Anti-Semitism & the Beirut
By Fredy Perlman
Escape from death in a gas chamber or a Pogrom, or incarceration
in a concentration camp, may give a thoughtful and capable writer,
Solzhenitsyn for example, profound insights into many of the central
elements of contemporary existence, but such an experience does
not, in itself, make Solzhenitsyn a thinker, a writer, or even a
critic of concentration camps; it does not, in itself, confer any
special powers. In another person the experience might lie dormant
as a potentiality, or remain forever meaningless, or it might contribute
to making the person an ogre. In short, the experience is an indelible
part of the individuals past but it does not determine his
future; the individual is free to choose his future; he is even
free to choose to abolish his freedom, in which case he chooses
in bad faith and is a Salaud (J.P. Sartres precise philosophical
term for a person who makes such a choice [The usual English translation
My observations are borrowed from Sartre; Id like to apply
them, not to Solzhenitsyn, but to myself, as a specific individual,
and to the American cheerleaders rooting for the State of Israel,
as a specific choice.
I was one of three small children removed by our elders from a
Central European country a month before the Nazis invaded the country
and began rounding up Jews. Only part of my extended family left;
the rest remained and were all rounded up; of these, all my cousins,
aunts, and grandparents died in Nazi concentration camps or gas
chambers except two uncles, whom Ill mention later.
A month more and I, too, would have been one of those who actually
underwent the rationally-planned scientific extermination of human
beings, the central experience of so many people in an age of highly
developed science and productive forces, but I wouldnt have
been able to write about it.
I was one of those who escaped. I spent my childhood among Quechua-speaking
people of the Andean highlands, but I didnt learn to speak
Quechua and I didnt ask myself why; I spoke to a Quechua in
a language foreign to both of us, the Conquistadors language.
I wasnt aware of myself as a refugee nor of the Quechuas as
refugees in their own land; I knew no more about the terrors
the expropriations, persecutions and pogroms, the annihilation of
an ancient culture experienced by their ancestors than I
knew about the terrors experienced by mine.
To me the Quechuas were generous hospitable, guileless, and I thought
more of an aunt who respected and liked them than of a relative
who cheated them and was contemptuous of them and called them dirty
My relatives cheating was my first contact with the double
standard, the fleecing of outsiders to enrich insiders, the moral
adage that said: Its all right if its We who do it.
My relatives contempt was my first experience with racism,
which gave this relative an affinity with the Pogromists she had
fled from; her narrow escape from them did not make her a critic
of Pogromists; the experience probably contributed nothing to her
personality, not even her identification with the Conquistador,
since this was shared by Europeans who did not share my relatives
experience of narrowly escaping from a concentration camp. Oppressed
European peasants had identified with Conquistadores who carried
a more vicious oppression to non-Europeans already before my relatives
My relative did make use of her experience years later, when she
chose to be a rooter for the State of Israel, at which time she
did not renounce her contempt toward the Quechuas; on the contrary,
she then applied her contempt toward people in other parts of the
world, people she had never met or been among. But I wasnt
concerned with the character of her choice at the time; I was more
concerned with the chocolates she brought me.
In my teens I was brought to America, which was a synonym for New
York even to people already in America among the Quechuas; it was
a synonym for much else, as I was very slowly to learn.
Shortly after my arrival in America, the state power of the Central
European country of my origin was seized by a well-organized gang
of egalitarians who thought they could bring about universal emancipation
by occupying State offices and becoming policemen, and the new State
of Israel fought its first successful war and turned an indigenous
population of Semites into internal refugees like the Quechuas and
exiled refugees like the Central European Jews. I should have wondered
why the Semitic refugees and the European refugees who claimed to
be Semitic, two peoples with so much in common, did not make common
cause against common oppressors, but I was far too occupied trying
to find my way in America.
