Submissive voids

John Pilger:

In the 1970s, I met Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler’s film-maker, whose propaganda mesmerised the German public.

She told me the “messages” of her films were dependent not on “orders from above”, but on the “submissive void” of an uninformed public.

“Did that include the liberal, educated bourgeoisie?” I asked.

“Everyone,” she said. “Propaganda always wins, if you allow it.”

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Mid-term Democracy

I am amused that the second of four points in Anthony Zurcher’s BBC piece on the US mid-term elections is “Voter suppression”.

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The Deer Bridge

Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Hunting Lodge

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Kaliningrad Lenin gazes east, directly towards the rising sun.

Baron Munchausen monument

The Bunker Museum is in the former German command bunker, and celebrates the seizure of Königsberg.

The determined foe were a fanatical lot.

The rooms which have “reconstructions” are works of art. In a ruined city at war everyone wears spotless new uniforms. The books, magazines, and photographs are all placed so that their titles face the viewer. There is so little subtlety here that one wonders about both the intent of the artists and the reception of Russian viewers.

Königsberg Cathedral

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Obama Pizza

I mean, would you eat anywhere else in Kaliningrad?

The names of the pizzas include Alaska, Wyoming, Pearl Harbor, San Francisco, Guam, Missouri. Needless to say I am having the Obama.

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Wolfsschanze. This is the bunker where the von Stauffenberg bomb went off.

Martin Borman’s bunker

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Courage and Wisdom

My message to my fellow Americans, and to many others abroad, is alarmingly simple: do not cry tomorrow for what you did not have the courage and the wisdom to defend today.

—Ariel Dorfman, The Guardian

The whole column is worth reading and thinking about. This sentence though, this. I read it and re-read it and thought about the Americans that I know and worked with. Courage and wisdom?

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Let’s Go Together

Shall I go off and away to bright Andromeda?
Shall I sail my wooden ships to the sea?
Or stay in a cage of those in Amerika??
Or shall I be on the knee?
Wave goodbye to Amerika
Say hello to the garden

So I see – I see the way you feel
And I know that your life is real
Pioneer searcher refugee
I follow you and you follow me
Let’s go together
Let’s go together
Let’s go together right now

—Paul Kantner, Let’s Go Together

Cranked this up on the car stereo this beautiful fall morning driving to a visa appointment. It amuses me to recall listening to the song forty-some years ago, imagining being part of a group of technically proficient political dissidents in some future dystopia. We’ve certainly got the dystopia. Where are my revolutionaries? Where is my starship?

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Last night in a chapter entitled Europe’s Last Pagans Andres Kasekamp discussed 13th Century Lithuanian diplomacy:

Mindaugas also erected a rudimentary Christian cathedral in Vilnius. His choice was political: with external aid, he defeated his internal enemies, secured peace in the west to concentrate on expansion in the east and achieved international recognition of his realm.

—Andres Kasekamp, A History of the Baltic States, (London: Palgrave, 2018), p. 16.

Today in front of the cathedral a dance remix of The Doors “Love Her Madly” was included in music played for crowds watching the Vilnius Marathon. On the shelves of the woman I’m renting from is Huxley’s Doors of Perception:

 Meanwhile the BBC informs me Drone President #2 calls for “a restoration of honesty and decency and lawfulness in our government.”

I can think of little I’d like better to do right now than work on my ability to read Aldous Huxley in Lithuanian. On the other hand, I could be in California helping a Chicago community organizer stump for the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein.

There are times I am awed with the breadth of possibilities life offers.

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The most important artist working in the region was undoubtedly the sculptor Ernst Barlach (1870–1938), who lived in Güstrow from 1910. Not only did he create his most renowned antiwar sculptures there, but in the 1910s and 1920s he also wrote influential dramas, such as Der tote Tag (The dead day), Der arme Vetter (The poor cousin), Die Sintflut (The flood), and Der blaue Boll (Squire Blue Boll). In the 1920s, Barlach received numerous commissions to design memorials, such as those in Güstrow Cathedral (Der Schwebende), in Kiel (Der Geistkämpfer), and the group of figures in Magdeburg Cathedral. At first the Nazis courted him because his art appeared compatible with their blood-and-soil ideology. When he turned them down, however, the party began a defamation campaign against him. Several hundreds of his works were removed from museums as examples of “degenerate art,” as were the Geistkämpfer and the Güstrow memorial, which was consigned to the smelter. Barlach died of a heart attack in 1938 in Rostock.

—Michael North, The Baltic (Boston: Harvard University Press, 2015), 250.

I was reading more of North this morning and remembered being moved by the Barlach sculpture I saw at Magdeburg Cathedral back in May. I knew nothing of Barlach then, only that the sculpture was where Monday marches had started from in Magdeburg and that I found the piece powerful. It’s difficult to transport myself to the Baltic in the 1930s and try to imagine the conflicts around progressive and traditional styles. Discussions of popular art in 2018 seem to be pretty video-bound.

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