Sunday 20 November 2016

Yes, It’s 1979 All Over Again

It is amazing to see how people change. With Donald Trump's victory, we are fortunate enough to witness this amazing phenomenon once again. We are fortunate because it happens pretty rarely. In fact, such a radical change of mankind's spiritual condition occurred only three times in the past 150 years. In order to understand the significance of Trump's rise to power, it is useful to revisit these past epochs.

I really wanted to put a beautiful photo of "Mr Trump holding a mining helmet at a West Virginia rally" here but was unable to agree with Getty Images on the price. Maybe I should have consulted "The Art of the Deal" before I started bargaining. Fortunately, a prolific and highly influential hobby photographer came to my help (credit: Gage Skidmore).

"She called it the gold standard"

Departing from London to go round the world in 80 days, Phileas Fogg told his fellow club members with whom he had made the famous wager that “I am taking a passport with me, so that the various visas it will bear will enable you to check my itinerary when I return.” Notice that Fogg did not take the passport with him to be able to travel across the globe. It only served to document his journey – and even this was considered “unnecessary” by his friends, who would as well have trusted his “word as a gentleman”. A couple of days later he was once more reminded of the “futility” of passports by the British consul in Suez: “You know that a visa is useless, and that no passport is required?" This happened in 1872, before either Egypt or the Suez Canal came under British control.

Sunday 8 May 2016

Can Spengler Explain the Islamic State?

At university, I was sometimes jokingly accused of a tendency that, no matter what the actual topic was, the title of my writing assignments always began with “Spengler and the ...” If you take a look at my list of publications or even the posts of this blog, you will be able to establish that this was nothing more than a malicious falsehood. Still, Oswald Spengler remains a central point of reference to me and yes, sometimes I publish essays under a title featuring his name.

This and all other illustrations of this post are taken from
"Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves", a
filmstrip drawn by Sándor Lengyel, 1963.
All the more so as the range of nouns that can appear in such a title together with Spengler's name is virtually endless. Relying on his encyclopedic knowledge, Spengler wrote about almost everything. First and foremost, however, he was a civilization theorist. A recourse to his thoughts therefore commends itself most clearly when a phenomenon is examined in the context of the civilization that produced it. This is the case with the problem of how the Islamic State is rooted in Middle Eastern culture.