From an elementary school friend who was considered a hooligan
by my parents, and also from my parents themselves, I slowly learned
that America was the place where anyone would want to be, something
like Paradise, but a Paradise that remained out of reach even after
one entered America. America was a land of clerks and factory workers,
but neither clerical nor factory work were America. My hooligan
friend summarized it all very simply: there were suckers and hustlers,
and you had to be dumb to become a sucker. My parents were less
explicit; they said: Study hard. The implied motivation was: God
forbid you should become a clerk or factory worker! Become something
other: a professional or a manager. At that time I didnt know
these other callings were also Americas, that with every rung
reached, Paradise remained as unreachable as before. I didnt
know that the professionals or even the clerks or workers
satisfaction came, not from the fullness of his own life, but from
the rejection of his own life, from identification with the great
process taking place outside him, the process of unfettered industrial
destruction. The results of this process could be watched in movies
or newspapers, though not yet on Television, which would soon bring
the process into everyone home; the satisfaction was that of the
voyeur, the peeper. At that time I didnt know that this process
was the most concrete synonym for America.
Once in America, I had no use for my experience of narrowly escaping
a Nazi concentration camp; the experience couldnt help me
climb the ladder toward Paradise and might even hinder me; my hurried
climb might have been slowed considerably or even stopped altogether
if I had tried to empathize with the condition of the labor camp
inmate I might have become, for I would have realized what it was
that made the prospect of factory work so fearsome: it differed
from the other condition in that there were no gas chambers and
in that the factory worker spent only his weekdays inside.
I wasnt alone in having no use for my Central European experience.
My relatives had no use for it either. During that decade I met
one of my two uncles who had actually lived through a Nazi concentration
camp. Once in America, even this uncle had no use for his experience;
he wanted nothing more than to forget the Pogrom and everything
associated with it; he wanted only to climb the rungs of America;
he wanted to look and sound and act no differently from other Americans.
My parents had exactly the same attitude. I was told that my other
uncle had survived the camps and gone to Israel, only to be hit
by a car soon after his arrival.
The State of Israel was not interesting to me during that decade,
although I heard talk of it. My relatives spoke with a certain pride
of the existence of a State with Jewish policemen, a Jewish army,
Jewish judges and factory managers, in short a State totally unlike
Nazi Germany and just like America. My relatives, whatever their
personal situations, identified with the Jewish policemen and not
with the policed, with the factory owners and not the Jewish workers,
with the Jewish hustlers and not the suckers, an identification
which was understandable among people who wanted to forget their
close encounter with labor camps. But none of them wanted to go
there; they were already in America.
My relatives gave grudgingly to the Zionist cause and were baffled
all except my racist relative by the unqualified enthusiasm
of second to nth generation Americans for a distant State with Jewish
policemen and teachers and managers, since these people were already
policemen and teachers and managers in America. My racist relative
understood what the enthusiasm was based on: racial solidarity.
But I wasnt aware of this at the time. I was not an over-bright
American high-schooler and I thought racial solidarity was something
confined to Nazis, Afrikaaners and American Southerners.
I was starting to be familiar with the traits of the Nazis whod
almost captured me: the racism that reduced human beings to their
genealogical connections over five or six generations, the crusading
nationalism that considered the rest of humanity an obstacle, the
Gleichschaltung that cut off the individual's freedom to choose,
the technological efficiency that made small humans mere fodder
for great machines, the bully militarism that pitted walls of tanks
against a cavalry and exacted a hundred times the losses it sustained,
the official paranoia that pictured the enemy, poorly armed townspeople
and villagers, as a nearly omnipotent conspiracy of cosmic scope.
But I didnt see that these traits had anything to do with
America or Israel.
It was only during my next decade, as in American college student
with a mild interest in history and philosophy, that I began to
acquire a smattering of knowledge about Israel and Zionism, not
because I was particularly interested in these subjects but because
they were included in my readings. I was neither hostile nor friendly;
I was indifferent; I still had no use for my experience as a refugee.
But I didnt remain indifferent to Israel or Zionism. This
was the decade of Israels spectacular capture and trial of
the Good German Eichmann, and of Israels spectacular invasion
of large parts of Egypt, Syria and Jordan in a six-day Blitzkrieg,
a decade when Israel was news for everyone, not just for refugees.
