Friday, June 17, 2011

History, Modernity, and the Masses

"And now back to our first statement: modern man suffers from a weakened personality. Just as the Roman in the time of the Caesars became un-Roman with regard to the area of the earth standing at his disposal, as he lost himself among the foreign things streaming in and degenerated with the cosmopolitan carnival of gods, customs, and arts, so matters must go with the modern person who continually allows his historical artists to prepare the celebration of a world market fair. He has become a spectator, enjoying himself and wandering around, converted into a condition in which even great wars and huge revolutions are hardly able to change anything momentarily. The war has not yet ended, and already it is transformed on printed paper a hundred thousand times over; it is already being promoted as the newest stimulant for the exhausted palate of those greedy for history."
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Vom Nutzen und Nachteile der Historie für das Leben/The Use and Abuse of History for Life (1871)

"The war, the Revolution in Russia and the misery of the whole world appear to me like deluge of (Flut) evil, a flood. The war has opened the sluices of chaos. The external and temporary measures of human existence are collapsing. The events of history are no longer borne by individuals, but by the masses. We are pushed, forced, brushed aside. We are suffering from History."

-Franz Kafka to Gustav Janouch,
Das Kafkabuch (around 1920) (translation mine)

"Since the invention of the steam engine, the world has been permanently in an abnormal state; the wars and revolutions are just the visible expressions of this state." -Ivanov to Rubashov

"The discovery of the steam engine started a period of rapid objective progress, and, consequently, of equally rapid subjective political retrogression. The industrial era is still young in history, the discrepancy is still great between its extremely complicated economic structure and the masses' understanding of it. Thus it is comprehensible that the relative political maturity of the nations in the first half of the twentieth century is less than it was 200 B.C. or at the end of the feudal epoch."

Darkness at Noon (1941)