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Were there films or literature that lampooned Mutual Assured Destruction made by non-Americans?

Were there films or literature that lampooned Mutual Assured Destruction made by non-Americans?


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Dr. Strangelove is a 1964 film by American director Stanley Kubrick that lampooned Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).

In the 1960's was this film a phenomenon singular to America, or were there other film makers/writers/famous figures overseas that poked fun at the extreme tensions and "perfect rationality" of MAD? Were contemporaries of Kubrick overseas also lampooning MAD, or was Dr. Strangelove unique in it's dark comedy? I think my question boiled down is "was there any measurable international reaction to what can be viewed as cavalier Americans making jokes about humanity's demise as they played the active role in that same hypothetical destruction, or did the film have overseas competition in getting a laugh out of the zaniness of it all?"

My research has consisted of googling this question 85 different ways, and I haven't turned up anything interesting,… probably due to user error. Thanks for any answers!


I don't know of other movies (US or otherwise) that I would directly compare to Dr. Strangelove, but there is "The Mouse That Roared", which is a UK film gently mocking the American mindset at the time. It's worth watching, in my opinion, with Peter Sellers playing three different roles.


There was a Roumanian comedy "S-a furat o bombă" (1961), translated to other languages as "A Bomb Was Stolen", "Die gestohlene Bombe", "Stolen Bomb". I've seen it in Soviet Union in a movie theater in 1960th.

IMDB - Youtube


The UK series (and later film) Whoops Apocalypse springs to mind. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wytIx3_SxUU


The 1974 "Mr. Neutron" episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus features an increasingly unhinged American military commander (played by Michael Palin) bombing everything into smithereens in a demented series of attempts to take out the frighteningly powerful stodgy homebody, Mr. Neutron (played by Graham Chapman).

While not directly addressing MAD, it is an indirect satire since the "Commander" character is a take-off on General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) from Dr. Strangelove.


Manhattan Project

The Manhattan Project was a research and development undertaking during World War II that produced the first nuclear weapons. It was led by the United States with the support of the United Kingdom (which initiated the original Tube Alloys project) and Canada. From 1942 to 1946, the project was under the direction of Major General Leslie Groves of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Nuclear physicist Robert Oppenheimer was the director of the Los Alamos Laboratory that designed the actual bombs. As engineer districts by convention carried the name of the city where they were located, the Army component of the project was designated the Manhattan District Manhattan gradually superseded the official codename, Development of Substitute Materials, for the entire project. Along the way, the project absorbed its earlier British counterpart, Tube Alloys. The Manhattan Project began modestly in 1939, but grew to employ more than 130,000 people and cost nearly US$2 billion (equivalent to about $23 billion in 2019). [1] Over 90 percent of the cost was for building factories and to produce fissile material, with less than 10 percent for development and production of the weapons. Research and production took place at more than thirty sites across the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada.

  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • Canada

Two types of atomic bombs were developed concurrently during the war: a relatively simple gun-type fission weapon and a more complex implosion-type nuclear weapon. The Thin Man gun-type design proved impractical to use with plutonium, and therefore a simpler gun-type called Little Boy was developed that used uranium-235, an isotope that makes up only 0.7 percent of natural uranium. Since it was chemically identical to the most common isotope, uranium-238, and had almost the same mass, separating the two proved difficult. Three methods were employed for uranium enrichment: electromagnetic, gaseous and thermal. Most of this work was performed at the Clinton Engineer Works at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

In parallel with the work on uranium was an effort to produce plutonium, which was discovered by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1940. After the feasibility of the world's first artificial nuclear reactor, the Chicago Pile-1, was demonstrated in 1942 at the Metallurgical Laboratory in the University of Chicago, the Project designed the X-10 Graphite Reactor at Oak Ridge and the production reactors at the Hanford Site in Washington state, in which uranium was irradiated and transmuted into plutonium. The plutonium was then chemically separated from the uranium, using the bismuth phosphate process. The Fat Man plutonium implosion-type weapon was developed in a concerted design and development effort by the Los Alamos Laboratory.

