Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Self-Assertion of an English Garden (After-Life Topoi of Nazi Desire) Chapter 8

1.     Il faut cultiver notre jardin   
2.     Pêcheurs de lune
3.     Iterability of the Nazi State (Economy of Genocide)
4.     Growth (and Form/Morphe)
5.     Decay
6.     Pompes Funèbres
6.1.  Type (Model, Example, Tupos)
6.2.  Usus Tyrannus (Interlude)
6.3.  The Ageing of a Note
7.      Critique of Beginnings
8.      Demonology of Defeat 

8.      Demonology of Defeat

Malum futurum

History is seen as a dead volcano, sending up the occasional cloud of smoke and ashes, but no one ever expects it to erupt again. “Le dimanche de l’Histoire” (Benjamin Fondane) has been ripped out of the calendar for good. From now on one day is like the next, just as each society is a mere replica of the one mass society and one mass culture installed in one world political economical structure.
The symbiosis of mass society and world political economy is one large closed and repetitive entity.  All this comprises what one refers to normally as contemporary life. Surely that covers all of life.  Appearances are not deceptive, though so much else is.

Yet there is another equally large, closed and repetitive system exerting as much influence on the course of events in contemporary life, more insidiously because less apparent. That system is world history. These two monolithic structures - world contemporary and world history - are quasi rivals of one another. They are also very similar morphologically - both exert their influence as if operated by an invisible hand, against which it is futile to revolt. Both seem oddly outside of time.

History is the power of the past over the present.  Its power is always traumatic; life emerges from cataclysms and sinks back into them again. In between is the routine, the sphere of the ordinary and habitual, for many almost holy only because it is the brief pause between disasters.
Trauma itself is necessarily the inscription of traumatic history (personal or collective) upon the individual or a group of individuals. If History is the unwritten play, trauma is the unconscious script.  Trauma is manifested in routine and habits as well.  One’s everyday contemporary life is full of it. One rarely has traumas about the future or what has not happened. Only perhaps about what has not yet happened and of which one is afraid. The approaching doom, what Heidegger calls malum futurum, is the way in which the individual rooted in a basically malignant state, experiences time. Time is never separated from the expectation of more evil.  This is then described as fear. But fear looks backwards rather than forwards.  One fears what one can expect - fear of the unknown does not really exist.  It is merely a conventional misnomer for fear of the all too known.  One pretends to oneself that one does not know what one fears - because even when the dread turns into reality it is never quite as one expected. This is the unpredictability of even the most predictable of events.

One can be afraid of thunderstorms but each thunderstorm itself is different. Some are more terrifying than others, some are by comparison rather tame - but neither variety of storm will ever eliminate the fear of thunderstorms as a species.

The other part of trauma is the shock, which mostly accompanies it. Shock is essentially a mode of experiencing time just as is malum futurum. If malum futurum is the sensation of a doom creeping upon you imperceptibly but at a steady pace, shock is the sensation of this doom happening in an instant. At a moment when one did not expect it - but really in a moment when enough distraction had caused one to forget to expect it.

Traumatic history refers inevitably to the traumata of collectives - as the trauma of an individual rarely defines an historical epoch. The traumata of collectives do. Although each individual will experience the collective trauma individually - the cause and timing of a collective trauma tends to be more unified.  For instance - the traumatic defeat and subjugation of the Sixth Army of the Wehrmacht by the Soviet Red Army at Stalingrad was a collective trauma for the soldiers and officers of that army. It is more difficult to measure the extent of the trauma for the rest of the German population living at the time.  But as this particular defeat is generally considered to be one of the major turning points in the war and the beginning of the total German defeat in World War II, it has retrospectively become a more widespread shared German trauma.

Reports from German prisoners of war in Soviet Russia mention a curious fact - after the passing of a collective death sentence upon a large group of prisoners on Christmas 1949 - there was an outbreak of mass euphoria in the barracks. The death sentences were mostly not carried out.  But that was not the reason for the euphoria.  Perhaps the expectation of a collective sentence, considered as a sign of martyrdom and renewing the warm bonds of German patriotism filled the prisoners with overwhelming feelings of happiness.
Or was it rather what Ernst Bloch discovered in his physiognomy of ‘habit’ – that most hidden aspect of habituation – only secreted – when mere “going badly” deteriorates into a truly desperate situation.  If habit in the first instance is a very soft drug, hardly noticeable – but enough to soothe the jolts – in the second instance it turns into a “sonderbaren Rausch” (an uncanny delirium) and a much stronger antidote – when the situation becomes “annihilatingly bad”.  It is the delirium in misfortune/unhappiness (Rausch im Unglück) – a bizarre kind of happiness. 
“(…) hat einer auf die letzte Karte gesetzt und alles verloren, so kommt zuweilen ein ganz täuschendes Glück, so am Ende zu sein.” [“(…) when someone places a bet on the last card and loses everything, then sometimes a totally deceptive happiness comes, to be so at the end.” (Ernst Bloch, “Gut Gewöhnen” (“Well Accustomed”), in Spuren, pp. 15-16] 

The blows are softened - it is a soft happiness - but no force comes of it.   

