Sunday, August 21, 2005

Adorno on love (!)

[Oddly moving, this:]

If coldness were not a fundamental trait of anthropology, that is, the constitution of people as they in fact exist in our society, if people were not profoundly indifferent toward whatever happens to everyone else except for a few to whom they are closely bound and, if possible, by tangible interests, then Auschwitz would not have been possible, people would not have accepted it. Society in its present form – and no doubt as it has been for centuries already – is based not, as was ideologically assumed since Aristotle, on appeal, on attraction, but rather on the pursuit of one’s interests against the interests of everyone else. This has settled into the character of people to their innermost center. What contradicts my observation, the herd drive of the so-called “lonely crowd,” is a reaction to this process, a banding together of people completely cold who cannot endure their own coldness and yet cannot change it. Every person today, without exception, feels too little loved, because every person cannot love enough….

Understand me correctly. I do not want to preach love. I consider it futile to preach it; no one has the right to preach it since the lack of love, as I have already said, is a lack belonging to all people without exception as they exist today. To preach love already presupposes in those to whom one appeals a character structure different from the one that needs to be changed. For the people whom one should love are themselves such that they cannot love, and therefore in turn are not at all that lovable. One of the greatest impulses of Christianity, not immediately identical with its dogma, was to eradicate the coldness that permeates everything. But this attempt failed; surely because it did not reach into the societal order that produces and reproduces that coldness. Probably that warmth among people, which everyone longs for, has never been present at all, except during short periods and in very small groups, perhaps even among peaceful savages. The much maligned utopians saw this. Thus Charles Fourier defined attraction as something that first must be produced through a humane societal order; he also recognized that this condition would be possible only when the drives of people are no longer repressed, but fulfilled and released.
–“Education After Auschwitz,” Critical Models: Interventions and Catchwords, trans. Henry W. Pickford (Columbia UP, 1998) 201-2.

1 comment:

Norman Finkelstein said...

Mark, thank you for that; it's both beautiful and surprising. I am reminded of Bronk's "The Tell":

I want to tell my friends how beautiful
the world is. Not but what they know
it is terrible too--they know as well as I;
but nevertheless, I want to tell my friends.

Because they are. And this is what they are;
and because it is and this is what it is.
You are my friend. The world is beautiful.
Dear friend, you are. I want to tell you so.