Thursday, April 21, 2016

Money Has No Smell by Pierre Razoux

Iran and Iraq took advantage of the lull in fighting on the front  beginning in the spring of 1984 to restock munitions and acquire new weapons, as well as spare parts and motors. The latter market quickly became lucrative, as harsh weather conditions and the nature of the terrain led to countless breakdowns. The price of oil was still high enough to give both the Iranians and the Iraqis some room to maneuver, though their financial reserves were running out, forcing them to make drastic choices.

Iraq did not have as much difficulty getting supplies, given that some thirty countries were willing to directly sell the it the military equipment it required. These countries were comfortable openly selling weapons to Iraq because it had been presented as the victim of the Republic of Iran’s warmongering fanaticism since the summer of 1982. Three of these countries – the USSR, France, and China – met 85% of Iraq’s needs. Initially, the Iraqi regime was primarily concerned with making its suppliers compete with each other to offer better prices. Once its resources began to diminish, its priority was to retain their trust. Tariq Aziz multiplied diplomatic tours to convince his creditors to stagger the Iraqi deb. He did not always succeed; some states, such as Spain and Portugal, quickly turned to Iran when Iraq was no longer able to promptly honor its debts. Fortunately, Baghdad could count on the Gulf States financial support [Saudi Arabia forgive Iraq its debt at the conclusion of the war.] This allowed the Ba’athist regime to avoid buying weapons from parallel-market arms dealer.

Iran, on the other hand, was in a far more delicate position. Though the country was not subject to a formal UN embargo, it was under embargo from the United States, which threatened any nation that shipped war equipment to Tehran with economic retaliation. Only those who really had something to gain and knew they had nothing to fear or expect from Washington openly braved the American prohibition.  These countries could be counted on one hand: Syria, Libya, China, and North Korea. Yet these four countries only met a third of Iran’s military needs. Tehran was forced to be creative to find the other two-thirds. Alternating seduction, pay-offs and veiled threats, Iranian leaders managed to convince twenty-five other nations to provide them with military equipment or, failing that, to turn a blind eye to the activities to the activities of their corporations. In many cases they had to purchase supplies on the parallel markets at significantly higher prices. This put them in business with more or less reliable traffickers, as well as a few high-flying crooks who brazenly cheated them. One such individual was Benham Nodjoumi, who managed top sell the Iranians thirty-four crates of scrap iron by making them believed they contained TOW antitank missiles. Nodjoumi, who lived in London, chose to surrender to British authorities and serve a long prison sentence rather than face the Iranian assassins sent on his trail.

The Iranian government was in most need of ammunition and spare parts, but also light weapons to arm its masses of newly recruited infantrymen. The Iranians dappled the same method to get their supplies, no matter who they were dealing with.. The Supreme Defense Council convened in Tehran every week to examined the bids received. The Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards) were overrepresented because the knew that most of the equipment would wind up in their hands. Decisions were taken by consensus. When the council agreed to a bid, the Iranian bureau closest to the bidder was ordered to initiate negotiations with the dealer or his middleman. Tehran was apprised of the progress of discussions and arbitrated disagreements. Business in Europe was subcontracted through Tehran’s backrooms in Frankfurt and London, with the knowledge that the British and German authorities would be indulgent towards Iran for the sake of their own commercial interests.

In this shadow market, London became the hub of arms sales to Iran. Tehran had decided to use London as a base for an important branch of thye National Iranian Oil Company, which served as a screen to pay for European purchases. The Iranian regime also perated through two shell corporations ,both of which were well established in London: JSC International, registered in the Caribbean; and Metro International, 51 percent of whose capital was held by Iran, with the other 49% belonging to a group of Arabs and Pakistani financiers. The system was operated by three individuals. Aziz Nezafatkhan, who was close to Ayatollah Khomeini, served as the commercial attache to the Iranian embassy in Great Britain, and was known as ‘Mister 10%”; Sadegh Tabatabai, who was the Supreme Leader’s son-in-law and Ahmad Khomeini’s close friend, and shuttled between London and Tehran; and Houshang Lavi, an Iranian businessman with far-reaching connections in the city. In the United States the Iranians relied on Balanian Hashemi, an extremely rich businessman who had fled Iran after the fall of the Shah and was now trying to redeem himself by serving as the new regime’s intermediary.

