An Eye for an I

Paulina Peavy

“It is one of Schmitt’s primary observations that the political is based on secularized theological concepts (Political Theology). This claim could, for example, describe how laws can be seen as spiritual forces to which people comply.”
Elinor Darzi (Lyotard, Political Theology)

“The philosophy of Hitler is simplistic [primaire]. But the primitive powers that burn within it burst open its wretched phraseology under the pressure of an elementary force. They awaken the secret nostalgia within the German soul. Hitlerism is more than a contagion or a madness; it is an awakening of elementary feelings. But from this point on, this frighteningly dangerous phenomenon becomes philosophically interesting.”
Emmanuel Levinas (Reflections on the Philosophy of Hitlerism)

“Work on philosophy {…} is really more a work on oneself. On one’s own interpretation. On one’s own way of seeing things.”
Ludwig Wittgenstein (Culture and Value)

“If the Aztecs seem unrecognisably alien to the modern mind, it may be that the modern mind does not recognise itself in the Aztecs. We cannot understand the Aztecs because we do not want to understand ourselves.”
John Gray (The Soul of the Marionette)

“Dostoyevsky is not a philosopher but a novelist: he does not create the character Stavrogin because he had formulated intellectually the unity of all under- ground phenomena. On the contrary, he comes to this unity because he has created the character Stavrogin.”
Rene Girard (Resurrection from Underground)

The publication of Heidegger’s Black Notebooks has pretty much foreclosed on any questions about Heidegger as an ‘accidental nazi’ or dupe of history or just selfishly careerist. No, it has made clear that antisemitism is integral to Heidegger’s philosophy. And that Adorno’s early critique of Heidegger, who Lowith called the metaphysical nazi, was correct.

“The Black Notebooks are neither private annotations, nor – much less – diaries; their style, their content, and, finally, the author’s intention clearly indicate that they are philosophical writings.”
Donatella Di Cesare (Heidegger and the Jews)

But saying this does not mean there is nothing more to say. In fact, Heidegger’s antisemitism as a metaphysical position, means that it is ever more important to unpack the nature and influence of antisemitism itself. And this because the structural elements of antisemitism continue to reappear in Western culture and thought, and in fact, to grow and increase in influence.

Gertrude Altschul, photography.

And because to understand this construct is to better understand the current insanity of the Covidean world.

The history of persecution of Jews is, obviously, tied in its origin to Christianity. In the middle ages Luther wrote a vehement savage attack (“Vom Schem Hamphoras of 1543) and invoked the image of a ‘jew pig’ (Judensau) in his sermons at the Church in Wittenberg (which relief has been the subject of several court battles that asked for its removal). Luther described Jews often as purveyors of envy, usury, greed, and that the Judaic messiah would smite the entire world with his sword.

“The question concerning the role of world Jewry is not a racial question but the metaphysical question that bears on the type of human modality which,being absolutely unbound, can undertake as a historical “task” the uprooting of all beings from being.”
Martin Heidegger (Black Notebooks, Überlegungen XIV, 1931-38)

Donatella de Cesare’s book is very good at tracing the contours of ‘the Jewish problem’ from Luther, through Kant and Hegel (and a half dozen other significant figures in the history of philosophy).

Judensau (Jew Pig) relief on the front of the church in Wittenberg. (Jens Meyer, photo).

“And for Hegel the religion par excellence was Christianity, in its Lutheran variant; this was his point of departure for judging Judaism. The clichés of anti-Jewish rhetoric emerged from Hegel’s earliest writings. Already in a fragment from 1794, Hegel wrote: “There is no denying the backward and immoral concepts of the Jews – the anger, the partiality, the hatred of other peoples, the intolerance of their Jehovah.”
Donatella Di Cesare (Ibid)

It is worth noting as part of this quick backdrop that Nietzsche, the ultimate Nazi philosopher (until Heidegger I suppose) was introduced to most of the English speaking world through Walter Kaufmann’s monograph (Nietzsche Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist) and translations. It the first stuff I remember reading at about the age of seventeen. Kauffman was the front man for the de-Nazification of Nietzsche. His second book, Existentialism from Dostoyevsky to Sartre was an even more influential book, and I can remember the paperback, dog eared, in the back pockets of many 501 Levis in the late 60s and early 70s.

