Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bush = German ?

Looking for a new mix of Zoloft, German “culture” types try to gin-up comparisons between the Guantanamo Bay detention center with Auschwitz and the German system of concentration camps.

The American novelist and essayist Louis Begley was in Frankfurt’s Old Opera House earlier this month to promote the German edition of his new book Why the Dreyfus Affair Matters. The English edition is first scheduled for release in late August. Oddly enough, however, a German translation has already been published. The German edition bears a different title: The Dreyfus Affair: Devil’s Island, Guantánamo, a Historical Nightmare [Der Fall Dreyfus: Teufelsinsel, Guantánamo, Alptraum der Geschichte].
The German title is not only grammatically puzzling. Why the emphasis on Dreyfus’s place of imprisonment — an incidental feature of the Dreyfus Affair? And what is the “historical nightmare”? And what does Guantánamo have to do with it? An article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) on Begley’s Frankfurt appearance makes somewhat clearer the significance of these associations. Referring to the book, FAZ author Edo Reents writes:
Relentlessly and with a pressing intensity, Begley lists the anti-Semitic incidents that took place in France during and after the Dreyfus Affair. He then moves from this to the American Islamophobia of the Bush government, which, inasmuch as it illegally imprisoned and tortured people, essentially behaved no differently than the National Socialists.
Why, you ask? Stupidity, a strange thing to think you would find in the sneering “culture” set. However, if you knew much of anything about Germany’s public dialog, you wouldn’t be surprised to find this sort of intellectually insulated narrowness at all.
The comparison is obviously ludicrous. And yet there it is, presented with great solemnity in the Arts and Culture [Feuilleton] section of Germany’s most prestigious daily. Of course, on Reents’s account, it is not Reents himself who is drawing the comparison, but rather Begley, who is not only American, but, as Reents takes pains to remind us, also an American Jew.
So identity, that bugaboo of Euro-thought that has thrust their wars an misery on the rest of humanity for centuries, is somehow supposed to explain everything. I guess it DOS take a near Borg-like feeling about your own self and culture to believe that somehow it’s your GENES that somehow define all your motives and thoughts. Failing that, you can try calling it “culture”, but it doesn’t go very far in explaining their own horrifying past should anyone ever point it out.

If “that’s just what a. [ you name it, fill in the blank ] or b. [ Americans ] or c. [ Jews ] “just do,” would it not be safe to say that Europeans are going to bring humanity to the brink of self-destruction yet again, because it’s imporinted on them? Of course not, but if enough of them keep that “culture” just means things like cuisine or any number of other things they don’t do natively anymore, like raise their children, what then will become of the real thing? To which I mean civilization ?

Probably nothing.
The passage is remarkable in that it weaves together two of the favorite idées fixes that have occupied Germany’s chattering classes in recent years; the famous “Bush=Hitler” meme and the notion that “Islamophobia” is, in effect, the new form of anti-Semitism.
Which would be amusing if we started calling things like the wars in the former Yugoslavia as a “war against Orthodox Christians”. The difference is quite simple. Self-serving morons can invent all manner of externalized theories about people when they’re covering Pygmies in the section 3 of the newspaper as though they are an animal species, but doesn’t look good when the mindlessness of that kind of generalization is applied to them.