On the arms market, the Iranian regime stopped at nothing to corrupt those who could bring them interesting deals. It could rely on the cupidity of numerous intermediaries ready to ignore their own governments’ prohibitions. Two individuals played a key role in supplyi9ng Iran while explicitly violating their countries’ poliocies: the Saudi businessman Adnan Khashoggi
[] and the American
Frank Cradock

Another American citizen who hit the headlines for his audacity in similar dealings was Mark Broman, director of the American embassy in Paris’s Office for Military Cooperation. Broman offered to sell the Iranians thirty Phantom fighters in the service of the Egyptian air force, despite the fact that Egypt had taken sides wit h Iraq. His plan was to convince Egypt to purchase an equivalent number of F-16s by offering to buy back their Phantoms. These would then be fictively sold to Paraguay, where the corrupt American diplomat had numerous friend ready to bend any rules for a juicy commission. The deal was exposed and foiled. Its instigator was arrested and given a heavy sentence by an American court. [this is a group that watchdogs the State Dept. offices of Military Assistance which goes by a variety of names:]

Business is Business

Things were much simpler when Tehran dealt with the representatives of states reputed for being neutral and politically respectable. In Europe, Austria, Sweden, and Switzerland improved to be valuable partners who had the good taste not to be fussy so long as the petrodollars flowed into their coffers. Austria sold Iran 140 GHN-45 howitzers along with significant stocks of ammunition.  Switzerland delivered fifteen PCV-6 Turbo Portyer utility aircraft,m forty-seven PCV-7 Turbo Trainer training aircraft, cryptology equipment, as well as large quantities of ammunition and electronic components for radars. Though it has passed legislation prohibiting the exports of arms to nations at war, Sweden provided Iran a turnkey munitions factory, 300 portabvle RBS-70 surface-to-air missiles, and forty light motorboats,, which were allocated to the Pasdaran’s naval forces. This weave of orders was manna from heaven for the Karlskoga military-industrial complex, but also the Bofors Corporation, which indiscriminately sold colossal amounts of ammunition for its famous anti-air gun to both belligerents.

These illegal arms sales spurred a long legal investigation that led to the 1987 indictment of two Swedish CEO’s, Mats Lundberg and Karl-Erik Schmitz, for serving as key middleman on the European parallel market. Over the course of the investigation, Swedish customs uncovered the existence of a European cartel shamelessly supplying the mullahs’ regime. This cartel provided more than 30,000 tons of gunpowder and explosives to Tehran, allowing Iran to manufacture mountains of ammunition in its Swedish-supplied factory. It had branches in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Switzerland, Finland and even Norway. A variety of European ports served as hubs for sending out the explosives: Zeebrugge in Belgium, Setubal in Portugal, Santander in Spain, Genoa and Talamone in Italy, and Piraeus in Greece. The cartel’s representatives used several shipping companies and chartered two airlines: Scanco, which was headed by Schmitz, and Santa Lucia Airways, which was registered in the Caribbean. Greece proved to be one of the main channels for moving shipments to Iran. A massive explosion that destroyed a factory in the suburbs of Athens in May 1987 was probably no accident: the factory produced munitions for Iran. Many suspected that the Iraqi special services were involved in the explosion. The Greek legal system quickly closed the case.

In order to surreptitiously sell such large quantities of explosives to Iran, the cartel needed to show the existence of a legal buyer who agreed not to cede them to a third party. The cartel drew up and end-user certificate, which enables one to obtain an export license. The Yugoslavs to care of this end of the deal, taking a 3 percent commission on each contract. Concurrently, the Yugoslav government shipped Iraq a training frigate, three minesweepers, one hundred D-30 guns, 300 mortars, tens of thousands of light weapons, and millions of shells, for a total value of over one billion dollars. The Yugoslav authorities had the best of both worlds.

Even Belgium let itself be tempted when Iran offered to pay generously for fifty old F-104 Starfighter interceptors the Belgian air force was trying to offload. Though the socialist parliamentarians intervened to prevent the last the last moment, the government merely held onto the planes’ frames and sold the Iranians their jet engines. The engines were fitted to the Iranian phantoms (the F-4 and the F-104 had the same engine). Though the Iranians failed to get the Belgian F-104s, they did get twelve Phantoms (f-4Ds) from South Korea and twelve F--5 Tigers from the Ethiopian government, which was ready to do anything to reap a few million dollars.

Iranian buyers ranged wide to procure weapons, covering Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, but also Africa and South America. South Africa and Brazil; also became favored Iranian business partners. South Africa sold Tehran some thirty ultramodern 155 mm howitzers (G5) with the required stock of ammunition. Brazil provided close to 500 Cascavel and Urutu armored vehicles, as well as large quantities of shells.