And this tasty sidebar on Nietzsche’s sister …

“Vehemently anti-Semitic, Elisabeth Nietzsche had married the activist Bernhard Förster. In 1887, she followed Förster to Paraguay, where they founded the “Nueva Germania” colony, which was supposed to be devoted to the experimental rearing of children of the Aryan race. After her brother’s death, Elisabeth became the executor of his estate in a controversial way, and founded the Nietzsche-Archiv in Weimar, where, among other things, she welcomed Hitler in 1943.”
Donatella Di Cesare (Ibid)

Spencer Finch

But I’m digressing a bit. The role that Kaufmann played ran alongside what Hannah Arendt did in Academia, especially in Europe. There was also a secondary obfuscation present in Kaufmann, and that was this connecting of Nietzsche to existentialism and cool. Camus hasn’t really much to do with Nietzsche, in fact, but Kaufmann was very good at creating an accessible and inoffensive frame for diluting writers like Sartre and Dostoyevski, let alone Nietzsche.

One thing (and Di Cesare mentions it, sort of, too) is the spectre of Kafka when reading the more antisemitic texts of Hegel and Luther (in particular). And, too, reading Adorno and Horkheimer in Dialectic of Enlightenment. Kafka looms. The sense of the outsider, the one who knocks on the door and is assured the law works, but just not right now. Not for you. The figure of the exile, the wanderer. Outside the castle.

The links to antisemitism can be found embedded in contemporary culture in often hidden ways. I, for example, have a number of trolls who comment on these posts (these comments are deleted). Anonymously. This is the structural relative of that ‘othering’ mechanism that drives antisemitism. And I have often found the cyber troll is also prey to very specific forms of propaganda (the wag the dog meme for example vis a vis Israel). It is the encouragement and rewarding of stereotypical cliched narratives and types. It is kitsch history, in a sense. And it is interesting and perhaps telling that the compulsion driving cyber trolling is strong enough that it activates these behaviors. Now as to the reasons for this, I think the key is actually found in this attempt to unpack the Black Notebooks. There are psychoanalytical explanations for trolling, too, of course (and some people are simply lonely). But internet trolling is the counterfeit congregation looking for a sacrifice.

And, useful, too, to remember the early middle ages saw the institutional persecution of Jews. They were forbidden from marrying Christians (399 C.E.), from roles in government (439 C.E.) and were prevented from appearing as witnesses against Christians in court (531 C.E.). I mean, its not hard to see this in an almost cartoon form replicated today with Covid and vaccination passports.

Francisco Goya

Now it is important to separate such an analysis from the so labeled “new antisemitism” which links criticism of the colonial settler ideology of Zionism with being antisemitic. In fact many writers of the new antisemtism link all conspiracy theory and so called 3rd Worldism with antisemtism. And worse, many of the worst alt right Alex Jones style conspiracy mongering IS structurally (and more, perhaps) related to that Protocols of the Elders of Zion branch of antisemtism. So, this early history, the early middle ages through Luther,is more understandable in light of Girardian thinking on scapegoating. But the officially self identified purveyors of ‘new antisemitism’ are simply Zionist propagandists. They do, sadly, help confuse the issue, however.

Also, note, it was in 1095 that Pope Urban II initiated the Crusades .. creating a religious fervor that drove Christians to the Holy Land in the name of Christian superiority and to fight the threat of Islam. Along the way Jewish communities were slaughtered, wholesale. The first pogroms.

“…to massacre first, and then, from fear of revenge, to accuse afterward; to attribute to the victims one’s own aggressive intentions; to impute to them one’s own cruelty: from country to country and from century to century, under various disguises, this is the device we find”
Leon Poiliakov (History of Antisemitism, Vol 1)

Toyo Miyatake, photography (Manzanar, 1944)

Richard J. Prystowsky has a fascinating paper that takes a Girardian view on antisemitism and focuses on the very early anonymously authored play from the middle ages, The Service for Representing Adam

