Leon Lemmer: Oswald Spengler oor die Amerikaners en die blankedom

Oswald Spengler

Oswald Spengler (1880-1936) was ‘n Duitse historikus wat veral bekendheid verwerf het vanweë sy boek wat in Engels bekend staan as The decline of the West, volume 1: Form and actuality, 1918, volume 2, Perspectives of world history, 1922 (London: Allen & Unwin, 1926, 1928). ‘n Latere boek van hom, wat glad nie so bekend is nie, is in 1933 in Duits gepubliseer en daarna in Engels as The hour of decision (London: Allen & Unwin, 1934). In hierdie rubriek beperk ek my aandag tot hierdie werk.

Selfs in Charles Francis Atkinson se vertaling kom Spengler se ritmies-wiegende skryfstyl na vore sodat sy werke steeds met genot gelees kan word. Wat deurgaans in gedagte gehou moet word, is dat Spengler hierdie teks voltooi het toe die opkoms van Adolf Hitler en Nasionale Sosialisme pas begin het. Waarom hierdie boek relatief onbekend is, is seker omdat Spengler ‘n (nasionalisties-Duitse)* perspektief op ander lande soos Amerika, Brittanje, Frankryk en selfs Duitsland bied wat nie altyd vleiend is nie. Die boek is deur die Nazi’s verbied. Ek gebruik die elektroniese weergawe in die Timeless Wisdom Collection (2016; Amazon Kindle $1,13) wat Spengler se genoemde twee werke bevat, asook nog een van sy hoofwerke, Prussianism and socialism (1919), wat gebaseer is op aantekeninge wat nie in sy hoofwerk neerslag gevind het nie. Om teen betaling van skaars ‘n dollar met ‘n groot gees soos Spengler as ‘t ware te kan wandel, is sekerlik ‘n winskoop.

[* “Germany is the key country” (23781). “It is of Germany that I am speaking here. Germany … whose existence is, in the most alarming sense of the word, at stake” (23806). Daarmee loop hy op ‘n merkwaardige manier die Tweede Wêreldoorlog vooruit. Later skryf Spengler van “the greatest of all dangers, the coloured menace … it will require every bit of ‘race’ that is still available among white nations to deal with it. Germany, of all countries, is not an island … It is but a small spot in a great, fermenting world, though undoubtedly a spot in a decisive position. But it alone has Prussianism as a fact within itself. With this treasure of exemplary Being it may become the ‘educator’ of the ‘white’ world, and perhaps its saviour” (26314). “What is needed is not a pure race, but a strong one, which has a nation within it” (26509). Die teenoorgestelde is tans besig om te gebeur. Angela Merkel word klaarblyklik deur ‘n oormaat van historiese skuldgevoelens gedryf wanneer sy miljoene immigrante uit die Derde Wêreld in Duitsland toelaat. Duitsland kan mettertyd die sleutel blyk te wees van die ondergang van die blanke beskawing in Europa; die teenoorgestelde van waarop Spengler gehoop het.]

“It is the task of the historical expert (in the true sense) to understand the facts of his time and through them to envisage, interpret, and delineate the future” (23701). Dit is wat Spengler inderdaad doen wanneer hy skryf: “The national revolution of 1933 was a mighty phenomenon” (23709). “There are already signs, in the dictatorial tendencies of our time, of this Caesarism, which is destined to assume the unlimited mastery over the ruins of historical tradition” (14272). Hy kom met hierdie raak voorspelling: “We stand, it may be, close before a second world war” (23773). Maar Spengler is nie altyd beskeie nie: “I see further than others” (23756). “I write not for a few months ahead or for next year, but for the future” (23765).

“All … nations of the world have inherited a character from their past” (23748). Sy fokus is op die blankes wêreldwyd: “To see the immensity of the danger which looms over this mass of peoples” (23790). Traditioneel was “the world powers … without exception European powers” (24114). “Today the form of the world is being remoulded from its foundations … The age is mighty, but all the more diminutive are the people in it” (23987). Die tydsgees “detests every kind of greatness, everything that towers, rules, is superior; and construction means for it only the pulling-down of all the products of civilization, of the State, of society, to the level of little people, above which its pitiful emotionalism cannot soar to understand” (23932). “The primeval barbarism … is awake again” (23995).

