Friday, February 16, 2007

Edgar Julius Jung

Over the last half decade, Antonia Ax:son Johnson has made an extraordinary contribution to the liberal arts and social sciences in Sweden by funding the cultural magazine Axess. Covering a wide range of subjects from the limits of tolerance to future studies, the magazine has also occasionally published translations of contemporary philosophical texts, including (to my own delight) an excerpt of Stephen Eric Bronner’s “Reclaiming the Enlightenment”.

In the latest issue (2007:1) there was a fascinating biographical piece on Edgar Julius Jung, the ghost writer of Franz von Papen. As few others in similar positions, Jung realized that Hitler was a despotic leader in charge of a brutal mass movement. In a famous speech, written by Jung and held at the University of Marburg in June 1934, von Papen sharply criticized the national socialists’ attempts to suppress the free press. Though definitely no saint himself, it is noteworthy that von Papen dared to speak out like he did:

"Nicht durch Aufreizung, insbesondere der Jugend, nicht durch Drohungen gegenüber hilflosen Volksteilen, sondern nur durch eine vertrauensvolle Aussprache mit dem Volke kann die Zuversicht und die Einsatzfreude gehoben werden"

Naturally, Hitler was incensed by all this and, shortly after, Jung was found dead as one of many victims of the night of the long knives.

Sixty years later those times appear to have been so simple, so obvious black and white. Of course we would have sided with the resistance, taken up the fight alongside my own personal political favourites like Kurt Tucholsky? The Weimar era seems so distant today with democracy consolidated and Starbucks latte around every corner.

But as recent events have shown, we may never grow too confident. Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and the whole "war on terror" have made us fearfully aware that democratic virtues are not something that are automatically inherited. Instead they must be fought for anew by each generation. Even in a peaceful country like Sweden, the government is currently considering a new law which will allow the National Defence Radio Establishment (FRA) to monitor all internet traffic passing out and in of Sweden (yes, that includes you reading this weblog). Tomorrow I will join a demonstration in Malmö against this new law and for those of you who know me, Rasmus is not a typical guy you find in protest marches. Tomorrow I will join forces with the Green, the liberal youth organization and some others. For let me conclude by quoting the last line of the speech written by Jung:

"Die Geschichte wartet auf uns, aber nur dann, wenn wir uns ihrer als würdig erweisen"

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Blogger Natasja said...

March for me too!!! Haven't heard about THAT new law, there are so many things changing as a result of the new government that I dread to read the newspapers. Today I read about them wanting to take away the limits of the amount of commercials that are allowed to be played on the radio.

Btw, writing in German isn't very nice for those boneheads like myself that gave up the German (go French!) after 2 years!

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