are refusing what’s real.
(Title image: Franz von Stuck – “Die Sünde” [‘Sin,’ 1893])
When in Germany’s 1970s I went through my first post-birth decade, living in sin was still a hot topic. Do you know this phrase? Have you heard it before? My mother would have done it had her preferred partner joined in; his cowardice spared her the social stigma of living in a “wilde Ehe”, as Germans called it, staying together as an unmarried couple. That’s what living in sin meant back then. It was a time when bearing a fatherless child was almost as bad as living in sin and barred you from renting a place. It was a time when Europe’s inner borders were real obstacles and Italy was still an exotic country that many Germans could not afford visiting. People used to season their food with pepper and salt rather than oregano or soy sauce. By the beginning of the following decade, when neoliberalism started to corrode not only religion but also folk culture and social coherence the term went out of use quickly. Instead of pepper & salt it was Salt’n’Pepa, and instead of squeamish gender relations it was Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby!
The 70s were the heyday of Ivan Illich’s popularity. His books sold like hot cakes and became staples in intellectual circles. The Catholic priest, having suspended his office after a clash with the Roman Inquisition, related stunning insights into society’s functioning – or rather, malfunctioning – with his claim that secular society was the perverted successor of the medieval church. Forgive me, by the way, for speaking of Illich so often recently. In the process of translating a book on him I am currently finding numerous anchoring points for my own worldview in his thinking. I’m not a religious man (nor a religious woman, haw haw!) but his writings hit some nerve. After three decades of confusing organized religion with faith I begin to understand the place of religious belief in a human being’s life; considering their historical and spiritual background, various Christian concepts start to make sense. While my Mom’s generation still dreaded getting perceived as sinful – which was equal to being guilty of a religious crime – Illich introduced a new, and at the same time original – meaning of sin: When helping others is happening only according to the rules rather than following an inner calling; when you help because you must, and when you don’t because you mustn’t or needn’t. David Cayley explained it like this:
Sin, in this new context, no longer means just a violation of the law, but something more — a coldness or indifference to what has been revealed and made possible.
— David Cayley, The Rivers North of the Future
You can read more about that kind of sin in my article NO MASK NO ENTRY. This blog, too, is all about sin although I won’t mention it much. Instead, I’ll expose the machine-like coldness of societies perceiving themselves as the free-est while they are unable to trust the individual with acting responsibly in times of crisis; societies where “care” has become a legal term, the business of national institutions, and the duty of citizens – in other words, the foundation of medical tyranny. Living in Sin came into existence as a reply to the question of a friend who asked me about the due response to crises like the one we are currently going through. Like with Eugen Drewermann’s Holy-Thursday interview about how to face the rise of transhumanism (we’ll come to that much later) it may seem like my response is avoiding the point, i.e. giving directions. Yet it really is a very large-scope answer to precisely that request.
The Corona Dichotomy
As easy as the similarities between the Industrialized World today and early-stages totalitarian rule are to notice, most people seem to have a hard time seeing them. Maybe that’s so because they are focused on the fear of getting sick or dying from Covid19. But that fear has been triggered deliberately and unwarrantedly. Thirteen months into this fake pandemic and almost as many months of direct observation and research into the facts and gas lighting around Corona/Covid19 leave no doubt to me that there has never been a virus-induced threat to “public health”, much less so to “mankind”. The WHO itself inadvertently confirmed that the infection fatality rate is 0.14%, the range of an ordinary flu. Not exactly the bio-weapon some suspect to having been launched on us. A natural thinning of the herd looks different as well, something in the range of fifty to one hundred times higher. While everyone anxiously watches the latest “case” figures the so-called measures are driving fattened unsuspecting sheep to the collateral slaughterhouse, by orders of magnitude greater than the virus supposedly does. I spare you the long list of ways how the Corona régime – not the virus – is hurting, crippling and killing people, the healthy and the sick alike, to the hundreds of millions.
Far from belittling the trouble of those who count among the really severe cases of Covid19, I dare say that we totally lost perspective. Others didn’t. There is evidence in excess that Dr.osten, inventor of the Corona PCR test, and the German government knew from the start – and if they knew, everybody knew – that they were causing immense damage on the basis of an ordinary flu-like infection, that the test cannot indicate infection, that the actual testing practice gathers mostly false-positive “cases”, that the cumulative display of decontextualized numbers creates the false impression of urgency, and that there is no such thing as asymptomatic corona infection. What we are seeing here is monstrous medical malpractice, panic-mongering, corruption, currency scam, disaster profiteering, science sell-out, power-grabbing, surveillance, and social engineering.
Yes, I have decided for myself which side of the Corona dichotomy I regard as more truthful; because not only have the official facts been doctored, and not only is their interpretation warped; the larger picture has been masked out completely. Like the majority of good citizens, you may disagree with me on the first two points. That’s fine. The third one feels most important anyway. To me it’s not so much about which figures or information sources each of us believes. Even if I were wrong, and even if we were in the midst of another bubonic plague the responsibility for the health of each person, from my perspective, belongs with each person itself. I am not – nobody is – God-Almighty in whose hands rest the lives and deaths of neighbours, nations, or all humankind. For this is what the neoliberally-twisted idea of “solidarity” – which Illich called sin – and the totalitarian approach to medicine amount to. Enter the age-old program of control with its epic battle of man vs nature. It’s playing out right here, right now, denying the existence of anything but the virus. We already know that this approach is never going to work in the intended way but will result in utter devastation. There is more to life than mere survival, and all of that other stuff needs our attention if survival has to make sense. Once we remember this very simple truth the question of what we should do to survive turns into, How do I, how do we, want to live?
The costs of systematic objectification
Members of our insane culture love to think that they, as subjects, members of the supposed master race, were somewhat in control of their lives. Little are they aware that they have become a mere resource to the machine we call society, just as much objects as trees or furniture or toilet paper or germs. It’s not us who control a virus, this is the so-called health care system controlling us, keeping us locked in permanent survival mode. We pay dearly for the safety we seek. Derrick Jensen writes in The Culture of Make Believe,
As we enjoy the comforts and elegancies our way of life affords, and as we stand amidst the embers of a smoldering and dying planet, we should ask ourselves, too, what this systematic objectification costs—not only them, but us.
What about masks getting pressed into birthing mothers’ faces? Children growing up without the experience of smiling faces, hugs and kisses? Old people being prevented from seeing their family before they die? The criminalization of dance, singing, birthday parties and walks in the sun? People getting reduced to labels such as “risk-group member”, “potential spreader”, “corona denier” and all the rest of the perverse dehumanizing newspeak terms? It’s the kind of health “care” which works in the same logic as defending freedom and democracy with machines of mass destruction. It’s the one-track mind in war mode, blinkered gaze fixed on the enemy. Tunnel vision. Too many people completely ignore the immense suffering the government-sponsored mass psychosis and the pseudo-measures result in. The ghastly vision of “Compulsory survival in a planned and engineered Hell” has become our somewhat surreal reality. When you follow that program you abolish your humanity, and when you attempt to make me follow as well you abolish mine. I find the situation truly barbaric and unbearable, and I’d rather be dead than having to exist under a perpetuation of this current régime. I mean it. Over. my. dead. body.