“One way of understanding what is at stake here is to recall Girard’s discussions of contamination,ritual reenactment, and ritual purification. Historical and sociological data document the extent to which Jews have been viewed as disease, as contamination itself, and not just as the carriers of disease. The Nazis, of course, openly talked about Jews as bacteria. Within Christian history, we find many antisemitic myths and legends in which Jews are associated with organic disease (such as the Black Plague) and with spiritual disease. Chaucer’s infamous Prioress, for example, says that “Sathanas… / hath in Jues herte his waspes nest”. Martin Luther, the great reformer, added to the list of organic metaphors for Jewish contamination the image of Jews as ‘”poisonous bitter worms'”. In Adam, Isaiah tells the recalcitrant Jew alluded to above— the Jew who at first seems unwilling to accept a Christocentric reading of Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 11—”You have the disease of wickedness, / From which you will never recover in your life”. Though, to be sure, the relationship between ideology and action is always quite complicated, the many acts of persecution suffered by Jews at the hands of antisemitic Christians trying to guard themselves against incurable Jewish disease would seem to have their literary roots in plays such as Adam, which subtly allow the congregational audience to engage ritually, communally, and vicariously in a purging of this perceived diseased element from their own spiritual body.”
Richard J. Prystowsky (An I for an I)

Someone recently said, vis a vis the Covid year, that it was if people were under some kind of spell. And I think this is exactly right. As an allegory, the Covid story has a literal virus as the threat, but one that takes on the personality of the ‘other’. Nature in a sense has become the villain in this post modern capitalist morality play. Nature is then itself unclean and dangerous. Nature itself, or a natural deformity occurring in Nature, must be protected against. This is a cunning virus. The Deus ex machina is the GM vaccine. A pseudo vaccine that is actually a form of genetic modification, a correcting of nature itself. The vaccine is ritual purification, but more spiritual (as I’ve said before) than physical. In antisemitism the Jew is a form of bacteria, a plague carrying spiritual contamination as well as organic contamination. The virus today is organic, and so, the organic itself must be improved. (The PR for GM crops is already piggybacking on the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine narratives). The need for this recent Wuhan lab story is obvious (besides distraction, politically). The idea of a man made virus absolves Nature (to a degree) and also recreates the Jew in the form of the cunning Oriental.

Ugo Rondinone

But to view Nature itself as both flawed, and dangerous, runs contrary to much of the Gaia new age Green think. Nature can be dangerous, naturally, so to speak. It demands ‘respect’. But a nature that takes on the role of contagion –while contagion and disease are clearly well known — is problematic as the antagonist in the master narrative. The Wuhan lab is the necessary scapegoat in this drama. (though Trump has played that part to a degree, too, in his *mishandling* of the crisis. Its fascinating how often that particular word is employed. *Mishandling*. That probably deserves a closer reading). The appeal for global vaccine is an artificially created desire. I actually think hardly anyone is comfortable with these vaccines (but I might be wrong about that given the number of parents offering up their children to an experimental medical treatment). But the story must unfold, and the need FOR that story, for a story, is very deep. The need for this particular story to ‘unfold’, to be serial in a sense, is significant. For this is a salvation narrative, and one with a backdrop of technological deification.

The lockdowns and attendant suffering (and sacrifice!) must be paid for, the bill comes due and one cannot default on the payment. In this sense the denouement of the Tale of the Covidian is the sacrificial bloodletting of the guilty. That may well be as simple as the unvaccinated, but it might be more. (already Canada is installing a digital traveller card for airports. The unvaccinated will not be able to travel, apparently.)

The unvaccinated are seen as the way dead beat dads are seen. They are scofflaws and worse, as heretics and apostates. Would be interesting to stage a Covid version of Merchant of Venice.

“The stereotype of the wandering Jew here reaches ontological proportions, spreading their own homelessness to all they encounter in an ontological uprooting of beings from being. The Jews become agents of, if not equivalent to, the ontological process of machination (Machenschaft), the objectification of all that is.”
Andrew J. Mitchell (Heidegger’s Black Notebooks)

Wilhelm Leibl (1860s)

To massacre first, accuse afterward, per Poliakov. The institutional (pseudo congregation) sanctions (mirroring the governmental sanctions on ‘dangerous’ nations, failed states, those countries outside the ‘world community’, are the contemporary reenactment of anti Jew laws from the early middle ages. The very language of the state, in this case the U.S., is rich with the grammar of papal pronouncements. In India, now, there is a suggestion to turn off the SIM cards of the unvaccinated. Everywhere there is the quarantining of healthy people, on the excuse they ‘might’ be carriers.