Oor die Britte skryf Spengler profeties: “The island England … has never quite regarded herself as part of Europe” (24083) en “England gained her wealth by battles and not by bookkeeping and speculation” (24330). Hy skryf van “France, whose capital is in process of becoming a historic sight, like Vienna and Florence, and like Athens in Roman times” (24711). Klemens Metternich (1773-1859) word soos volg aangehaal: “My private belief is that the old Europe is at the beginning of its end … The new Europe … is still in the state of becoming; between end and beginning there will be chaos” (24106). Maar ek beperk my aandag in hierdie rubriek aanvanklik tot wat hy oor die Amerikaners en Amerika skryf. Om Amerikaansheid te verwoord, is sekerlik nie maklik nie, maar Spengler slaag in uitnemende mate daarin.

“Is the United States a power with a future? … dollars must not be taken to represent the spiritual strength and depth of the people to whom they belong; neither must sport be confused with race-soundness nor business intelligence with spirit and mind. What is ‘hundred per cent Americanism’? A mass existence standardized to a low average level, a primitive pose, or a promise for the future? All we know is that so far there is neither a real nation nor a real State … The American does not talk of State or Mother Country like the Englishman, but of ‘this country’. Actually what it amounts to is a boundless field and a population of trappers, drifting from town to town in the dollar-hunt, unscrupulous and dissolute; for the law is only for those who are not cunning or powerful enough to ignore it” (24610).

“Life is organized exclusively from the economic side and consequently lacks depth, all the more because it contains nothing of that element of historic tragedy, of great destiny, that has widened and chastened the soul of Western peoples through the centuries. Their religion, originally a strict form of Puritanism, has become a sort of obligatory entertainment, and the War was a novel sport. And there is the same dictatorship there as in Russia (it does not matter that it is imposed by society instead of a party), affecting everything – flirtation and church-going, shoes and lipstick, dances and novels á la mode, thought, food, and recreation – that in the Western world is left to the option of individuals. There is one standardized type of American, and, above all, American woman, in body, clothes, and mind” (24617).

“There is an almost Russian form of State socialism or State capitalism, represented by the mass of trusts, which, like the Russian economic administrations, systematically standardize and control every detail of production and marketing. These are the real lords of the land in both cases. It is the Faustian [ie Western] will-to-power, but translated from organic growth to soulless mechanization. Dollar-imperialism, which pervades the whole of [the] America[s] down to Santiago and Buenos Aires and seeks to undermine and eliminate West-European (and, above all, English) trade, entirely analogous in its control of economic trends by political power to Bolshevik imperialism. The Bolshevik motto: ‘Asia for Asiatics’, too, corresponds in principle to the present-day conception of the Monroe Doctrine* for Latin America – namely, all America for the economic power of the United States. This is the ultimate meaning of the founding of ‘independent’ republics like Cuba and Panama, of the intervention in Nicaragua and the overthrow by the might of the dollar of unaccommodating presidents right down to the extreme South” (24630).

[* “The Americas for Americans.” Die Monroe-leerstelling: “Declaration by US president James Monroe [1758-1831, president 1817-1825] in 1823 that the USA would not tolerate any European nation trying to establish a colony in the Americas, and that any attempt to do so would be regarded as a threat to US peace and security. At the same time, several European countries were proposing to intervene in former Spanish and Portuguese colonies in Latin and South America, and Russia was attempting to extend its Alaskan territories into Oregon country. In return for the cessation of such European ambitions, the USA would not intervene in European affairs” (Collins World Encyclopedia, 2003, p 622). In sy hoedanigheid as die Amerikaanse ambassadeur in Parys het Monroe in 1803 die aankoop van die Franse Louisiana-kolonie vir $15 miljoen suksesvol onderhandel. Hierdie Louisiana-kolonie het uit die volgende agt hedendaagse Amerikaanse state bestaan: Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Suid- en Noord-Dakota. Alaska, die grootste VSA-staat, is in 1867 vir $7,2 miljoen van Rusland gekoop. Die aankoop van al hierdie state is in ooreenstemming met die Monroe-leerstelling, wat ook deels verklaar waarom Amerika aanvanklik huiwerig was om by die twee wêreldoorloë betrokke te raak.]