When the traumata fade into dim memory, fears crop up in their place. A typical replacement of the trauma of defeat is the fear of war or occupation. The fear appears as something absolute, timeless although its origin is in a specific historical trauma. The fear of war is actually the fear of defeat - vae victis! The fear of the cause is interchangeable with the fear of its effect.

False Tragedy (the Lullaby of the Führer’s Dead Phallus)

Der Führer ist bei jeder Geburt dabei.” (“The Führer is there at every birth.”)  Wiegenlied

One cannot experience defeat alone.  Its massness overrides and cancels all individual attributes. Whatever the individual personality or quality - in defeat they are all alike.

There is no tool of psychoanalysis which applies to defeat. Mass defeat is apsychological - one can grasp it better in the context of magical, religious or demonic systems.

War is very close to revolution as the historian Richard Cobb noted; in the way it rips apart a ruling class especially in defeat. Europe has experienced defeat in wars and the end of revolutions and the end of states. ‘Tout est dans la fin’ says Gerard de Nerval. But this ‘end’ is merely a station in a perpetuum mobile of history - for the old ruling class rarely completely disappears. It preserves itself by going ‘underground’, turning into the rebels against the new ruling class, quasi guerilla fighters. Just as in mythology, the old gods become new demons - despised but still strangely powerful.

Nazism in particular is a phenomenon of defeat.

The Nazi movement in Germany came out of the defeat in World War I - to defeat the defeat. The mass will to power of Nazi Germany was the transformed capitulation mass of World War I.  Essentially the euphoria of defeat carried itself forward into a self-deceiving drive for power.

The second German attempt at world power - snatching victory from the jaws of defeat - was directed by the revivalist movement of the German masses or at least by a power not identified with any specific legitimate ruling class.
In fact the regime contained fragments of all the previous ones; a revised cast acted out the second defeat on top of the first.

This was the magical or mythological phase of German history. The mottos of the German Party-State were ‘Sieg des Glaubens’ (Victory of Belief), ‘Triumph des Willens’ (Triumph of the Will).  Total defeat was discovered to be an untapped source of energy from which world power could be generated. This was a true discovery having to do with the mysteries of the human will.  World power was generated from world defeat by means of a magical alchemical transformation of deep unhappiness (defeat) into happiness (victory).  Not surprisingly, Carl Schmitt, Nazi thinker of the ‘grand space’, saw defeat as an absolute prerequisite of world conquest, articulating this principle with candour.  He still adhered to this conviction as late as 1948 – showing that his is not a thought but a passion or faith (theology) of defeat: “The law of the conquest of a new world: It must be preceded by a reconquest.  An example of historical dialectics:  first defeat, then the victory of the defeated.  Only that provides the momentum to go out and conquer the world.” (Glossarium:Aufzeichnungen der Jahre 1947-1951, Berlin, 1991, p. 194) (cited in Julia Hell, “Katechon: Carl Schmitt’s Imperial Theology and the Ruins of the Future”, The Germanic Review, 2009, online PDF, p. 293)  Heidegger less credulous and rather more chastened by the collapse of the Nazi bid for world power wrote in 1946: “Der Glaube hat im Denken keinen Platz.” (“Belief [faith] has no place in thought.”, “Der Spruch des Anaximander”, Holzwege, Klostermann, 1950, p. 343)  

Gone were the heady days of January 1940 when Heidegger divulged his “belief” to an intimate group of cronies in Freiburg – that the German way of possessing world power would bring about the overcoming (surpassing) of “the age of modern times” (das Weltalter der Neuzeit): “That the strength of the essence, hidden and not yet purified, of the Germans should extend this far, such is our belief.” [“Daß die verborgene und noch ungeläuterte Wesenskraft der Deutschen so weit hinausreicht, daß ist unser Glaube.”, “Talk on Jünger” cited in Emmanuel Faye, Heidegger The Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy in Light of the Unpublished Seminars of 1933-1935, Yale University, 2009, p. 292, Footnote p. 404]
Unhappiness did make a brief diversion to happiness, falling then far deeper into a greater unhappiness than ever conceivable.
The masses are not heroic in temperament. They do not indulge in grandiose ambitions or in startling action. The average range of emotions of the masses does not exceed the domestic or ‘spießbürgerlich’ scale.  They expect defeat in everyday life; the failure of careers, marriage, love, offspring, etc is something commonplace.  This is the ordinary pessimism of the masses. But defeat of the grand idea on a grand scale is far more devastating, there is no organ to perceive it or senses to endure its consequences. 