In all, some forty nations contributed to the Iraqi and Iranian war effort. At some point or the other, half of them provided material support both the Iran and Iraq - including the five permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. In Europe, only Ireland can boast of having kept itself clean. Every other state was implicated to variouis degrees in selling military equipment to one and often both of the belligerents. It took public disclosure of political-financial scandals to force certain countries, including France and the U.S., to put their affairs in order.

The approximate value of all  official deliveries of war equipment to Iraq by the United States was $250 million, including cooperation in the field of military intelligence, notably in terms of space and radar imagining and ELINT-SIGINT (signal interception and cryptanalysis) data. Delivery of 6 L-100 tans[port planes, 86 Hughes 300/500/530 helicopters and large quantities of fragmentation bombs.

The approximate value of all official deliveries of war equipment to Iran by the United States was $650 million, including spare helicopter parts, F-4, F-5 and f-15 fighters and AIM-54 Phoenix missiles, as of 1981. From 1984 to 1986 they delivered (via Israel) 2,500- TOW antitank missiles, 18 Hawk surface-to-air missiles and spare parts o modernize 300 Hawk missiles, as well as supplies of satellite imagery.

Top supplier for Iraq was the Soviet Union, between 30-45 billion dollars worth. Top supplier for Iran was China, $3 billion dollars.



180,000 dead and missing
     125, 000 military
     5,000 civilians
     50,000 Kurds
520,000 wounded and maimed
70,000 prisoners of war captured by the Iranian army.

500,000 dead and missing
     380,000 military and IRGC
     80,000 Basijis (child soldiers)
     10,000 civilians,
     30,000 Iranian Kurds.
1,300,000 wounded and maimed
45,000 prisoners of war captured by the Iraqi army.

A meticulous analysis of the intensity of human and material losses of this absurd and atrociously bloody war reveals that the pace of military operations more or less followed the price of oil (intense when it was high; mild when it was low). This conclusion provides confirmation of the cardinal importance of the economic war. Due to Iran’s isolation and lack of outside financial assistance, Rafsanjani focused on economizing and waged war like “a good family man” – at least on the financial level. Ultimately, the Iranian regime suffered far more from the combined effects of the collapse of oil prices and the drop in the dollar than from attacks on its oil takers and terminals ( the U.S. part in which the author characterizes as piracy). However, Rafsanjani was far more liberal with the only cheap resource he had in abundance: his soldiers lives. Unlike Rafsanjani, Saddam Hussein waged war on credit, drawing on loans from the oil monarchies, bank guarantees from the United States and payment deferments allowed by the Soviets and he West. He proved more sparing  with his soldiers lives.  The total financial cost of the war is estimated at 1,100 billion 1988 dollars (twice the value they have today), 40% spent by Iraq, 60% spent by Iran., a huge brake on the social and economic development of both countries. To the end Saddam Hussein continued to affirm the wat was wholly justified:

‘I had no choice but to start the war, in order to put an end to Iran’s interference. I must insist on this point, because it is essential . . . All this was done for the good of the people and humanity. The people love men for their actions. It also loves symbols, and I am a symbol given that my portrait can be found in the homes of Iraqis all over the country . . . What is important is not what people say or think of me today, but what they will think in 500 or 1,000 years.”

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Lessons of the Holocaust by Michael R. Marrus

Some of the discourse on lessons involves eloquent or rhetorically appropriate commentary. I have always appreciated the radical journalist I.F. Stone’s humane observation : “the lesson of the Holocaust is that to treat other human beings as less than human can lead to the furnaces,” but I do not hear it so much recently. I am less enthusiastic about the Canadian parliamentarian and human rights lawyer Irwin Cotler’s frequently declared ‘” the Holocaust is uniquely evil in its genocidal singularity,” the meaning of which escapes me. However, taken as a whole, the category of lessons is remarkably unclear. Part of the problem is that the lessons sometimes contradict each other. Some are predictive. A series of lessons include variations on the themes of Jews being “canaries in the coal mine.” Closely related is the claim that the lessons are universal and should be projected globally. From this comes lessons to the effect that “it” happened to Jews, but it could happen to anyone. Then, different lessons have been crafted that derive from different victims’ experiences. Some survivors, as we know, emerged crushed by brutality and indescribable cruelty; others accented small acts of kindness or selflessness that saved their lives. Contrasting lessons emerge from each group. Some readers of Holocaust history might derive from Daniel Jonah Goldhagen a lesson about incorrigible German “eliminationist” antisemitism. But admirers of author Daniel Mendleson’s finely crafted inquiry into the fate of his murdered relatives in wartime Poland might prefer what the author once told an interviewer for National Public Radio, namely that “anybody is capable of anything” – certainly the most capacious lesson of any I have encountered in my own reading.

