gall and gumption

Friday, March 24, 2006

Gerda -- II

If you are just getting to this, Part I is here.

"....Look how she has defeated us. You love Macedonia more than any other country you have ever visited. Sveti Naum is to you a place apart; you wanted to take me there. We have made that journey. We have made it in the company of an enemy who tormented us not only by her atrocious behaviour to us but by behaving atrociously to other people whom we liked when she was with us. This has clouded our vision of the country, it has angered us and weakened us. When Constantine said to us, 'My wife wants to come to Macedonia with us,' we should not merely have said, 'We do not think that will be a success, we would rather she did not come,' we should have said, 'We dislike your wife extremely, we dislike the way she speaks against you and Yugoslavia, we will not travel with her, and if she turns up at the train we will take our luggage out of it.' But we could not. We did not believe that she could go on being as bad as she had been; we were sorry for her because she was a German who loved her country, and had committed herself to living in the Balkans; we have been elaborately trained from our infancy not to express frankly our detestation of others. So she got what she wanted, and she is still getting what she wanted. Do not think that she is going to Belgrade because we did not want her to go to Petch: she is going, quite simply, because she thinks it would be more pleasant to go back to her children.

"Gerda, in fact, is irresistible. It is therefore of enormous importance to calculate how many Gerdas there are in the world, and whether they are likely to combine for any purpose...." [Here I'll omit their recollection of other Gerdas they have known in their lifetimes - k} "In fact this type appears anywhere and everywhere, though probably much more densely in some areas than others. It seems to me that it appears wherever people are subject to two conditions. The first condition is that they should have lost sight of the importance of process; that they have forgotten that everything which is not natural is artificial and that artifice is painful and difficult; that they should be able to look at a loaf of bread and not realize the miracles of endurance and ingenuity that had to be performed before the wheat grew, and the mill ground, and the oven baked. This condition can be brought about by several causes: one is successful imperialism, when the conquering people has the loaf built for it from the what ear up by its conquered subjects; another is modern machine civilization, where a small but influential proportion of the population lives in towns in such artificial conditions that a loaf of bread comes to them in a cellophane wrapper with its origins as unvisualized as the beginning and birth of a friend's baby. The other condition is that people should have acquired a terror of losing the results of process, which are all they know about; they must be afraid that everything artificial is going to disappear, and they are going to be thrown back on the natural; they must foresee with a shudder a day when there will be no miraculous loaf born in its virginity of cellophane, and they will have to eat grass.

"Now, these conditions obtained in the case of the Turks when they became nuisances in the Balkan Peninsula. At first their wars were inspired not by fanaticism or greed or to enslave foreign populations but by legitimate enough desires for political and commercial security. They became cruel and tyrannous only when they were glutted by the conquest of Mohammed the Conqueror and Selim and Suleiman the Magnificent, and when the emergence of Russia and the successful opposition of Central Europe and Venice made them afraid of losing the fruits of those victories. They had never learned the art of prosperity in peacetime, they were not economically productive. Neither, oddly enough, is Germany, in spite of her enormous energy and resources. Gerda is bourgeoisis and town-bred. She is proud because her family are all professional men. It is of importance to her that she cannot bake a loaf, she likes to buy her cakes in a shop. Her theory of her own social value depends on her being able to put down money and buy results of processes without being concerned in the processes themselves. And she is enormously afraid that she will not be able to go on doing this. The war made her afraid, the depression has made her still more afraid. It does not occur to her that what she and her kind must do is to reorganize the process of state life till there is some sort of guarantee of a certain amount of artificial goods for all of us. It does not occur to her that she had better learn to bake bread instead of buy it, for since her social value depends on her not doing so, she regards this as a sentence of death. Therefore she wants to take results that belong to other people, she wants to bone everybody else's loaf."


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