Total defeat leaves behind a kind of indestructible amorphous mood or haze of the ‘faux tragique’ or false tragedy. Everyone watches everyone else in his or her mass shame of defeat.  The audience is also the actor in the grotesque farce mimicking the formerly institutionalized practices of denunciation.  It is as if the headless chorus had suddenly grabbed centre stage.  The masses can never hide from the masses.  They inescapably remind one another over and over again of the identical multiplicity of the one total defeat.   Breaking ranks in the total defeat mass is not allowed.  Hell is truly the Other.  The final order ‘sauve qui peut!’ led there.

The Nazi ‘drama’ is a travesty of ancient Greek tragedy.  In classic tragedy for example the public sacrifice of Iphigenia leaves a trail of subsequent tragedies.  Each tragedy confirms the seriousness and necessity of the sacrifice by the hero.  But the sacrifice of Iphigenia also propelled the Greeks led by Agamemnon to Troy and victory.  The subsequent tragedies are all part of the price exacted by the gods for victory.  Retrospectively the Nazi masses regard the defeat or ‘catastrophe’ (unconditional surrender in World War II) as their self-sacrifice for the ruler.  But this was not the sacrifice he had asked for.  He wanted victory from them, not defeat.  As a defeated mass they are useless to him.  He ceases to love them, he abandons them. “En amour celui qui est guéri le premier est toujours le mieux guéri.” (“The one who stops loving first is cured best.” Francois de la Rochefoucauld, Maximes et réflexions diverses, no 417)
What the masses see as their ‘sacrifice’ was the price exacted by the enemy for the defeat of the masses and their ruler.
They cling to his memory to disguise this fact forever.  As in disappointed love  “On a bien de la peine à rompre, quand on ne s’aime plus.” (“Parting is hard when love has gone.” Francois de la Rochefoucauld, Maximes, no 551) 

Hitler and his fellow strategists hardly bothered to defend Prussia once the total collapse (Zusammenbruch) had kicked in. In 1945 seven Panzer divisions were dispatched to protect the Nagykanizsa oil fields of Hungary. Only four Panzer divisions were sent to protect the historic lands of East Prussia and Pomerania and their populations. The military historians generally view this as due to the Austrian bias of Hitler - his deep Austrian loathing of Prussia.
The euphoria of defeat is a kind of natural morphine to deaden the pain of being unloved, of general lovelessness.  After the pain wears off, the obligatory irony sets in, the fine nuances of ressentiment.  Nothing is serious from now on. Farce is the only relief from endless universal shame, the hollow stagey laughter of Mephistopheles at Faust’s final hour.
The trauma of defeat is also a grotesque parody of the tragedy of the ruler-criminal - as exemplified for instance in the tragedy of Macbeth. Kierkegaard discovered the inner workings of Shakespeare’s infernal machine.  The Nazi mass is companion and heir to the Führer.  The mass is the quasi Lady Macbeth.
“Sin is the breaking free from good, but the despair over sin is the breaking free for the second time.  This naturally presses the most extreme power of the demonic out of sin, produces the godless hardening and stiffening, so that one necessarily and consistently regards whatever might seem to be remorse or grace (mercy) as empty and meaningless, moreover as one’s own true enemy, against which one must defend oneself, as does goodness resist temptation. From this point of view, Mephistopheles answers well in Faust that nothing is more pitiful than a devil who despairs.  Despair over sin is nailing the same old nails into the same old coffin but with a new hammer.” (Sören Kierkegaard, ‘The Sin of Despairing over Sin’ in Sickness to Death)

The old-fashioned tragic usurper in the style of Macbeth passes on his legacy of guilt to his family. It rarely survives longer than his own dynasty, which mostly doesn’t last much longer than he does.  The legacy of guilt left by the defeated Nazi Führer is potentially far more enduring.

Many commentators have noted the sexual erotic nature of the bond between the Nazi Führer and the masses.  They are in essence his harem-people.  In an offhand remark in The Beast and the Sovereign Derrida considers the erect phallus of ‘the dictator’ strictly in the sense of a building, a ‘column of Vendome’, a symbolic architecture of the power of the sovereign, but also its hardness, its erection – the material out of which the building is fashioned.  The phallus is the leader: “The erection toward height is always the sign of the sovereignty of the sovereign, of the head of state or simply the Head, the Dictator we were talking about recently, Il Duce, the Führer, or quite simply the political leader, his “leadership”.” (Jacques Derrida, The Beast and the Sovereign Volume I, (Chicago, 2009), PDF, online, pp. 215-216)  The dictator-phallus is a generic emblem of power – any power, from Führer to President of the French Republic – but Derrida denies the sovereign phallus any Eros.  