Is there no other way?
I personally believe that accepting vulnerability as a fact of life and embracing it serves us better. I’m not demanding of anyone, though, that they stop trying to protect themselves or their loved ones. I’m all for people organizing common responses, and the institutions may help those who would participate, but I find any threatening, forcing or punishing people into obeying the “measures”, all the lockstepping and social pressuring and witchhunting unacceptable. Even under the control paradigm, no well-meaning government or physician would have caused the kind of panic the régime and its quisling doctors are whipping up. The amount of lies and violence are staggering once you start noticing them. Who would act this way? Are the leading figures not showing signs of psychopathy? Didn’t they already for a long time? Have they been credible, honest, selfless, empathic, caring most of the time, or rather the opposite? What are their competences anyway? Why does anybody still listen to them?
Perhaps you noted the difference between my warning of dehumanization and the pandemicists’ warning of health threats: it’s voluntary vs violent, free vs dictated. It’s a line you can always draw, to discern which side of the Great Divide things around you belong to. You can apply it to the responses on the numerous crises converging at our time and age, all of which are an expression of the one original crisis: our misjudgment of who we are and why we are here – the misjudgment which created civilization.
Being trained in allopathic treatments and having seen some of the other treatments and health paradigms available I know of alternatives to the crass behaviour acted out all over the place. Pandemicists don’t want to hear about it, and that makes it all the more obvious how wrong this whole killer-virus narrative is, health wise, biologically, economically, socially, spiritually, morally, statistically. I have trouble responding to people who take it seriously. They make me feel like I’ve been born to the wrong planet, a place where they sell nonsense as reason. Recalling early childhood memories, it always felt like that: strange. Fifty years on, it’s loony bin on steroids. Having skipped alien-psychology classes I’m at a loss what to do about the evil spell most people in industrialized countries fell under. Sometimes it drives me nuts. When I come to my senses again I tell myself that it’s ok. Like with their health, I am neither responsible for people’s being truthfully-informed nor for their intellectual sanity. I do my share – voluntarily – in the place and to the degree I am able to, and that’s that. Their knowledge and beliefs are their concern; they are fully entitled to having them. Pointless to engage in a debate over sources and numbers: mediated knowledge does not equal truth, statistical figures do no justice to living beings, science cannot establish wise action.
Once again: The sticking point to me is the imposition of supposed solutions, not their effectiveness in the firsts place.
So there we are in the midst of a thicket of crises only one of which is getting broad attention currently. After 2000 words I offered, you may still feel I haven’t answered your one burning question: What should you do? What am I proposing or expecting everyone to do? Having told what I am against, what am I for? The answer is implicit in those 2000 words. I bet it’s even there in your mind, brushed off as unpractical, impossible, utopian. Three examples of people popped up who received a similar response from their audience. I’ll give all three of them, to hammer my point in.
Social philosopher Marianne Gronemeyer once related a story about her colleague and teacher Ivan Illich (did I mention him already?). A carpenter once questioned him by remarking, “What I find most astonishing is that you purport your thinking to be doing”, as if he was wondering what one has to do with the other. Illich, not amused, sourly responded: “I should say so!”, for It was all practical! When he spoke of the example of the Samaritan, of the Sermon on the Mount, or of putting a ceiling to the use of technology, it was not merely a philosophical consideration, it was meant for practical application.
Another example of ignored wisdom comes from Jiddu Krishnamurti. On one of his talks given in Ojai, California, in the 60s he was asked how it was possible to do what he said. His answer was an energetic, “Do it! Do it! For a second do it!” This seemed to baffle the asker. After five seconds of silence came another question: “How?” Krishnamurti smiled. “You know, I said the other day, The word ‘how’ is the most mysterious word, because somebody wants somebody else to tell you how to do it. (The real revolution #1, 17’30” ff). Krishnamurti was not inclined to take the role of a teacher or leader. For him, his talks were not about telling others what to do, but for his audience to discover the truth that is already in them and to act accordingly: “You yourself are the teacher, the pupil, the master, the guru, the leader – you are everything! And to understand is to transform what-is.” (The real revolution #1, 27’13” ff).
Example 3: This Holy Thursday, April 1st, 2021, Eugen Drewermann, psychotherapist, theologian, and one of the most famous contemporary critics of the Catholic Church, gave a two-hour-long interview to Robert Cibis, film maker, on some of the core issues around the so-called pandemic (ep. 40 in the Narrative series). The word Corona rarely came up, though. The talk was all about being oneself in the face of enormous pressures from the groups we belong to. Near the end, one viewer asked Drewermann about the most effective way of resistance. What some in the audience wanted, was “rather practical” advice. In his reply, he more or less continued with his analysis as before, as if to make the point that this was it; this was the thing people needed to hear. What they perceive as purely philosophical, merely theoretical, is in fact the core understanding that needs to be taken seriously. Because if you do so, you will develop the necessary steps all by yourself, without needing anyone to tell you what you should or should not be doing: “What is important here, from my perspective”, said Drewermann, “is that you follow your own perceptions and stay the humane course.” (2:09:00 ff) He then relates a request put before the novelist and philosopher Hermann Hesse whose young and rebellious critics felt he hadn’t made his message clear enough. Hesse replied something along the following lines: “Do exactly as they say, follow orders, don’t complain and everybody will be very happy with you. But when you start to see your neighbour as someone just as human as yourself you’ll stop following orders. Suddenly, everyone is against you. But you were yourself. And once that happens, the most important step is done. Everything else will result from there.”
How the World changes
We need the individual who has the courage to speak out what he believes, and what he thinks is right. The dissenters are definitely much more important than those marching along, the exceptions more important than the rules, because that is where the potential for renewal is. And without the courage to be an individual, every group degenerates. It becomes inhumane. (43:01 ff)
The courage to be an individual is the condition of entry into a humane form of living together. Those who dare not do this not only betray themselves, they betray everyone by proving them right: “You are correct, after all, because you all do the same thing.” That is exactly why all of them are wrong: because they do not live their own lives […] If you do not dare that, the world will never change. (43:21 ff)
To address the question, “If a society seeks to mitigate what it sees as a crisis, how can/should it be done? What if any kinds of ‘threat’ to health deserve a broad social response?”, my reply is: It cannot be answered. I can tell you my opinion but my opinion is not society’s opinion, and the US society’s opinion is not the Ugandan, Indian or German society’s opinion, so my opinion is pointless in the frame-set of this question. Furthermore, “what if” indicates an hypothetical question about a risk (which itself is not a real danger, just a statistical chance). So, again, taking the above question at face value, there is nothing I could advice as a solution to the actual situation you might see yourself in.
The problem resides in the assumptions underlying the question: that society’s evaluation of its situation as critical is correct; that there is a universal, optimal form of society; that society should act as one; that society can act like one person; that risks need responses; that there is one right way to respond; that this one right way can be found; that something (morals, laws, rules…) requires everyone to walk the one right way.
