Sunday, October 31, 2021

Stefan Zweig (or, The View from Here)

Dear M,

There is only one God, and He's designed the universe so that every false idol will eventually be smashed.  

Stefan Zweig's idol was Europe.  He considered himself a "citizen of the world" but he was an Austrian, and he was in love with being a European.  We know this because he wrote about Europeans constantly.  One of the most widely-translated biographers in the world in his heyday, he was a kind of collector of Europeans, and as Will Stone writes,
this zealous talent scout of history revealed at the opportune moment the key elements of a subject’s character, their position in a particular epoch, the example they left, their heroism or heroic failure, elements which chimed with his own inward preoccupations.
Stefan Zweig
He had a massive library that he considered a work of art in itself -- not a collection of dusty old tomes, but a selection of the best and brightest minds Europe had to offer.  His own work would pass away and he knew it, so he spent his time introducing others to works that wouldn't, and considered these introductions a great service to humanity.  And they were.  How else do you improve people but by putting them in good company?  

The first problem he faced is that he was born in 1881.  This meant that he saw Europe shattered in World War 1, and that just as it seemed things were patching up, Hitler showed up and burned everything down again.  He saw his country, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, broken up.  Brownshirts took over the streets and truth-speakers were jailed and many good people's lived were ruined.  Humanistic Renaissance ideals about the beauty of the individual gave way to barbarism and race hatred and tyranny and mass-murder.  But the second problem he faced, aside from Europe's collapse and the shattering of his ideals, was that he was a Jew.  

In 1934 he fled Salzburg.  He made stops in London and Bath, but the English were getting outmaneuvered constantly, and eventually the threat of Nazi invasion was imminent.  It was even worse than this.  On page 231 of Hitler's "black book" of people to be arrested after the invasion, Stefan Zweig's name was listed, alongside his London address*.  He fled from Europe to New York, and from the U.S. to a German colony in Brazil.  Even in exile he stuck with Europeans -- and the Europeans at that time most likely to hate him.

I bring Stefan up now because many things we love are passing away, and from this position it looks like we're heading for a catastrophe.  We're not so different from 1930's England, in fact, and the general feeling, then as now, was that the future would be much darker than the past.  Consider the following facts and possibilities.  
   
-A key cybersecurity official quit last month, citing our total failure to keep up with the Chinese.  This means, in the event of a war with the most oppressive, dangerous, faithless, ruthless, upwardly mobile country on the planet, that our businesses, utilities, and methods of communication could be shut down in an instant, and that America will likely collapse before the Chinese even have a chance to get here.  I remind you that their army is as big as our populace, and that the only thing standing between us and them is our "technological superiority" -- which at this moment is purchased from them.

Every time the power flickers, or goes out, I wonder if it will ever come back on, and if the world I know is already gone.

-Our border is wide open.  200,000 Central and South Americans and Africans break in here every month, and instead of sending them back, these "immigrants" are being bused into battleground states, presumably to throw elections.  In many of these states, Democrats consider it "racist" to require an ID to vote, and our president is currently discussing paying illegals reparations.   

-Conservatives, by and large, have been shut out of social media -- the main method today of sharing information.  The Wall Street Journal says traffic to conservative news sites has been smothered up to 20%.  I believe this is an understatement because my own site, which used to get hundreds of views every post, now gets around 80.  To speak up about COVID-19 or many other serious subjects is to have your post strangled.  "Fact checkers," a class of left-wingers completely devoid of humor or honesty or fairness, decide which things are seen and which things get you hidden. And this isn't considering the heinous "algorithm."

Thus conservatives who complain about leftists and "own" them, people who have no capacity for inspiration or organization, are left standing, and all real leaders, movers, and shakers are banned.  Milo Yiannopolous is gone and we're left here with Ben Shapiro.

-The COVID-19 scare was used to purge conservatives from power.  People were already being kicked out of the military, in the thousands, for being "right wing extremists."  But a more expedient and politically safe method was found.  Now people are fired from government positions, military positions, business positions, medical positions, and police forces for not accepting a questionable vaccine.  This effectively purifies American society along ideological lines, making any kind of resistance to further mandates difficult.  

-So far, due to the COVID-19 panic, freedom of assembly, freedom of worship, the right to run or even work in a business, and your right to freely travel were all restricted, for an extended period of time, without any serious challenge.  Conservatives make a lot of noise about keeping the Second Amendment, but it's obvious now that they have no intention of using the Second Amendment to secure the other amendments -- which is its only purpose.   

