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4/8/1914 – 4/8/2014

Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the start of the most titanic conflict the World had yet seen. It was a tragedy of unprecedented scale (Apart from maybe the Mongols…) It is a tragedy the sequels of which are still happening like bad movies. The current war in the Near East is a result as was the Second World War as was the rise of Fascism, Communism and Nazism. All three are in one form or another still with us like Japanese knotweed.

When I was a potless student I developed a love of Victorian and early Edwardian literature. Well, it was out of copyright so cheap. Something that shone through to me was the general sense of optimism. Do you know the origin of the phrase, “How the other half live”? At the start of Victoria’s reign half of Britain lived in abject poverty and I mean abject poverty. I don’t mean they had an iPhone 4 not a 5S. By her death it was one in ten. And think of the technology over this rough period of time! Anaesthetics, anti-septics, pasteurisation, sanitation, automobiles, powered flight, telephones, radio, steam turbines, AC power, electric light… The optimism is palpable. I bought and read these books because they were cheap but I fell for them because of that sheer optimism and it seamed hardly ill-construed. In 1900 the country with the fastest rate of GDP growth per capita was Russia. A sensible person might have seen Russia turning into some sort of constitutional monarchy and something like a bigger Canada. It could have happened and imagine that…

It didn’t happen.

Europe was wrecked. Russia is still stuck in a quasi-Tsarist rut, the remains of the Ottoman Empire are largely in a situation of utter chaos and the blood and treasure expended by all over the last hundred years is incalculable. The loss of young European men – especially of the officer class – the potential movers and shakers in the arts, sciences, business, engineering and such was so calamitous that Europe permanently lost the lead to the USA after the Great War. That is not an anti-US statement but what could we (and I mean all of us) have achieved had those millions not died? And it is not just the statement of a middle-class white European male. It is a statement of fact reflecting the social conditions of the time. The emancipation of, say, women was arguably advanced by the war but surely this could have been done in a different manner?

Here is just one example of our loss

Karl Schwarzschild (October 9, 1873 – May 11, 1916) was a German physicist and astronomer. He is also the father of astrophysicist Martin Schwarzschild.

He provided the first exact solution to the Einstein field equations of general relativity, for the limited case of a single spherical non-rotating mass, which he accomplished in 1915, the same year that Einstein first introduced general relativity. The Schwarzschild solution, which makes use of Schwarzschild coordinates and the Schwarzschild metric, leads to a derivation of the Schwarzschild radius, which is the size of the event horizon of a non-rotating black hole.

Schwarzschild accomplished this triumph while serving in the German army during World War I. He died the following year from the autoimmune disease pemphigus, which he developed while at the Russian front.

Asteroid 837 Schwarzschilda is named in his honor.

The Schwarzchild metric is not just the first but remains the most important solution of the Einstein field equations. Trust me. I know this stuff. But don’t take it from me…

I have read your paper with the utmost interest. I had not expected that one could formulate the exact solution of the problem in such a simple way. I liked very much your mathematical treatment of the subject. Next Thursday I shall present the work to the Academy with a few words of explanation.

— Albert Einstein

How many other greats and potential greats were lost? We shall never know. And how many other ordinary folk who would have lived normal productive lives for they matter as much.

OK, I’ll tell you. I live in a parish of roughly 4300 souls. This is probably more than the population in 1914 (it’s prime commuter belt for Manchester and Buxton and such places).

This is the roll-call on this parish’s war memorial for WWI…

To the Everlasting Honour
of the Men of Disley Parish
who gave their lives
in the Great War
1914 – 1919.
This Cross is placed here in Greatful Remembrance.