The way out of the predicament is through getting rid of the assumptions to get a fresh look at the situation. Consequently I’m not asking you to consider, What if the government, the pundits, the mass media, the majority are wrong? It’s irrelevant whether their assessment is right or wrong. What Illich, Krishnamurti, Drewermann, Hesse and I would like for you to understand is the following: No one can take the weight of personal inner and outer inquiry from you. No one can take the responsibility to act from your own best understanding from you. You may choose to collaborate with others, ask for advice or listen to proposals but you may not hide behind external rules, forces, traditions, morals, orders, standards, etc. Those do not legitimate the neglect to make up your own mind. There is no such thing as Utopia, no one right way to be, to act, to react, no universal solutions. There is no guaranteed success. One size does not fit all. If only everyone acted in unison and followed the prescribed method would lead straight to disaster – as we can see. So forget the experts. Each situation is unique, just like each human, each river, each atom is unique. It requires you to create your individual relationship to it so you can develop your personal response. What you should do and how you ought to do it can therefore never be automatically derived from the facts, never be standardized, never be imposed, never be ordered, never be totally unified.
Those who sell us control-based universal solutions are themselves creating the problem. Control does not compute, period. So don’t act for the effect of it, don’t ask for success, don’t get attached to a specific outcome. Drewermann:
The question is not whether we achieve something, whether we succeed. When we think like that, we stay forever dependent […] We don’t have to take responsibility for how the whole world is, but we have the goddamn responsibility for ourselves, and we should do what we see as the right thing. We can spread the word, we can advertise it; whether it is heard, whether the peace movement makes progress, whether politics changes, the economy changes, culture changes … I can try. And I do. But it doesn’t matter whether it’s worthwhile. It may fail. It may be punishable by death. You have to learn to live with that when you do the right thing, or you don’t understand anything about Christianity and you don’t know who you are, certainly not what you are capable of. That is how the world changes. (2:13:12 ff)
I haven’t been shopping since March 15, 2020, the first day of curfew in India. Lockdown is the neologism for this – for once an apt expression, because it is a technical term originally used by prison administrations. I haven’t been to the doctor for a year, until last week not even to the dentist, although there was every reason to do so. I don’t go to the movies anymore, I don’t enter an office of the administration anymore, I don’t enter a cashier’s office of a bank anymore. I no longer travel, neither short nor long, neither by cab nor by train or even by airplane, the latter of which has become completely impossible. A book manuscript lies unprinted on my hard drive, gathering digital dust because the mere thought of crowded shops and city streets already feels suffocating. Invited by friends I went to lunch at a tiny cookshop that didn’t require specific clothing; I couldn’t enjoy it, though. I did resume work at the library, mainly at the insistence of the manager, who assured me I didn’t have to follow any rules, even if everyone else did. In the office, to myself, I have time to catch my breath again. But the way there, a few kilometers by bicycle is an ordeal. Not that anyone would talk to me about the missing mask, no. I wouldn’t like that. I wouldn’t like that at all; I can’t stand the sight of people anymore and avoid being seen on my part. Me and people, we are a divorced couple.
There is a long history of early traumatization; life since hasn’t been too kind either. Of course, I could try to see the positive sides of life. Why don’t I try to see it more positively? Why don’t I start anew somewhere else? Why don’t I… ? – I guess because by now I lack the necessary faith that the grass is greener elsewhere. As I said, there is a long history, but it does not matter for what I have to say: That all of us individual cases with our human problems, our likes and dislikes, our opinions, insights and realizations, we don’t count any longer. Beyond our function as consumers, employees, taxpayers, cannon fodder, we have long since ceased to play any role in the way matters get handled. We are merely the objects of observation and control, generic members of statistically ascertainable norm groups. Gendered, risk-evaluated, labeled, sorted, directed, manipulated, exploited, eventually dumped.
The raised index finger for all those without a mask. We comply with the Corona rules.
[Billboard by the City of Berlin, paid from taxpayer money]
Corona just caps it all off. Hardly any intellectual fails to mention that the Corona State finally flushes to the surface what had been pushed underwater for so long: all kinds of toxic garbage, looted goods, gasping victims of terror, gnawed-up floaters, fears and traumas, screwed-up biographies, stolen dreams, lost raison d’être, abdicated freedom. Add to all that the codified injustice, the structural violence, and a mountain of epistemic baggage that keep our polities stuck in unreformable rigidity. In the face of nightmare societies competing for the worst way , one can hardly tell the difference whether I am writing about Germany, India, or say, Mexico.
A lot of words that, in short, are supposed to explain why, these days, my trust in the human capacity to bond, in the manifest social structure and – yes, also – in the specific individuals that surround me, has slipped away. I have lost the desire to see anyone anymore, lost the joy of hearing what is going on with this or that person. In the same way, when I think of the big names of our time – people from music, philosophy, politics, science, etc. – I’d rather they kept their mouths shut, because what comes out of there usually offends the mind. If the verbal garbage remained just words – ok. But unfortunately the call for ostracizing the dissenters and the demands for harder punishment of “deniers”, along with all the other fantasies of social barbarism get implemented without big scruples only too soon after… and the whole pack of established media provide a platform for the hysteria. The state’s regulations regime has overtaken many a satirical exaggeration within a few weeks by issuing ever more repressive orders. And then there are the non-state ‘measures’. A friend from Berlin writes:
“The day before yesterday I was actually physically attacked for the first time in my adult life in the park by an aggressive but at the same time somehow calculating man. Afterwards I did some asking around and in fact it happened to my roommate in a very similar way. The girlfriend of another acquaintance was slapped in the subway; another one was yelled at in the supermarket because of the distance rules. People here are starting to go crazy.”
There is an archaic conception of man at work, incompatible with my worldview: it’s not autonomous individuals endowed with dignity, embedded in loving communities, who shape their lives in a self-responsible manner, but fear-driven government subjects incapable of making rational decisions, who must be kept on a leash for their own good and who — as self-appointed guardians of the status quo – habitually obey pre-emptively. Real dangers have given way to obscure statistical risk potentials, your neighbor is always a danger to your life, denunciation is a civic duty, children’s birthday parties get broken up as criminal gatherings. How quickly the turnaround has happened is frightening in itself already, because as far as typical features of Nazi Germany were concerned, the rule went, NEVER AGAIN! But already in early May, six weeks into the curfew, my mother wrote from rural Black Forest:
“My physiotherapist, who is friends with a policeman, told me that in [the county seat] 1000 people call every day to report friends, relatives, neighbors and acquaintances to the police – for Corona misconduct!”
In the eyes of a not insignificant part of the population, freedom and human dignity are no longer inalienable rights, but privileges that have to be earned by conformity – and thus are reduced to absurdity. Civil and human rights dwell in best company with other terms that have been usurped into Newspeak: Attitudinal journalism operates as “reporting”, Nazis masquerade as “Antifa”, “solidarity” is understood as forced conformity, “development aid” drives whole continents into poverty, “humanitarian intervention” stands for genocide, “vaccination” has become another word for genetic manipulation, forcing women about to give birth to wearing masks is part of “health care”, the authoritarian regime pretends to be a “democracy”, mob rule prides itself on “civil courage”, the middle finger replaces the “index finger”… I could go on like this for hours and literally fill a whole dictionary – the neo-liberal dictionary of falsehoods, which I already mentioned in earlier articles.