“The United States has … become a leading element in international politics … Is the ‘Yankee’* equal to this difficult task? Does he stand for an indestructible kind of life or is he only a fashion in physical, mental, and moral clothing? And, moreover, how many inhabitants of the country are there who inwardly do not belong to this ruling Anglo-Saxon type? Quite apart from the Negroes, the immigrants during the twenty years before the [First World] War included – with only a small portion of Germans, English, and Scandinavians – no less than fifteen million Poles, Russians, Czechs, Balkan Slavs, Eastern Jews, Greeks, inhabitants of Asia Minor, Spaniards, and Italians. The greater part of these have not been incorporated in Americanism, but form an alien, foreign-thinking, and very prolific proletariat” (24645). Sedert die jare sestig word voorkeur aan immigrante uit die Derde Wêreld, insluitende Moslems, gegee wat uiteraard nog moeiliker, indien ooit, in die tradisionele Anglo-Saksiese sin veramerikaans. [* Yankee is die tradisionele naam vir die Amerikaanse Noorderlinge en Dixie vir die Suiderlinge.]

“In the ‘Land of Liberty’ there is only the resolve of free men to help themselves – the revolver in the hip-pocket is an American invention – but this form of defence is as freely available for those in possession as for the rest. Only a short time ago the farmers in Iowa besieged a few towns and threatened them with starvation if they did not buy their products at a decent price. Not many years since, anyone using the word ‘revolution’ in connection with this country would have been called an idiot. Today such ideas are quite in order. What will the masses of the unemployed do – I repeat, the majority are not ‘hundred per cent Americans’ – when their sources of relief are exhausted and there is no State support because there is no organized State with exact and honest statistics and control of those in want? Will they fall back on their fists and their common economic interests with the underworld? And will the intellectually primitive upper class, obsessed as it is by the thought of money, reveal all at once, in face of this danger, dormant moral forces that will lead to the real construction of a State and to spiritual preparedness to sacrifice possessions and blood to it, instead of regarding war as a means of gaining wealth as hitherto? Or will the special economic interests of individual areas still pull the most weight and, as once before in 1861, lead to the disintegration of the country into separate states?(24659).

Spengler se weersin in geldgierigheid kan onder meer biografies verklaar word. Hy het jare lank danksy ‘n klein erfporsie in beskeie omstandighede en met groot toewyding navorsing gedoen en boeke geskryf. Telkens het hy professorate wat hom aangebied is geweier omdat hy sy roeping wou vervul: om ‘n filosofie van die geskiedenis daar te stel wat nie bloot versigtig-vertolkend te werk gaan nie maar so getrou moontlik die toekoms probeer voorspel. Hy het die Amerikaanse samelewing as geestelik vlak beskou, dat hulle bv nie tragedie ken nie, omdat hulle nie in dieselfde mate as die Europeërs ‘n eeue oue tradisie van geakkumuleerde ervaring en kulturele dieptegang het nie.

Daar is eienskappe in die Amerikaanse samelewing wat bewonderingswaardig is. Die VSA het egter ook kenmerke wat ‘n mens negatief en selfs sinies kan stem. Wat onder meer nodig is, is om tussen die Amerikaanse regering en Amerikaners te onderskei. Daar is Amerikaanse individue wat die sout van die aarde is. Toegepas op die nuwe Suid-Afrika moet duidelik tussen die ANC-regering en Suid-Afrikaners, veral die blankes en by uitstek die Afrikaners, onderskei word. Byvoorbeeld, wanneer gesê word Suid-Afrika het sus of so gesê of gestem in die Verenigde Nasies, weerspieël dit dikwels nie die gesonde mening van Afrikaners nie. Wat veel eerder telkens bevestig word, is dat die Suid-Afrikaanse blankes, insluitende die Afrikaners, sedert 1994 onverdiend onder ondoeltreffende vreemde oorheersing gebuk gaan en dat Afrikaners hulle vir verandering/transformasie moet beywer pleks van gedwee in onderdanigheid te berus.