Ellis ARDERN
Robert ARDERN
Reginald C ARNOLD
E Walter ARNOLD
Harry BAND
Oliver BELL
Joseph BENNETT
Robert BENNETT
Harry N BOLD
Herbert BOWDEN
John BRANSON
Charles BRYAN
Wm M BUCHANAN
Harold CARRINGTON
Arthur CHORLTON
G Charles CLAPHAM
Harold DAWSON
Thomas DAWSON
John DEARNALEY
Harry EDGE
Harold ETCHELLS
H Innes FERGUSON
Arthur FORD
Samuel FORD
John FROGGATT
Richard GARLEY
Tom W GARLEY
James R GASKILL
Albert GASKILL
Herbert GOODWIN
Walter GRAHAM
William HAGAN
Percy HALLAM
Fred HARRISON
James A HARRISON
Ernest HAYTHORN
Wm HIGGINBOTTOM
Ernest HILL
Frank HOLYOAKE
William HOWARTH
Louis INGHAM
John JENNISON
Ernest JOHNSON
Harvey JONES
Ernest LEECH
John LIDDELL
James LOGAN
Frank LOMAS
Luke LOMAS
Percy MASSEY
George MIDDLETON
Thomas MIDDLETON
George A MILES
Roy MILLER
William MOORCROFT
Charles MOTTRAM
Ernest MOTTRAM
James MYCOCK
Frank NELSON
Daniel NORMAN
J Joseph NUTTALL
Ernest PIKE
Frederick POTTS
Thomas PRESTWICH
Harold QUARMBY
Charles RHODES
James H RIGBY
Frank ROXBY
Robert ROXBY
Henry SERPELL
Benjamin SHIRT
Stanley SHIRT
Samuel SHIRT
Albert SMITH
Joseph SMITH
John STAFFORD
Henry TAYLOR
James TAYLOR
Wm THOMPSON
William TURNER
Thomas H WALKER
Harry WELCH
Arthur WHITEFORD
George W WHITTLE
Everett WILD
William WILD
George W WILKINSON
Samuel WOOD
Walter WOOD
Charles WOODWARD
John WOODWARD
Charles WYATT
Frederick YATES
Leonard G B YOUNG
Cyril NIELD
Reginald NIELD

We remember them.

12 Comments

  1. Paul Marks says:

    Yes Nick the progress in the Victorian period was astonishing, especially for ordinary people.

    In 1901 one could go from my home town to London in roughly the same amount of time as it takes now (so much for our progress – but then even the “modern” footwear known as Nike All Stars came out in 1914).

    In 1836 it took days to get to London.

    And as you say – most people born in the 1830s (into what we would consider a Third World country) would not live into adulthood, and adults around in most parts of Britain in the 1830s would not have visited London anyway (they could not have afforded to do so).

    By the early 20th century (after the Victorian development had done its work) such things as electric mass transit were coming into towns and cities (in the 1830s it had been horses and feet) in some ways cities such as those in upstate New York (and many other places) were more advanced a century ago than they are now.

    The Third World slum cities (around the Western World) of the 1830s were (by the early 20th century) being replaced by a standard of life that (whilst still low by our standards) was higher than the world had ever seen before.

    An astonishing achievement of international capitalism.

    However, the more capitalism achieved – the more the “intellectuals” were filled with hatred and the desire to destroy.

  2. NickM says:

    Well, I have flown a number of times to the USA. I’m telling it to Karl Marx! And I an’t no plutocrat ;-)

  3. JohnW says:

    Heinrich Heine on the architect of the catastrophe:

    “The history of Immanuel Kant’s life is difficult to portray, for he had neither life nor history. He led a mechanical, regular, almost abstract bachelor existence in a little retired street of Königsberg, an old town on the north-eastern frontier of Germany. I do not believe that the great clock of the cathedral performed in a more passionless and methodical manner its daily routine than did its townsman, Immanuel Kant. Rising in the morning, coffee-drinking, writing, reading lectures, dining, walking, everything had its appointed time, and the neighbors knew that it was exactly half-past three o’clock when Kant stepped forth from his house in his grey, tight-fitting coat, with his Spanish cane in his hand, and betook himself to the little linden avenue called after him to this day the “Philosopher’s Walk.” Summer and winter he walked up and down it eight times, and when the weather was dull or heavy clouds prognosticated rain, the townspeople beheld his servant, the old Lampe, trudging anxiously behind Kant with a big umbrella under his arm, like an image of Providence.

    What a strange contrast did this man’s outward life present to his destructive, world-annihilating thoughts! In sooth, had the citizens of Königsberg had the least presentiment of the full significance of his ideas, they would have felt far more awful dread at the presence of this man than at the sight of an executioner, who can but kill the body. But the worthy folk saw in him nothing more than a Professor of Philosophy, and as he passed at his customary hour, they greeted him in a friendly manner and set their watches by him.”

