In August, 1914, the first month of World War I, (then, also expected to be the last month), a German scientist, sitting with a group in Aachen which included Irvin S Cobb, then-journalist for the “Saturday Evening Post” (and highest paid reporter in America) was quoted as saying,
“We Germans are the most industrious, the most earnest, the best educated race in Europe; Russia stands for reaction, England for selfishness and perfidy, France for decadence, Germany for progress. German Kultur will enlighten the world and after this war there will never be another.” (italics mine)
Let that sink in, for in measuring “recent” (late 19th-early 20th Century) science and philosophy it did appear to have been true. As well as military might. The late 19th-early 20th Century science and philosophy field was dominated by the Germans. This included medicine where German doctors were viewed as gods, the highest social ranking, even above churchmen, and way, way, above lawyers. But by the end of World War II the standing of “Herr Doktors” in Germany had fallen to that of casino croupiers, having allowed themselves to be reduced to mere yes-men for a cadre of political theorists who based their theories on a secular religion and science of superiority they knew could never be proved.
The same was true of the “sciences” of war. The underlying principles of the original A-Bomb were also developed in Germany, by Otto Hahn, Lise Meitner and Fritz Strassman in 1938, under the Third Reich. But they could never produce a device because of the bombing campaign against Pennemunde, their secret development base for the V1 and V2 rockets on the Baltic. (The Allies found out its location from German resistance operatives, FYI, which is one basis for our “Wahr” series, also found on the front page of this site.)
But it was World War I that set the stage for World War II in many different ways; Communism, Fascism, Militarism, Scientism…and state-sanctioned atrocities. And all with accompanying fairly modern philosophical foundations. And in 1914 America was still very new to this game, having only become an industrial power in the 1870s. We were still a nation of farmers…and we had no royal class (at the time).
Actually, so was Germany, sort of, for Germany as a forged-unified nation also only began in the 1870s…when all the German states…(shown here)
…each under its own prince, gathered at Versailles, after the Germans had thoroughly whipped the French and taken Paris in 1870, to declare the new German Empire under the Prussian Emperor Wilhelm I (the father of Kaiser Wilhelm II, who was their boos in World War I, thanks to Otto von Bismarck.
There are many lessons here.
A unified Germany, with only one color on the map, only began in 1870, and, more significantly, it only lasted until 1945…75 years, but not before having started and lost, two world wars, costing the world millions of lives.
Only, do we blame Bismarck, who first designed this, or the philosophers who provided the “moral” underpinni8ngs and justifications, or to the institutions they created that crept across their landscape like a breath of fresh new air, only to turn stale and pungent, like a plague?
But before sinking deeply in the dark side of this thinking, watch this humorous 5-minute piece from “Monty Python”, circa 1970, about an imagined soccer match between German philosophers, ranging from the early 1800s (Hegel and Schopenhauer) into this Prussian era, 1870-1918, when the works of Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger were more dominant, these last two setting the tone and the premises of the scientist bragging at that cafe in Aachen in 1914 (above).
Noticeable by his absence was Johann Wolfgang Goethe, whose diagnosis of the German character condemned German government-style a century before they terrorized Belgium in the Great War. Instead, this Monty Python parody highlights only the Germanness of the thinking. Just don’t forget, coming off the German bench was Karl Marx in that last minute, Monty Python’s snarky reminder to English folks that Communism was also a German idea. (The Greeks, of course, represented thinking over 2000 years before the rise of Germany and while they had baggage of their own, civilization has had an extra two millennia to deal with it.)
So, this Monty Python spoof was an English laugh at German intellectual hubris, while never commenting about the millions who died because of it.
(Also listen closely, for when Karl Marx comes off the bench at the closing minute, game tied, 0-0, he lamely argues “Off-side” while the other Germans argue philosophically against the legitimacy of the goal the Greeks scored.)