I didnt have any unconventional thoughts about the obedient
Eichmann except the thought that he couldnt be so exceptional
since I had already met people like him in America. But some of
my readings did make me start wondering about my Zionist relatives
I learned that people like the ancient Hebrews, Akkadians, Arabs,
Phoenicians and Ethiopians had all come from the land of Shem (the
Arabian Peninsula) and had all spoken the language of Shem, which
was what made them Shemites or Semites. I learned that the Jewish
religion had originated among Semites in the ancient Levantine State
Judah, the Christian religion among Semites in the ancient Levantine
towns Nazareth and Jerusalem, the Mohammedan religion among Semites
in the ancient Arabian towns Mecca and Medina, and that for the
past 1300 years the region called Palestine had been a sacred place
to the Islamic Semites who lived there and in surrounding regions.
I also learned that the religions of European and American Jews,
like the religions of European and American Christians, had been
elaborated, during almost two millennia, by Europeans and more recently
If Europeans and American Jews were Semites in terms of their religion,
then European and American Christians were also Semites, a notion
that was generally considered absurd.
If Jews were Semites in terms of the language of their Sacred Book,
then all European and American Christians were Greeks or Italians,
a notion almost as patently absurd.
I started to suspect that my Zionist relatives only connection
to the Zion in the Levant was a genealogical connection traced,
not over six, but over more than sixty generations. But I had come
to consider such racial reckoning a peculiarity of Nazis, Afrikaaners
and American Southerners.
I was uneasy. I thought surely there was more to it than that;
surely those who claimed to descend from the victims of all that
racism were not carriers of a racism ten times more thorough.
I knew little of the Zionist Movement, but enough to start being
repelled. I knew the Movement had originally had two wings, one
of which, the Socialist one, I could understand because I was starting
to empathize with victims of oppression, not from insights I gained
from my own experience but from books equally accessible to others;
the other wing of Zionism was incomprehensible to me.
The egalitarian or Left Zionists, as I then understood them, did
not want to be assimilated into the European states that persecuted
them, some because they didnt think they ever could be, others
because they were repelled by industrializing Europe and America.
The Messiah, their Movement, would deliver Israel from exile and
guide her to Zion, to something altogether different, to a Paradise
without suckers or hustlers. Some of them, even more metaphorically,
hoped the Messiah would deliver the oppressed from their oppressors,
if not everywhere, then at least in a millennial egalitarian Utopia
located in a province of the Ottoman Empire, and they were ready
to join with the Islamic residents of Zion against Ottoman, Levantine
and British oppressors. They shared this dream with Christian millenarians
who had been trying for more than a millennium to found Zion in
one or another province of Europe; both had the same roots, but
I suspected the left Zionists had inherited their millenarianism
from the Christians.
The egalitarian Zionists were arrogant in thinking the Islamic
residents of Zion would embrace European leftists as liberators,
and they were as naive as the egalitarians who had seized state
power in the country of my birth, thinking the millennium would
begin as soon as they occupied State offices and became policemen.
But as far as I could see, they werent racists.
The other Zionists, the Right, who by the time I reached college
had all but supplanted the Left, at least in America, were explicit
racists arid assimilationists; they wanted a State dominated by
a Race ever so thinly disguised as a religion, a State that would
not be something altogether different, but exactly the same as America
and the other states in the Family of Nations. I couldnt understand
this, for it seemed to me that these Zionists, who included statists,
industrializers and technocrats, were not only racists but also
Earlier Conversos were Jews in fifteenth century Spain who, to
avoid persecution, discovered that the long-awaited Jewish Messiah
had already arrived, a millennium and a half earlier, in the person
of Jewish prophet Jesse, the Crucified. Some of these Conversos
then joined the Inquisition and persecuted Jews who had not made
The modern Conversos hadnt become Catholics; Catholicism
was not the dominant creed in the twentieth century; Science and
I thought Jesse had at least affirmed, if only as relics, some
of the traits of the ancient human community, whereas Science and
Technology affirmed nothing human; they destroyed culture as well
as nature as well as human community.
It seemed sad that the long-preserved and carefully-guarded specificities
of a cultural minority that had refused to be absorbed were to shatter
on the discovery that the technocratic State was the Messiah and
the Industrial Process the long-awaited millennium. This made the
whole trajectory meaningless. The dream of these racist Conversos
was repulsive to me.
It wasnt until the following decade, when I was over thirty,
that my nearness to the Nazi Pogrom began to be meaningful to me.
This transvaluation of my early experience happened suddenly, and
was caused by something like a chance encounter, an encounter which,
also by chance, included an odd reference to the State of Israel.
