Monday, October 22, 2007

Raving Germanophobia*

Mr. Michael Knox Beran really, really dislikes Prussia. I'm stunned that anyone in 2007 can even manage hatred toward Otto von Bismarck. I wonder if Mr. Beran grew up in Alsace, or has Austrian blood, or something. Maybe he sat on one of those spiked helmets as a child? Whatever; but this is truly heartfelt hatred on display.
Yet Otto von Bismarck was in his own way a character quite as demoniacal as Gottfried, only he enacted his Walpurgisnacht yearnings on a much grander scale.
Well, what did Gottfried, Otto's great-great-grandson, do, and let's compare the men:
The count, who was 44, died of what the newspapers reported as one of the largest cocaine overdoses on record; the pathologist said that the amount of cocaine in Gottfried’s blood was “the highest” he had “ever seen.”
A post-mortem revealed that he had consumed morphine as well as cocaine, that he had a damaged liver, and that he suffered from Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and an HIV infection.
in August 2006 a reveler at what the coroner described as a “gay orgy” in the Count’s flat perished when he plunged from a rooftop garden.
On the one hand, gay orgies, massive infections, damaged organs, drug use at Keith Richards levels; on the other hand:
The Iron Chancellor fantasized that he was a bomb; confessed himself capable of lying awake through a whole night “hating”; and spoke of the “brutal sensuality” and “depraved fantasy” that led him “so close to the greatest sins.”
Er, right. Apparently Otto imagined doing some awful things, which, I think we can all agree, is precisely the same as doing horrible things. Oh yes, on that point only a fool could disagree.

Otto von Bismarck was instrumental in the political and military rise of Prussia and the unification of the German states. You see, after the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire, Germany didn't exist. Separate states existed, relatively weak when compared against the powerful empires of the early 19th centuries: France, Austria, and Russia being just the most uncomfortably close of them. When Napoleon failed to take over Europe, the great powers feared that one of them would become too powerful again, especially France (yes, people were once afraid of France! What a time to have been alive.), so they took a number of precautions. One precaution was making sure that Austria effectively controlled the German states, so they could be used as a shield to stop any other powers from getting out of line. Prussia, the largest, most culturally and intellectually developed, and most ambitious of the German states, was rather annoyed at having its fellow Germans under foreign rule. In a series of wars in the middle of the 19th century, culminating in the Austro-Prussian War, Prussia took more and more territory, humiliated the Austrians, and united the German states. Bismarck was one of the big movers behind this.

Quite a different picture from what Mr. Beran paints:
he struck at the heart of the dream of the middle and professional classes in Germany when he set out to crush the free institutions they were busily assembling.
Prussia was always in danger of becoming another highway for an ambitious leader trying to invade Russia. Further, the state of Europe was simply insulting to the Germans - they were pawns, doing nothing more than providing a shield for Austria. Otto offered independence and German unity. I see parallels in the colonial struggle against English rule in the late 18th century, but it's a bit of a stretch, so I won't press the analogy. I, for one, don't find moral equivalence to be a virtue.
his governing philosophy, which combined blood-and-soil nationalism with coercive social-welfare programs, prepared the way for a host of unsavory creeds, most notably the National Socialism of Adolf Hitler.
Look, this is positively Randian. Kant did not create Hitler; nor did Bismarck. This conclusion is dishonest and offensive. Bismarck instigated wars, sure; but those wars were designed and had the effect of asserting Prussian (and later German) power against empires who would have consumed Germany otherwise. Bismarck never went to the lengths of a Napoleon to take over all Europe, he just fought enough to secure the unity of Germany and annex territories on its borders, territory that arguably was German by right. So let's drop this phony connection.

Hiding behind this article might be a conflation of Prussia circa 1870 with Germany circa 1914. I don't know if the author has made this mistake, because he may just hate Prussia on the merits, but it's worthwhile to compare the two. The wars Prussia fought were, as I said, done mostly for the sake of unification and independence. But when Kaiser Wilhelm II took the throne, he (and some in the German elite) wanted more. They wanted, among other things, to get into the colonial game, and they acquired that impulse rather late, so that any colonial ambitions would inevitably lead to direct conflict with other European powers. And Bernhardi and his ilk were even more ambitious - they saw it as Germany's destiny to take over Europe. The warmongering and bogus racial theories of the Nazis were finally being formed in the German mind around this time, and it would not be a logical leap to connect that era's way of thinking with the Nazis'.

No one said Germany was perfect. Nor was Prussia. But let's not find Hitler in every little corner of German history.

* "-phobia" is a terrible and incorrect way to express hatred, but there it is. Just like homophobes don't fear things that are the same, Germanophobes don't fear what is German. But I can use only the words we've got.


At 2:35 AM, October 23, 2007 , Blogger Nick Milne said...

I've always been intrigued by "Islamophobic," myself, as the people who actually are afraid of Islam are also the only people who never get labelled as such. It strikes me as being distinctly inaccurate.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home