  4. NickM says:

    Paul,
    As you know I have lived in Manchester and now live near Manchester. Well, I lived in Levenshulme (South Manchester) now it had a railway station on the radial route. It had had another that ran a circular route but dear old Dr Beeching chopped that. So the earthworks for the line remained – the bridges, the cuttings, the tunnels etc. It was re-invented as a cycle path and the station for it became, “Repo TV”. I call that Progress!!! I once challenged my wife to a rollerblade race down the cycle track to Rusholme. I won so she bought the drinks. That was the bet. I must’ve been fit back then!

  5. Paul Marks says:

    John W. – the irony is that Kant thought he was saving the world, from the attacks of David Hume.

    However, Kant responded in the way that German philosophers tend to – by incorporating what Hume had to say (whether or not Hume really believed it literally is a matter I will not deal with) into his own thought.

    This does not answer the nihilistic “questions” of Hume (denying human agency, by “explaining” it away, and denying the objective nature of the physical universe also) – it makes the attacks much more dangerous by “letting them in” as it were (sealing in the decay – the process of rotting). Hume’s doubts (whether or not he meant them) must be clearly REJECTED (not incorporated).

    Nick.

    Yes I am sure the line was useful – but I wish the railway trains still ran on it.

    The subsidised competition of “free” government roads, and the straight jacket of government regulations on the railways (really getting out of control with the Liberal Party government of 1906 onwards) destroyed the railways – Dr B. was just the Funeral Director.

    By the way a friend of mine interviewed Dr B. a few years before the Dr B’s death – the man denied that any of it was his own idea (blaming the Transport Sec – Mr Marples).

    But someone like Marples could only operate because the railways has first been run into the ground (by government interventionism – especially in the two World Wars) and then nationalised.

  6. NickM says:

    Paul, I wished they had trains on that line.

    Oddly enough wrt Marples…I live near the town of Marple. A certain author was once delayed at Marple station and whilst bored conceived of a certain lady detective.

  7. JohnW says:

    @Paul Marks
    Hume’s principle contribution to philosophy was to invalidate the conceptual faculty.

    In the process he reduced man to the level of an animal dependent on instincts.

    He denied the validity of the senses, undermined our awareness of entities, he destroyed the the law of cause and effect, made reality unknowable, volition unsustainable, abstraction impossible. and turned all necessary truths into mere conventions.

    Was Hume dishonest?

    Of course.

    ALL sceptics are dishonest, the only exception was Cratylus – who renounced the power of speech and communicated by gesture.

    Kant just took the very worst of Hume and combined it with the very worst Plato – destroying the Enlightenment and setting the future Germany on its inevitable crusade against mankind.

    Heine was no hero either but when he described Kant as “world-annihilating” he wasn’t wrong.

  8. Paul Marks says:

    Strongly made points Sir.

  9. Paul Marks says:

    I see Nick – the origin of Miss Marple.

  10. JohnW says:

    It was very noticeable last year how statist propagandists in the UK were confidently promoting the idea that the UK [with practically no standing army] was as much to blame as Germany [a de facto military dictatorship] for the outbreak of WW1.
    As a supplement to this view there seems to be a growing consensus that the injustices of the Treaty of Versailles mean the UK was also as much to blame for WW2 – the Nazis coming to power the same year as The King and Country debate of the Oxford Union.

    Those of you familiar with Leonard Peikoff’s ‘Ominous Parallels’ will know Objectivism rejects this interpretation of history.

    Italy, for example, a victor in WW1, became fascist in 1922 – philosophy is the driving force of history and only philosophy can account for – and correct – fundamental changes in a country’s culture and ideology.

    As for the common allegation of the libertarians that Reason is not the primary driver of man

    https://libertarianalliance.wordpress.com/2014/07/15/reason-is-not-the-primary-driver-of-man/#comments

    objectivists obviously disagree. How can you judge anything without philosophy?

