April 18, 2008

The anarch: own ideas vs popular ideas

Martin Venator, or Manuel, the protagonist and exemplary anarch of Ernst Jünger’s novel Eumeswil often compares his own attitude and conduct with that of his father and brother. Both relatives are historians like Martin, but neither are anarchs. In the following passage, Jünger contrasts Martin’s attitude to public and personal opinion with his father’s, in order to illustrate the intellectual independence of the anarch.
“I can count my dear old dad among the eunuchs, the speechifiers. It is impossible for us to have a conversation about facts without his puffing it up with social and economic platitudes and spicing it up with moralisms he derives from them. Saying what everyone else says is a delight for him. He comes out with things like, ‘ I am simply expressing the public opinion.’ And he actually plumes himself on such things. A journalist, even though he disagrees with the current editorials. ‘ He is controversial’ – for him, as for all eunuchs, that is a put-down. The exact opposite of an anarch; God bless him – but why is he a historian?” (Eumeswil, page 246)
COMMENTARY
As opposed to a “speechifier” like Martin’s father, an anarch does not judge himself morally in relation to society, in relation to what “they” think and say. An anarch stands on his own two feet practically, intellectually and, as far as possible, spiritually. He creates and lives by his own understanding of the world, which may or may not coincide with public or popular opinion. Unlike spiritually and intellectually impotent eunuchs like his father and brother, it is perfectly irrelevent to anarchs like Martin whether his views are controversial or unpopular – except in as much as their public expression may jeopardize his physical safety or interfere with personal goals, in which case he may need to disguise them or express them selectively. Above all, he is concerned that his views are truly his own, even if this means he stands alone and unknown in this position. As quoted earlier, the anarch can live alone, as opposed to the anarchist who needs society - and of course the normal citizen who has no independent own-view and thus automatically shares the common view. Being popular is of no concern, being true to himself is everything to the anarch.
Although he is not opposed in principle to popular views, his own independently and organically evolved world view will often be in opposition to them, partly by the simple logic that what is popular reflects the lowest common denominator, and partly by the fact that any truly individual understanding of the world will naturally have its own unique life and form and thus at least partially be in opposition to other views, especially popular ones. Indeed, when the anarch perceives that one of his own ideas closely mirrors a popular perception, he will doubt the authenticity of his own view, will suspect that it may derive from foreign contamination of his being, and he will thus subject it to a rigorous examination.
As far as possible, the anarch deals in facts, he attempts to live in a real and not an imagined world, however unanimously believed those common illusions may be. Although for reasons of personal security and intellectual growth he attempts to understand and stay abreast of the particular world view by which his society lives, he does not believe in that view and, practically speaking, goes along with it only as far is that essentially foreign line of behaviour benefits him.

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