“There is nothing more terrible, I learned, than having to face the objects of a dead man. Things are inert: that have meaning only in function of the life that makes use of them. When that life ends, the things change, even though they remain the same. They are there and yet not there: tangible gluts, condemned to survive in a world they no longer belong to. What is one to think, for example, of a closetful of clothes waiting silently to be worn again by a man who will not be coming back to open the door ?[…]Suddenly revealing things that no one wants to see, that no one wants to know. In all of this there is violence, and also some sort of horror. Things don’t mean anything in themselves, like the kitchen utensils of a missing civilization; and yet they say something to us, standing there not as objects but as remnants of thought, of consciousness, emblems of the solitude in which a man comes to make decisions about himself; whether to dye your hair or not, whether to wear one or the other shirt, whether to live or die. And the futility of it all when death comes » Paul Auster, The Invention of Solitude
A distinction must be made between the characteristics of any hegemonic culture, and the Western culture. Since the colonial era, Western culture is now ubiquitous, and therefore transparent to our eyes; We look out of it, and see it as a standard for all. Protagoras was quoted by Plato: “Man is the standard for all”; This is the motto of Western humanism. But in fact, for a long time Western humanism has meant to say: “Western humanism is the standard for all.” The reason for this seems to be that the tradition of the West, the one that began in Greece, is the winning tradition, and is now the hegemonic culture. For a long time now we can no longer look at Western people through the gaze of the Monogolean Khan when he met Marco Polo and his men, and saw in them pale-skinned people wearing strange clothes. As European peoples became the dominant force on earth in the modern age, and largely suppressed any significant force that developed another thought tradition, modernity and Westernity are now intertwined.
We usually do not refer to Westernity as one spiritual tradition of many kinds. At most, Christianity (especially Catholicism) is treated as a spiritual tradition – but it is relatively easy. A more complicated challenge is to treat secularism, humanism and the Enlightenment as a tradition – just as Native American religions are treated. It seems to me that this is how Western metaphysics is exposed to Heidegger when he examines it in “Overcoming Metaphysics”:
המטאפיזיקה, בכל דמויותיה ובכל שלביה ההיסטוריים, היא גזירת גורל יחידה במינה, אם גם אולי הכרחית למערב. והיא התנאי המוקדם לשלטונו הפלנטרי. (תרגום: אדם טננבאום)
“Metaphysics, in all its figures and in all its historical stages, is a one-of-a-kind fate, though perhaps necessary for the West. And is the precondition for his planetary rule.” (Adam Tennenbaum).
The story told in the cave parable gives a look at what is actually happening, now and in the future, in the history of human existence in which the Western seal is imprinted: man thinks in the spirit of the essence of truth as the correctness of the image of everything.
In the end, there is no choice but to return to the Greeks; But you have to read them like the Germans. The Germans, argued Eliza M. Butler of England, imitated the Greeks “as enslaved slaves,” and the degree of Greek influence on them was greater than on any other European nation. But German Greece is not Greece of law and geometry, but Greece of orgies and phallic rites. The philologist Friedrich Kreutzer succeeded in proving that Greece is an offshoot of the Orient, and all its myths originate in the East. Hence the core of Westernity is Oriental. From this position, the German tradition competed for the definition of Westernity, mostly from an inferior position, which led to wild outbursts of violence.
Hence, a comment is requested regarding the same “German tradition”. If the German tradition in understanding Western culture, as described here, does exist, contemporary German culture is not the most convenient site to expose it. Germany is very German, and yet alienates its Germanism. Germany, one might say, is afraid of its own shadow, that is, afraid of that shady German side facing the Enlightenment project. Most of the young Germans I knew did not want to hear the names of Heidegger, Junger, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Schegel and Herder – all those thinkers identified with the “reactionary tradition of German romance.” In the language lessons of the Goethe Institute they will not be taught, their names will not be mentioned. In fact, even Goethe’s name is barely mentioned in the Goethe Institute: it’s much better to talk about football, business and the European Union.
Needless to say, it is no wonder that the “German tradition” is being treated with suspicion. In the demonstrations of the left in Germany, the slogan: “Torture-Murder-Deportation – Das ist deutsche Tradition!” (What can be translated as: “Torture-murder-mass exile – this is a German tradition!) While the French tradition of the Enlightenment came to a dead end, what I called here” German tradition “ended in catastrophe. Which developed within the framework of the German tradition, were largely eliminated after the defeat, this is because many of the last generation who had faith in this tradition dipped their hands to the elbows in Nazi politics.
And yet, there is nothing in the German tradition that is necessarily Nazi. Very little connection between the romantic poet Novalis and Adolf Eichmann, or between Caspar David Friedrich and Auschwitz. Hannah Arendt, followed by Zygmunt Bauman, have been good at showing that the extermination industry was a product of modernity and rationalism, far more than they scored from the mists of the German psyche.
In contrast, the German tradition is very creative and useful, and is especially necessary at the present moment. But its treasures are buried under the greatest disgrace in history. And the stain will not soon be erased.
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