    I once read a historian’s proof that something as simple as a novel could mean the opposite things to different cultures.
    I forget the historian’s name but he referenced Remarque’s All Quite on the Western Front which was interpreted as an anti-war classic in the West but was initially interpreted as a pro-war book celebrating the virtue of sacrifice in Germany [ until it was banned - like We the Living - by the canny Goebbels. ]

    I lost the quotes but recently came across others in a similar vein in Stephen Hick’s on the philosphical underpinnings of the Nazis – here are a few notes I made for those of you who may be interested-

    VIP Nazi supporters:

    Philipp Lenard won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1905.

    Johannes Stark won the Nobel Prize for Physics

    Gerhart Hauptmann won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1912. Hauptmann once met Hitler and described their brief handshake as “the greatest moment of my life.”

    Dr. Oswald Spengler, author of the historical bestseller The Decline of the West (1918). Spengler’s books sold in the millions, and he was perhaps the most famous intellectual in Germany in the 1920s.

    Then there is Moeller van den Bruck, another famous public intellectual of the 1920s. His book The Third Reich (1923) provided a theoretical rationale for National Socialism and was, like Spengler’s books, a consistent best-seller throughout the 1920s.

    Dr. Carl Schmitt (1888-1985), probably the sharpest legal and political mind of his generation. Schmitt’s books are still widely read and discussed by political theoreticians of all stripes and are recognized as twentieth century classics. And to round out this initial list, there is philosopher Martin Heidegger. Already in the 1920s Heidegger was being hailed as the brightest philosopher of his generation,

    25 point plan of the Nazis-
    Point 10 “It must be the first duty of every citizen to perform mental or physical work. Individual activity must not violate the general interest, but must be exercised within the framework of the community, and for the general good.”
    “THE COMMON INTEREST BEFORE SELF-INTEREST.” [their emphasis!]
    Point 11 calls for the abolition of all income gained by loaning money at interest. Point 12 demands the confiscation of all profits earned by German businesses during World War I. Point 13 demands the nationalization of all corporations. Point 14 demands profit-sharing in large industrial enterprises. Point 15 demands the generous development of state-run old-age insurance.
    Point 16 calls for the immediate socialization of the huge department stores.
    Point 23 calls for censorship and government control of all newspapers.
    Point 25 calls for centralization and unconditional power: “we demand the creation of a strong central power in unconditional authority over the entire Reich, and its organization in general.”

    Classical liberalism v collectivism-

    Richard Cobden in 1835: “The middle and industrious classes of England can have no interest apart from the preservation of peace. The honours, the fame, the emoluments of war belong not to them; the battle-plain is the harvest-field of the aristocracy, watered with the blood of the people.”

    Also John Stuart Mill: “It is commerce which is rapidly rendering war obsolete, by strengthening and multiplying the personal interests which are in natural opposition to it” (1909). Again Mill: “Finally, commerce first taught nations to see with good will the wealth and prosperity of one another. Before, the patriot, unless sufficiently advanced in culture to feel the world his country, wished all countries weak, poor, and ill-governed, but his own: he now sees in their wealth and progress a direct source of wealth and progress to his own country. It is commerce which is rapidly rendering war obsolete, by strengthening and multiplying the personal interests which are in natural opposition to it. And it may be said without exaggeration that the great extent and rapid increase of international trade, in being the principal guarantee of the peace of the world, is the great permanent security for the uninterrupted progress of the ideas, the institutions, and the character of the human race” (1909, Book III, Chapter XVII, Section 14).

    Richard Cobden -commerce is “the grand panacea, which, like a beneficent medical discovery, will serve to inoculate with the healthy and saving taste for civilization all the nations of the world” (Cobden 1903, p. 36).
    Norman Angell, speaking to the Institute of Bankers in London on January 17, 1912, on “The Influence of Banking on International Relations”: “commercial interdependence, which is the special mark of banking as it is the mark of no other profession or trade in quite the same degree — the fact that the interest and solvency of one is bound up with the interest and solvency of many; that there must be confidence in the due fulfillment of mutual obligation, or whole sections of the edifice crumble, is surely doing a great deal to demonstrate that morality after all is not founded upon self-sacrifice, but upon enlightened self-interest, a clearer and more complete understanding of all the ties that bind us the one to the other. And such clearer understanding is bound to improve, not merely the relationship of one group to another, but the relationship of all men to all other men, to create a consciousness which must make for more efficient human co-operation, a better human society” (quoted in Keegan 1999, pp. 11-12). [116]