This was the decade when America waged its war of extermination
against a people and an ancient culture of the Far East.
It happened that I was visiting my Americanized relatives at the
same time that my Andean aunt was with them for the first time since
their separation. This was the aunt who had respected the Quechua-speaking
people, although not enough to learn their language, and had stayed
among them when the others left.
The conversation among the relatives turned to pious reflections
about the uncle who had gone to Israel and been killed by a car
after having survived the Nazi concentration camps.
My Andean aunt couldnt believe what she heard. She asked
her relatives if they had all gone crazy. The story about the car
accident had been told to the children so often that the adults
had come to believe it.
That man wasnt killed in an accident, she shouted. He committed
suicide. He had survived the concentration camps because he had
been a technician employed in applying chemical science to the operation
of the gas chambers. He had then made the mistake of emigrating
to Israel, where his collaboration had been made public knowledge.
He probably couldnt face the accusing eyes; maybe he feared
My first response to this revelation was revulsion against a human
being who could be so morally degraded as to gas his own kin and
fellow-captives. But the more I thought about him, the more I had
to admit there had at least been a shred of moral integrity in his
final self-destructive act; that act didnt make him a moral
paradigm, but it contrasted sharply with the acts of people who
lacked even that shred of moral integrity, people who were returning
from the Far East and affirming their deeds, actually boasting of
the unnatural atrocities they had inflicted on their fellow human
And I asked myself who the others really were, the pure ones who
had exposed and judged Eichmann the obedient German.
I didnt know anything about the people in Israel and had
never met an Israeli, but I was increasingly aware of the loud American
cheerleaders for the State of Israel, and not the Left Zionists
among them but the others, my racist relatives friends. The
Leftists had all but vanished in a dark sectarian Limbo no outsider
could penetrate, a Limbo that stank almost as strongly as the one
that held Messiah Lenins and Stalins heirs, with sects
twisted out of shape by the existence of the State of Israel, ranging
from those who claimed their seizure of power was all that was needed
to turn the State of Israel into an egalitarian community, to those
who claimed the existing State of Israel was already the egalitarian
But the Left Zionists shouted only at each other.
It was the others who made all the din, who shouted at everyone
else. And these were explicit about what they admired in the State
of Israel; they affirmed it, they boasted of it, and it had nothing
to do with the ailing wings egalitarianism. What they admired
* the crusading nationalism that considered the humanity surrounding
it as nothing but obstacles to its flowering;
* the industrial potency of the Race that had succeeded in denaturing
the desert and making it bloom;
* the efficiency of the human beings remade into operators of big
tanks and incredibly accurate jets;
* the technological sophistication of the instruments of death themselves,
infinitely superior to that of the Nazis;
* the spectacularly enterprising secret police whose prowess was
surely not inferior, for such a small State, to that of the CIA,
KGB or Gestapo;
* the bully militarism that pitted the latest inventions of life-killing
Science against a motley collection of weapons, and exacted a hundred
or a thousand times the losses it sustained.
This last boast, which expressed the morality of exacting hundreds
of eyes for an eye and thousands of teeth for a tooth, seemed particularly
repulsive in the mouth of a cheerleader for a theocratic State where
an ethical elite claimed to provide inspired guidance on moral questions;
but this will surprise only those uninformed about historys
During this decade, the racism, the anti-Semitism, to be more precise,
of these admirers of the State of Israel became virulent. Zions
expropriated Semites were no longer considered human beings; they
were Backward Arabs; only those among them who had been turned into
good assimilated Israelis could be called human; the others were
dirty Primitives. And Primitives, in the definition given a few
centuries earlier by Conquistadores, not only had no right to resist
humiliation, expropriation and desolation; Primitives had no right
to exist; they only squandered nature's resources, they didnt
know what to do with Gods precious gifts! Only Gods
chosen knew how to use the Great Fathers gifts, and they knew
exactly what to do with them.