De Cesare deconstructs, in the second half of his book on the Black Notebooks, much of the esoteric mystifications Heidegger was prone to, and he makes an excellent observation about the stylistic changes in Heidegger’s various works, depending on the intended audience. But throughout there is what Adorno called ‘the jargon of authenticity’.

“In the winter of 1932/3, before a silence fell between them that would last until 1950, Heidegger sent a last letter to Hannah Arendt, who had expressed her disappointment about the rumors that were circulating. It was being said that Heidegger was discriminating against Jews at the university and that he was behaving like an anti-Semite. The word Jude (Jew), which had been taboo between Heidegger and Arendt, finally began to appear in their correspondence. Heidegger defended himself by strongly denying and sarcastically rejecting the rumors.”
Donatella Di Cesare (Ibid)


“The landscape in which the Jew appears in the pages of Heidegger’s writings is where the story of Being unfolds. The first volume of the Black Notebooks dates from the transitional years, from 1931 to 1938, during which Heidegger also wrote two other decisive works, the Introduction to Metaphysics of 1935 and Contributions to Philosophy (of the Event), written between 1936 and 1938. The bitter delusion of Heidegger’s rectorate at the University of Freiburg was added to the interruption of Being and Time, published in 1927 as the first part of an admittedly incomplete work.”
Donatella Di Cesare (ibid)

Rindon Johnson

For Heidegger, as for many non Jews in Germany at the time, there was a separation between the ideology of National Socialism, and personal life. De Cesare quotes Simone Weil…

“anti-semitic and nationalist sentiments don’t appear at all in personal relations.”

In a personal letter to his future wife, in the twenties, Heidegger wrote…“The Jewification of our culture & universities is certainly horrifying & I think the German race really should summon up the inner strength to find its feet again. The question of capital though!”

In 1850 Richard Wagner wrote (under a pseudonym) that he worried about the Jewish contamination of the arts. He claimed ‘they’ already rule.

And allow me another lengthy quote here from De Cesare, for it carries multiple reverberations…

“To speak about Verjudung, as Heidegger did on at least two occasions, and at a distance of several years – in 1916 and in 1929 – did not mean being influenced by Christian anti-Semitism, which was still widespread in the Catholicism of the state of Baden, a bastion of Judeophobia’s “pious-acting despotism of conscience.”32 Rather, it meant to share a vision – perhaps stereotyped, but still a modern one – of Jews and Judaism. Fear of the presence of Jews in the universities and anxiety about the contamination of “German spiritual life” were inscribed upon an anti-Semitism that identified Jews not as citizens like any others, but rather as non-German, non-autochthonous individuals who were irreparably alien and undesirable. Contact was not necessary for Jewification to occur: the Jew, the font of impurity, was already impure in everything that belonged to him or that participated in his life. There was a Jewish science, a Jewish art, a Jewish music from which one should protect oneself. Thus, there was introduced a separation between the pure and the impure, the sacred and the profane, that would be “impure, the sacred and the profane, that would be attested and consolidated by the “sacral” laws of the Third Reich, first and foremost the law of September 15, 1935 “for the protection of the German blood and honor.”

German Lorca, photography.

For Heidegger, the role of the Jew was inextricably caught up in the unfolding of *Being*, the history and fate of the West. The destiny of *Being* was being derailed.

Trent Schroyer, in his forward to Adorno’s critique of Heidegger, begins with a quote from Paul Tillich, who describes existentialism as …“an over one hundred year old movement of rebellion against the dehumanization of man in industrial society.”

Schroyer concludes that forward with…“Hence, the aura of authenticity in Heidegger is that it names “nothing” ; the “I” remains formal and yet pretends that the word contains content in-itself. For Adorno, Heidegger’s existentialism is a new Platonism which implies that authenticity comes in the complete disposal of the person over himself -as if there were no determination emerging from the objectivity of history.” This is very much a distillation of current global lockdowns, the loss of autonomous movement, and certainly echoes the depopulation agenda of people like Prince Charles. The disposal of the human, and perhaps largely by himself. This is not to minimize the clear class brutality involved in the depopulation agenda, but only to suggest that Tillich’s fear about the dehumanizing of man has travelled along its path rather further than anyone wants to think about. But then Heidegger was never really an existentialist. That was Walter Kaufmann’s doing.