The project was also charged with gathering intelligence on the German nuclear weapon project. Through Operation Alsos, Manhattan Project personnel served in Europe, sometimes behind enemy lines, where they gathered nuclear materials and documents, and rounded up German scientists. Despite the Manhattan Project's tight security, Soviet atomic spies successfully penetrated the program. The first nuclear device ever detonated was an implosion-type bomb at the Trinity test, conducted at New Mexico's Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range on 16 July 1945. Little Boy and Fat Man bombs were used a month later in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively, with Manhattan Project personnel serving as bomb assembly technicians, and as weaponeers on the attack aircraft. In the immediate postwar years, the Manhattan Project conducted weapons testing at Bikini Atoll as part of Operation Crossroads, developed new weapons, promoted the development of the network of national laboratories, supported medical research into radiology and laid the foundations for the nuclear navy. It maintained control over American atomic weapons research and production until the formation of the United States Atomic Energy Commission in January 1947.


THE BIGGEST GAMBLE IN HISTORY

We are little men serving great causes, but because the cause is great, something of that greatness falls upon us also.

India means only two things to us &ndash famines and Nehru.

IN THE FIRST YEARS of freedom, the ruling Congress Party faced threats from without, and within. As rebels against the Raj the nationalists had been sacrificing idealists, but as governors they came rather to enjoy the fruits of office.As a veteran Madras journalist put it, &lsquoin the post-Gandhian war for power the first casualty is decency&rsquo. 1 Time magazine commented that after independence was achieved, the Congress &lsquofound itself without a unifying purpose. It grew fat and lazy, today harbors many time-serving office-holders [and] not a few black-marketeers&rsquo. 2 An influential Bombay weekly remarked that &lsquofrom West Bengal to Uttar Pradesh, along the Gangetic Valley, the Congress is split. The old glamour of the premier political organization is fading, factions are becoming more acute and the party&rsquos unpopularity is increasing.&rsquo 3

There were party factions at the district level, as well as at the provincial level. However, the most portentous of the cleavages was between the two biggest stalwarts, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. These two men, prime minister and deputy prime minister respectively, had major differences in the first months following Independence. Gandhi&rsquos death made them come to gether again. But in 1949 and 1950 the differences resurfaced.

In character and personality Nehru and Patel were certainly a study in contrast. The prime minister was a Brahmin from an upper-class background whose father had also been a prominent figure in the nationalist movement. His deputy, on the other hand, was from a farming caste, and a descendant of a sepoy mutineer of 1857. Nehru loved good food and wine, appreciated fine art and literature and had travelled widely abroad. Patel was anon-smoker, vegetarian, teetotaller, and, on the whole, &lsquoa hard task master with little time for play&rsquo. He got up at 4 a.m., attended to his correspondence for an hour and then went for a walk through the dimly lit streets of New Delhi. Besides, &lsquoa grave exterior and a cold and cynical physiognomy [made] the Sardar areally tough personality&rsquo. In the words of the New York Times,hewas &lsquoleather tough&rsquo.

There were also similarities. Both Nehru and Patel had a daughter as their housekeeper, companion and chief confidante. Both were politicians of a conspicuous integrity. And both were fierce patriots. But their ideas did not always mesh. As one observer rather delicately put it, &lsquothe opposition of the Sardar to the leftist elements in the country is one of the major problems of political adjustment facing India&rsquo. He meant here that Patel was friendly with capitalists while Nehru believed in state control of the economy that Patel was more inclined to support the West in the emerging Cold War and that Patel was more forgiving of Hindu extremism and harsher on Pakistan. 4

In late 1949 Nehru and Patel had a major disagreement. In the New Year, India would transform itself froma &lsquodominion&rsquo, where the British monarch was head of state, to a full-fledged republic. Nehru thought that when the governor generalship became a presidency, the incumbent, C. Rajagopalachari, should retain the job. &lsquoRajaji&rsquo was an urbanes cholar with whom the prime minister then got along very well. Patel, however, preferred Rajendra Prasad, who was close to him but who also had wider acceptance within the Congress Party. Nehru had assured Rajaji that he would be president, but much to his annoyance, and embarrassment, Patel got the Congress rank-and-file to put Prasad&rsquos name forward instead. 5