Those who feel reminded of George Orwell have long since no need to fear overstretching the comparison. Dystopia can hardly be manifested more clearly and obviously. In the novel “1984” Orwell writes:
“[‘blackwhite’] means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known in Newspeak as doublethink.”
Introduced later, the technical term for “doublethink” is “cognitive dissonance.”
Here the question arises how after Corona — assuming the nightmare has a happy ending — a new togetherness can come about at all, given that such a massive slide into barbarism was supported by virtually all governmental, social, scientific and economic institutions, but especially by so many fellow human beings. How can one restore that trust to one’s arbitrary neighbor that is needed to build a relationship, how can one again look into the eyes of the perpetrators, of whom one knows that in their world one exists merely as an object?
I have my doubts that a simple “No hard feelings” approach is enough, because I cannot dismiss Schopenhauer’s remark that “to forgive and forget is to throw precious experience out of the window”. Prior to forgiveness, there must be recognition of one’s own transgressions and subsequent repentance. It involves the willingness to take responsibility for one’s own actions, to accept punishment, to repent, to make amends or at least to mitigate the damage. Then, and only then, may one forgive, but rather not forget. We must not allow ourselves to wrap the cloak of silence around the people’s role in the oppressing, torturing and murdering of millions, as we did after the disaster of the Third Reich, because at that time the historical traumas of hundreds of millions of people in dozens of nations remained buried deep in the individual and collective psyche. Uncured they continued to smolder within the closets of apparently purified hearts and minds, affected the world view of three or four subsequent generations, and found expression during the so-called pandemic in a mass hysteria unlike any other in history. The failed Denazification of post-WW2 – failed because it got stuck with mere criminalization of identified perpetrators — must be made up for in our present.
Denazification today means de-coronification. Without another trial based on the Nuremberg model – because of the symbolism (tribunal and codex) it should indeed take place in Nuremberg – a credible and trustworthy restoration of social cohesion is simply impossible. The enormity of what has happened demands a complete reappraisal, while those responsible for the worst mass suffering in human history must be held accountable. The thirst for revenge, the cry for crucifixion of exposed representatives of the Corona regime, however, must under no circumstances guide the trial. As now impressively demonstrated, with the death of the Nazi grandees, self-afflicted or on the gallows, the phantom of fascism was by no means banished, but could return in full glory as self-declared anti-fascism, as totalitarianism in democratic guise. The goal of a tribunal should be to educate the population about its own role in the emergence of tyranny. Of course, it is also urgent to ensure that the main characters in the Corona scam are permanently prevented from further agitation. Immediately thereafter, however, the real clean-up work begins: our language, our institutions, our laws and regulations, our economy and currency, our international as well as our personal relationships, our relationship to technology and food, and our use of art, medicine, science – basically, simply all elements of existence – must be examined. A complete revolution of our way of life becomes due, the core of which must be the confrontation of our traumas: a personal Nuremberg for each and every one of us.
The early Christians made … community by sharing the simple communion meal through which they remembered their Lord, and by a mouth-to-mouth kiss through which they shared their spirits in a conspiratio or breathing together,
states Canadian radio broadcaster David Cayley in a book on Austro-American social philosopher Ivan Illich’s views. [David Cayley, The Rivers North of the Future. The Testament of Ivan Illich. House of Anansi Pr., 2005]
So this is what it means to conspire. Rather than theorizing on others doing it, we are called to do it ourselves. Which brings me to a message published in our local gazette, the News & Notes 839. It says,
The Covid Task force in its weekly communication with the community in the News & Notes, on Auronet and through many Bulletins has done a heroic job! The Pandemic in India is certainly not yet under control and we are asked to take caution; It is required by law to keep social distance, wear masks while going out and in public places and do not hold or go to large gatherings. As Auroville and Aurovilians, we have to follow the law.
Lately there are more voices of dissent, people who absolutely refuse to wear a mask in Auroville’s public places: going to the Financial Service, PDTC or Pour Tous, (despite clear signs that say: ‘NO MASK NO ENTRY ‘. Unpleasant, jarring, impatient and hot arguments were heard in PDTC at the entrance attacking the amazing people, who keep this service going since March, in a spirit of selfless service, wearing their own hot masks all morning!! and providing us with all our food needs, meanwhile keeping a beautiful atmosphere. Over the carrot-and onion displays someone went ballistic: shrieking to another customer who dared to inquire why she wasn’t wearing a mask. This was shocking painful and hurtful to everyone present. If some Aurovilians feel so strongly not keeping these simple rules, they of course have the freedom to stop shopping or use Auroville services and do their errands and business elsewhere. It would great if these simple rules could be accepted and followed by everyone -whatever people’s private opinions are- without the necessity to enforce them.
Stay Healthy! ~ L.
I have a lot of questions about this piece of writing. What exactly is heroic about sitting in a self-appointed group passing down rules from the Central Government to The City The Earth Needs? Why are those who work for a wage called selfless, and inhowfar does their self-torturing behaviour make a good example for everyone? It is certainly not ok to accuse or even shout at them, but where is all the rage coming from, did you ever wonder? From the threat of enforcement of ‘voluntary’ obedience, perhaps? Where can they go when all public doors are marked with Get-lost signs? Can they visit alternative offices when there aren’t any? Are they supposed to starve to death in their homes? What has become of the Aurovilian pride in all the non-allopathic methods and ways of healing we once practiced? Once there were Chinese, Tibetan, Ayurvedic, Homeopathic, Yogic, Shamanic and all kinds of ways, now there is only one, the control-obsessed Western-orthodox approach, or rather a perverted politicised version of it that defies all scientific and common-sense understanding.
Despite the many questionable points in the above opinion piece, I’ll focus on the topic of obedience alone. Mirra Alfassa, the founder and “Mother” of Auroville, also called the place The City At The Service Of Truth, and she made clear in many of her statements that laws, rules, traditions, morals, or religions alongside money, police, courts, politics, governments etc. should not rule its ways. A life divine, but no religions, as she famously said.
As can be seen from the following quotes, to no surprise, the New Testament as a spiritual document anticipates some of the things that the Mother, along with many other wisdom teachers, said about proper relation of the truth-seeker to rules.
Let me quote from Cayley’s book [in italics]; not in order to establish yet another authority or to argue theological points, but to give a perspective on what the insistence on obedience might mean.
What the Samaritan does is to step fearlessly outside what his culture has sanctified in order to create a new relationship and, potentially, a new community. He does not seek God within a sacred circle but finds him lying by the road in a ditch. His possibilities cannot be predicted or circumscribed. He lives, in the apostle Paul’s words, “not under the law, but under grace.” [Cayley]
“We are released from the Law, having died to what was binding us, and so we are in a new service, that of the spirit, and not in the old service of a written code.” [Paul, Letter to the Romans, 7:6]
In other words, the spirit defines our relationship, not our man-made arbitrary rules. One of Illich’s central tenets was that even the duty to help and the obligation to solidarity eliminate empathy and spirit from the good work. Before everything else, there ought to be compassion, not judgment. The person that comes to your doorstep is a person in need. Right action does not draw its direction from the norm or from fear of breaking rules.