Vir Spengler het dit nie net om die Amerikaners gegaan nie, maar eerder om die blankedom. Daarom moet ek in aansluiting by die derde paragraaf hier bo verder hierop uitbrei. Hy begin die eerste en inleidende deel van sy boek, The hour of decision, met hierdie akkurate toekomsvisie: “Is there today a man among the White races who has eyes to see what is going on around him on the face of the globe? To see the immensity of the danger which looms over this mass of peoples?” (23790). Daar volg hierdie steeds aktuele waarheid: “Not a statesman, not a party, hardly even a political thinker is today in a safe enough position to speak the truth” (23971). Deesdae neem dit dikwels die vorm van politieke korrektheid aan. Ek kies vervolgens hoofsaaklik aanhalings waarin steeds aktuele betekenis ingelees kan word.

Die tweede deel van die boek handel oor “World powers and world wars.” “Peace … is the continuation of war with different means” (24189). Dink aan bv die ras- en kultuuroorlog wat wêreldwyd teen die blankes gevoer word. “Die nasie” in die 1789-sin van die woord word ‘n wensbeeld genoem (24225). Spengler se siening van gelykheid is naatloos toepasbaar op die nuwe Suid-Afrika: “Equality” beteken “substitution of quantity for the detested quality, and of number for the coveted talent” (24242). “What matters numbers? It only tyrannized over the past century, which bowed the knee to quantity. A man means a great deal as opposed to a mass of slavish souls, pacifists and world-improvers” (24511). Politieke “representatives … have no intention whatever of ‘serving the people’; they intend to make the people serve them” (24242). “The white world is governed primarily by idiots – if it is governed at all, which one is entitled to doubt” (25957). Die volgende is toepasbaar op die ANC: “The substitution of party for State” (24439).

Die derde deel van die boek het as onderwerp “The white world-revolution.” Naas die dreigende wêreldoorlog is daar “the far more dangerous second part of this revolution … the whites in general are under attack by the collective mass of the ‘coloured’ population of the earth, which is slowly becoming conscious of its community” (24785). “The hatred … is piling up among all the coloured populations of the world against the whole white civilization” (25236). “Nothing is a better welder than hate” (25489). “Mob-rule” word as “the worst thing of all” genoem (24820). Met watter soort meningsvormers (dink aan bv die anti-tradisie-dogmas van Max du Preez) het ons deesdae te make? “It is no longer the thrifty deep wisdom of old peasant families, which remains true as long as the stock to which it belongs endures, but the mere intelligence of the day, of the daily papers, ephemeral literature, and national assemblies, the bloodless intellect whose criticism gnaws away everything that is left standing of the genuine – that is, the naturally grown – Culture” (24868).

Spengler keer terug na die kwessie van gelykheid. Hierdie keer is hy meer uitgesproke. “Society rests upon the inequality of men. That is a natural fact … ‘Equal rights’ are contrary to nature, are an indication of the departure from type of ageing societies, are the beginning of their irrevocable decline. It is a piece of intellectual stupidity to want to substitute something else for the social structure that has grown up through the centuries and is fortified by tradition” (24922).

Ons word deesdae alewig aan menswaardigheid herinner, maar so iets moet met eerbare substansie verdien word. “Everything that we call duty, the basis of all genuine rights, the original substance of every sort of dignity, may be traced back to honour” (24893). In talle beroepe is daar mense wat eer verdien. “Those who have it not, those who ‘see no point in’ maintaining the decencies vis-à-vis themselves as well as others, are ‘vulgar.’ This is the opposite of nobility, according to the code of every true society … all instinct for superior living and feeling has been lost and the public manners of all ‘classes’ and ‘parties’ are equally debased” (24900). Dit is wat ek voorheen die brutalisering van die samelewing genoem het.

“A mushy desire for revenge for some bad luck that has spoilt their lives, the absence of any instinct of honour and duty, and an unlimited thirst for money without work and for rights without responsibilities bring them together. It is from this befogged milieu that the heroes of the moment of all popular movements and Radical parties arise. Here the word ‘Liberty’ takes on the bloody significance that it has in the declining ages. What is meant is: liberation from all the bonds of civilization, from every kind of form and custom, from all the people whose mode of life they feel in their dull fury to be superior. Pride and quietly borne poverty, silent fulfilment of duty, renunciation for the sake of a task or conviction, greatness in enduring one’s fate, loyalty, honour, responsibility, achievement: all this is a constant reproach to the ‘humiliated and insulted.’ For, once more be it said, the opposite of noble is not poor, but vulgar” (24937). “The place of class was to be taken by that which has no class” (25146).