The original date of Indian independence, 26 January, was chosen as the first Republic Day. The new head of state, Rajendra Prasad, took the salute in what was to become an annual and ever more spectacular parade. Three thousand men of the armed forces marched before the president. The artillery fired a thirty-one-gun salute while Liberator planes of the Indian air force flew overhead. Gandhi&rsquos India was announcing itself as a sovereign nation-state. 6

Round one had gone to Patel. A few months later commenced round two, the battle for the presidency of the Indian National Congress. For this post Patel had put forward Purushottamdas Tandon, a veteran of the Congress from the United Provinces, indeed, from the prime minister&rsquos own home town of Allahabad. Tandon and Nehru were personal friends, but hardly ideological bedfellows, for the presidential candidate was &lsquoa bearded, venerable orthodox Hindu . . . who admirably represented the extreme communalist wing of the [Congress] party&rsquo. He was, in sum, &lsquoa personification of political and social anachronisms&rsquo, an &lsquoanti-Muslim and pro-caste Hindu who stood for &lsquothe resurrection of a dead culture and along extinct system of society&rsquo. 7

Nehru had previously criticized Tandon for his desire to impose Hindi on regions of India which did not know the language. He was particularly upset when his fellow Allahabadi addressed a conference of refugees and spoke of revenge against Pakistan. India, believed Nehru, needed the healing touch, a policy of reconciliation between Hindus and Muslims. The election of Tandon as the president of the premier political party, the prime minister sown party, would send all the wrong signals.

When the election for the Congress presidency was held in August 1950 Tandon won comfortably. Nehru now wrote to Rajagopalachari that the result was &lsquothe clearest of indications that Tandon&rsquos election is considered more important than my presence in the Govt or the Congress . . . All my instincts tell me that Ihave completely exhausted my utility both in the Congress and Govt&rsquo. The next day he wrote again to Rajaji, saying, &lsquoI am feeling tired out &ndash physically and mentally. Ido not think I can function with any satisfaction to myself in future.&rsquo 8

Rajaji now tried to work out a compromise between the two factions. Patel was amenable, suggesting a joint statement under both their names, where he and Nehru would proclaim their adherence to certain fundamentals of Congress policy. The prime minister, however, decided to go it alone. After two weeks of contemplation he had decided to exchange resignation for truculence. On 13 September 1950 he issued a statement to the press deploring the fact that &lsquocommunalist and reactionary forces have openly expressed their joy at Tandon&rsquos victory. He was distressed, he said, that the &lsquospirit of communalism and revivalism has gradually invaded the Congress, and sometimes affects Government policy&rsquo. But, unlike Pakistan, India was a secular state. &lsquoWe have to treat our minorities in exactly the same way as we treat the majority&rsquo, insisted Nehru. &lsquoIndeed, fair treatment is not enough we have to make them feel that they are so treated. Now, &lsquoin view of the prevailing confusion and the threat of false doctrine, it has become essential that the Congress should declare its policy in this matter in the clearest and most unambiguous terms.&rsquo 9

Nehru felt that it was the responsibility of the Congress and the government to make the Muslims in India feel secure. Patel, on the other hand, was inclined to place the responsibility on the minorities themselves. He had once told Nehru that the &lsquoMuslims citizens in India have a responsibility to remove the doubts and misgivings entertained by a large section of the people about their loyalty founded largely on their past association with the demand for Pakistan and the unfortunate activities of some of them.&rsquo 10

On the minorities question, as on other matters of philosophy and policy, Nehru and Patel would never completely see eye to eye. Now, however, in the aftermath of the bitter contest for the Congress presidency, the older man did not press the point. For Patel knew that the destruction of their party might very well mean the destruction of India. He thus told Congress members who visited him to &lsquodo what Jawaharlal says&rsquo and to &lsquopay no attention to this controversy&rsquo. On 2 October, while inaugurating a women&rsquos centre in Indore, he used the occasion of Gandhi&rsquos birth anniversary to affirm his loyalty to the prime minister. He described himself in his speech as merely one of the many non-violent soldiers in Gandhi&rsquos army. Now that the Mahatma was gone, &lsquoJawaharlal Nehru is our leader, said Patel. &lsquoBapu [Gandhi] appointed him as his successor and had even proclaimed him as such. It is the duty of all Bapu&rsquos soldiers to carry out his bequest . . . I am not a disloyal soldier.&rsquo 11

