Thursday, June 15, 2017

Meditations on Cat's Years of Hope

Image result for lata nadziei cat mackiewicz"All revolutions are amoral and sadistic - the French, the Bolshevik, the Nazi revolution...Social movements are born from Christ's teaching to love thy neighbor, but all revolutions renounce Christ..."
- Stanisław Cat Mackiewicz,

Years of Hope, p.110 Germany, Aphorism II

"I am of the same opinion as those who proclaim that the moral rebirth of nations is only possible through a return to the teachings of Christ"
- Stanisław Cat Mackiewicz,
Years of Hope, p.110 Germany, Aphorism III

Cat Mackiewicz's aphoristic form, like that of Nietzsche, lends itself to the great pleasure that is the combination of light reading with hard thinking. This is not the first time I have read Years of Hope, but every time I return to the book, I find my mind mulling over certain passages which seem to jump out from the page - most likely brought to life because they seem to address present concerns in an important way.

Sometimes, the simplest things really can be explained by reference to the simplest of teachings: the teaching on good and evil. The juxtaposition of social movements born from Christ's teaching to love thy neighbor with revolutions born from the renouncement of Christ is a theological juxtaposition of two political bodies: Poland and Germany. Poland, the land of Christ's teaching, has seen the birth of many a social movement, but never a revolution. This is intimately connected to the fact that the essence of Polish national life is indeed the teaching of Christ. Because of this, Poland experiences periodic moral rebirth through these aforementioned social movements. Germany, on the contrary, is home to revolutions. Could it be that Germany - essentially - is the political equivalent of the renunciation of Christ?

Cat wrote in dramatic times, so we are prone to consider that his words are reflections of the drama of World War II. Yet dramatic times only crystallize features of political life which are less perceptible in pacific times. It is perhaps for this reason that I was under the impression that the lessons learned so bitterly and thoroughly by Eastern Europeans following the second world war were likewise internalized by Western Europeans - and particularly Germans. Sadly, I seem to have been mistaken.

Germany is again giving rise to a very unhealthy idealism, the content of which may be very different from previous such manifestations, but whose exterior and therefore practical consequence is German Imperialism. It was Joseph Conrad who wrote, in Poland Revisited that the Germans were a
race planted in the middle of Europe, assuming in grotesque vanity the attitude of Europeans amongst effete Asiatics or barbarous niggers; and with a consciousness of superiority freeing their hands from all moral bonds, anxious to take up, if I may express myself so, the "perfect man's burden." 
Conrad's sentiments were recorded in 1915. We tend nowadays to ascribe the vices of Kurtz from Heart of Darkness to European civilization as a whole, but in light of Conrad's own experiences and the actual content of European history - it was likely not a coincidence that Conrad's antagonist in that seminal novel was a German. Do we not, in Conrad's judgment upon German culture quoted above, spy in fact the embodiment of that culture in Kurtz? And should we again succumb to the notion that Conrad's words were written in dramatic times - we would do well to remember that more than 24 years later, Cat would be drawing the same conclusions about Germany yet again.

24 years is only slightly less than the same time as that which has elapsed since German reunification. And here we are again. Here we are with one nation - Poland, having been the driving force behind German reunification from the moment the letter from Polish Bishops was sent to the rise of Solidarity and the fall of the Berlin wall - now a target of German calls for sanctions and punishment. Why? For daring to wish to uphold its' Christian culture and Christian character.

Here we are again - with Germany assuming the "perfect man's burden" - presuming that although its' people renounce Christ, its' politics renounce Christ, its' European Union renounces Christ - that nonetheless the Germans have figured out a truer and higher interpretation of Christ's teaching and are in fact carrying the burden of Christ's cross by demonstrating mercy and charity to the dispossessed.

Yet at the end of this farce there can be only one possibility: war. For the German effort is aimed at nothing less than the eradication of the last European nation to have refused to renounce Christ. Is this an over-dramatization...or is this beginning to be an accurate assessment of these newly dramatic times?


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