To complicate matters, Holocaust lessons change as new problems arise and new generations consider its history. “The horizon is shifting,” I read in a blog produced by the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine, “With it the role and reach of Holocaust organizations must inevitably evolve.” Maine’s Holocaust Center offers a “suite of free films, panels and workshops to discuss bullying and a related program of restorative justice,” pursuing its mission “to advance  the cause of ethical literacy.” This sounds like admirable work. But some might well be concerned with the way in which those who oversee such programs are increasingly detached from the Holocaust itself, the event from which they claim to take their inspiration . All the easier it is, therefore, to misinterpret, distort and even abandon the history of the Holocaust, the elements of which may seem too remote and to horrifying to pursue without an excessive investment of time and energy. And it is here where we need to underscore the variability of lessons.

This is perhaps best demonstrated through examples. Here are some of the most commonly articulated universal lessons that raise questions for which there are no conclusive answers. I stress that these are examples, hardly an exhaustive list.

The Holocaust as a school for tolerance

This is the explicit commitment of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, in which the main exhibit on the Holocaust is accompanied by a “Tolerancenter”, where “visitors focus on the major issues of intolerance in our daily lives.” I certainly have no quarrel with admirable objectives such as these.. To historians, neve-the less, the idea that “intolerance” or “prejudice is what the Holocaust is all about would be laughable if this were not  a serious matter, maintained seriously by men and women of obvious good will. Let us be clear: people in history have forever been “intolerant” and “prejudiced” by our twenty-first century, North American definitions, without necessarily slaughtering each other and committing genocide in a manner that practically defies belief for any society. The Holocaust is about mass killing, on a continental scale, of a particular group of victims, and not about intolerance and prejudice. Throughout history, societies have commonly stigmatized, exploited, brutalized, punished, and persecuted groups and individuals – and seen worse- without slaughtering them so obsessively or seeking to wipe them of the face of the earth – why and how did the barriers of law and custom and religion seem to collapse under the Third Reich and how did the German’s manage to organize killing on such a vast scale? Narrowing the Holocaust to an issue of intolerance and prejudice not only prompts a misunderstanding od such wrong-doing in our world today, it also misstates the significance of the event, the authority of which we are then borrowing disrespectfully.

It began with words

Public personalities who have called for restrictions on hate speech in the media and on the Internet have historically invoked the Holocaust with the claim that “it began with words,” suggesting that unfettered speech was a fundamental cause of the Holocaust, if not the fundamental cause. Again, demonizing others has unfortunately been common in many societies and for that matter exists in many parts of the world today, without the kind of genocidal massacres we associate with the Holocaust. While no one claims that the subject of antisemitism is unimportant for a study of Nazism, most historians would certainly challenge the idea that it paved the way for Hitler’s rise to power or that it mobilized Germans to a genocidal attack on Jews.

Some years ago, historian William Sheridan Allen summed up a consensus succinctly when he said that more Germans became anti-Semites because they became Nazis than became Nazis because they were anti-Semites. Then, too, claims about the salience of antisemitism dissolve when examined comparatively. Was German antisemitism, for example, any more widespread or venomous than, say, Polish or Hungarian or Romanian antisemitism? Probably not. And how would it compare, for that matter with Canadian antisemitism in the pre-war era? If you were situated in the 1890s and were told that one of the European states of the day would be responsible for a Holocaust, which would you chose? More often than not, anyone who knew anything about European antisemitism would probably select tsarist Russia. And after that , most certainly France. Germany would not be high on the list. So, why Germany?

All it takes for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing

There are few who believe that good men should “do nothing.” But “all it takes?” The slogan is all call for civil courage which that urges us to stand up, to speak against social justice but at the same time assumes a softened version of the Holocaust that is politically safe and even comforting because it involves no killers, only victims and witnesses. In any assessment of the rise of Nazis or the Holocaust it would also be an outrageous misstatement to claim that “good men did nothing” to oppose Nazism- or even, for that matter, to resist the Final Solution. Too few, certainly. Too late, as is so often the case in human affairs . But “all it takes’ and “do nothing”  hardly constitute a serious assessment. It is a childishly simple view of how genocide functions and slights the resistance that did occur to no effect whatsoever.