The Stupidity Factor
Well, even the highest-sounding notions have to trickle down, only we never stop to think that when he see Antifa burn a building, or watched young people riot in the 60s and 70s, all the way to this past week, when news broke that some insider had leaked a coming decision by the Supreme Court to reverse the Roe v Wade decision, that that decision arose from higher thoughts…the sort that might have arisen from those early philosophers.
Still, Roe began with some serious intellectual thought in 1973, but quickly descended into an easy vanity trip for young college and working girls to nip an unwanted pregnancy in the bud while easing their consciences by thinking they were giving poor black and Latina girls a gift of freedom. In the 60’s the best pregnancy was the one Mom and Dad never had to know about and only sorority mates knew. Roe gave selfishness and entitlement new meaning.
In the next 50 years we’d seen all sorts of “behavior” accrue from the higher levels of education and status, witness the high-and-mighty sounds from the younger lawyer class on Twitter.
So there is link between some philosophers and philosophies (look at post-modern French philosophers such as Michel Foucault) and very self-destructive selfish behavior, only that link was not direct.
It was Eric Bonhoeffer, the German philosopher-pastor who was executed by the Nazis just five days before his prison camp was rescued by the Allies, who tied the philosophers and the militarists to the armies of blind German leaders that first arose among their generals in World War I, and who openly justified the killing of thousands of Belgian and French villagers simply for defending their towns. Or simply not smiling at them. (I wrote a follow-up of my piece, cited above, on “reprisals” where you will find the Bonhoeffer recitation, which connects to the destruction of the ancient medieval Belgian city of Louvain in August 1914, its libraries, churches, monuments. This would equate to the willful destruction of the Alamo in Texas, or Independence Hall in Philadelphia, or Mt Vernon and Monticello in Virginia…and all the people who would likely gather to defend those places. You should read this to gain context.)
This explains the process of the thinking that marks the modern Left as it sees itself today, very similar to the World War I Prussian royals.
The Thinking Beneath the Thinking
Keep in mind Goethe’s notion, “Schooled in a state in which the relationship of the subject to the sovereign has no basis other then obedience (to laws created by the sovereign…my words)
“…he is unable to understand a state organized upon any other foundation.
Compared with the vain nationalistic recitation of that German scientist in Aachen from 1914, you will find the same thinking embedded in the stated world views of others categories of “professional citizens” today, who have collectively become the modern counterpart of that Prussian collective Kultur mindset.
What once was a Royal class, then a Ruling class of the imperial thinkers and their intellectual justifiers began with that Military class that was strong enough to cause two world wars, and then threaten a third, first with the USSR, going on 70 years before it crumbled, followed by yet another Marxist state, China, both inspired by that last-minute soccer-substitute, Karl, each modifying Marx (industrial reform vs agrarian reform) to meet the needs of societies from which they arose.
It’s been a never-ending story of a psychology, not a science, not a philosophy, that drives the thinking of each new rendition.
Marx was a down-the-nose hateful, arrogant man, but just 29 when he co-wrote “The Communist Manifesto” with Frederich Engels in 1847. They published it in London, but only in German as the members of their Communist League were all Germans. It was not printed in English until 1852, and except in Germany played no role in what was called the “Revolution of 1848” which were a series of revolts against royal authority around Europe led by various intellectual communities. (Marx got a lot of credit for this from some history professors when I was in college in the 1960’s. Took me years to find them out.)
In the past century his own self-love has produced millions of young people who see themselves exactly the same way.
By the time Marx died Marxism itself had morphed into several different recipes. The Germans never took to it politically but the “backward” Russians and Chinese did, their Chinese variant, like the diseases they create in their labs, still very much at play.
So it wasn’t Marx’s ideas that sold so much as those notion espoused by Goethe, above, namely to project oneself in the status of a sovereign, and suffer no disagreement. Example: F A Hayek edited a book, Capitalism and the Historians in 1963 about the Marxist positions on the factory system in England in the 1870s. In it contemporary authors detail the arguments the Marxists made in various journals but their unwillingness to ever debate them in public. Bottom line, they (academicians all) refused to be contradicted or worse, proven factually wrong in public. That is still their practice today. And if you will search modern Google commentaries about that book, you will find their tactic worked, for most modern scholarship today is to pick at both Hayek and the boots-on-the-ground eye-witness reports he provided.