John Stezaker

“His book acquired its aura by describing the directions of the dark drives of the intelligentsia before 1933-directions which he described as full of insight, and which he revealed to be solidly coercive. Of course in Heidegger, as in all those who followed his language, a diminished theological resonance can be heard to this very day. The theological addictions of these years have seeped into the language, far beyond the circle of those who at that time set themselves up as the elite. Nevertheless, the sacred quality of the authentics’ talk belongs to the cult of authenticity rather than to the Christian cult, even where-for temporary lack of any other available authority-its language resembles the Christian.”
Theodor Adorno (Jargon of Authenticity)

Adorno is particularly sensitive to the language of ‘authenticity’, the overly ornate and invented grammar of Heidegger was also a part of the transformation in public life during the Nazis rise to power.

“In Germany a jargon of authenticity is spoken even more so, written. Its language is a trademark of societalized chosenness, noble and homey at once sub-language as superior language. The jargon extends from philosophy and theology-not only of Protestant academies-to pedagogy, evening schools, and youth organizations, even to the elevated diction of the representatives of business and administration. While the jargon overflows with the pretense of deep human emotion, it is just as standardized as the world that it officially negates; the reason for this lies partly in its mass success, partly in the fact that it posits its message automatically, through its mere nature.”
Theodor Adorno (Ibid)

Dorthea Tanning

There have always been attempts to create a language that could express the difficult to express ideas of philosophical thought. Adorno himself did this. The difference with Heidegger, besides the long reaching influence he has had, is the sort of secret handshake that goes along with this jargon. A banal example today would be the officers of Scientology who almost speak in code, but really its simply re-arranging normal words and giving them a sense of unique import. Its also a kind of occupational jargon in the case of the Scientologists. But you can see it, too, with most cults or sects. Adorno adds…

“The tone of the jargon has something in it of the seriousness of the augurs, arbitrarily independent from their context or conceptual content, conspiring with whatever is sacred. “

The point here is that really about something more insidious than simply appropriating style in the service of fascist initiation. And this has to do with the influence of much post modern thinking, too. One of the heirs of Heidegger is Zizek (Molly Klein has dissected that thoroughly). But Heidegger is a lot more sophisticated and much deeper thinker than Zizek or the likes of Jordan Peterson. Peter Tawney, who translated most of the Black Notebooks, introduces a useful guide to Heidegger’s ontology. (if that is what it was). And I will quote again at some length..

“Heidegger deploys the thought of a front between what we are terming a “narrative” topography and a “universal” topography, not so that narrative topography would actually triumph over the universal, but so that the universal would “annihilate itself.” Now, the problem begins with the fact that Heidegger—as I have shown—assigns protagonists to both topographies: the world of poetry and of philosophy is inhabited by the “Greeks,” the
“Germans,” and the “Russians”; the world of “machination” is represented by the “Americans,” the “English,” the “Bolsheviks,” “National Socialists,” and “Judaism” (to which “Christendom,” mutatis mutandis, also belongs).I will concern myself in what follows particularly with the last-named representative of universality, Judaism. { } “World Judaism” is thereby introduced as a distinctive representative of machination in the narrative of beyng. Already the term world Judaism signals a problem. It is not unusual for Heidegger to wish that his words be understood “literally.” Accordingly, the talk here would simply be of the “Judaism of the world.” In any case, Heidegger speaks in other passages expressly of the “worldlessness” of Judaism. Aside from the difficulty of understanding this ascription (if one does not want to return to the “worldlessness” of inanimate nature, for instance, of stones, GA 29/30), the possibility of taking the concept of world Judaism “literally” has taken care of itself. In that case, however, there remains only the context of a broader narrative that was quite influential at the beginning of the twentieth century, the context of the so-called Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are a fiction, in all likelihood created by the czarist intelligence service within the ambit of the Dreyfus affair, according to which a “world Judaism,” acting on a global scale and in secret, surreptitiously pursues world domination by modern means, such as the “international press.” In my opinion, Heidegger did not read the Protocols. Yet he did not have to. They were continually present in Hitler’s speeches and in the propaganda of the “Third Reich.” A different source for the concept of “world Judaism” can be ruled out. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are the “absolute reference point” (Wolfgang Benz) for the term world Judaism.”