One person can make a difference

Arguably, the history of the daily lives of Jews under Nazism suggests precisely the opposite- how even the most resourceful, the bravest, those who were willing to hurl themselves against the machinery of destruction, more often than not failed even to slow the killing,. Coming from a religious discourse that may celebrate acts of goodness wherever they appear, this claim probably has more to do with our hunger for a redemptive messages than anything else.  It may gratify us to identify heroes who sacrificed themselves or who became martyrs to a good cause. But formulating such cases lessons of the Holocaust obscures the historical reality of wartime genocide and falsifies the situation that bystanders actually faced.

Siding with victims

“Indifference and inaction always means coming down on the side of the victimizer, never the victim.” Goes another familiar slogan.  There is a considerable historical discourse on what might have been done to rescue Jews during the Holocaust, and there are specialists in Holocaust lessons who relentlessly pursue long-gone actors, charging that they could and should have done more to save the victimized. Who could deny such assertions, in general terms at least? In hindsight, there few instances, and few individuals, for whom this is not true for virtually every human-made catastrophe – either in our personal lives or in public affairs. Afterwards, we can always identify how things might have been done better.

During the Second World War, when so few, including the victims themselves, grasped the reality of the Final Solution, and in the throes of a world-wide conflict of unimaginable destructiveness, people did not have the luxury to act as we might like to think we would act – and it is so easy to imagine them doing now. What is important if we want fully to understand is to assess the situation people faced with as clear-eyed judgment and as a full awareness of the evidence as possible. Disagreement about such things is inevitable and historians are by no means unanimous that, practically speaking, large numbers of Jews could have been saved from the Nazis’ implementation of mass murder and they also disagree on whether prioritizing rescue was a conceivable choice for decision makers involved in a desperate struggle against the Third Reich.

The strongest part of this argument has to do with the Depression years, when Allied immigration [policies turned increasingly towards restrictions in the late 1930s, following the Anschluss with Austria and the events of Kristallnacht.  Still, in country after country where policies towards Jews have been examined, historians have identified fierce opposition to opening the door to refugees in general, Jews in particular. Once the lethal machinery of destruction began to operate Jews were almost completely inaccessible to Allied rescue possibilities, and in any event such ‘humanitarian intervention,” as we came to call it in the 1990s, efforts on behalf of millions of people in wartime, was about as foreign an idea to Allied governments as modern-day human rights might be to nineteenth -century imperial powers. Such notions were generations in the future [which none-the-less refutes the notion that the WWII generation was ‘The Greatest’].

My quarrel is not necessarily with the probity of any of the purported lessons as as various people have drawn them. Some of these may be exemplary. The problem is not with intentions or goals quite true; many are often very well-intentioned, even exemplary; the problem is insufficient acquaintance with Holocaust history. . .  


Marrus's thesis is that more often than not 'lessons' come at the expense of history- they distort and trivialize what actually happened. He does it himself. I was fascinated, in particular by his rejection of Hannah Arendt's observation of Eichmann's representing the banality of evil which on the face of it, in consideration of the revelations of the Sesson interviews long after the trial, seems correct .(…/the-sessen-interviews-by-…)
Raul Hilberg himself rejected Arendt's characterization, as he reflected in the "Politics of Memory" thus:
"She did not recognize the magnitude of what this man had done with a small staff, overseeing and manipulating Jewish councils in various parts of Europe, attaching some of the remaining Jewish property in Germany, Austria, and Bohemia-Moravia, preparing anti-Jewish laws in satellite states, and arranging for the transportation of Jews to shooting sites and death camps. She did not discern the pathways that Eichmann had found in the thicket of the German administrative machine for his unprecedented actions. She did not grasp the dimension of his deeds. There was no "banality" in this "evil"."(…/politics-of-memory-by-rau…)
Yet later in the book, as if looking into the dark mirror of his own past, assembling his own cast of characters in
'Perpetrators Victims and Bystanders' he seems to have made a significant concession to Arendt's idea when he wrote:
" For me, the destruction of the Jews already was the setting, the irremovable reality, and within this extraordinary outburst I looked for all that was ordinary. I had done so from the beginning, when I dealt with everyday bureaucratic procedures, and now I was pursuing the same object as I examined the lives of people. In their daily routines, these individuals, like agencies, sought stability, particularly their own private equilibrium. It did not matter whether they were perpetrators, victims, of bystanders; they all manifested a need for continuity and balance.
The craving for the familiar, the habitual, the normal, emerged as a leitmotif wherever I looked. Psychologically this clinging was aimed at self-preservation, and its manifestation runs like a thread through the upheaval. At a basic level they provide an explanation of how these groups managed to go on - the perpetrators with their ever more drastic activities, the victims with their progressive deprivations, the bystanders with the increasing ambiguity and ambivalence of ther positions. When Sigmund Freud delivered a lecture about war during the first major conflagration of the twentieth century, he said that mankind needed a passing check from the burdens of civilization. What I began to note was the reverse side of this phenomena: the adhesion to time-honored products of this civilization in the midst of unprecedented destruction...."
So,the 'banality of evil' might be revised to 'the banality of tradition in evil times', no? And, might not Eichmann have exaggerated the enthusiasm with which he pursued the destruction of the Jews among his Nazis friends in Argentina in equal proportion to the way he downplayed them annd portrayed himself as an unthinking cog in an irresistible 'machine' when on trial in Jerusalem? He was just 'trying to fit in' in both cases, as far from enacting a Kierkegaardian existentialism as any of us really are and thus equally inept and banal before the 'ultimate', retrospective judgments of history?
So,isn't it true that the 'lessons of the Holocaust' are really the lessons,not of the Holocaust per se, but of all of History, an observation that can be made of "The Present Age', as Soren had it, a character of the 'eternal present' in all human affairs perhaps even during the most revolutionary of upheavals.So easy to see the evil gone by, so difficult to encompass their totality in our own time.

