A short essay about Ernst Junger and the First World War
More often than not, I am left gobsmacked and feeling guilty by the fact that this level of material and content is just $5.00 a month.
This time is no different.
The most haunting passage imo - “Once, during an endless night vigil in the dark corner of a trench, together with an old warrior, I asked him in a whisper to tell me a story, a true one, about his most ghastly experience. In short pauses, his cigarette glowing under his steel helmet and casting his gaunt face in a reddish aura, here’s what he told me:
At the beginning of the war, we stormed a house that had been an inn. We forced our way into the barricaded cellar and fought in the dark, animated by an animalistic bitterness, while above us the building was already burning. Suddenly, probably triggered by the heat of the fire, a mechanical orchestrion lit up and started playing (music). I’ll never forget the carefree raucousness of that dance music, mixed with the screams of the soldiers and the gasps of the dying.”
And the passage of the soldiers watching the Germans joining the muster. Just chilling and jarring to the soul.
Thanks for the passion, Darryl.
“The savagery of our ancestors lies always just beneath the shiny surface, and our modern sensibilities are a recent innovation to make us fit for urban civilization.” I mean how freaking accurate is this!?!?
Woof. Quite a post. I'm generally unable to read through the more philosophical posts and usually wait for the audio, but this was eminently readable. Thank you! I've not read Junger (for the same reason...i just don't digest it well).
This section struck me however:
"One of the lessons of World War 1, a lesson drilled deep into young, developing minds by propaganda and personal experience, was that unmitigated savagery was sometimes necessary and justified to achieve a desirable social or political result. The individual human life was incredibly cheap, and counted for nothing when measured against larger ethical or political principles. What is a beating or a murder, a bullet or a bomb, in the face of what these men had just been ordered to do in the name of all that was good and holy?"
Could this then be accounted for why our own JD, going back to 2008 has been labeling returning war vets as the greatest danger to the State? A fear that these men, leaving to fight for the ideals of what they believe America is, only to come home and see a greater truth, be willing to turn around and use that same idealism to try and turn the State back? After all, a strong front for Hitler to gain power was the disillusioned veterans who felt deeply betrayed by the state.
First with Storm of Steel, and then with The Forest Passage, Ernst has been one of the only ones who has been able to help me find and articulate my emotions related to my own war experiences and in regards to how I see the madness of crowds in politics. Thanks DC for this well-written piece, and am really looking forward to the Barnett interview. Keep up the good work, you’re helping a lot of people be able to articulate what they see.
Excellent read DC.
I think many Americans, especially on the modern left have this deep seated sense of security that they and their ideas are the only way for mankind, and they're so convinced of it that they're willing to force conformance, even if at the point of a gun.
As your essay shows, victory and dominance is a temporary state of affairs and is always going to be up for renegotiation whenever opposition views or forces get an advantage.
It would benifit Americans in the long run to remember that humanity is diverse, and to pretend like only they have a universal solution to an infinite variable is not only arrogant, but downright ridiculous.
Instead remembering that humanity has taken many paths, none perfect, none totally devoid. And that solutions exist in recognition of the difference between people's is paramount to co existence and not the demand for conformity.
Because human kind has always, and will always rebel against conformity.
I wish Darryl could have been my history teacher. Guaranteed to have learned a ton more.
Thank you,an intense read.
Junger is one of my favorites,unreal to recall men like him from the great war were among us as recently as the 1990's.
I saw the new "All Quiet" on the big screen in London.Excellent film,heartbreaking.
Alistar Hornes book "Verdun" induces claustrophobia,horrific.
I don't know where the West is going,but i know it will get worse before it gets worse.
Junger became Catholic later in his life.
I can't recall if this was from the MM 'cast you guys did together, but I remember James Poulos described the modern German culture as consisting of refined intellectuals trying to eat a fancy dinner using a sword and a battle axe. In Junger's case, he might be the only one who was able to integrate both sides of the German soul - the warrior and the poet, violence and reason - successfully.
For further understanding of the stance among anti-Weimar German intellectuals (the so-called 'Conservative Revolution) in the interwar period, I can't recommend highly enough Leo Strauss' essay/lecture "German Nihilism," given in 1941. Instead of castigating and villainizing, Strauss seeks to explicate the cultural forces which led Germany down the path to Nazism (leading to its eventual destruction and colonization by America). Strauss himself was no doctrinaire defender of democracy either; in fact, Darryl's friend Scott Horton was the first to translate a letter from Strauss to Karl Lowith from the early 1930s in which Strauss appears to endorse authoritarianism against decadent liberalism (he was ultimately much more an elitist than a fascist, however).
“A short essay about Ernst Junger..”
28 minute read
I need a legitimate DC reading list that isn’t just my Amazon cart.
Excellent read. I paired with a randomized Iron Maiden soundtrack for an even deeper meaningful experience. Americans have such little knowledge of WW1 and you have outlined the perfect reason for that here. Thanks for the perspective, you never waste my time and I will keep coming back for more!
I came from a very conservative Catholic background, spent a good portion of my life in more-or-less polar opposition to that background, and now having learned my lesson (namely, the more I know, the more I know I don't know), I find myself in an often lonely middle ground...one could say a "no man's land." I have many friends and family on both sides (right and left) and I just want you to know that I've been able to recommend your podcast to many of these folks and it has generated much introspection and quality conversation from all sides. Thank you! It means a lot that you are able to present so many fraught subjects in such a respectful and objective manner.
On a side note, but related to this article: I grew up listening to lots of folk music, especially by The Clancy Brothers. This article really brought me back to the song "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" as covered by Liam Clancy and Tommy Makem.
Great post. Perfect timing with this as I just watched All Quiet last week. It was my first experience with either the movie or book and I loved it. Following that of course I had to re-listen to Blueprint for Armageddon and just completed that today. Also in and out with A Storm of Steel.
Having just finished "Storm of Steel," this was a great follow-up. What I was struck by was my own horror and disgust to what Junger had experienced in juxtaposition to how it seemed he felt from the way he was describing it.
I wasn't sure overall what to make of how he felt given that I might be missing context not translated over the language barrier. This post cleared a lot of that up.
One of your best
Terrific essay. I was hoping to have another book to add to my towers of unread stuff - they weren't symmetrical enough!
Ive been thinking about Junger's attitude and I wonder how common it was. After reading 'Now it Can Be Told' I remember thinking that if people back home knew what was happening at the front, the war would end in a millisecond. Now I doubt it.
Looking forward to listening to the discussion with JB.