Peter Tawney and Andrew J. Mitchell (Heidegger’s Black Notebooks)

Eric Orr

This is the very heart of the revanchist antisemitism one sees today, this return of both the structural forms of antisemitism, and the overt — even if substitutes for Judaism are found. And honestly, it more resembles a Girardian landscape than anything else, but one viewed through the prism of a fascist sensibility. The influence of the Protocols is almost impossible to calculate. It has become an almost ur-story, a creation myth, a fable of global truth. It resurfaces in much of the capitalist green propaganda (i.e. World Wildlife Fund, Green New Deal, David Attenborough et al). It is now the neural pathways along which nearly all global political stories travel. And with it, often, comes the oracular tone of Heidegger and his minions.

As Heidegger put in the notebooks, writing of ‘world Jewry’; “the uprooting of all beings from being as its world-historical ‘task’ ”

Britt Peterson has an interesting and pretty smart article at the Boston Globe, titled The Enterbating Lingo of Scientology.

“Hubbard liked putting quirky twists on existing words: “Enturbulate,” using the Latin root from “disturb,” means “to upset”; to “hat,” as a verb, is to train for something; “havingness,” “beingness,” and “as-ising” (making something vanish) also pop up frequently. Many of his terms describe the central practice of Scientology: the “audit,” a space-age twist on Freudian psychoanalytic therapy. An “auditor” questions the subject, called the “preclear” — who is held back from spiritual progress by the “engrams,” or recordings of traumatic memories, in his “reactive mind,” a negative unconscious contrasted with the “analytic mind.” The goal is to discover the “basic-basic,” the subject’s original harmful memory, which sometimes dates back to before birth.”

Who does it better, Heidegger or Hubbard?

Detail of Antichrist in the Commentary to II Kings 1225

“The concept of statement appears in Heidegger as nothing less that the constituent of the Da,existence. Behind this jargon is a determining doctrine of the I-thou relationship as the locale of truth-a doctrine that defames the objectivity of truth as thingly , and secretly warms up irrationalism. As such a relationship, communication turns into that transpsychological element which it can only be by virtue of the objectivity of what is communicated; in the end stupidity becomes the founder of metaphysics. “
Theodor Adorno (Ibid)

Adorno saw the influence of Kierkegaard that runs through all European existentialism as hugely important. And in particular the ways Heidegger bastardized it (via Buber). That Heidegger would borrow and fuse Christian theology and Jewish philosophy is both logical and ironic. Heidegger, of course, came from a provincial and starkly conservative Christian community. He was early on attuned to the sound of the oracular, the priest class and its secret plutonian utterances. And Heidegger also employed the sense of allowing students inside the secret chambers of philosophical truth. And, as even Adorno admits, Heidegger was a singular and perhaps profound mind. But that early sense of spiritual alienation became an engine in the service of driving a system of resentment and scapegoating.

Miguel Rio Branco, photography.

The less direct influence is carried along the lines of a new kitsch irrationalism. The ‘disposal of the human by itself’…see

This sort of vaguely new age irrationalism is mostly short lived, but such eruptions suggest a lot about the state of mind of the public. Behind this, again, lies the eugenicists of the over-population fears. People like Bill Gates for one. And all the related GM foods, synthetic meat, drinking water made from feces, chemical birth control — these are the products of science in the hands of a few billionaires who themselves suffer enormous issues of character and maturation. There is class war, too, to be sure. The same actors who drive retrograde notions of progress (see the new digital IDs, travel wallets, etc). The idea of never seeing another person face to face while checking in at the airport does not strike me, at least, as progress. Fear of the human, fear of the other. The Covid story over determines the threat…both virus (Nature) and the other (source of moral contagion).

“Thought becomes a game. Man revels in his freedom and does not definitively compromise himself with any truth. He transforms his power to doubt into a lack of conviction. Not to chain himself to a truth becomes for him not wishing to commit his own self to the creation spiritual values. Sincerity becomes impossible and puts an end to all heroism. Civilization is invaded by everything that is not authentic, by a substitute that is put at the service of fashion and of various interests.”
Emmanuel Levinas (Ibid)