or,maybe,evil is what you don't see, the rest is 'go-along/get along'

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Present Age by Soren Kierkegaard

The present age is one of understanding, of reflection, devoid of passion, an age which flies into enthusiasm for a moment only to decline back into indolence.

. . . Not even a suicide does away with himself out of desperation, he considers the act so long and so deliberately, that he kills himself with thinking—one could barely call it suicide since it is thinking which takes his life. He does not kill himself with deliberation but rather kills himself because of deliberation. Therefore, one can not really prosecute this generation, for its art, its understanding, its virtuosity and good sense lies in reaching a judgement or a decision, not in taking action.

Just as one might say about Revolutionary Ages that they run out of control, one can say about the Present Age that it doesn't run at all. The individual and the generation come between and stop each other; and therefore the prosecuting attorney would find it impossible to admit any fact at all, because nothing happens in this generation. From a flood of indications one might think that either something extraordinary happened or something extraordinary was just about to happen. But one will have thought wrong, for indications are the only thing the present age achieves, and its skill and virtuosity entirely consist in building magical illusions; its momentary enthusiasms which use some projected change in the forms of things as an escape for actually changing the forms of things, are the highest in the scale of cleverness and the negative use of that strength which is the passionate and creating energy during Revolutionary Ages. Eventually, this present age tires of its chimerical attempts until it declines back into indolence. Its condition is like one who has just fallen asleep in the morning: first, great dreams, then laziness, and then a witty or clever reason for staying in bed.

The individual (no matter how well-meaning he might be, no matter how much strength he might have, if only he would use it) does not have the passion to rip himself away from either the coils of Reflection (1) or the seductive ambiguities of Reflection; nor do the surroundings and times have any events or passions, but rather provide a negative setting of a habit of reflection, which plays with some illusory project only to betray him in the end with a way out: it shows him that the most clever thing to do is nothing at all. Vis inertiae (2) is the foundation of the tergiversation (3) of the times, and every passionless person congratulates himself for being the first to discover it—and becomes, therefore, more clever. Weapons were freely given out during Revolutionary Ages . . . but in the present age everyone is given clever rules and calculators in order to aid one's thinking. If any generation had the diplomatic task of postponing action so that it might appear that something were about to happen, even though it would never happen, then one would have to say that our age has achieved as mightily as Revolutionary Ages. Someone should try an experiment with himself: he should forget everything he knows about the times and its relativity amplified by its familiarity, and then come into this age as if he were from another planet, and read some book, or some article in the newspaper: he will have this impression: "Something is going to happen tonight, or else something happened last night!"