The “godless hardening and stiffening” brought about by the “extreme power of the demonic” though is not imaginable without this peculiar kind of Führer-Volk Eros.  Otherwise Derrida’s stiffness and hardness is just some sort of reinforced concrete or some other kind of industrial hardness like ‘Krupp-steel’ advertised ‘in the old days’ as the hardest material known to man.  In the comic processions, if not on the comic stage, when the phallus was an object of mockery or derision in Dionysian or Bacchic feasts, as was sometimes the case, it was always the ithyphallos – Derrida offers this word as a special favour – and if permanent in mortal males as priapism - a cause of death; the effigy and the physical organ becoming harder to keep apart.  In the words of Heraclitus’ timeless warning: “If it were not to Dionysos, that they make their processions and sing the song of Phallos, then it would just be shameless doings.  The same though is Hades and Dionysos, for whom they clamour and celebrate.” (B 15)
But, for Derrida, desire is conspicuous in its absence – and if desire at all then the prudish conatus of a senseless marionette, or a bête (the terms are used almost interchangeably) and this automatism of desire-no desire is also sovereignty.  “I shall call this, very seriously, ithyphallic bêtise, the essential, nonaccidental bêtise that characterizes the phallic as such (and so sovereignty as such, of which the ithyphallic is the attribute). (…) The ithyphallus is a marionette, whose hyperbolic desire is both nil and empty of thought and of its own drive, of course, but it is this void that nonetheless pushes it, pulses and compulses it, it is (…) a drive that is absolutely bete, entêté. That never gives anything up, that is an absolute stranger to all thought.” (ibid., p. 224)
What sort of drive is not a stranger to all thought?  Perhaps Kant’s “spontaneity of the concept”?

When all it signifies is stiff towering height then what distinguishes the Führer-phallus from the gallows, the scaffold?  As Celan wrote in his “Eine Gauner-und Ganovenweise Gesungen zu Paris Emprès Pontoise von Paul Celan aus Czernowitz bei Sadogora” (A rogue and thief’s song sung at Paris Emprès Pontoise by Paul Celan from Czernowitz near Sadogora): “Damals, als es noch Galgen gab,/ da, nicht wahr, gab es/ ein Oben.” (In those days, when there were still gallows,/ there, isn’t that so, there was/ an above.)  

And is not the executed one hanging from his rope – the very quintessence of the marionette?    

One tends though to overlook the obvious fact that this powerful sexual love of the Nazi Führer doesn’t stop when he’s physically dead and defeated.  The dead phallus is even more erect, harder than when alive, more ‘bête’, more ithyphallic, more ‘marionette’ – relieved of temporal, material or even symbolic hindrances and constraints.  (Derrida refers to Il Duce and the Führer as if he were a habitué of their world of the dead.)  If anything, unchecked by reality, the love grows stronger.  Although he is dead and defeated his harem continues to love him.  Or perhaps because of that.  As the quasi harem of the defeated dead Führer the masses can come far closer to him in his godlike fall from power than they ever could to his godlike height of power.

Their mad absurd love of the defunct Führer displaces every other emotion or thought. No energy is left to recognize total defeat, one of those fatal protective reflexes of the demonic will disguised as Eros.  The masses and their Führer are equalized in defeat - hence the irresistible attraction of defeat for the masses.

Questions of honour, revenge or even pious remembrance do not seem to especially trouble them.  This protocol remains suspended indefinitely. The faux tragique repertoire of the Nazi masses does not include revenge tragedy.

 Demonology of Defeat

The more victories,
the more defeated demons and gods.
Defeated demons are gods of many lives past who have been defeated many times over.  Although defeated demons never change tactics, being condemned to repeat – each new defeat is always the result of a previously unknown strategy.

Defeated gods are first time defeats.

The god side empties out until there is only one god.

The demon side becomes more and more overcrowded.
Whole races and species of demons stand opposite one god or two at the most.
This is why the Chinese say, the emperor has one victory.  Victory should be once and for all.

The Chinese sages of warfare warn the victor - after a victory one should act as if a victory had not been achieved. Those generals or kingdoms with many victories inevitably end up in disaster. One victory is all one can afford. Many classical thinkers imply the same fear of victory.

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