Yet even while dwelling on the backwardness of the expropriated,
the cheerleaders became paranoid and pictured the pathetic resistance
of the expropriated as a vast conspiracy of untold power and nearly
Sartres expression mauvaise foi [The usual English translation
is Bad faith.] is too weak to characterize the posture
chosen by these people, but its not my concern to coin another
I survived into my forties, thanks partly to the fact that America
still hadnt exterminated itself and the rest of humanity with
the high-powered incinerants and poisons with which it was mining
[Mining in the sense of setting explosive mines, making earth lethal],
or rather undermining, its own as well as other peoples lands.
This decade combined what I had earlier thought uncombinable; it
combined a barrage of revelations about the Holocaust, in the form
of movies, plays, books and articles, with the Pogrom, perpetrated
on Levantine Semites in Beirut by the State of Israel. [Written
in mid-August, this statement referred to Israels invasion
and not yet to the Pogrom in the strict 19th century sense perpetrated
in September. (Sept 16-18, 1982, to be exact)]
The revelations touched the Holocaust in Vietnam only marginally;
maybe two generations have to pass before such filth is hung out
to air. The revelations were almost all about the Holocaust I had
narrowly escaped as a child.
People who dont understand human freedom might think the
terrible revelations could have only one effect, they could only
turn people against the perpetrators of such atrocities, they could
only make people empathize with the victims, they could only contribute
to a resolve to abolish the very possibility of a repeat of such
dehumanizing persecution and cold-blooded murder. But, for better
or worse, such experiences, whether personally lived or learned
from revelations, are nothing but the field over which human freedom
soars like a bird of prey. The revelations about the forty-year-old
Pogrom have even been turning up as justifications for a present-day
Pogrom is a Russian word that used to refer, in past years that
now seem almost benign, to a riot of cudgel-armed men against poorly
armed villagers with different cultural traits; the more heavily
the State was involved in the riot, the more heinous was the Pogrom.
The overwhelmingly stronger attackers projected their own character
as bullies onto their weaker victims, convincing themselves that
their victims were rich, powerful, well-armed and allied with the
Devil. The attackers also projected their own violence onto their
victims, constructing stories of the victims brutality out
of details taken from their own repertory of deeds. In nineteenth
century Russia, a Pogrom was considered particularly violent if
fifty people were killed.
The statistics underwent a complete metamorphosis in the twentieth
century, when the State became the main rioter. The statistics of
modern German and Russian and Turkish state-run Pogroms are known;
the statistics from Vietnam and Beirut are not public yet.
Beirut and its inhabitants had already been made desolate by the
presence of the violent resistance movement of the expropriated
refugees ousted from Zion; if the casualties of those clashes were
added to the number killed by the State of Israels direct
involvement in the riot but Ill stop this; I dont
want to play numbers games.
The trick of declaring war against the armed resistance and then
attacking the resisters unarmed kin as well as the surrounding
population with the most gruesome products of Death-Science
this trick is not new. American Pioneers were pioneers in this too;
they made it standard practice to declare war on indigenous warriors
and then to murder and burn villages with only women and children
in them. This is already modern war, what we know as war against
civilian populations; it has also been called, more candidly, mass
murder or genocide.
Maybe I shouldnt be surprised that the perpetrators of a
Pogrom portray themselves as the victims, in the present case as
victims of the Holocaust.
Herman Melville noticed over a century ago, in his analysis of
the metaphysics of Indian-hating, that those who made a full-time
profession of hunting and murdering indigenous people of this continent
always made themselves appear, even in their own eyes, as the victims
The use the Nazis made of the International Jewish Conspiracy is
better known: during all the years of atrocities defying belief,
the Nazis considered themselves the victimized.
Its as if the experience of being a victim gave exemption
from human solidarity, as if it gave special powers, as if it gave
a license to kill.
Maybe I shouldnt be surprised, but I cant keep myself
from being angry, because such a posture is the posture of a Salaud,
the posture of one who denies human freedom, who denies that he
chooses himself as killer. The experience, whether personally lived
or learned from revelations, explains and determines nothing; it
is nothing but a phony alibi.
Melville analyzed the moral integrity of the Indian-hater.
Im talking about modern Pogromists, and more narrowly about
cheerleaders for Pogroms. Im talking about people who havent
personally killed fifty or five or even one human being.
Im talking about America, where the quest is to immerse oneself
in Paradise while avoiding any contact with its dirty work, where
only a minority is still involved in the personal doing of the dirty
work, where the vast majority are full-time voyeurs, peepers, professors,
call them what you will.