    Collectivism v classical liberalism:

    Immanuel Kant (1724-1804): “War itself, if it is carried on with order and with a sacred respect for the rights of citizens, has something sublime in it, and makes the disposition of the people who carry it on thus only the more sublime, the more numerous are the dangers to which they are exposed and in respect of which they behave with courage. On the other hand, a long peace generally brings about a predominant commercial spirit and, along with it, low selfishness, cowardice, and effeminacy, and debases the indispensable means for bringing it to a still higher stage.” “Speculative Beginning of Human History” [1786].

    G. W. F. Hegel (1770-1831) on World-Historical Individuals, those whom the march of history has selected to advance its ends: “A World-historical individual is not so unwise as to indulge a variety of wishes to divide his regards. He is devoted to the One Aim, regardless of all else. It is even possible that such men may treat other great, even sacred interests, inconsiderately; conduct which is indeed obnoxious to moral reprehension. But so mighty a form must trample down many an innocent flower—crush to pieces many an object in its path.” [Hegel, The Philosophy of History. Translated by J. Sibree (Prometheus, 1991), p. 32.

    Leopold von Ranke (1795-1886), professor of history at Berlin and the most influential German historian of the nineteenth century. Ranke was deeply religious and a strong believer in the divine mission of the German monarchical state. “[P]ositive religion, which resists the vague flight into liberalism, accords with my beliefs.” “I know nothing since the psalms where the idea of a religious monarchy has been expressed more powerfully and more nobly. It has great passages of historical truth.” As historian A. J. P. Taylor put it, speaking of Ranke and his followers, “they regarded the state, whoever conducted it, as part of the divine order of things; and they felt it their duty to acquiesce in that divine order. They never opposed; they rarely protested.” Ranke, quoted in A. J. P. Taylor, “Ranke: The Dedicated Historian.” The Course of German History, A Survey of the Development of Germany since 1815 (Hamish Hamilton, 1945), p. 265.

    Heinrich Heine (1797-1856, German poet and essayist): “Not only Alsace-Lorraine but all France and all Europe as well as the whole world will belong to us.”[Heine, quoted in Darwin P. Kingsley, “Woodrow Wilson and the Doctrine of Sovereignty,” Addresses of the Empire Club of Canada. Delivered October 17, 1918.

    Max Stirner (1806-1856), a Young Hegelian philosopher. While at university at Berlin, he was inspired by Hegel’s lectures and was a member of “The Free,” a discussion group that included Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Ludwig Feuerbach as members. “What does right matter to me? I have no need of it … . I have the right to do what I have the power to do.”
    Stirner, quoted in Kingsley 1918.

    Franz Felix Kuhn (1812-1881), philologist and folklorist: “Must culture build its cathedrals upon hills of corpses, seas of tears, and the death rattle of the vanquished? Yes, it must.” Kuhn, quoted in Kingsley 1918.
    Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898), in a now-famous 1862 speech: “The great questions of our time will not be settled by resolutions and by majority votes—that was the mistake of 1848 and 1849—but by blood and iron.”
    Frederick III (1831-1888), German emperor and eighth king of Prussia: “All written Constitutions are scraps of paper.”[209]

    Otto von Gottberg (1831-1913), writing in the newspaper Jungdeutschland-Post in January 1913: “War is the most august and sacred of human activities.” “Let us laugh with all our lungs at the old women in trousers who are afraid of war, and therefore complain that it is cruel and hideous. No! War is beautiful.”[210]

    Heinrich von Treitschke (1834-1896), an influential professor of history at Humboldt University in Berlin from 1874 to 1896 and member of the Reichstag from 1871, was a rabid nationalist and saw war as Germany’s destiny which, guided by a benevolent God, would purge the nation of its sins and make it possible for Germany’s superiority to shine forth.
    Otto Liebmann (1840-1912), philosopher at the newly-created University of Strassburg after the Franco-Prussian war. Strassburg was intended as a “fortress of the German spirit against France.” From the records of the Reichstag debates over the founding of the University of Strasburg:
    “The German universities, resting on the foundation of freedom, are so peculiarly German an institution that no other nation, not even one racially akin, has risen to this institution, and it is for just this reason that a German university is one of the mightiest of all means of again reconciling with the motherland German racial comrades who have long been separated from her … You may believe, meine Herren, that Bonn university has done as much to defend the German Rhineland as have the German fortresses on the Rhein. (Hear hear! On the left).”[211]

    Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900): “I welcome all signs that a more manly, a warlike, age is about to begin, an age which, above all, will give honor to valor once again. For this age shall prepare the way for one yet higher, and it shall gather the strength which this higher age will need one day—this age which is to carry heroism into the pursuit of knowledge and wage wars for the sake of thoughts and their consequences.”[212]

    Nietzsche: “War essential. It is vain rhapsodizing and sentimentality to continue to expect much (even more, to expect a very great deal) from mankind, once it has learned not to wage war. For the time being, we know of no other means to imbue exhausted peoples. as strongly and surely as every great war does, with that raw energy of the battleground, that deep impersonal hatred, that murderous cold-bloodedness with a good conscience, that communal, organized ardor in destroying the enemy, that proud indifference to great losses, to one’s own existence and to that of one’s friends, that muted, earthquakelike convulsion of the soul.”[213]

    Max Lehmann (1845–1929), pastor, political historian, professor at Marburg, Leipzig, and Göttingen, and member of the Prussian Academy: “Germany is the centre of God’s plans for the World.”[214]

    Friedrich von Bernhardi (1849-1930), general, military historian, author of Germany and the Next War (1911): “Might is the supreme right,” and war is a “divine business,” “an indispensable factor of civilization,” and “a biological necessity of the first order.” And contrasting the French emphasis on rights of liberty and equality, Bernhardi writes of the German philosophy of duty:
    “While the French people in savage revolt against spiritual and secular despotism had broken their chains and proclaimed their rights, another quite different revolution was working in Prussia—the revolution of duty. The assertion of the rights of the individual leads ultimately to individual irresponsibility and to a repudiation of the State. Immanuel Kant, the founder of critical philosophy, taught, in opposition to this view, the gospel of moral duty, and Scharnhorst grasped the idea of universal military service. By calling upon each individual to sacrifice property and life for the good of the community, he gave the clearest expression to the idea of the State, and created a sound basis on which the claim to individual rights might rest at the same time Stein laid the foundations of self-employed-government in Prussia.”[215]

    Houston Stewart Chamberlain (1855-1927), English-born German author and propagandist: “He who does not believe in the Divine Mission of Germany had better go hang himself, and rather today than tomorrow.”[216]
    Wilhelm II (1859-1941), third German emperor and ninth king of Prussia: “Woe and death to all who shall oppose my will. Woe and death to those who do not believe in my mission.”[217]

    Otto Richard Tannenberg, author of Greater Germany, the Work of the Twentieth Century, writing in 1911: “War must leave nothing to the vanquished but their eyes to weep with.”[218]

    Ernst Troeltsch (1865-1923), theologian and Neo-Kantian professor of philosophy at Heidelberg: Struggle is a test of a culture’s vital forces, in which “the fullness of contending national spirits … unfold their highest spiritual powers.”[219]

    Max Scheler (1874-1928), philosopher at the universities of Jena, Munich, and Cologne, writing on the German ideology: “It would set faith against skepticism, metaphysics against science, the organic whole against atomism, life against mechanism, heroism against calculation, true community against commercialized society, a hierarchically ordered people against the mass leveled down by egalitarianism.”[220]

    Thomas Mann (1875-1955), novelist and essayist, echoing the desire to eliminate the old world of bourgeois hypocrisy, thought the war would end that “horrible world, which now no longer is, or no longer will be, after the great storm passed by. Did it not crawl with spiritual vermin as with worms?”[221]

    Mann, writing during the war of his pre-war days: “We knew it, this world of peace. We suffered from this horrible world more acutely than anyone else. It stank of the ferments of decomposition. The artist was so sick of this world that he praised God for this purge and this tremendous hope.”[222]

    Georg Heym (1887-1912), German Expressionist poet, on the eve of World War I:
    “Everything is always the same, so boring, boring, boring. Nothing ever happens, absolutely nothing. … If someone would only begin a war, it need not be a just one.”[223]

