Thursday, August 23, 2012

"Sein oder Nichtsein" and the citizen of curiosity

The distinguishing question in American politics has always been whether a bleakly mercantile Protestantism, a caricature shaped by experience of Calvinism transported to a new continent, could co-ordinate the sect's devotion to capital with its moralistic intolerance at any given moment, into an irresistible force for control of American society. A pretty crisis in that inherent pair of impulses presents itself strikingly enough in 2012 to compare the pending election to the extremism with which Nazism waged its war on Bolshevism, 1942-1945, but for one material distinction. There is no resistance to the Republican Party such as Stalin mounted to Hitler. It turns out that the Party's natural immunity from information, observation, and reason has not generated a mirror image of its wantonness from those qualities, because it is impossible to do so. 

But the desperation of the Battle of Kursk (July, 1943) is all over the program of Republicanism this year, and we have seen only the mildest evidence of this in Congressman Todd Akin's immaculately ignorant attack upon women's self-determination in the uses of their body, and in his call for a Constitutional amendment to limit the equality of both men and women in same-sex relationships. That he has always been joined in these labours by Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin cannot be contradicted or qualified by the latter's demurral to a single revealing interview in ideologically friendly territory, with a Rupert Murdoch affiliate. 

Momentarily, polling will portray how Akin's remarks have only intensified his support, in a campaign against one of the United States Senate's more enlightened members. The Republican Party is waging its most candidly frantic, explicitly existential battle of Sein oder Nichtsein, life or death, being or not being, against information, observation and reason in the lifetime of its new indebtedness to the unreconstructed South, since 1968. Marshaling all the vulgar lust for Judgment Day that it has shown since Goldwater's 1964 defeat, the Party is replete with The Second Coming's passionate intensity.

Here I present the portrait of all that stands in its way: an individual, alone, watching and listening in undefensive candour of curiosity. Yeats was wrong to rue that the best lack all conviction, if he can muster this. All we can do to multiply his number is to resort to information, observation and reason in our individual relationships, but the enormous massing and unleashing of Panzers of unreasoning, unyielding finance, by the Republican Party's Supreme Court, has meant that our reachings-out must be sustained and encouragements of this figure, inexhaustible. 

Now do we see, this is the most beautiful thing there is. All that we work for, in the growing of our relationships is the unguarded image of the educated confidant, the sharer of our time. And we will want to be in their number, when the votes come marching in. 

Arno Mayer
Dayton-Stockton Professor
  of History, Princeton
Why Did the Heavens Not Darken?
  The Final Solution in History
Pantheon, 1988©

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