Politics and Ideas – Continued

The will to power of France is a very particular vivacity. It throws sparks, blazes, but it does not lose itself in smoke: constantly, it renews itself from its proper resources. It shines in its mobility and irritability. It sparkles, naive and carefree. It is in its nature to want to be beautiful and fascinating. It wants to dazzle, enchant, and provoke enthusiasm. The overhead veil which covers it, the sparkling charm that is its set, all of which is offered by the idea. It knows many ideas, useful and well advised, maybe becoming. It serves as the plume of a peacock, as a perfume, as flattering lighting. It is a coquette, it decorates itself. It knows the art of charming with the idea, of seduction, of how to “turn heads.” However, this impassioned breath, this persuasive vitality, permitting the idea to to convince, does not emanate from itself. The artifices of the idea are nothing other than the manifestations of the overflowing energies of the will to power and to life of France. It is that which radiates across the idea which is only a transparency. However, we have ignored this fact; we do not know that the idea serves to hide the will to power, it is confounded with it, and it is that which gives it its enormous effect. The idea gives flexibility to the will, while the will fills the idea with force and ardor. This fusion is so complete that in effect, certain political ideas are considered as typically French. We can immediately count them, when we taste attentively the flavor of the ideas “liberty, fraternity, equality” and “Pan-Europa.” There were they have installed themselves, they in no case reinforce their purely spiritual content, they reinforce the political domination exercised by the French nation. In his work Die Westliche Grenzfrage, Moltke said with acidity of the French: “Four times they have changed their principles, and with each change, we have lost territory.” The receptivity towards the ideas of the Revolution, outside of France, was only a fashion of expressing that we were ready to submit to the iron hand of Napoleon – the same as today with the profession of faith in favor of the idea of Pan-Europa, it is the manifest avowal of approving French hegemony in Europe, and even supporting it.

The English will to life and power is without parallel, given its firmness and brutality with which it argues. Yet, it is not like the French will, easily inflamed and bubbly, nervous and mobile. The cold determination, the crushing violence with which it imposes itself, are like the pressure of a glacier that advances with disturbing slowness, but can never stop. It is too heavy to be capable of maintaining a charming, genial, and elegant relation with the idea as the French will to power can do. This agile displacement that predisposes the French will to power, by its structure, to a very large intimacy with the idea, fails in the English manner. The British will to power wants to win terrain. It is slow and measured in its preparations. But ineluctably, as its destiny, it seizes these things, when the moment comes. It is like a force of nature, and it feels itself as such. It has almost no need to soothe its conscience , to present a superior justification, to serve as an adornment or a pleasant disguise. “The wisdom, the order, and the force, do they not announce you the Lord, the Lord of the Earth?” When we have a force of nature who has nothing but success, is there not something divine behind it? Is it not simply the revelation of the divine will? God has decided against the Dutch, said Cromwell, once the envoy to the Netherlands. He only has to rally to the power of the British Republic, to extend with it the Kingdom of God, and to liberate the people from their tyrant.

Here the problem and the distinction are nearly erased. The power which we identify and we put put without ceasing to the test is experienced in a fashion so intense that we finally believe it to be an instrument of God. It is magnificent and that suffices. Who, in these conditions, could then have scruples in regards to the requirements of moral and political ideas? When one is elected by God, to be in accord with all these ideas demanding respect, is to be near to Him, even if at first it is not evident. With a little patience, the truth will emerge. Thus, we remain convinced to serve the ideas, even if an aspect of the actions disavows the meaning of the idea. This contradiction does not inspire concern, it is only superficial – who could doubt? One is always just when one is the organ of God. Do we understand why the English with their primitive piety cannot simply tolerate when the existence of God is put into question? Faith in God is an essential component of English politics. This faith is the tribute that permits them to satisfy all their ideas. In these conditions, irreligion must not only be decried as shocking, but also a treason towards the nation and the country.

The American is Anglo-Saxon. The American point of view resembles the English point of view. But all that the English mentality presents under a reserved, constructed, cultivated, and disciplined form is, in the American translation, rendered coarse, deformed to become unwieldy, crude, and excessive. The American equally believes himself chosen and elected by God. This sublime sentiment does not suffice yet to decide, in its quality of acting, to respect its forms and keep face. While the French put an artist’s care into creating the mystification that consists of making believe in the accord between the idea and the will to power, while the English try, after all sincerely, this contradiction which exists, the American doesn’t even experience the need to orient the manifestations of its will to power – would only in appearance – according to ideas that “we” pretend to respect, because everyone does it. The American ignites for the idea. The eruption of enthusiasm is the sacrifices he makes for it. He is not entitled to demand more and to influence by its daily behavior? America prepares treaties condemning war and simultaneously, it deprives Nicaragua of its independence and prepares to violate Mexico. It wants to exploit a defenseless people by circulating throughout the world the Fourteen Points testifying as a grand nobility. With a manner so much more superficial and commercial than in the case of the English, it considers itself as released from ideas through the exercises of holy devotion. He gives to God that which is God’s by sanctifying Sunday, and God cannot require more of him. Certainly, as such an honest trader, he attempts to execute the contract. He would consider himself as a crook towards God, if he would permit that impiety in the domain of the Lord – eventually by the service of Darwinism. His tribunals protecting God from the conclusions of the doctrine of Darwin. The idea intoxicates him, but he totally excludes that one day it can have a real influence on him.

