Excerpts from Benedict Anderson, Gottfried Benn, and Bob Altemeyer

Happy Thanksgiving weekend! I am spending it in Boulder, CO, one of the most beautiful cities in America.

From “Static Poems”

Deafness to imperatives
is profundity in the wise man,
children and grandchildren
don’t bother him,
don’t alarm him.

To represent a particular outlook,
to act,
to travel hither and yon
are all signs of a world
that doesn’t see clearly.

–Gottfried Benn
(in Poetry, 1109.)

Adult authoritarians tend to be highly ethnocentric and heavy users of the “consensual validation pill” (Newcomb, 1961). They travel in tight circles of like-minded people so much, they often think their views are commonly held in society, that they are the “Moral Majority” or the “Silent Majority.” It has been hard to miss the evidence that certain kinds of religious training have sometimes helped produce their ethnocentrism and authoritarianism.

…(They) are scared. They see the world as a dangerous place, as society teeters on the brink of self-destruction from evil and violence. This fear appears to instigate aggression in them. Second, right-wing authoritarians tend to be highly self-righteous. They think themselves much more moral and upstanding than others - a self-perception considerably aided by self-deception, their religious training, and some very efficient guilt evaporators (such as going to confession). This self-righteousness disinhibits their aggressive impulses, and releases them to act out their fear-induced hostilities….

Bob Altemeyer
–“The Other ‘Authoritarian Personality’”

From “What’s Bad”

Seeing a cold beer when it’s hot out,
and not being able to afford it.

Hearing the waves beat against the shore on holiday at night,
and telling yourself it’s what they always do.

Very bad: being invited out,
when your own room at home is quieter,
the coffee is better,
and you don’t have to make small talk.

And worst of all:
not to die in summer,
when the days are long
and the earth yields easily to the spade.

–Gottfried Benn
(in Poetry, 1109.)

Reading a newspaper is like reading a novel whose author has abandoned any thought of a coherent plot.

The Reformation…owed much of its success to print-capitalism. Before the age of print, Rome easily won every war against heresy in Western Europe because it always had better lines of communication than its challengers. But when in 1517 Martin Luther nailed his theses to the chapel-door in Wittenberg, they were printed up in German translation, and ‘within 15 days [had been] seen in every part of the country.’ In the two decades 1520-1540 three times as many books were published in German as in the period 1500-1520, an astonishing transformation to which Luther was absolutely central. His works represented no less than one third of all German-language books sold between 1518 and 1525. …‘We have here for the first time a truly mass readership and a popular literature within everybody’s reach.’ In effect, Luther became the first best-selling author so known. Or, to put it another way, the first writer who could ‘sell’ his new books on the basis of his name.

In pre-print Europe, and, of course, elsewhere in the world, the diversity of spoken languages, those languages that for those speakers were (and are) the warp and woof of their lives, was immense; so immense, indeed, that had print-capitalism sought to exploit each potential oral vernacular market, it would have remained a capitalism of petty proportions. But these varied idiolects were capable of being assembled, within definite limits, into print-languages far fewer in number. The very arbitrariness of any system of signs for sounds facilitated the assembling process. …Nothing served to ‘assemble’ related vernaculars more than capitalism, which, within the limits imposed by grammars and syntaxes, created mechanically reproduced print languages capable of dissemination through the market.

These print-languages laid the bases for national consciousnesses in three distinct ways. First and foremost, they created unified fields of exchange and communication below Latin and above the spoken vernaculars. Speakers of the huge variety of Frenches, Englishes, or Spanishes, who might find it difficult or even impossible to understand one another in conversation, became capable of comprehending one another via print and paper. In the process, they gradually became aware of the hundreds of thousands, even millions, of people in their particular language-field, and at the same time that only those hundreds of thousands, or millions, so belonged. These fellow-readers, to whom they were connected through print, formed, in their secular, particular, visible invisibility, the embryo of the nationally imagined community.

Benedict Anderson
Imagined Communities (one of the most fascinating and insightful books I have ever read - a book that can change the way you understand the world.)

Ryan McCarl
Attorney | Writer | Educator