- Yg. 1923, No. 28 -
The whole realm of organic life is subject to the law of mechanization. This law states that every new mode of movement, every new expression to which the restlessly advancing development gets on its way, becomes, through frequent, arbitrary repetition, gradually involuntary, instinctive, mechanical. And this law makes possible an actual spiritual progress in the first place. For only when the achievements can be pushed aside and secured into the background of the aspiring consciousness, its forces become available to new achievements beyond that. Thus we observe that in fact everything that the mind, including the individual, develops, soon solidifies in fixed forms that can be comfortably stored and passed on. A tremendous energy saving, without question! But unfortunately also an obstacle to a truly free and fruitful development!
We recognize this most clearly in the language, this tremendous memory for traditional knowledge. The forms of which she employs herself in order to protect something that has been thought of from destruction and to communicate it to others without difficulty are the words, and words are phonetics for concepts. Not only the things but also the first judgments about things are summarized in the terms. They are the sealed note packages, through the exchange of which people's thoughts are regulated.
Unfortunately, these packages are just as little stable in value as the real ones. And from this arises the predicament to open it from time to time and to revise its content, to bring it back into line with the printed stamp, or to change the stamp according to the content. If this control is omitted for too long, mistakes and discrepancies are the inevitable result. Before their cause is discovered, however, most mischief has already happened. And people are so reluctant to examine traditional concepts! To think for what? The language thinks for us, as Goethe once rightly says. Unfortunately, she often thinks wrong. You have to look at her fingers. Otherwise one is in danger of being impelled by ideas that are no longer in line with reality, to become enthusiastic about ideals that are no longer worthy of enthusiasm.
The concept of "patriotism" illustrates this danger. I assert that his use in our time is an anachronism, that the power which he has over his mind is ruinous, the uncritical recognition of which this power still rejoices, a crime against the living spirit.
In our schools, the children were and are still being educated with all means of patriotism. However, it is hard to see why. Even the demand of love is indisputably missing as demand. But apart from that: even the term "fatherland" itself seems to me pointless. Who of us has any real share in the country in which he lives? Our ancestors had him, as far as they had inherited from their fathers possession of fields, forests and meadows. And they therefore had every reason to love, secure and defend their fatherland. Because it gave them their food and was the basic requirement of their whole existence. When they were torn from them, they were not only homeless, but at the same time destitute and without livelihood. The term kept its meaning even as the first state-like associations joined together. For the original states were all agricultural states. Their land ownership was the sum of the individual "fatherlands" whose owners entered solidarity for each other. And at the moment when these nations and their peoples came under foreign rule, all individual owners were easily expropriated. Their land was given to the members of the tribe that triumphed over them, the vassals of the victorious prince, who were able to bind his loyalists to him more closely by such entrenchments. But the former gentlemen became the slaves of the new ones. Reason enough for them, as long as they were still really masters, holding up their homeland and using their own lives for their protection.
Today, on the other hand? Today, such an expropriation of private property is only rarely to be feared as an effect of foreign policy events, that is, of warlike defeats. The state property is outlawed for the external enemy, the private usually applies to him as fundamentally inviolable, - especially when his owners are to form for him an increase to its own population. What changes from the point of view of private property is basically just the address to which he has to pay his dues. In the end, it does not matter to him whether his taxes go to Berlin or London, Vienna or Paris.
If, therefore, even the well-to-do - and indeed the well-to-do owner - of a change of state sovereignty no longer has to expect any significant damage to its existence, then, of course, this applies even more to the unsophisticated and free from taxation. That something has happened, he actually only noticed the new national colors. Moreover, he may live as usual, that is, as well as he can wrest from his organization to the employers in whose hands his fate rests. He may continue to work for the ideals of his class, may pursue his old pleasures, love and adore the country in which he is resident, and which belongs to him neither more nor less than before. So why is there a special patriotism that can cost him as much as in the last war? I think they are impractical and somewhat exaggerated.
Patriotism may now only mean to the propertyless as well as to the well-to-do, who is his natural enemy-a much more natural than the external-that they call them a sense of belonging to the tribesmen and a kind of sentient attachment to their mother tongue ,
But now it is so that our political state structures are neither synonymous with the tribes nor the linguistic units. And moreover, it is above all obvious that neither the feeling of solidarity with the tribal relatives nor that of attachment to the mother tongue in which one is brought up needs to be impaired particularly more by an authority of a foreign race and language than by another. What do I have to do with my government? I am used to being patronized, oppressed, exploited, and in every way restricting and robbing me. Perhaps that is precisely your duty as authorities. I don't know and don't want to argue with her about it. But if it is her duty, then for me she is in the rank of a necessary evil, and it leaves me completely cold whether this evil appears to me in black and white or blue and white or red and blue checkered for my sake. Enough, it is an evil, and because it is a necessary evil, I will deal with it as little as possible. Is it uncomfortable when I think like that? Well then it's me. But I still consider this unhappiness to be much more sensible and at the same time much more moral than that comfortable disposition which feels induced by the danger of a change of authority to start wars, to kill people, to burn down houses. The way they proceed seems to me at least headless.
But why is it that the concept of this anachronistic patriotism is still so effective in our time? It is undoubtedly because of - one can not call it other than: laziness of the most. Feeling is more prudent than thinking, and feelings are always the instinctual, ie mechanized, judgments of the ancestors, - the same ones which are linguistically laid down in the concepts. These feelings, as we understand them, are, understandably, most vivid, even among those who, in the distant past, would have run the risk of "subjugating" the Fatherland alone, as in the case of the wealthy. And they have now understood how to keep what they call their "ideals" in the heads of others and to awaken them again and again. They are rightly extremely indignant when, in an emergency, these others want to make trouble, to cripple themselves for their ideals, or to have them gloriously slaughtered. "Homeless rabble" - that is the title they are accustomed to attach to such sentiments.
I confess that I myself belong to such a "fatherless rabble," that I am not even so patriot to feel at ease with all the tribesmen. For those to whom I should count as an honor to be connected by kinship are to be counted. But on the other hand, on the other hand, I believe that the accusation of "irrelevance" that could be raised against me from then on would, to a certain extent, go too far. I believe it because, after all, bringing about supra-national economies welded together by common sense and reason to work together seems to me to be an ideal, and a higher, less outdated development than the political and geographical integrity of the respective homeland.
1923, 28 Kuno Fiedler