A Revolutionary Age is an age of action; the present age is an age of advertisement, or an age of publicity: nothing happens, but there is instant publicity about it. A revolt in the present age is the most unthinkable act of all; such a display of strength would confuse the calculating cleverness of the times. Nevertheless, some political virtuoso might achieve something nearly as great. He would write some manifesto or other which calls for a General Assembly in order to decide on a revolution, and he would write it so carefully that even the Censor himself would pass on it; and at the General Assembly he would manage to bring it about that the audience believed that it had actually rebelled, and then everyone would placidly go home—after they had spent a very nice evening out. An enormous grounding in scholarship is alien to the youth of today, in fact, they would find it laughable. Nevertheless, some scientific virtuoso might achieve something even greater. He would draw up some prospectus outlining systematically some all-embracing, all-explaining system that he was about to write, and he would manage to achieve the feat of convincing the reader (of the prospectus) that he had in fact read the entire system. The Age of Encyclopedists is gone, when with great pains men wrote large Folios; now we have an age of intellectual tourists, small little encyclopedists, who, here and there, deal with all sciences and all existence. And a genuine religious rejection of the world, followed with constant self-denial, is equally unthinkable among the youth of our time: nevertheless, some bible college student has the virtuosity to achieve something even greater. He could design some projected group or Society which aims to save those who are lost. The age of great achievers is gone, the present age is an age of anticipators. . . . Like a youth who plans to diligently study from September 1 for an exam, and in order to solidify his resolve takes a holiday for the entire month of August, such is our generation which has decided resolutely that the next generation will work very hard, and in order not to interfere with or delay the next generation, this generation diligently—goes to parties. However, there is one difference in this comparison: the youth understands that he is light-hearted, the present age is on the contrary very serious—even at their parties.

Action and passion is as absent in the present age as peril is absent from swimming in shallow waters. . . .

If a precious jewel, which all desired, lay out on a frozen lake, where the ice was perilously thin, where death threatened one who went out too far while the ice near the shore was safe, in a passionate age the crowds would cheer the courage of the man who went out on the ice; they would fear for him and with him in his resolute action; they would sorrow over him if he went under; they would consider him divine if he returned with the jewel. In this passionless, reflective age, things would be different. People would think themselves very intelligent in figuring out the foolishness and worthlessness of going out on the ice, indeed, that it would be incomprehensible and laughable; and thereby they would transform passionate daring into a display of skill . . . . The people would go and watch from safety and the connoisseurs with their discerning tastes would carefully judge the skilled skater, who would go almost to the edge (that is, as far as the ice was safe, and would not go beyond this point) and then swing back. The most skilled skaters would go out the furthest and venture most dangerously, in order to make the crowds gasp and say: "Gods! He is insane, he will kill himself!" But you will see that his skill is so perfected that he will at the right moment swing around while the ice is still safe and his life is not endangered. . . .

Men, then, only desire money, and money is an abstraction, a form of reflection . . . Men do not envy the gifts of others, their skill, or the love of their women; they only envy each others' money. . . . These men would die with nothing to repent of, believing that if only they had the money, they might have truly lived and truly achieved something.

The established order continues, but our reflection and passionlessness finds its satisfaction in ambiguity. No person wishes to destroy the power of the king, but if little by little it can be reduced to nothing but a fiction, then everyone would cheer the king. No person wishes to pull down the pre-eminent, but if at the same time pre-eminence could be demonstrated to be a fiction, then everyone would be happy. No person wishes to abandon Christian terminology, but they can secretly change it so that it doesn't require decision or action. And so they are unrepentant, since they have not pulled down anything. People do not desire any more to have a strong king than they do a hero- liberator than they do religious authority, for they innocently wish the established order to continue, but in a reflective way they more or less know that the established order no longer continues. . . .
The reflective tension this creates constitutes itself into a new principle, and just as in an age of passion enthusiasm is the unifying principle, so in a passionless age of reflection envy (misundelse) (4) is the negative-unifying principle. This must not be understood as a moral term, but rather, the idea of reflection, as it were, is envy, and envy is therefore twofold: it is selfish in the individual and in the society around him. The envy of reflection in the individual hinders any passionate decision he might make; and if he wishes to free himself from reflection, the reflection of society around him re-captures him. . . .

Envy (misundelse) constitutes the principle of characterlessness, which from its misery sneaks up until it arrives at some position, and it protects itself with the concession that it is nothing. The envy of characterlessness never understands that distinction is really a distinction, nor does it understand itself in recognizing distinction negatively, (5) but rather reduces it so that it is no longer distinction; and envy defends itself not only from distinction, but against that distinction which is to come. (6)
Envy which is establishing itself is a levelling, (7) and while a passionate age pushes forward, establishing new things and destroying others, raising and tearing down, a reflective, passionless age does the opposite, it stifles and hinders, it levels. This levelling is a silent, mathematical, abstract process which avoids upheavals. . . . Levelling at its maximum is like the stillness of death, where one can hear one's own heartbeat, a stillness like death, into which nothing can penetrate, in which everything sinks, powerless.