    In his diary of 1911: “Most of all I would like to be a lieutenant of the cuirassiers. But the day after I want to be a terrorist.” Later that year: “without my Jacobin hat I cannot envisage myself. Now I hope that there will at least be a war.”[224]

    Ernst Jünger (1895-1998), author of Storm of Steel, after returning from World War I, in which he had been wounded three times, on how defeated Germany was by the war:
    We are “a new generation, a race that has been hardened and inwardly transformed by all the darting flames and sledgehammer blows of the greatest war in history.”[225]

    In war, “the true human being makes up in a drunken orgy for everything that he has been neglecting. Then his passions, too long damned up by society and its laws, become once more dominant and holy and the ultimate reason.” And again: “This war is not ended, but the chord that heralds new power. It is the anvil on which the world will be hammered into new boundaries and new communities. New forms will be filled with blood, and might will be hammered into them with a hard fist. War is a great school, and the new man will be of our cut.”[226]

    Describing the warrior’s entry into battle: “Now the task is to gather oneself. Yes, perhaps it is a pity. Perhaps as well we are sacrificing ourselves for something inessential. But no on can rob us of our value. Essential is not what we are fighting for, but how we fight. Onward toward the goal, until we triumph or are left behind. The warriors’ spirit, the exposure of oneself to risk, even for the tiniest idea, weighs more heavily in the scale than all the brooding about good and evil.”[227]

    Oswald Spengler (1880-1936), author of The Decline of the West: “We must go right through to the end in our misfortune; we need a chastisement compared to which the four years of war are nothing. … A dictatorship, resembling that of Napoleon, will be regarded universally as a salvation. But then blood must flow, the more the better.”[228]

    Otto Braun, age 19, volunteer who died in World War I, in a letter to his parents: “My inmost yearning, my purest, though most secret flame, my deepest faith and my highest hope—they are still the same as ever, and they all bear one name: the State. One day to build the state like a temple, rising up pure and strong, resting in its own weight, severe and sublime, but also serene like the gods and with bright halls glistening in the dancing brilliance of the sun—this, at bottom, is the end and goal of my aspirations.”[229]

    Some commentators on Germany in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries:
    R. Kevin Hill, American historian of philosophy: “associations between Kantian duty and military experience became increasingly common in late nineteenth-century Germany, especially after the Schiller and Fichte centennials.”[230]

    Friedrich Meinecke (1862-1954), German historian, writing in 1950: “The German power-state idea, whose history began with Hegel, was to find in Hitler its worst and most fatal application and extension.”[231]

    American historian William Manchester on nineteenth-century Germany: “the poetic genius of the youth of Germany was saturated with militaristic ideals, and death in battle was prized as a sacred duty on behalf of Fatherland, home, and family.”[232]

    Ernst Gläser (1902-1963), German novelist expressing the prevailing spirit of 1914: “At last life had regained an ideal significance. The great virtues of humanity … fidelity, patriotism, readiness to die for an ideal … were triumphing over the trading and shopkeeping spirit … This was the providential lightning flash that would clear the air [and make way for] a new world directed by a race of noble souls who would root out all signs of degeneracy and lead humanity back to the deserted peaks of the eternal ideals … The war would cleanse mankind from all its impurities.”[233]

  11. Paul Marks says:

    Generally agreed John – but remember that when a German intellectual (not an ordinary German – but one of the educated elite) talked of “religion” they did not mean what an early 1900s American would call the “fundamentals” of religion.

    Religion traditionally makes truth claims – Randian Objectivism holds those claims are incorrect (wrong) but does not hold that they are not truth claims. For example individual survival after the death of the body, and the existence of a person (a being) called God.

    German philosophy-theology rejected clear truth claims – indeed rejected the concept of straightforward objective truth.

    On the “little” matter of objective truth and make clear statements of what is the truth, a traditional religious person is closer to an Randian atheist than a German (or American) “religious” relativist philosopher-theologian is.

    Although some highly educated German theologians did reject the relativism and subjectivism – and proved their loyalty to objective truth – proved it by dying for truth. Not as “self sacrifice” – but risking, and losing, their lives as a way of honouring their lives (all they believed in).

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