June 20, 2008

Reality and ideals

"Playing the gentleman here would be possible only for actors; nor would anyone consider doing it anymore. Rather, people, such as my genitor and my brother, feel like martyrs. Half of Eumeswil is inhabited by types who have suffered for an idea or at least claim to have done so. They stood true to the flag, offered heroic resistance – in short, the worn-out military claptrap has reawakened. Upon taking a closer look, one sees that, with rare exceptions, they tried to save their hides just like anybody else. But one turns a blind eye to all that, as long as they do not over-do it.

The anarch sticks to facts, not ideas. He suffers not for facts but because of them, and usually through his own fault, as in a traffic accident. Certainly, there are unforeseeable things – maltreatments. However, I believe I have attained a certain degree of self-distancing that allows me to regard this as an accident.” Eumeswil, Page 113


The anarch, as Ernst Jünger envisions him, is not an idealist but a realist, a student of the world and not a world improver. He does not bemoan reality but attempts to deal with it “as a man”. Thus he concerns himself not with what should be, not with“it would be nice if”, but simply with what is and how to best move within those given constraints. The anarch has definitively renounced social progress and thus does not martyr himself attempting to “create better facts”, which according to his view is pure vanity on the social level - rather he suffers because of the unchangeable reality of what is.

Naturally, he prefers not to suffer because of these facts – there is no virtue in unproductive mechanical suffering - but he accepts that it may happen from his own inadequacy, through his own mistakes. From this he tries to learn.

Finally, he accepts that certain things are not predictable and thus not avoidable – injustice, pure chance exists, like it or not. When the anarch is unjustly treated, when something happens to him that he simply could never have anticipated under any circumstances, he regards and accepts it as an accident. He is able to see himself from a distance, as a character of history, and thus does not take it personally.

(In the first paragraph of the quote, Jünger describes others who, in contrast to the anarch, do see themselves as martyrs, even when this stance is not self-sincere. He equates this to a revival of the “old military claptrap”, which derogatory phrase should indicate to any lingering admirers or critics of the militaristic, war-glorifying Jünger before WWII how superficial their outdated conceptions of him are.)