What a difference in relation to the German! This one is the “idealist” among the peoples. Exalted, he raises his face to the “idea,” his eyes fix there, his mouth open to the celestial harmony. Dazzled by this light, it usually happens that he loses contact with reality. In the idea, he recognizes the motive force of history. He truly takes politics for a “realization of ideas,” and thinks it must be done in the fashion that all will to power is hemmed in.

The receptivity of the Germans to the artifices of the idea has facilitated the political intentions of Wilson: to make the German people doubt themselves and the soundness of their proper cause.

However, the question poses itself, of knowing if the German people truly embody a more evolved species because it is more accessible to the charm of the idea, that it submits itself more easily when ideas enter into play and that it supposes, with complacency, that it is really and exclusively the sense and the content of ideas. Is a people that is closer to ideas, more “ideal”, that is to say, in the current sense: more “perfect”, because events invoke idealized motifs that, for them, already prove the force of ideas? If a people abhors, as a sin against the Holy Spirit, doubting a profession of faith in favor of an idea, if it sees a criminal enterprise in the fact assembled around an idea, without that being the unique reason of the assembly, if it is inclined, when faced with the purity and sublimity of an idea, to genuflect, to venerate it, and to be at its service, does that testify to the greatest distinction, the most elevated rank?

Even if that seems to be the case, in truth, all of that does not speak in favor of a greater nobility and a greater existential value. The idea seduces and occupies the field of view, because we have a short view and do not see in to the heart of things, because the feeling of reality is not very acute and we do not perceive – or perceive in an incomplete fashion – that which is. The profound respect the Germans have for the idea is the symptom of a weakening disposition of the instinct to power and a diminution of the will to life, placed in their character. To be “taken” by the ideas means that we lack solidity.

The will to life and power of the Germans is very reserved, more inhibited than all the other peoples. It doesn’t have this ardor that permits them to leap over obstacles. It doesn’t know to simply draw from the wealth of its existence the courage that would authorize it for all that it would want to undertake. It doesn’t have a direction, towards which it feels itself pushed, irresistibly, with an impetuous and unswerving fierceness, not having direction, is that not exactly its weakness? The history of Germany is marked by this lack of vitality and of will to power. The particularity, this isolation, this sentiment of well being in the little states, expresses that a people is running out of breath. The national spirit does not attract and does not recover its sources. The plastic, organizational, force, that nourishes itself and eliminates that that which is harmful to it, that heals the wounds and constructs all, this force is not creative enough for it to be capable of engendering something that is living and solid, formed from the center, coherent, something that would be an accomplishment given to the world. Thus neither a strong state, nor a true sentiment of national value can develop. A profound dissatisfaction with itself and its proper imperfection would gnaw without cease the depths of the conscience. It would manifest itself in the exaggerated estimation of all that comes from “elsewhere”, and in this attitude of wanting to be “righteous,” which, after all, is nothing but the expression of a feeling of hidden inferiority. We could try to take a distance from the Germanism we have suffered because we are entirely unsatisfied. In certain epochs, the German, encountering a foreigner, hid his nationality. Certain branches of the people hoped to become nobler and separate from the mother country. Thus were born the Netherlands and Switzerland. In his work Die Westliche Grenzfrage, Moltke said: “In this fashion all feeling for the German nationality died in the Swiss, who, after all, are Germans.” In the same fashion Alsace become foreign to the Reich. We do not bear Germanism in our heart, such a secret flame. For this reason, there is no “Germany Irredenta.” That they are placed under German, French, Belgian, Czech, Italian, or Polish sovereignty is of little import to the Germans.

To face this weakness in the vital force of the people, Bismarck believed it necessary to maintain the German dynasties. Thus he said in Gedanken und Erinnerungen: “If the dynasties were suddenly abolished, it would improbable that a national feeling could reunite all the Germans in the functions of European politics and under the plan of international rights. This seems excluded, even under the form of confederated Hanseatic cities or burgs of the Reich. The Germans would become the prey of better structured peoples, if they lost this bond that resides in the conscience of the nobility, the common feeling of all the princes. In Germany, the ethnic character marked the most by history is certainly the Prussian character. Yet, no one can respond with certitude to the question of knowing if the state union of Prussia could maintain itself without the Hohenzollern dynasty and their right holders.” The doubts that Bismarck nursed on the subject of national feeling, are not separated from the existence of the actual German Republic. The aggravation of internal antagonism of parties and social classes, the impetuous spirits of particularism that do not cease to manifest the forces of disintegration, which we do not know if, supported by “the functions of European politics”, they prepare the ruin – gradual or sudden – of the Reich.

The weakness of the national will to life and power, the lack of “popular vitality” is a fundamental fact in the German existence. It manifests itself everywhere: in the general attitude, in the goal that we are fixed, in the choice of means, in the force of the blows we suffer, in the determination to assert itself. “Necessity is not the law,” said Bethmann Hollweg, when he formally recognized “the injustice committed towards Belgium” that we must “repair.” He stood before the Reichstag as someone caught in the act and had nothing of this insouciance proper to a man who feels the measure of things.

Finally we only have the courage of which we are capable, when we have the force. We feel little confidence and we have bad conscience when we fix upon a goal above our means. But, at the same time, we suffer from the need to accommodate this state of things, and we try to tranquilize ourselves by making a necessity of virtue. We seem to impose on ourselves limits on principle and for a noble idea, and we have committed the strongest wrong, using force, blaming ourselves, accusing ourselves of an infraction of sacred principles.

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