Friday, January 22, 2016

Hans Magnus Enzensberger : On the Difficulties of Re-education // The radical loser

On the Difficulties of Re-education
by Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Frankfurt, 1971

When it’s time to liberate mankind they run to the hairdresser.
Instead of following along enthusiastically behind the vanguard

they say: it’s time for a beer
Instead of fighting for the just cause

they worry about varicose veins and measles.
At the decisive moment

they look for a letter box or a bed
Just before the millennium breaks out

they boil nappies
Everything fails because of these people.

You can’t do anything with them.
They’re worse than a bag of fleas.

Petty bourgeois vacillation!
Consumer idiots!

Remnants of the past!
We can’t kill them all, can we!

Yes if it wasn’t for these people
then everything would look very different.

Yes if it wasn’t for these people
then it would all be over in no time.

Yes if it wasn’t for these people
yes then!

(from the essay In Defence of Normality, in Political Crumbs, published in German in 1982; and in English in 1990)

see also
Jacques Camatte: The Wan­dering of Humanity

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Hans Magnus Enzensberger looks at the kind of ideological trigger required to ignite the radical loser - whether amok killer, murderer or terrorist - and make him explode

I. The isolated individual
It is difficult to talk about the loser, and it is stupid not to. Stupid because there can be no definitive winner and because each of us, from the megalomaniac Bonaparte to the last beggar on the streets of Calcutta, will meet the same fate. Difficult because to content oneself with this metaphysical banality is to take an easy way out, as it ignores the truly explosive dimension of the problem, the political dimension.

Instead of actually looking into the thousand faces of the loser, sociologists keep to their statistics: median value, standard deviation, normal distribution. It rarely occurs to them that they themselves might be among the losers. Their definitions are like scratching a wound: as Samuel Butler says, the itching and the pain only get worse. One thing is certain: the way humanity has organized itself: "capitalism", "competition", "empire", "globalization" &c, not only does the number of losers increase every day, but as in any large group, fragmentation soon sets in. In a chaotic, unfathomable process, the cohorts of the inferior, the defeated, the victims separate out. The loser may accept his fate and resign himself; the victim may demand satisfaction; the defeated may begin preparing for the next round. But the radical loser isolates himself, becomes invisible, guards his delusion, saves his energy, and waits for his hour to come.

Those who content themselves with the objective, material criteria, the indices of the economists and the devastating findings of the empiricists, will understand nothing of the true drama of the radical loser. What others think of him - be they rivals or brothers, experts or neighbours, schoolmates, bosses, friends or foes - is not sufficient motivation. The radical loser himself must take an active part, he must tell himself: I am a loser and nothing but a loser. As long as he is not convinced of this, life may treat him badly, he may be poor and powerless, he may know misery and defeat, but he will not become a radical loser until he adopts the judgement of those who consider themselves winners as his own.

Since before the attack on the World Trade Center, political scientists, sociologists and psychologists have been searching in vain for a reliable pattern. Neither poverty nor the experience of political repression alone seem to provide a satisfactory explanation for why young people actively seek out death in a grand bloody finale and aim to take as many people with them as possible. Is there a phenotype that displays the same characteristics down the ages and across all classes and cultures?

No one pays any mind to the radical loser if they do not have to. And the feeling is mutual...