(Yet another potable portion from a chapter, this one newly posted with A Republic of Books, the novel in progress to be found elsewhere on this site.)
Has our Thirty Years’ War only just begun, or has it ended long since and the news simply not yet arrived via a slow internet connection. I have often felt that way about history—in my youth especially. In those days the various socialist religions had long been at war, much like Catholics and Protestants once did, Christian killing Christian, with one Wallenstein after another rising in the ranks: Lenin and Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler, Mao or Khrushchev, Fidel and Che. From 1918 to 1978, this bloodletting had been an endless sixty years, twice the length of the Reformation conflict, but a hundred times more deadly if mere lives are counted. Mere human lives, you understand, unlived.
This was the disdain for human life you’d commonly find in the political tracts of my early age, with other people classified as bourgeoisie, or proletariat, blue collar or intellectual, rich or poor, male or female. It didn’t matter. The theories were all the same at the end.
One of those thinkers I didn’t especially like early on was Elias Canetti, who wrote Crowds and Power. He was a prick, and a dilettante, and a prime example of mid-Twentieth Century European self-supposed intellectual smugness (having successfully destroyed several hundred million other lives, they and their superior insight had survived) but then, I suppose, even Elias Canetti had a few good things to say. This is my favorite of those: “It is always the enemy who started it, even if he was not the first to speak out, he was certainly planning it; and if he was not actually planning it, he was thinking of it; and, if he was not thinking of it, he would have thought of it.” Unwittingly (as I am sure that bile, not wit, was one of Canetti’s main strengths) he has captured the mindset of the modern progressive of the early Twenty-first Century, whether in Cambridge, England, or Cambridge, Massachusetts.
And it was this bit of wisdom that kept me from placing blame, you see. Infuriating to those who want a body to whip.