“If I had not come and spoken to them they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.” [Jesus, Gospel of John, 15:22-23]
While modern political and social theory has it that societies are shaped and held together by their rules, the bond of community is understanding. It doesn’t mean that laws, traditions or rituals are absent in community, but that they do not have precedence over compassion. Through the message passed on by numerous voices such as the Buddha, Jesus, or the Mother, we have been made aware of our freedom to act compassionately, and that the strict application – not the breach – of rules is a sin:
Sin, in this new context, no longer means just a violation of the law, but something more — a coldness or indifference to what has been revealed and made possible. [Cayley]
Don’t take ‘sin’ for the religious crime codified by the Roman Church, but for the betrayal of the relationship established by the loving trust of the Samaritan into the commonly despised stranger.
“Sin,” Illich says, “is refusing to honour that relationship which came into existence between the Samaritan and the Jew, which comes into existence through the exercise of freedom, and which constitutes an ‘ought’ because I feel called by you, called to you, called to this tie between human beings, or between beings and God […] It is not in any sense offensive of a law. It is always an offence against a person. It’s an infidelity.”
To value the law over the person, that is sin. Freedom, though, is not about permanent rebellion against rules in general, but about unrestrained acting in the spirit of the good: compassion, truthfulness, community.
Sin, on this account, is not simply an evil, or a moral fault. It is a failing against the Spirit, possible only for those who have heard and ignored what they have heard, and visible only in the light of that freedom that Paul says is identical with “the forgiveness of sin.” [Cayley]
Having spent nearly three months in complete seclusion from the outside world, alongside a next-to-perfect disappearance of electronic communication channels for most of that period, I had a lot of time to think about, and feel into, the so-called Corona crisis. It was a time of intense joy over the increased quality of life, owed to civilization’s coming to an almost complete halt, and it was also a time of intense agony over what my growing understanding of the crisis brought to light, both in terms of outer truths and of the resurfacing of psychological traumas. In short, I shifted from ordinary grief via excited free-fall to deep fatigue followed by burning rage within a few weeks only.
As I haven’t been bombarded with the news as heavily as most of you were. I was enough at ease to ask questions and look for the answers in places that were not mediated, not agitated, not trying to pull me one way or another. When there was opportunity I also did some research, and I could draw from having witnessed first-hand the severe Influenza pandemic of 1996 during my service as a state-qualified geriatric nurse, when most of the personnel including myself got sick and seven inmates died before my eyes.
From the evidence I saw I came to a conclusion that not only positioned me on the side of the critics of the shoddy science behind the corona scare, but caused me to disobey orders.
What’s more – and this is my meta-critique to the situation – the factuality of the health threat becomes a side issue when regarded from a different angle.
I direct my hardline opposition to the Corona regime first and foremost against the fear-mongering, health-impeding, manipulative, cruel, out-of-proportion, brainwashing, dehumanizing, patronizing, authoritarian behaviour of media, governments and the people who regard themselves as their gate-keeping subjects, the Soap Police. I would sustain that opposition whether I believed in a serious health threat or denied it altogether. (I do neither.) What happens here – 8 bn people taken prisoners, many of them driven to the edge of existence if not actually killed, but kept from speaking their truth and exposed to psychological brutality – is outright WRONG and completely unacceptable to me, no matter the reason it happens for. This position is based on direct, lived experience, not on mediated information or hypothetical considerations. The outrage runs deep, for it has a valid foundation built from suffering and pain.
During those months, when anger gave me funny ideas, I wrote satirical pieces sharply attacking the regime: the incapability of allopathic medicine to understand life in any other way than mechanistically, the irrational fear of micro-organisms, the death-phobia, the permanent irradiation with disjointed factoids, the manufacturing of news, the total disregard for people’s needs, feelings and traditional understandings, or the pre-emptive surrender to the totalitarian order to shutting up anyone and everyone who showed even the slightest sign of disagreement. Where are those pieces? Am I going to substantiate my opinions and claims with official figures, scientific reports and case studies?
Well, apart from the quick note of last Monday – a few lines of concern and two links – I decided that first of all, we have spoken enough to that topic. For months all the other oh-so-important issues, from Russiagate to North Korea, from rising poverty to dying polar bears, have been drowned out completely, even in personal conversations and alternative media. I do not want to contribute to the craze by putting more fuel into the propaganda machine of either side. Let disagreements not come between us.
It’s time to re-discover our common humanity and the huge pile of pressing issues we need to look at right now.
And what about the bright sides of life – shall we explore whether they still exist?
Secondly, although I was tempted to respond to some of my friends’ postings and the judgmental accusations and authoritarian demands therein / thereunder, I decided to drop the matter altogether; I continue to take care not to comment on Corona-related issues, at least for the time being. I do have an opinion, and so does everyone else; so what? I speak up considering that others may have good reasons to come to different conclusions. This hurts only as long as one stays attached to one’s being right. Believe it or not, you have a better chance at convincing others of your views when you enter into an open exchange, allowing yourself to change in the course of it as well. Repression causes resistance. Always.
I do empathize with the utterance of concern in dedicated places. Those who feel the need for protection from Corona have a right to act accordingly and to discuss relevant topics without getting exposed to harassment, censorship or conversion attempts.
A gentle reminder to you, my dear friends, that, in my places and in my writings, I take the same liberty to express the truth I understand asyou do in yours.
And I won’t be stopped. It’s fine by me if you signal disagreement in response to my postings so long as it happens in a respectful way. But some of you need to ask themselves why they are jumping at my bringing up the topic, trying to prove me wrong, when they rarely ever cared to comment before. If you think I”m principally fighting for Corona truth you are mistaken. The central theme of my blog was – and continues to be – the problem of civilization, the wholesale destruction, the distorted reality, the mental sickness, and the trauma it causes, and the illusion of separation it is based upon. Whether we are discussing healthcare or governance or economics or arts or racism or language or climate collapse, the issue at hand serves always merely as a case study of that central theme, and the next good example is just one media hype away.
My credo though – whether explicitly or implicitly stated – remains the same throughout: this culture will eat the world alive and turn it into poisonous trash. By design it can neither be sustained nor reformed; it will end, and soon, taking most everything and everyone down with it. Those who are looking for sanity don’t empower it by listening to its voice, believing its media, letting themselves get scared into panic and then soothed by false hopes, craving its offers, buying its goods, working its chores, paying its bills, divorcing themselves from others along predetermined breaking lines, or by obeying orders; to no greater extent, at least, than necessary. This means, how to face the current situation – in which ever way you define it – should become more clear as you are listening quietly for an answer within yourself rather than from external sources, approved or not.
If you feel that you can’t stand what I’m saying, if you believe that certain views are dangerous and must never get expressed publicly you have not understood a single word of what I’ve been saying all those years.
You’ve been following or friending the wrong person all along. Do yourself a favour, take a conscious decision now, like that fellow Aurovilian did who – rather than questioning me face to face – unfriended and blocked me immediately after my one-off posting. He’s a wise man, knowing too well that I’m lost to the culture of make-believe. Saves us both some breath. In a few years it won’t matter any longer anyway.
Two negroes are taking a walk in the woods. Suddenly one of them exclaims, “Look, there’s a mushroom!” – “So what!?” says the mushroom.