One person can head a rebellion, but one person cannot head this levelling process, for that would make him a leader and he would avoid being levelled. Each individual can in his little circle participate in this levelling, but it is an abstract process, and levelling is abstraction conquering individuality. The levelling in modern times is the reflective equivalent of fate in the ancient times. The dialectic of ancient times tended towards leadership (the great man over the masses and the free man over the slave); the dialectic of Christianity tends, at least until now, towards representation (the majority views itself in the representative, and is liberated in the knowledge that it is represented in that representative, in a kind of self-knowledge); the dialectic of the present age tends towards equality, and its most consequent but false result is levelling, as the negative unity of the negative relationship between individuals.
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Everyone should see now that levelling has a fundamental meaning: the category of "generation" supersedes the category of the "individual." During ancient times the mass of individuals had this value: that it made valuable the outstanding individual. . . . In ancient times, the single individual in the masses signified nothing; the outstanding individual signified them all. In the present age, the tendency is towards a mathematical equality . . .

In order for levelling really to occur, first it is necessary to bring a phantom into existence, a spirit of levelling, a huge abstraction, an all-embracing something that is nothing, an illusion—the phantom of the public. . . . The public is the real Levelling- Master, rather than the leveller itself, for levelling is done by something, and the public is a huge nothing.

The public is an idea, which would never have occurred to people in ancient times, for the people themselves en masse in corpora (8) took steps in any active situation, and bore responsibility for each individual among them, and each individual had to personally, without fail, present himself and submit his decision immediately to approval or disapproval. When first a clever society makes concrete reality into nothing, then the Media (9) creates that abstraction, "the public," which is filled with unreal individuals, who are never united nor can they ever unite simultaneously in a single situation or organization, yet still stick together as a whole. The public is a body, more numerous than the people which compose it, but this body can never be shown, indeed it can never have only a single representation, because it is an abstraction. Yet this public becomes larger, the more the times become passionless and reflective and destroy concrete reality; this whole, the public, soon embraces everything. . . .

The public is not a people, it is not a generation, it is not a simultaneity, it is not a community, it is not a society, it is not an association, it is not those particular men over there, because all these exist because they are concrete and real; however, no single individual who belongs to the public has any real commitment; some times during the day he belongs to the public, namely, in those times in which he is nothing; in those times that he is a particular person, he does not belong to the public. Consisting of such individuals, who as individuals are nothing, the public becomes a huge something, a nothing, an abstract desert and emptiness, which is everything and nothing. . . .

The Media is an abstraction (because a newspaper is not concrete and only in an abstract sense can be considered an individual), which in association with the passionlessness and reflection of the times creates that abstract phantom, the public, which is the actual leveller. . . . More and more individuals will, because of their indolent bloodlessness, aspire to become nothing, in order to become the public, this abstract whole, which forms in this ridiculous manner: the public comes into existence because all its participants become third parties. (10) This lazy mass, which understands nothing and does nothing, this public gallery seeks some distraction, and soon gives itself over to the idea that everything which someone does, or achieves, has been done to provide the public something to gossip about. . . . The public has a dog for its amusement. That dog is the Media. (11) If there is someone better than the public, someone who distinguishes himself, the public sets the dog on him and all the amusement begins. This biting dog tears up his coat-tails, and takes all sort of vulgar liberties with his leg—until the public bores of it all and calls the dog off. That is how the public levels.
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Translated from the Danish by Richard Hooker Endnotes
1 This word has two meanings in Kierkegaard: 1.) reflection as "thinking," "deliberation," as opposed to acting and doing; 2.) most importantly, reflection as "reflection," that is, becoming a kind of mirror in which you derive your individuality from imitating the people around you. In Rousseau, modern society was characterized by people getting their identity entirely from the opinions of others; in Kierkegaard, reflection is a matter of getting your identity solely by imitating others. This gives rise to "the public."
2 The way of inertia.
3 "Evasion," "recusal."
4 Besides "envy," etymologically misundelse means "contrariness" or "spite." This is very similar to Nietzsche's ressentiment .
5 That is, it does not understand the exceptional in a positive sense as being better than itself nor does it understand the exceptional in a negative sense as being worse than itself. 6 The Final Judgement.
7 That is, it flattens everything to the same level; nothing is below this level, nothing is above this level.
8 "In mass, in a single body"
9 Danish Pressen , "the press," which in contemporary English is called "the media."
10 That is, viewers, onlookers, people who watch what happens rather than makes anything happen.
11 Danish: den literaire Foragtelighed , literally, the literary scandal sheets; what we would call "tabloids.