Leonor Fini

Kierkegaard seems to keep coming up over the last year and a half. I’m sure there is a reason for this, for the feeling of relevance he has for this moment. Perhaps it is the same appeal the Desert Fathers have, at least for me. The dark pseudo emotions of Heidegger, and its intimate connection to the more openly and prosaically fascist texts of Carl Schmitt, can be felt in all official state documents, now. In the entertainment realm, this is how celebrities talk. The semi official voice of ‘care’ or ‘concern’ is that of Heideggarian ‘chosenness’, homey and noble at once (per Adorno). And I find this elect hominess very telling, for it is the sound of cliche, as well, though a very particular variety of cliche. It is the bromide, the voice of pacification. The soothing paternalism of the Church father, the Jr High School vice Principle. It is familiar but made special. This is the voice of Dr. Fauci, and certainly the voice of Obama. The tone is modulated, and always implies hidden virtues. It is false modesty camouflaged as not just genuine modesty, but self deprecation. Beware of the token self deprecator. In the age of lost sincerity, the artificial sincerity of almost all institutional voices is also the voice of the executioner. In an age of decreasing intimacy, it is the voice that caricatures intimacy. And the impact of the screen, of the internet, is enormous in how intimacy is increasingly experienced. Cinema and the creation of the ‘close up’ began a process of deforming our experience of both intimacy and authority. The voice on the screen, at least on computer screens, and often heard through headphones, is, even when screaming, actually whispering. The voice on the screen whispers in your ear. The voice on the screen replaces the angel on your shoulder (or devil). Our inner voice is, in a way, dubbed.

As a brief sidebar, the influence of Schmitt is more extensive than I think the casual reader might understand. Schmitt grew up, like Heidegger, in a conservative Catholic family. He broke with that, and later was critical of Roman Catholicism. He joined the Nazi party in 1933, and immediately became a cheerleader for the more egregious anti Jewish acts and legislation. His work on dictatorship, notwithstanding his open and enthusiastic Nazism, was remained a valued text by thinkers like Giorgio Agamben, Hannah Arendt, Jurgen Habermas, Chantel Mouffe, Friederich Hayek, Antonio Negri, and yes, Zizek. None of this should come as a surprise. For all these writers harbour a crypto reactionary mind set. Or, openly reactionary like Hayek. And all of them, I might argue, are practitioners of jargons of mystification. Schmitt’s daughter, in 1957, married Alfonso Varela, a Spanish lawyer, high up with the Falangists in Franco’s Spain.

Agus Suwage

There are elements of historical antisemitism that run throughout the contemporary culture. They surface in politics, entertainment, and in what passes for work these days. As actual community or congregation disappears (and in lockdown, it is absolutely gone) and the West is caught in a crisis of addiction, and depression, and loneliness. The pandemic has, for many, become the lost friend only now remembered as being lost. That many people claim they will continue to wear masks indefinitely is the truth of this. There is a nostalgia for masks, a nostalgia for something that never existed. A feeling of familiarity. It is Obama’s voice soothingly assuring you, no this not fake news. One a certain level Heidegger was right. Technology is a form of forgetting. And man’s sense of his own humanness is almost entirely forgotten. The problem is, for the fascist and antisemite, that humanness was ‘their’ humanness, not yours. And culture and art strive toward the ethical, not toward more pogroms.

I quoted Adorno last post that ‘kitsch’ simulated non existent emotions. This is very important, for the structural antisemitism relies on non existent elements almost entirely. All that is left is the scaffolding, the structure itself, which may often be only dimly recognized.

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  1. Fabulously insightful linking of what might to the uninterested mind be considered unrelated strands in our current historical moment. The jargon of authenticity thread you trace with Heidegger’s “chosenness” to Obama and Fauci helps me understand my frantic escape from academia in the mid-90s and my complete inability to listen to those two men, in particular, for more than 2 seconds. Your final quotation from Levinas (“Thought becomes a game…”) captures the feints of a former acquaintance’s e-mail explaining why he was avoiding communication with me:

    In my egoic daydreams I have friendships that [sic] raw and powerful and rip the layers of deceit away, arriving at the essential truth.  But it’s easier to grill chicken.  (I like that Stubbs Moppin Sauce especially.)  I do have that kind of friendship with a few people, but they are people like me, not deep thinkers, just people who work hard at being calm as much as possible.  We are calm together, and notice things about the world and comment on them.

    On a side note, it’s important to value such transparent (or as much transparency as such unreflective minds can summon) since most people simply stop communicating all together. I’m saving this e-mail in my notes for when I turn to writing my pandemic novel.