-The national debt, per taxpayer, is running at over $220,000.  Despite this, single bills are being passed worth over a trillion dollars during a period of historically high inflation.  They say this is to help us, but the price of fuel, energy, food, cars, housing, and all other goods is going up drastically, making it hard for working-class people to live.  The chance we'll be seeing hyperinflation itself is higher every month.  It may be the only way to escape the national debt.  

-Hyperinflation means the possibility of a new currency, and beyond this a cashless society -- one in which every transaction will be monitored by the government, and nobody will be able to buy or sell without government sanction.  Biden is currently proposing that the IRS have full authority to monitor all banking accounts, and we've already seen how the left-wing feels about dissenters having jobs.  

-Bills are being passed every year that are so big, we have no idea what's in them.  The law itself is inscrutable.  Rights are being given and taken away without our knowledge.  Tomorrow the invisible things will become concrete -- and this realization, that rights are already gone and we have no idea what they are, is becoming more ominous every day.  We just discovered that OSHA can force millions to take a vaccine, but that no legal recourse exists if the vaccine disables them.  How many unelected government agencies can create policies like OSHA?  

-Race riots happen often for the sake of criminals, and our schools have been taken over by people who hate white people.  Every year we churn out a class of "citizens" more hateful of whites than the last -- not critical thinkers or problem solvers, but fact-hiders and irresponsible blame shifters.  "People of color" are never held accountable for their sins and shortcomings.  We're held accountable for both ours and theirs.  When people such as the Proud Boys defend themselves during these riots, they get rounded up and thrown into prison.  Black Lives Matter sacks freely, and the FBI has openly admitted not keeping tabs on Antifa.

-We're living in a corporate surveillance state.  Thanks to absolute spinelessness on the part of our legislators and pro-business "conservatives," companies have been able to hijack and sell our information so totally that many times they keep a permanent record of everywhere we've been and everyone we've talked to and, online, everything we've ever said.  Our phones and tv's and tablets are listening to us speak to family in our own houses.  The wall between this information and the government is paper-thin.  The moment the government needs the info, they can get it with a warrant.

-We're living in a state of industrial decline.  As the U.S. cost of living rose and we became more environmentalist, businesses began automating or shipping industry overseas -- a trend that's impossible to reverse.  The future means an upper class rich beyond comprehension, and a massive, ignorant, useless bottom class, ground down and strangling each other over jobs at Amazon and Walmart.  The sense of national decline will be unavoidable.  Socialism, or government control of our resources, and the corresponding powers that go with it, will be the only conceivable way out to the masses.  

This is by no means everything, but it's a good representation of what's weighing on me and many others right now.  I suspect someday you'll wonder what I did to stop any of this, and I don't know what my answer will be.  But from where I'm standing now I've failed, as an intellectual, as an American citizen, as a father, and as a man**.  And I say this to you from the bottom of my sleepless heart: I'm sorry.  I would like to say I'll do better, but I'm just a working-class man who got here yesterday and I don't know what to do.  So for now I'll give you this.  
 
Stefan Zweig is important because he ran from the Nazis but he couldn't shake them.  He and his wife, holed up in a jungle retreat outside Rio de Janeiro, felt the whole world was closing in on them.  They decided to make an honorable exit from it, and, on February 23, 1942 they killed themselves -- and missed not only the defeat of Hitler and fascism, but the miraculous establishment of Zion.  He ended his nightmare and just barely missed, by six short years, the fulfillment of the Jewish dream.  

Stefan Zweig is a testament to the fact that nobody but God knows what's around the corner.  He admired many Europeans and tried to introduce me to them.  But what I read about him, in the short introduction to one of his books, was more of a gift to me than any of his books were.  The big question which he never asked himself, and which I dare to ask myself here, is, are we looking for Zion in the wrong place?

Yours,
-J

*Strangely enough, Stefan Zweig was personally famous with many Nazis.  His biography of Joseph Fouchè, a ruthless French revolutionary without any scruples, was intended to be an object lesson about how not to behave.  The Nazis found the book and took the opposite advice -- and Stefan was the one who paid for it.

This just goes to show that my dad had the best advice all along.  If you educate a thief, all you get is an educated thief.  
 
**I was tempted to leave this part out, as it was almost too personal.  But then I remembered the words of James Baldwin,
I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually. I think all theories are suspect, that the finest principles may have to be modified, or may even be pulverized by the demands of life, and that one must find, therefore, one’s own moral center and move through the world hoping that this center will guide one aright. I consider that I have many responsibilities, but none greater than this: to last, as Hemingway says, and get my work done. 
 
I want to be an honest man and a good writer. 
So I left it in.

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2 comments:

  1. Would make a great State of the Union speech

    ReplyDelete
  2. So much of this speaks directly to me and directly for me. Catching up.

    ReplyDelete