Sunday, November 09, 2014

I offer you struggle, danger and death

"Review of Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler" by George Orwell (March 1940) (note how much this is exactly like today's United States, where the only two available jobs are prison guard or soldier):
"What he envisages, a hundred years hence, is a continuous state of 250 million Germans with plenty of “living room” (i.e. stretching to Afghanistan or thereabouts), a horrible brainless empire in which, essentially, nothing ever happens except the training of young men for war and the endless breeding of fresh cannon-fodder. How was it that he was able to put this monstrous decision across?"
and:
". . . he has grasped the falsity of the hedonistic attitude to life. Nearly all western thought since the last war, certainly all “progressive” thought, has assumed tacitly that human beings desire nothing beyond ease, security and avoidance of pain. In such a view of life there is no room, for instance, for patriotism and the military virtues. The Socialist who finds his children playing with soldiers is usually upset, but he is never able to think of a substitute for the tin soldiers; tin pacifists somehow won’t do. Hitler, because in his own joyless mind he feels it with exceptional strength, knows that human beings don’t only want comfort, safety, short working-hours, hygiene, birth-control and, in general, common sense; they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice, not to mention drums, flags and loyalty-parades. However they may be as economic theories, Fascism and Nazism are psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life. The same is probably true of Stalin’s militarized version of Socialism. All three of the great dictators have enhanced their power by imposing intolerable burdens on their peoples. Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people “I offer you a good time,” Hitler has said to them “I offer you struggle, danger and death,” and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet. Perhaps later on they will get sick of it and change their minds, as at the end of the last war. After a few years of slaughter and starvation “Greatest happiness of the greatest number” is a good slogan, but at this moment “Better an end with horror than a horror without end” is a winner. Now that we are fighting against the man who coined it, we ought not to underrate its emotional appeal."
"The War Nerd: Crunching numbers on Kobane":
"The rules of that war are very different. Imagine you’re a young guy sitting at a café in, say, Tunis.

    There are no jobs in Tunis. There isn’t much that connects you to anyone, except Islam, which—in theory—unites all Muslims in friendship. It doesn’t work that way in practice, of course, as Muslims from poor countries find when they take jobs in the Gulf—and Lord, do they get mad!–but it’s still the only cheerful idea in your world, as you sit there nursing a coffee all day.

    Imagine being that guy, and jihad doesn’t seem like such a crazy idea. You don’t even have to imagine being a Tunisian; I can give you an All-American example from the other side of the fight in Kobane. Jordan Matson, a 28-year old American, joined the YPG after getting out of the US Army and ending up doing night shifts in a meat-packing plant.

    I’m not pretending that YPG and IS are morally equal. They’re not. YPG is a secular, gender-neutral local militia defending its home town against fucking monsters, and IS is the monster in question, one of the vilest groups around. But the life-story, the motives, the experiences, of Jordan Matson and the average Tunisian recruit aren’t that different. Jihad, on either side, beats graveyard shift in Wisconsin or unemployment in Tunis.

    So if you’re that potential IS recruit in Tunis, you’re watching the news from Kobane, but you’re watching it your way. You don’t worry too much about the atrocity stories coming out about IS. Young men have a great tolerance, let us say, for such things. In fact, many of them have a great deal more than tolerance—something more like enthusiasm, and I speak from my own embarrassing experience of a celibate adolescence.

    As for sex slavery, it can look very different, if you’re a celibate young man sitting in a Tunis café with no job, than it looks to a New York Times pundit. As William Butler Yeats said a century ago, noting the, er, unusual eagerness of young Irish Catholic males to get themselves killed fighting better-trained and –armed regulars, celibate young men raised in sex-segregated environments get very excited at the idea of war and martyrdom. My hand is the first to be raised here, my old bald head blushing. I’m not one of those old “bald heads forgetful of their sins” that Yeats described; I remember my sins all too well, even if they were mostly imagined. And the average young man in Tunis or Riyadh has been raised in an atmosphere every bit as devout and celibate as the one which forged the martyrs of Yeats’s Ireland.

    If you really want to venture into this territory—and it’s very, very embarrassing territory, believe me—you should read an amazing book called Male Fantasies.

    The author is an annoying German academic, and the writing is tedious as Hell, but the idea is amazing: A look at the fantasies about women that motivated the young men who joined the Freikorps, the volunteer military forces of Weimar-era Germany. The book argues, in its slow, earnest German way, that these fantasies are ordinary, but very creepy, male ideas leading direct from dumb-ass dreams about girls, to the fatal decision to march off with the Freikorps. And if you were to look for a 21st version of the Freikorps…Ladies and gents, may I present Islamic State?"
"ISIS and the Real Reason Why Young Muslim Men Join the Jihad"
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