Such runs a Sponti joke I’ve heard back at school; it stuck in my mind ever since. The absurdity of the described situation is hilarious as such, the choice of words is peculiar, and the multi-layered observation embedded in it is highly accurate. .
What is your immediate response to it? Are you taking offense by my using the n-word? Or do you see the underlying satirical remark on people pointing fingers at something that (or someone who) is disturbing their perceived state of normalcy? .
When I grew up in Germany’s seventies and eighties people would stand and stare at anyone and anything that seemed sort of off of what they were used to encounter: people of colour, long-haired men, bald-headed women, patchwork clothing, homeless folks, Turkish couples (her dressed in a chador or hijab, following two paces behind him), sports roadsters, wheelchair drivers, atheists, unmarried mothers, or two-headed cats, to name few typical examples. The Spontis – leftist political activists of the students’ and pupils’ movements in Germany who thought that spontaneity and humour were revolutionary elements – with their above-quoted joke pinpointed the discriminatory finger-pointing goggle-eyedness and threw it back at a blaming and shaming duplicitous society. “Everyone’s a stranger – somewhere,” the Spontis noted accurately. .
One would think that those times are over. But not only does discriminatory thought persist in backward countries like Japan where I – the tall blond long-haired stranger – got photographed and giggled at underhandedly on the Tokyo metro, and in India where I get invited to random people’s weddings or excluded from farmers’ meetings merely because I’m fair-skinned; the discrimination in our heads survived in Germany just as well as anywhere else. That it’s not showing as obviously today as it did in the seventies and eighties doesn’t mean a thing. What we are engaged in since the nineties are political correctness (pc) debates which in their mind-fucking sneakiness are far worse than the obvious separation and animosity of earlier decades. .
On the surface pc seems to address discrimination against others by shaming the use of certain vocabulary while underneath the emphasis on the right to be different crystallizes the specific phenomena of human existence – skin colours, sexual preferences, religious beliefs, nationalities and what not – into distinct identities such as politics, genders or races. For example, as pc does not address racism as such, merely its ways to express itself, a politically-correct racist simply takes over the new pc lingo for spewing hatred against people of colour. And thus we shift from nigger to negro to black to Afro to coloured to pigmented and so forth in a constant effort to evade the discussion we have to have in the overcoming of racism and xenophobia (as well as sexism, genderism, speciesism and other low-consciousness notions): that there is a focus on differences rather than similarities, that there is an arbitrariness to what marks someone as different, and – most significantly – that difference is perceived as unnatural or evil. .
The terms used for pc speech – which are really the same as those later-on used for discriminating against others – are subject to a self-perpetuating process called the euphemism treadmill. This means that whichever correct term is chosen for a person discriminated-against, it eventually turns into an insult, triggering the quest for a new pc term. .
The other day (sorry for being so day-istic) I have been writing a comment on one of my favorite topics, what makes wild communities generally work as compared to the multiple ever-increasing, ever-worsening problems that civilized societies experience. Both consist of human beings; almost everything else is different. With both populations being of the same species the traps of whether “human nature” exists and what it implies – the nature-vs-nurture debate – is irrelevant to the discussion. Me using the term “wild,” though, became an obstacle for people looking for a pc word pointing at the non-civilized. Someone argued that “wild” and “civilized” were the language of the European colonizer and that these words were discounting the deep wisdom and cultural sophistication of these “indigenous people,” as he called them. The whole notion of “wild” needed to be rethought after we found out that “jungles” like the Amazon, the Mayan heartlands or the North American west coast have actually been food forests, carefully stewarded lands at the time of European conquest. .
Those were careful considerations, but like so many post-modern thoughts they have not been mindful of the difference between judgmental discriminatory dominator language and distinctions consciously introduced for communicative or research purposes. The use of “wild” alone implied “colonizer” mentality to them. .
I have to admit that it is not so easy, these days, to tell the difference when our whole language, including ordinary words like “green,” “democracy,” and “free,” are getting hijacked by the corporate dominator culture. Think of the facebook “friend” and other “social-” media “community” fakery, think of “humanitarian aid” (weapons deliveries), “peace-keeping operations” (invasions), “health insurance” (enslavement to a system of chemical poisoning) and countless further examples from the Falschwörterbuch(German: fake dictionary) of Neoliberalism. More important than the face of a book is the idea it wants to sell. As all views are perspectival, all communication of views, all writing is in a sense propaganda, with the ambiguity of words (and images) used for this or that purpose. No statement, no information can be taken at face value. The recipients’ job is to notice the sales pitch and to inquire within for the deeper truth about it. So let’s do this as an exercise in the context of my distinguishing “wild” peoples from “civilized” humans. .
Regarding “wild” peoples, there is no (other) word that is fully and properly including everybody we mean by it: modes of being that are not domesticated, not based on abstraction and abstracting, on strong hierarchies, strict separation of labour, state institutions, large numbers and growth, categorization, separation – in short, not civilization. The way I have put it in the above sentence suggests negative phrasing: not-civilized, un-domesticated, non-hierarchic etc., which I find weird because it implies a lack of something. In the same way, our culture could be called un-free, non-egalitarian etc. — which I actually use sometimes for breaking the spell of mainstream vernacular. By pointing out in which way we find a culture wanting does not describe its asili, its core and ultimate cause of collective thought and behaviour. I would like to say somehow that certain cultures exist in their own right rather than being underdeveloped predecessors to the crown of human evolution. .
In many of my writings I have clarified what I mean by “wild,” and it is so obviously not derogatory of those cultures – neither consciously nor unconsciously so – that anybody with a different opinion who notices it would have to wonder why. That the term loses its negativity anyway can be seen in the establishment of “wilderness reserves” and the emergence of the “rewilding” movement. While for some there is certainly a derogatory (or romanticizing) connotation to the word, it is the only phrase that people from across the spectrum may understand, while it is not reducing the “wild” to the negation (or lack) of “civilization.”
Is there no other positive term we could use for talking about the common denominator uniting the thousands of different communities outside of civilization?
I find “Intact” is a wonderful word, though it requires a lot of introductory explanation as to what it relates to. Basically, “intact” can only serve as a label in the face of disturbed societies, and it becomes increasingly inaccurate with civilization’s progressing encroachment. The introduction of so much as a simple idea embedded in the seemingly harmless question of an anthropologist may already disturb social peace within previously intact cultures, like asking men who have no knowledge about fertility on the tribe’s means of birth control.
I also like “free” as an attribute, but it would surely be misunderstood in the sense of our shallow civil rights.
“Primitive?” I have used it, explaining that I mean it in the sense of ‘originally, appropriately human;’ its derogatory meaning “underdeveloped” nevertheless co-vibrates.
“Tribal” – another phrase I like to use, seems almost perfect… if it weren’t abused for “tribalism” (as in “groupism”).
“Indigenous” (from Latin, born on the land)… well, no; Italians and British – melting-pot peoples – are indigenous to Europe, Japanese are indigenous to East Asia (though the Ainu have been preceding them), modern US citizens are indigenous to North America; it’s a matter of where you draw the historical-ancestral line required for someone to count as “native,”– 200, 2000, or 10000 years ago – and it does not define culture, the issue I’m pointing at when distinguishing the wild and the civilized. The whole concept of cultural indigeneity / nativity makes little sense without its historical perspective of conquest, colonization, displacement, domination and elimination of preceding peoples and species.
