Photo Courtesy of George Grosz

May 5, 2016

THE E’ER INSCRUTABLE | Neuropa: Baldr’s Nightmare

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“Regret de n’être pas Atlas, de ne pouvoir secouer les épaules pour assister à l’écroulement de cette risible matière… La rage suit le chemin inverse de la cosmogonie. Par quels mystères nous éveillons-nous certains matins avec la soif de démolir l’ensemble inerte et vivant?” -Emil Cioran, Précis de décomposition

Oddly enough, the last article in the 1916 series was not the last article I would write as a Cornell freshman. Mehercule, what fun! View, I pity-pretty-pray you, one reader and a half, this article as a 1916 post-script, a love-letter doused in kerosene.

There is an assumption that autocracy ineluctably entails the unlimited application of state-sponsored or state-driven violence. Against whom this violence should be directed is egal: dissenters or students, ethnicities or undesired adherents, etcetera, etcetera. The greatest autocracy of all, however, is the pickiest, the most fastidious, like the vulture who plucks its plumage free of the grime of carrion. The greatest autocrat is the he/she/collective it whose atrocities are the most frugal, the most nonchalant, the most blasé and the most “necessary,” not the bloodiest.

In a 1941 sociological treatise, W.E.B. Du Bois coined a neologism which sticks on my tongue like the Eucharist: Neuropa. Neuropa, Neuropa, oh whence didst thou come?

Neuropa is hair-precise and oligarchic wordplay, as much a state of mind as a physical space. This, Du Bois claimed, was Hitler’s New World Order, the continent and worldwide periphery of which he wished to be the herald. Beyond the treaded-out commonalities of Herrenvolk propaganda, state-sanctioned eradication of unemployment and Kraft durch Freude lay the outlines of what the 20th century’s perfect government was destined to be: autocratic technocracy. Neuropa far surpassed the dogmatic designs of the Nazis.

The apparati of state power were to be systematized, fitted out with mechanical charm, and applied with alternate benevolence and fanatical, pinpointed hatred on the body politic. The state would no longer be a political organization, but an economic one. The “rugged individualism” of Anglo enterprise would be dead, buried: the greatest struggles of the age were to be decided by the “question as to how much of human action must by the laws of science be subject to scientific control,” says Du Bois.

Francis Fukuyama would have me believe that history is ending or has essentially ended. No more Soviet Bloc, universal lib-democracy, whoop-dee-doo, Homo Sapiens is become Homo Turpis + Homo Torpens. God(s) create(s) scientific capitalism, capitalism eats God(s), communism-melanoma bubbles out of capitalism, communism-melanoma makes love to capitalism, end of history? Yes, apparently. Droll; a blank slate is left for Neuropa to stretch its feelers.

The greatest fact of history is the application of violence. The proles and fat Trimalchios do not baffle one another over the means of production, no, no. Sit down Karl. They scurry over who gets to wield the cudgel. Soft power is the hangman sipping Coca-Cola.

Western liberal democracy is Neuropa’s English-speaking clone, an aping of the German model aping the Russian model: “Pushed by her suffering [Anglo-America] she realizes that whenever and however peace comes, the control of industry by the state, to a much larger degree is going to be patterned after autocratic technocracy as in Germany…”. Neuropa Ground Zero is the heady Lend-Lease union snaking across the Pond ca. 1939-1945, a humanitarian effort spearheaded by the Star-Spangled Department of Old World Meddling.

Universal lib-democracy is not the inevitable result of human evolution, and I am frankly insulted that you would suggest such a thing. As W.H. Auden is my witness:

“I have watched through a window a World that is fallen,

The mating and malice of men and beasts,

The corporate greed of quiet vegetation,

And the homesick little obstinate sobs

Of things thrown into being.” -Age of Anxiety

I would happily forget all this if I could, that I live on a planet rendered essentially tame by Terror, revolutionary, counter-revolutionary, red, white, black-shirted. Behind universal lib-democracy lies the same threat of violence as before, though now self-deceiving, professing its best intentions, scientifically calibrated to assure the highest standard of living to the highest number of people.

Yet still, there are those who slip through the cracks, or cancerous growths who must be dealt with. Human life is no more valuable today than it has ever been; we are merely less audacious in taking it, and far less humane about this than we have ever been.

Heaven is uneasy, its golden child Baldr has been having baleful dreams, so down rides Wotan into Hel to the Völva seeress. His blood of immortal nectar shall yet glow, she tells the Wanderer in disguise and under a false name, he shall yet be slain.

And so he is. The gods hurls projectiles at the so-beloved youth, invulnerable by the doting of a goddess, until blind Hödr slips a sprig of mistletoe into his breast on the poisoned beckoning of Loki.

A grand old comfort, then, to reflect on the notion that Neuropa only needs the occasional bloodletting. Thomas Jefferson, tree of liberty needs its morning bowl of blood, FDR, Arsenal of Democracy, Hillary Rodham Clinton, we came, we saw, he died (oh my!). The end of history is only the end of directly acknowledging Terror, knowing that it is not Thunor who hurls the thunder, but a drone pilot slapping himself on the knee with a rolled-up wad of human rights violations. Vomit.

Neuropa must unmask itself. Humanism cannot have it both ways. I refuse to be told that there is Jubilee in a global village, in a world without borders, that all men are created equal and are being made equal, but that there can still be such hand-wringing over death. If killing is an inhuman act, as it is for 21st century Neuropa, then one must merely be inhuman to be killed. This is not so very hard; one is never the one judging one’s own humanity.

As for me, I,

“… [my] hands [I shall wash] not, | [my] hair [I shall comb] not,

Till [I bear] to the bale-blaze | Baldr’s foe.” -Völuspá