    The connection to the natural world, the various contagions assigned to it, the fears it generates and the need for Arayan dominance/redesign also resonates with me as a seasonal park ranger watching for many years the many psychologically dissonant ways visitors interact with public lands (fisherman who leave their trash, visitors who adorn the wilderness with toilet paper, obese road travelers who worship wolves and grizzlies, etc). I will continue to observe and take notes in my “outsider” role of the wandering jew (that my birth name comes from the old Testament has always seemed a blessing), dangerous according to the world order and other mouth breathers.

  2. Regino Robainas says:

    In Defense of Some Evil

    Was it Mephistopholes who told Faust
    that we need some sulfur in this walpurgis
    soup to spark a proper witches’ brew or
    something to that effect? So, I want to
    throw some icy water into any commencement
    cannon that seeks to excommunicate the likes
    of a Nietzshe, who cheered me on through many
    an uncanny swim or motorbike near death ride
    during my younger pilmigrages. I know that
    was not your intention, John, but let’s expunge
    the all-too-faithful germanophobes who reject
    even the likes of Goethe or Hesse.

    It has always been a stumbling paradox to me, however, how
    such gifted people like the Germans or the Americans
    have simultaneously harvested so many wonders and
    horrors upon our worlds. Maybe, the riddle could be
    disentangled by thoughts that transrationally gallop
    like horses. Tillich’s “The Courage to Be” got me
    through the summer of ’67 working my way through
    Biscayne College into whose Catholic inmersion I would
    begin that Fall, in Spring Lake, New Jersey at the
    Stratford Inn. Nietszche was right about their
    slave-mentality resentment, as they recently effaced
    from their posthumous literary magazine, Driftwood. So,
    I believe, I loath any dogmatic theology that seeks to
    disrobe in one truth ofr God(s or esses).

  3. Regino Robainas says:

    In synchronous rhythmn , John, with the
    apocalyptic notes you have been
    illuminating,John, I have been haunted and
    then some by the news in the last few
    days- a Pizza delivery guy blowing away some
    irate customer in our crystal palace cornocupia,
    a bloody road rage incident in a North Carolina
    road over a thrown plastic water bottle, an abducted
    and assaulted New Jersey waitress in New Jersey
    hospitalized after confronting some non-paying
    customers in their car, ad nauseam.

    Having read these news today more or less, I try to
    make some absurd sense of all these phenomena and
    our own lives ensconed in this landscape by reading
    “Hinterland: How America’s Landscape Became Class Conflict…”
    by Paul Ne- this work also shines a revealing dark flashlight
    into our current location and, perhaps, how tobegin to
    change it.

  4. Frieda Vizel says:

    I wonder what you mean when you call Agamben and Arendt crypto-reactionary. I’ve read some translated Agamben on the pandemic so I wonder if you’d unpack your take sometime.

    But of course, your posts are packed with thought provoking insights. Much much appreciated.

  5. John Steppling says:

    yeah, that deserves discussion because Agamben has been good on the pandemic (mostly) and very good on the destruction of University education under cover of technological improvements etc. So I have a mixed take on him. But there lurks beneath his insights an always sort of odd reactionary (or anti marxist) near anti historicism. This interview is very good though

    but here is a brief negative critique and his lack of critical perspective on schmitt is troubling to say the least.

  6. John Steppling says:
  7. John Steppling says:
  8. Frieda Vizel says:

    Much appreciate the links. Will read.

  9. Weird blog, don’t remember how I got here. Do you think Baudrillard is a right-winger?

  10. John Steppling says:

    no, not really. I sort of defend baudrillard for the most part. Even if he loses the plot pretty often.

  11. “Thought becomes a game. Man revels in his freedom and does not definitively compromise himself with any truth. He transforms his power to doubt into a lack of conviction. Not to chain himself to a truth becomes for him not wishing to commit his own self to the creation spiritual values. Sincerity becomes impossible and puts an end to all heroism. Civilization is invaded by everything that is not authentic, by a substitute that is put at the service of fashion and of various interests.”
    Emmanuel Levinas (Ibid)

    Brilliantly put. Feels like the curse of relativism as practiced by bourgeoisie liberals. An elaborate conflict-avoidance mechanism that also salvages their careers and creature comforts.

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