Among the voyeurs, Im concentrating on the voyeurs of Holocausts
and Pogroms. I have to keep referring to whats on the screen
because thats whats being watched. But my concern is
with the watcher, with one who chooses himself a voyeur, specifically
a voyeur of Holocausts, a cheerleader for death squads.
Mention the words Beirut and Pogrom in the same sentence to such
a one, and hell vomit all the morality inside him: he wont
The likeliest response youll get is a moronic chuckle and
a cynical laugh.
Im reminded of my uncle, the one who wasnt hit by a
car, who at least had the shred of moral integrity to see what others
saw and reject it, and I contrast my uncle with this person who
either sees nothing at all, or who cynically affirms what he sees,
cynically accepts himself.
If hes an intellectual, a professor, hell respond with
the exact equivalent of the moronic grin or the cynical laugh but
with words; hell bombard you with sophistries, half truths
and outright lies which are perfectly transparent to him even as
he utters them.
This is not an airy, wide-eyed idealist but a gross, down-to-earth
property-oriented materialist with no illusions about what constitutes
expropriation of what he calls Real Estate. Yet this real estate
man will start telling you that the Levantine Zion is a Jewish Land
and hell point to a two-thousand year old Title.
He calls Hitler a madman for having claimed the Sudetenland was
a German land because he totally rejects the rules that would have
made it a German land, international peace treaties are included
in his rules, violent expropriations are not.
Yet suddenly he pulls out a set of rules which, if he really accepted
them, would pulverize the entire edifice of Real Property. If he
really accepted such rules, he would be selling plots in Gdansk
to Kashubians returning from exile, tracts in Michigan, Wisconsin
and Minnesota to Ojibwas reappropriating their homeland, estates
in Iran, Iraq and much of Turkey to homeward bound Indian Parsees,
and he would even have to lease parts of Zion itself to Chinese
descendants of Nestorian Christians, and to many others besides.
Such arguments have more affinity with the moronic chuckle than
with the cynical laugh.
The cynical laugh translated into words would say: We (they always
say We) We conquered the Primitives, expropriated them and ousted
them; the expropriated are still resisting, and in the meantime
We have acquired two generations who have no other home but Zion;
being Realists, we know we can end the resistance once and for all
by exterminating the expropriated.
Such cynicism without a shred of moral integrity might be realistic,
but it might also turn out to be what C.W. Mills called Crackpot
Realism, because the resistance might survive and spread and it
might go on as long as the Irish.
Theres yet another response, the response of the cudgel-armed
Defense League bully who thinks the absence of a brown shirt makes
He clenches his fist or tightens his grip on his club and shouts:
This response is the most ominous, for it claims that We are a
club to which all are welcome, but the membership of some is mandatory.
In this usage, Traitor does not mean anti-Semite, since it is aimed
at people who empathize with the plight of the current Semites.
Traitor does not mean Pogromist, since it is aimed at people who
still empathize with the victims of the Pogrom. This term is one
of the few components of the vocabulary of a racist through the
ages; it means: Traitor to the Race.
And here I reach the single element which the new anti-Semite had
not yet shared with the old anti-Semite: Gleichschaltung, the totalitarian
synchronization of all political activity and expression.
The entire Race must march in step, to the same drumbeat; all are
The uniqueness of the condemned Eichmann becomes reduced to a difference
in holiday ritual.
It seems to me that such goons are not preservers of the traditions
of a persecuted culture. Theyre Conversos, but not to the
Catholicism of Fernando y Isabela; theyre Conversos to the
political practice of the Fuehrer.
The long exile is over; the persecuted refugee at long last returns
to Zion, but so badly scarred hes unrecognizable, he has completely
lost his self; he returns as anti-Semite, as Pogromist, as mass
murderer; the ages of exile and suffering are still included in
his makeup, but only as self-justifications, and as a repertory
of horrors to impose on Primitives and even on Earth herself.
I think Ive now shown that the experience of the Holocaust,
whether lived or peeped, does not in itself make an individual a
critic of Pogroms, and also that it does not confer special powers
or give anyone a license to kill or make someone a mass murderer.
