Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Seven Month Itch

With guns at political events and some execrable characters on talk radio and cable playing to an audience that pines for days of war, torture, and revolution, I'm reminded more and more of Sebastian Haffner's description of his country in the mid-1920s -- after World War I, and after the Weimar economic crisis had started to fade:

A generation of young Germans had become accustomed to having the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions, for love and hate, joy and sorrow, but also all their sensations and thrills -- accompanied though they might be by poverty, hunger, death, chaos, and peril. Now that these deliveries suddenly ceased, people were left helpless, impoverished, robbed, and disappointed. They had never learned to live from within themselves, how to make an ordinary private life great, beautiful, and worthwhile, how to enjoy it and make it interesting. So they regarded the end of the political tension and the return of private liberty not as a gift, but as a deprivation. They were bored, their minds strayed to silly thoughts, and they began to sulk. In the end they waited eagerly for the first disturbance, the first setback or incident, so that they could put this period of peace behind them and set out on some new collective adventure. ...

[T]he great danger of life in Germany has always been emptiness and boredom...The menace of monotony hangs, as it has always hung, over the great plains of northern and eastern Germany, with their colorless towns and their all too industrious, efficient, and conscientious businesses and organizations. With it comes a horror vacui and the yearning for "salvation": through alcohol, through superstition, or, best of all, through a vast, overpowering, cheap mass intoxication.

Thus, under the surface, all was ready for a vast catastrophe.


Anonymous Jeremy said...

excellent post. Where can I read some by this author?

9/01/2009 8:46 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

I really appreciate your literature links to Germany post-WWI and pre-WWII. I recommend Erich Kahlers The Germans for a recounting of how the loss of a general sense of ethics and the rise of "might makes right" also helped set the stage for facism.

9/01/2009 9:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This reminds me, I have been meaning to read Wolfgang Schivelbusch's The Culture of Defeat

9/03/2009 12:02 AM  
Anonymous Viagra Online said...

I can't believe that someone has used this men as example, I don't know, I don't like the style of Haffner, to me sounds like a total crap.

1/18/2011 1:02 PM  
Anonymous contactos en madrid said...

Well, I do not actually believe it is likely to have success.

6/28/2011 3:18 AM  

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