“The ideal of class war is, as we all know, an overthrow. Not the construction of anything new, but the destruction of what exists. It is an aim without a future. It is the will-to-nothing” (25480). “The work-shy rabble were in power, and not the working class” (25223). Dit is ‘n “fool’s paradise of all the poor and wretched, who more and more came to be identified with ‘the worker'” (25464). Dit gaan om “happiness of the many, which consists in happily doing nothing … and perpetual peace in which to enjoy it, free from the anxiety and responsibility; but also, and primarily, with typical revolutionary bad taste, the opprtunity of gloating over the unhappiness of the few, of the once mighty, the wise, the aristocratic, and the rich” (25489).

“Hardly a party now dares to suggest that it represents any other section of the nation but the ‘worker.’ Whether from cowardice or from hope of successes at the poll, they treat him almost without exception as a privileged class. In all countries they have succeeded in demoralizing him, turning him into a most exacting, discontented, and therefore unhappy creature,* putting him in the melting-pot with the rabble of the streets to produce a like-minded unit, a ‘class,’ to breed from him the type of the proletarian in spirit – which by the mere fact of its existence guarantees revolutionary success, which despises industriousness and achievement as a betrayal of the ‘cause,’ and whose highest ambition it is to become a leader of the masses and pillar of the Revolution” (25580). “Thus the ‘worker,’ who according to the Marxian doctrine is the only one who works, has become … the one who works the least” (25655). “‘The worker’ has become a pensioner of society and of the nation” (25707). “There is work for which only a few men of superior rank are competent, and other work which is valuable only in terms of duration and volume. Whichever it is, one is born to it. That is fate. It cannot be altered either by Rationalist or by sentimental-romantic equality-talk” (25748). [* Deesdae ‘n slagoffer, benadeelde, gemarginaliseerde, agtergestelde, ens, genoem.]

“The bad manners of all parliaments, the general tendency to connive at a rather shady business transaction if it promises to bring in money without work, jazz and Negro dances as the spiritual outlet in all circles of society, women painted like prostitutes, the efforts of writers to win popularity by ridiculing in their novels and plays the correctness of well-bred people, and the bad taste shown even by the nobility and old princely families in throwing off every kind of social restraint and time-honoured custom: all of these go to prove that it is now the vulgar mob that gives the tone” (24961). Wat hulle doen is “unchaining the hatred that burns to destroy, the envy of everything that is not available to all, that is prominent and must be pulled down. Not only tradition and custom, but every kind of refinement – beauty, grace, taste in dress, easy good manners, elegance of speech, control of one’s limbs, education and self-discipline – irritate the vulgar soul till its blood boils. A finely formed face, the light and dainty step of a slim foot on the pavement, are contradictions of democracy … even the delight in a well-kept garden of flowers and rare fruits are things to be burnt, smashed, or stamped out. [High] Culture, because of its superiority, is the enemy. Its creations cannot be understood or unwardly assimilated; because they are not available for all they must be annihilated” (24967).

“It occurs to no one to educate the masses to the level of true culture … the structure of society is to be levelled down to the standard of the populace. General equality is to reign, everything is to be equally vulgar … Superiority, manners, taste, and every description of inward rank are crimes. Ethical, religious, national ideas, marriage for the sake of children,* the family, State authority: all these are old-fashioned and reactionary”(24974). “In all such times there is a priest-rabble which drags the dignity and faith of the church through the mud of party politics, allies itself with the revolutionary forces, and, by senstimental talk about loving one’s neighbour and helping the poor, eggs on the underworld to set about destroying the social order – that order with which the church is irrevocably and fatally bound up” (25344). [* Dit moet nie verbaas nie as die NG Kerk by monde van ontbybelde teoloë soos André Bartlett en Chris Jones eerdaags verskoning vra omdat Moedernatuur so harteloos is deur nie selfdegeslag-huweliksmaats met selfverwekte kinders te seën nie. “Ontbybelde” omdat hulle beter as die Bybel weet.]

