|Students sitting on a sidewalk, not moving when the cops said move, not obeying....|
We know that the formal excellence and numerical extension of education need not correlate with increased social stability and political rationality. The demonstrable virtues of the Gymnasium or of the lycée are no guarantor of how or whether the city will vote at the next plebiscite.... In other words, the libraries, museums, theatres, universities, research centers, in and through which the transmission of the humanities and of the sciences mainly takes place, can prosper next to the concentration camps.... We know of personnel in the bureaucracy of the torturers and of the ovens who cultivated a knowledge of Goethe, a love of Rilke. The facile evasion; "such men did not understand the poems they read or the music they knew and seemed to play so well," will not do. There simply is no evidence that they were more obtuse than anyone else to the humane genius, to the enacted moral energies of great literature and of art. One of the principal works that we have in the philosophy of language, in the total reading of Hölderlin's poetry, was composed almost within earshot of a death camp. Heidegger's pen did not stop nor his mind go mute.
George Steiner, In Bluebeard's Castle
There aren't many people around today who still remember events in Germany between the wars, or the general, if sometimes uneasy, support much of the economically struggling population gave to the rise of the Nazi party. Of course, it isn't like that now. It's different, and it will always be different in different eras, cultures, economies....
But somewhere, near the start, it must have looked a little like this.
The police chief explained that the officers were "concerned" for their own safety. I suppose they were. Rising unemployment and civil unrest makes every mortgage-holder a little anxious.
Whenever I cite this material, I am met with the objection: "Why are you astonished? Why did you expect otherwise? One ought always to have known that culture and humane action, literacy and political impulse, are in no necessary or sufficient correlation." This objection sounds cogent, but it is in fact inadequate to the enormity of the case.... [It] makes a mock of ... a vision common to Jefferson and to Marx, as it was to Arnold and the reformers of 1867. To say that one "ought" to have known is a facile use of language. Had the Enlightenment and the nineteenth century understood that there could be no presumption of a carry-over from civilization to civility, from humanism to the humane, the springs of hope would have been staunched and much of the immense liberation of the mind and of society achieved over four generations been rendered impossible.George Steiner, In Bluebeard's Castle