Struggling with finding a positive vocable for non-civilizational cultures since years, I have come to the following conclusions:
In principle, one word would be as good as another if it weren’t for the fact that, by using language, we attempt to tap into each others’ concepts for communicative purposes. So what I am looking for are terms that express shared concepts.
European languages, especially in recent decades, have been altered to a degree that they have become hardly recognizable to someone from the past. In Germany, the expression “Falschwörterbuch’”– dictionary of falsehoods – has emerged, a word that implies that meaning in language gets turned upside down so much so that e.g. ‘freedom’ has become the constitutional freedom of subjects being allowed to chose their oppressor. Has any word remained untouched, untainted? I don’t feel so.
The Falschwörterbuch means to hide what’s beneath, similar to politically-correct phrasing which hides (for a while) an ugly notion, basically the idea of separation. The “indigenous” debate falls in the same category as the “Negro” debate and the rapidly expanding gender alphabet (LGBTQIA+, for crying out loud!). As long as words are to express or whitewash the notion of complete separateness and dehumanization of Other there is no end to such debates. So when we communicate to others and interpret incoming communication, a word’s meaning has to be derived from context and/or explanation. Therefore I’m happy when people question my wording. This is the moment we actually have a debate.
Every word is a symbol for the “object” it creates in the mind, an abstraction from the world. The Latin root of “abstract” points out that a piece of the All is conceptually ripped from its context. As an abstract, symbolic representation of reality, a word both generalizes diverse phenomena, while at the same time it creates distinct boundaries where there are shades of gray. For example, “Germany” generalizes the many differences between regional ethnicities such as Bavarians and Saxons while it creates an artificial boundary to neighbouring countries such as France and the Netherlands where there live German minorities, derivates and mix cultures; it also reduces people’s identity to being born within Germany’s boundaries. Definitions of words are arbitrary, objectivity is an illusion. It is in the responsibility of each the speaker and the listener, to be aware of the virtual reality that words create. Without that awareness language-based communication, through illusory precision, paradoxically becomes more fuzzy than it needs to. The Falschwörterbuch’s successful manipulation of our shared reality seems, to me, a sure sign that we are generally not aware and awake.
My aim is the raising of awareness and the sparking of consideration of what makes us the culture we are, and wild peoples the cultures they are. The search for matching terms continues, probably with someone coining new pc ones.
As for the ancient cultures of the Mayas, Anasazi, Songhai, old Zimbabwe etc, I would classify them as civilizations, as they were based on separation; they were practicing domestication and were held together by force, for the benefit of a wealthy elite. Consequently they collapsed after having over-exploited their habitat and overstretched their citizens’ capacity for suffering. Obviously, Californian Indians, Mbuti, !Kung, and Aborigines lived a different kind of approach – which is what I’m pointing at when distinguishing between “wild” and “civilized” cultures.
Seventy-five years after the end of WW2, Germans today are so afraid of the return of Adolf Hitler that they rather evaporate in a nuclear holocaust than be seen marching for peace side by side with a purported right-winger. They overlook, though, that fascist leaders, in the guise of democrats, are already standing at the helm of a system more inhumane, violent, oppressive and deadly than any other before them, be it Ivan the Terrible, Ghengis Khan, Attila the Hun, Pol Pot, or said individual whose deeds are so easy to hate and decry in our times, when you virtually risk zilch by speaking up against them.
“The meaning of the Hitler salute”
Political correctness actually requires you to speak up against them lest you want to be called an anti-semitic tinfoil-hat nazi conspiracy-theorist. No relativization (ie. putting sth into relation) allowed whatsoever. Platform tickets obviously still sell like hot cakes when Germans wish to have a revolution in the train station; and so it has been from the early 1800s on through 1848/49, 1918/19, and 1989/90 til the present day, when civil disobedience starts with seeking permission for a demonstration from the authorities. And when they march for environmental protection, as seen recently at the XR/FFF climate strike in Berlin, carrying a hammer-and-sickle flag – for lack of imagination of real alternatives to capitalism – bloviating about capital and class struggle and expropriation, they couldn’t care less that communism disregards the non-human world just as much.
And the olive-Green Party? It’s the party that, in 1999, sent German soliders into their first war since WW2, in violation of the UN charter, and under the pretense of (contrived) Serbian “concentration camps” in the Kosovo. It’s the party that would love to see us back at war with ‘evil’ Russia, that has forgotten about its demands for leaving NATO, and that supports nuclear power plants. And we really, really love to vote for them because they make sure we’ll continue to segregate our constantly increasing household waste while the right of big industry to pollute unimpededly til Kingdom Come is never questioned (for fear of losing jobs).
Wouldn’t it be nice if we got born with a hunchback already, so we may serve our democratically chosen oppressors more obediently?
The Yurugu blog series attempts to uncover some of the myths the dominant culture is based upon. As we have a hard time seeing the things we take for granted the view from outside, through the eyes of a different culture, may help with discovering our biases and enable us to act more consciously. Marimba Ani, the author of the book “Yurugu. An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior,”is not involved in putting up the series and does not necessarily agree to its contents. The series is also not meant to present the book’s central thesis, or to agree one-hundred percent with it; rather the blogs are inspired by the deep thoughts Marimba Ani has put forward, and offer some of them for consideration.
In my book, Mach was!?,i.e., Do Something!?, I entered a chapter by the headline “Empire of Loneliness.” This refers to the enormity of the edifice erected by civilized philosophy; an edifice according to which you are a flesh-encapsulated separate mind in a world of meaningless material objects, of Otherness. There is no beingness and subjectivity other than human beingness and subjectivity, no intelligence but human intelligence, no meaning but human meaning, no purpose other than human purpose, no art and beauty other than human art and beauty, no importance other than self-importance. Others, be it other (especially non-civilized) humans, be it animals, plants, or the “inanimate” world, become hindering or even threatening objects at worst; at best resources valuable only for their usefulness to ourselves.
What’s more, no matter which philosophical direction you choose, its teachings are completely hollow and devoid of meaning. You may pick any phrase you like, and what you find is shallow conceptsand lip service. “Freedom” is indeed a kind of slavery, the war abroad guarantees“peace” in our homeland, and ignorance of the illusory nature of civilized life means “strength” in our efforts to survive as Yurugu souls. There is no spirit within our religions – be it Judaism, Christianity, Islam, or Scientism – and our “social networks” are the opposite of what community once meant. Marimba Ani writes,
The symptomatic and severe loneliness characteristic of Europeans is an effect of the lack of communal function of their culture. Europeans are bound to each other by virtue of a shared utamaroho[collective personality] of power, domination, world supremacy, and expansion. The inner cultural dynamics of aggressiveness, competition, and mutual distrust are all separating, not binding. The outer-directed drives bind them into a tremendously efficient machine of aggression. The culture is supremely successful in this regard. European culture is not based on a vision of the essentially human. It does not serve human needs because it is not “designed” to do so. (Marimba Ani: Yurugu. An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior, 1994, p390)
It is really important to understand that the culture is not meant to benefit its people. When institutions do us wrong, when taxes are unjustly waived or imposed, when our friends let us down for profit, when laws impair our wiggle room, when weapons are delivered to those who wage war – all that is not happening incidentally, out of sheer incompetence or ignorance or without relation to all the other instances of wrongness.