Volgens Spengler word “a ripe Culture” aan eiendom gekenmerk. “Let it for once be said outright, though it is a slap in the face for the vulgarity of the age: property is not a vice, but a gift, and a gift such as few possess. For it, too, is the product of long training through generations of distinction” (24990). “I am speaking of property-owning in so far as it implies the tradition of a Culture. It signifies inward superiority, it marks a distinction from whole classes of people” (25006). Watter mense ly aan eiendom- en rykdomjaloesie? “The Marxists, who declare the possesion of any sort of wealth to be criminal and immoral and war upon everything that has this superiority in things of high culture and any who surpass others in the ability to acquire, maintain, and worthily use property, and that from envy of such ability, which they themselves completely lack” (25039). “Marxism is indeed a religion, not in the sense of its founder, but in that which his revolutionary following has imparted to it. Like any church it has its saints, apostles, martyrs, fathers, bible and mission. Like any church it has dogmas, heresy-tribunals, an orthodoxy and a scholasticism, and above all, a popular moral – or rather two, for believers and unbelievers” (25395). “Property means above all responsibility, care and work” (25063). “The desire for other people’s property … was developed into a world outlook and produced appropriate politics from below” (25070). “From this time onward it has been ‘modern’ and superior to see the world from below” (25284), deesdae “voetsoolvlak” genoem. Hieroor skryf Spengler: “To regard the world from below is mean” (25418).

Die laaste deel van die boek handel oor: “The coloured world-revolution.” Die Westerse beskawing word deur twee revolusies bedreig. “The one comes from below, the other from without: class war and race war. The one now lies to a large extent behind us, although its decisive blows – in the Anglo-American zone, for instance – are probably still to come” (26322). “The other first became definite in the [First] World War, and it is rapidly acquiring direction and form … both will fight side by side, possibly as allies: it will be the severest crisis through which the white peoples will have to pass in common – whether united or not – if they intend to have any future” (26322). Hy voorsien klaarblyklik die chaos van bv die Amerikaanse burgerregtebeweging van die jare vyftig en sestig.

Die nie-wittes se revolusie het tydens die Eerste Wêreldoorlog begin toe sommige van hulle as soldate eerstehands ervaar het hoe Westerlinge oorlog voer en gesien het dat blankes nie onoorwinlik is nie. “It was not Germany that lost the World War; the West lost it when it lost the respect of the coloured races” (26399). Die Russies-Japannese Oorlog (1904-1905) “destroyed the aureole of invincibility which surrounded Europe” (26377). “For centuries it was possible to make a systematic defense … [for example] the Roman Empire was an enclosed area with frontiers that could be guarded. The position of the present Imperium of the white nations, which embraces the whole globe and includes the coloured races, is far more difficult. White humanity has scattered itself to all quarters in its ungovernable urge to infinite distance over both Americas, South Africa, Australia and innumerable strategic points between. The Yellow-Brown-Black-Red menace lurks within the field of the white power” (26367).

Die Eerste Wêreldoorlog “was a defeat of the white races, and the Peace of 1918 was the first great triumph of the coloured world: symbolized by the fact that today it is allowed to have a say in the disputes of the white states among themselves in the Geneva League of Nations which is nothing but a miserable symbol of shameful things. That Germans abroad should be ill-treated by coloured people at the orders of English and French was not a surprisingly novel procedure. This method began in the Liberal Revolution of the eighteenth century: in 1775 the English enrolled men of Indian race to attack, burn, and scalp the American republicans, and it should not be forgotten how the Jacobins [the republicans of the French Revolution] mobilized the Negroes of Haiti for the ‘Rights of Man'” (26392).

“The hare may perhaps deceive the fox, but human beings can not deceive each other. The coloured man sees through the white man when he talks about ‘humanity’ and everlasting peace. He scents the other’s unfitness and lack of will to defend himself … We cannot permit ourselves to be tired. Danger is knocking at the door. The coloured race are not pacifists. They do not cling to a life whose length is its sole value. They take up the sword when we lay it down.* Once they feared the white man; now they despise him … they … look down upon the whites as on a thing of yesterday” (26618). [* Is dit nie presies wat in 1990 in Suid-Afrika gebeur het nie?]

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