Thus, Marxism never stays “philosophical” for a very long time. Marxism, like every other ‘ism, and why Christianity isn’t called “Christianism”, returns to its basic nature; ego-centric selfishness, with a heavy dose of stupidity, either an inability or unwillingess to think. Wealthy elites do not think of survival in the same manner 90% of a society does. (Christianity has a re-generation mechanism at its core, or soul, that the ‘ism’s don’t possess.) What once was 100% pure Marxism in 1870 had already been morphed into Marxist-Leninism in 1918, and Marxist-Maoism in 1949, then onto something along the lines of Marxist-Academism by 1960…and you already know what happens when the Academy meets up with the best-and-brightest, morphing the wealthiest and most privileged into dottering idiots.
Barack Obama proved they can go out and hand-pick a well-speaking coke-head totally into self and make him president with less analytical thinking skills than the average auto parts store owner.
Think of these as Power Portals, Doors #1, #2, #3 etc. The original Power Class, the Royals, date back 5000 years. Eventually the royal class merged with a strong military presence as that was how power was most often attained. The German-Prussians demonstrated the militaristic side of the Power Portal in 1914. But after twice failing, the world shifted the Power portal to the Government Class, reorganizing governments into both cooperative and competing forms, from the United Nations to the Warsaw Pact. But both, by generation grew into a Lawyer and Management class, and Bureaucratic Class portal, this latter of which, by the dictates of Natural Law is a surefire death penalties.
And Bureaucracies, being neither fish nor fowl in the corporate realm, but of absolute necessity for those who hire them to manage the far-flung empires of paper and now digital oversight, are Nature’s way of smiting any system that over-relies on bureaucracies. Just too big. The old, pre-Gordon Gekko corporate capitalists had an easy fix if/when front office costs got out of hand; re-organization. Some of America’s best run Hallmark Card and other franchise shops in the 90s arose from the middle managers who took golden parachutes from the deal corporate offered them….never knowing it was the best thing that could ever happen to them.
The difference between the “ism’s and religious-based ideas is found in the basic notion of natural survival of the many versus the survival of the select few. Man has a natural desire to set himself out from his peers. From kings, to corporate chairman, to university professors, to super athletes, this is so, each according to a list of inner needs; from power to vanity. And once they achieve any success in it, they are willing to use any available power to hold onto it and maybe even grow it.
My friend David M Poff laid all this out in his A User’s Guide for Our Imperfect Union, available at Amazon, establishing the “thin red line” of the American ideal of liberty, starting with Abraham (and his Covenant with God) thru Moses (and his “face-to-face” talks with God) then, finally into the hands of Jesus, who still today is called on more many times more every day than all the power-elites who have ever lived. And somehow, some suggest by divine intervention, that thin red line ended up on the North American shoreline in the early 1600s, which ended, after beginning in 1776, the greatest social experiment in the history of Mankind.
America is no accident. And analyzing the behavior of other people.
"If you judge Beauty or Goodness or Virtue solely based on what you see in the mirror you will likely die a painful death...whether old or young. Just ask Kurt Cobain" from St George Frederick, an old friend returned.
A Harlan County, KY native, Vassar served as an Army criminal trial lawyer in Vietnam-era Asia. After his military career, he spent a number of years in corporate manufacturing management, in the textiles industry, where he crossed paths with a few too many new-generation Gordon Gekkkos and chose to move on to consulting work on behalf of "Con los pobres de la tierra quiero yo mi suerte echar", first in SE Asia, and then in the Soviet Bloc. Vassar dedicates the remainder of his life to committing his thoughts and observations to pen and paper.