But I havent even touched the large question that is raised
by all this: Can I begin to explain why someone chooses himself
a mass murderer?
I think I can begin to answer. At the risk of plagiarizing Sartres
portrait of the old anti-Semite, I can at least try to point to
one or two of the elements in the field of choice of the new anti-Semite.
I could start by noticing that the new anti-Semite is not really
so different from any other TV-watcher, and that TV-watching is
somewhere near the core of the choice (I include newspapers and
movies under the abbreviation for tell-a-vision).
What the watcher sees on the screen are some of the interesting
deeds, sifted and censored, of the monstrous ensemble in which he
plays a trivial but daily role. The central but not often televised
activity of this vast ensemble is industrial and clerical labor,
forced labor, or just simply labor, the Arbeit which macht frei.
[Work Liberates: a slogan posted at the entrance to
Nazi slave labor camps.]
Solzhenitsyn, in his multi-volumed Gulag Archipelago, gave a profound
analysis of what such Arbeit does to a human individuals outer
and inner life; a comparably profound analysis has yet to be made
of the administration that synchronizes the activity,
the training institutions that produce the Eichmanns and Chemists
who apply rational means to the perpetration of the irrational ends
of their superiors.
I cant summarize Solzhenitsyns findings; his books
have to be read. In a brief space I can only say that the part of
life spent in Arbeit, the triviality of existence in a commodity
market as seller or customer, worker or client, leaves an individual
without kinship or community or meaning; it dehumanizes him, evacuates
him; it leaves nothing inside but the trivia that make up his outside.
He no longer has the centrality, the significance, the self-powers
given to all their members by ancient communities that no longer
exist. He doesnt even have the phony centrality given by religions
which preserved a memory of the ancient qualities while reconciling
people to worlds where those qualities were absent. Even the religions
have been evacuated, pared down to empty rituals whose meaning has
long been lost.
The gap is always there; its like hunger: it hurts. Yet nothing
seems to fill it.
Ah, but theres something that does fill it or at least seems
to; it may be sawdust and not grated cheese, but it gives the stomach
the illusion that its been fed; it may be a total abdication
of self-powers, a self-annihilation, but it creates the illusion
of self-fulfillment, of reappropriation of the lost self-powers.
This something is the Told Vision which can be watched on off hours,
and preferably all the time.
By choosing himself a Voyeur, the individual can watch everything
he no longer is.
All the self-powers he no longer has, It has, And It has even more
powers; It has powers no individual ever had; It has the power to
turn deserts into forests and forests into deserts; It has the power
to annihilate peoples and cultures who have survived since the beginning
of time and to leave no trace that they ever existed; It even has
the power to resuscitate the vanished peoples and cultures and endow
them with eternal life in the conditioned air of museums.
In case the reader hasnt already guessed, It is the technological
ensemble, the industrial process, the Messiah called Progress. It
The individual deprived of meaning chooses to take the final leap
into meaninglessness by identifying with the very process that deprives
him. He becomes We the exploited identifying with the exploiter.
Henceforth his powers are Our powers, the powers of the ensemble,
the powers of the alliance of workers with their own bosses known
as the Developed Nation. The powerless individual becomes an essential
switch in the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing God, the central
computer; he becomes one with the machine.
His immersion becomes an orgy during the crusades against those
who are still outside the machine: untouched trees, wolves, Primitives.
During such crusades he becomes one of the last Pioneers; he joins
hands across the centuries with the Conquistadores of the southern
part and the Pioneers of the northern part of this double continent;
he joins hands with Indian-haters and Discoverers and Crusaders;
he feels America running in his veins at last, the America that
was already brewing in the cauldrons of European Alchemists long
before Colon (the Converso) reached the Caribs, Raleigh the Algonquians
or Cartier the Iroquoians; he gives the coup de grace to his remaining
humanity by identifying with the process exterminating culture,
nature and humanity.
If I went on I would probably come to results already found by
W. Reich in his study of the mass psychology of Fascism. It galls
me that a new Fascism should choose to use the experience of the
victims of the earlier Fascism among its justifications.
First published: Fifth Estate, Issue Number 310 (Vol. 17 No.
3). 4403 Second Ave., Detroit, Michigan 48201 USA.
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