European culture is an arena in which separate selves agree to compete without destroying the system and agree to cooperate in the destruction and consumption of other systems (e.g. cultures). One of the signs of the breakdown of the European system is that more and more Europeans begin to treat each other as they have heretofore only “ethically” treated the “cultural other.” (Yurugu, p400)
Ariadne’s thread leads straight into the heart of the matter, which is the asili, the cultural core of globalized European civilization. What makes this culture different from every other culture on Earth is its uniquely single-minded strife for power. It is Marimba Ani’s merit that she developed the concept of asili and applied it to European cultural thought and behaviour. Others before her did point out significant features, such as the meme of separation and its workings which modern Spirituality inspired by Asian religions clearly described, but none managed to explain why Christian values, or Humanism, never stopped structural and physical violence. Yurugu, the book, enables us to understand the power drive behind seemingly benign movements. The values purported serve to deceive Europe’s victims. “To bring freedom and democracy to Afghanistan / El Salvador / Guatemala / Haiti / Iran/ Iraq/ Libya / Mali / Nicaragua / North Korea / Somalia / Sudan / Syria / Venezuela / Vietnam / Yemen” etc pp, ad infinitum,belongs into the realm of “Rhetorical ethics.” At a closer look we discover geopolitical considerations and greed behind amoral hypocrisy:
When the World is portrayed as a “stage,” it’s not just meant as a metaphor. One only has to watch or read the news, to see how empty words define the relationship between governments and populations, and between nation and nation. Joel Kovel writes,
We have noted that power has accrued to the West through the yoking of energy and reason within one cultural ego. Other cultures had the energy, still others had the control, and some even combined the two; but no culture carried the combination to such extremes. The very passion expressed by the western drive to power is representative, on a cultural level, of the tapping of deep infantile desires. This culture, at once the most advanced, is also the most infantile… The deeper one returns into infancy, the more profound and limitless becomes desire. (Joel Kovel: White Racism. A psychohistory, 1971, p130)
No surprise, then, that the drive to power is present in interpersonal relationships even, right down to the level of families. Rhetorical ethics lead to insincere expressions of emotions, thoughts, or solidarity, in which a sentence like “I love animals” is enough to mark a person as an animal lover, despite the fact that she is eating meat from industrial production. This magical relationship to words corresponds to the immature stage European culture is stuck in.
The Yurugu blog series attempts to uncover some of the myths the dominant culture is based upon. As we have a hard time seeing the things we take for granted the view from outside, through the eyes of a different culture, may help with discovering our biases and enable us to act more consciously. Marimba Ani, the author of the book “Yurugu. An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior,“is not involved in putting up the series and does not necessarily agree to its contents. The series is also not meant to present the book’s central thesis, or to agree one-hundred percent with it; rather the blogs are inspired by the deep thoughts Marimba Ani has put forward, and offer some of them for consideration.
With this series of articles on decolonizing the mind from European thought patterns we repeatedly bump into terms like “objectivity.” “rationality,” or “universalism,” all of which have close links with how Western civilization defines science. The question how science participated in yoking non-European peoples and helped with bringing about social disparity, spiritual impoverishment, and biological annihilation, can hardly be avoided. Yet the answer cannot stop with science being the innocent enabler of its own abuse. Science has no existence of its own. It comes into existence through the work of scientists alone. Scientists, though, are human beings who are inseparably embedded in the world by any number of factors – biologically, socially, mentally, economically, etc. So how can we talk of universal validity of research results and unbiased objectivity based on rational thinking, when (European) science so clearly is a product of, and entangled in, (European) culture? Psychoanalyst and eco-socialist Joel Kovel, for instance, explains how the concept of abstraction influenced the development of European culture and thusly the course of history.
One overriding quality determines what is good and bad within the analyzed world: purity. And within the entire spectrum of reality, one aspect of knowledge fulfills this quality: abstraction. An abstract idea is a purified idea, freed from annoyingly concrete and sensuous particulars. Words themselves are abstractions. The non-sensuous senses, sight and hearing, are the mediators of abstract activity. Smell, taste and touch are concrete, syncretic, incapable of making the fine distinctions necessary to sort out what is abstract from what is sensuous. Abstraction means distance from immediate experience, the substitution of a relatively remote symbol for a given sensuous reality. Sight and hearing are thus those senses which best fulfill the possibility of a remote relationship to the world. Western civilization began its expansion with the discovery of perspective, and the perfection of remote, visually organized abstracted activities – whether in navigation or in the development of firearms that could kill from a distance. (Joel Kovel: White Racism. A psychohistory, 1971, p133, quoted after Marimba Ani)
All this goes to show that philosophy, science, and technology are exactly not ethically neutral, but come with far-reaching implications.
In my blog I have discussed such topics a number of times already. There is no need to repeat all that; so please allow me to refer you to previous articles carrying the label Science & Scientism. Today we’ll focus on an African-centered perspective on this most important tool of European civilization. Marimba Ani, in her seminal book, Yurugu. An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior,obviously cannot avoid this topic. Reviewing European political and philosophical history, she traces some of the relevant values back to Plato, but she also points out that their roots originate much deeper in time than just 2500 years. From her understanding – which I wholeheartedly support – there is a fundamental difference between European and other worldviews:
The African metaphysic, the Native American and Oceanic “majority cultures” (it is safe to generalize here), all presuppose a fundamental unity of reality based on the organic interrelatedness of being; all refuse to objectify nature, and insist on the essential spirituality of a true cosmos. What became known as the “scientific” view was really the European view that assumed a reality precluding psychical or spiritual influences on physical, material being. This view also resulted in the elimination of a true “metaphysical” concept and of an authentic cosmology. (Yurugu, p82)
In other words, worldview translates into behaviour. Societies within the European paradigm fundamentally differ from every other culture, be it Chinese or Indian civilizations before European expansion, be it any of the so-called primitive cultures, most of which have been wiped off the face of the Earth by explorers, conquerors, missionaries, educators, and development aid workers. This historical process developed, naturally, understandably, a situation in which an objective ethnology or anthropology – even if we assume that they were basically possible – has become completely out of reach:
This study was not approached objectively. It is not possible to be objective towards Europe. Certainly the victims of its cultural, political, and economic imperialism are not objective, if they are sane. And Europeans cannot be “objective” about their own cultural history. The question then becomes: What could objectivity possibly mean in terms of human mental attitudes? (Yurugu, p23)
She answers that question comprehensively. Quoting anthropologist Ralph Beals, she points out that,
Ultimately it was hoped to establish a computer-based model that would permit the rapid prediction of various types of outcomes of social change and conflict situations and the assessment of the effectiveness of different action programs in resolving or averting conflicts. (Ralph Beals: The Politics of Social Research, 1969, p197)
concluding herself that,
This, indeed, is what the “advancement of science” means. Its significance is neither noble nor transcendent. Rather it is quite pragmatic, “profane,” and provincial – designed for the sake of prediction and control of revolutionary movements. (Yurugu, p545)