The World of Yesterday

Genetic amnesia and atomic nihilism

Ninety years ago (1934), the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig began writing the book published posthumously in 1942 as Die Welt von Gestern. In 1932, Joseph Roth published Radetzkymarsch. Both authors died in exile essentially by what in German is so prosaically called “Freitod” or suicide. Their principal subject was the end of Austria-Hungary. However for both men these were stories of the end of the world as they knew it.

Since the end of the Napoleonic Wars the multi-ethnic empire of the Habsburg double monarchy had become a silent financial dependency of the British Empire, alternatively a continental resource for British industry and a brake on Prussian and French expansion. Vienna‘s urbane society was a fusion of Francophilia and Anglophilia with sophisticated music and literature accompanied by conservative political culture. Sigmund Freud, whose work was ultimately distorted beyond recognition by his daughter Anna and nephew Edward Bernays, had devoted his study to explaining the peculiar combination of Enlightenment and repression the legacy of which would be world war and neo-liberalism (Austrian economics).

Unlike Britain, whose insular pirate culture had seized the Habsburg‘s sun, the world from which Zweig and Roth had been thrusted, the abyss into which they fell, had been genuinely cosmopolitan, if highly contradictory. On one hand there was the harsh order by which seven or more language communities were held together- by Germanic administration and Magyar military prowess. On the other there was the blend of cultures that nourished arts and intellect.

The collapse of Austria-Hungary left a vacuum in Europe. That collapse is treated in the school history books as the product of an unfortunate military alliance with the ascendant German Empire. Supposedly forced into war by Germanic militarism, the roots of the Great War can be found in the covert diplomacy of the British Empire. Britain had been secretly supporting every conceivable separatist movement that could fuel the centripetal dissolution of the central European state. This culminated in the assassination of the heir to the throne, Archduke Franz-Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo.

It is no accident that the true dissolution of civilization- such as it is- in the European peninsula of Eurasia should properly be dated with the Anglo-American (aka NATO) destruction of Yugoslavia. The European Union (successor to the Anglo-American prototype Western European Union- WEU) has been falsely marketed as the model of a new Europe. In fact it was created to prevent the emergence of a post-war Europe beyond the control of the Anglo-American Empire.

The defeat of the Soviet Union in 1990 and the subsequent dissolution of that great multi-ethnic polity was complemented by the destruction of Yugoslavia based on the same principles by which Britain had ruled India and ts cousins had ruled the western hemisphere. Thus a pattern which ought to be recognized today was cut for preaching independence in order to weaken the capacity of cultures and peoples to retain their autonomy.

That autonomy protected by conservative traditions is the greatest obstacle to the cancerous growth of finance capitalism- a euphemism for state-sponsored piracy. Heralded as a new order of peace, the proliferation of economically neutered polities, led by what today would be called identity fetishists, guaranteed the expansion of financial debtor states no longer able to pursue rational trade or industrial policy. When the financial and monetary engineers let loose their wrecking balls in 1929, they also used the ruins of continental Europe to excite antagonisms at every turn. Those whose hands were on the levers of finance were far from the wreckage they caused. Local attempts to restore sanity to the post-war world were sabotaged by every means available in London or New York.

Karl Marx wrote in The Communist Manifesto that “all that is solid melts into air”. Of course he was predicting the cannibalism of the bourgeoisie while expressing optimism that it could be overcome. The world of yesterday should not be idealized. However Marx and his socialist and communist contemporaries were humanists. For them humanism was based on the principle that value comes from labor- even if it is stolen.

The world of yesterday was filled with people. It was decorated by artisans. Musicians animated daily life. Literature was not just intellectual property to be hoarded. Machines were made by people to increase the quality and distribution of useful goods for human needs. The aim was not to eliminate work but to preserve the value of those who performed it.

The destruction of that world was not replaced by peaceful work for the good of real human beings. It has been replaced by the peace of the grave. The largest industries extant today are devoted to using ever fewer humans to annihilate those that remain. The blasphemy of artificial intelligence is propagated to further that annihilation by denaturing the human heart-mind and reducing life to computation.

While the neutered offspring of the survivors contemplate their atomic identities all the attributes of historical personality and daily life are erased so that those few allowed to breathe (but not exhale) can masturbate to death. Freedom is reduced to the freedom from anything not produced through binary notation. The masturbating class rages against biological difference into obsessively binary cellphones.

Anyone anywhere who insists on a life like those of their grandparents or ancestors is targeted with calumny and outright violence. Digital fanatics scream pledges against the “binary” with slogans of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity (DIE) oblivious to the emptiness they signify. Russophobia is more than an attack on the Slavs, although it is that too. It is a pattern for absorbing the nihilism that is the true technological product of the 20th century. Lacking even the will to know- let alone understand- the history of the world of yesterday, they have already become lab-made growths from the petri dishes due to replace the wombs from which humans throughout history have emerged to work, play and contribute to their communities. They willingly watched their grandparents executed in hospitals converted to death chambers. They renounce the age of procreation in favor of celibate and even sodomistic fornication.

Should it be any wonder then that their ideal has become a world without gardens and forests, without pastures and grazing, without communities with traditions, where there is no labor, no value, but only the realm of the dead?

Without the world of yesterday, there can be no world of tomorrow.

Dr T.P. Wilkinson writes, teaches History and English, directs theatre and coaches cricket between the cradles of Heine and Saramago. He is also the author of Church Clothes, Land, Mission and the End of Apartheid in South Africa. Read other articles by T.P..