Such is the evidence placed before us by Patel&rsquos biographer, Rajmohan Gandhi. It confirms in fact what Nehru&rsquos biographer (Sarvepalli Gopal) had expressed in feeling: that what forestalled &lsquoan open rupture [between the two men] was mutual regard and Patel&rsquos stoic decency&rsquo. 12 Patel remembered his promise to Gandhi to work along with Jawaharlal. And by the time of the controversy over the Congress presidency he was also a very sick man. It was from his bed that he sent a congratulatory handwritten letter to Nehru on his birthday, 14 November. A week later, when the prime minister visited him at his home, Patel said: &lsquoI want totalk to you alone when I get a little strength . . . I have a feeling that you are losing confidence in me.&rsquo &lsquoI have been losing confidence in myself, answered Nehru. 13

Three weeks later Patel was dead. It fell to the prime minister to draft the Cabinet Resolution mourning his passing. Nehru singled out his devotion to a &lsquounited and strong India&rsquo, and his &lsquogenius in solving the complicated problem of the princely states. To Nehru, Patel was both comrade and rival butto their compatriots he was &lsquoan unmatched warrior in the cause of freedom, a lover of India, a great servant of the people and a statesman of genius and mighty achievement&rsquo. 14

Vallabhbhai Patel&rsquos death in December 1950 removed the one Congress politician who was of equal standing to Nehru. No longer were there two power centres within India&rsquos ruling party. However, the prime minister still had to contend with two somewhat lesser rivals the president of the Congress, Purushottamdas Tandon, and the president of the republic, Rajendra Prasad. Nehru&rsquos biographer says of Prasad that he was &lsquoprominent in the ranks of medievalism&rsquo. 15 That judgement is perhaps excessively harsh on a patriot who had sacrificed much in the cause of Indian freedom. Nonetheless, it was clear that the prime minister and the president differed on some crucial subjects, such as the place of religion in public life.

These differences came to a head in the spring of 1951 when the president was asked to inaugurate the newly restored Somnath temple in Gujarat. Once fabled for its wealth, Somnath had been raided several times by Muslim chiefs, including the notorious eleventh-century marauder Mahmud of Ghazni. Each time the temple was razedit was rebuilt. Then the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb ordered its total destruction. It lay in ruinsfor two and a half centuries until Sardar Patel himself visited it in September 1947 and promised help in its reconstruction. Patel&rsquos colleague K. M. Munshi then took charge of the rebuilding. 16

When the president of India chose to dignify the temple&rsquos consecration with his presence, Nehru was appalled. He wrote to Prasad advising him not to participate in the &lsquospectacular opening of the Somnath temple [which] . . . unfortunately has a number of implications. Personally, I thought that this was no time to lay stress on large-scale building operations at Somnath. This could have been done gradually and more effectively later. However, this has been done. [Still] Ifeel that it would be better if you did not preside over this function.&rsquo 17

Prasad disregarded the advice and went to Somnath. To his credit, however, his speech there stressed the Gandhian ideal of inter-faith harmony. True, he nostalgically evoked a Golden Age when the gold in India&rsquos temples symbolized great wealth and prosperity. The lesson from Somnath&rsquos later history, however, was that &lsquoreligious intolerance only foments hatred and immoral conduct&rsquo. By the same token, the lesson of its reconstruction was not to &lsquoopen old wounds, which have healed to some extent over the centuries&rsquo, but rather to &lsquohelp each caste and community to obtain full freedom&rsquo. Calling for &lsquocomplete religious tolerance, the president urged his audience to &lsquotry to understand the great essence of religion&rsquo, namely, &lsquothat it is not compulsory to follow a single path to realize Truth and God&rsquo. For &lsquojust as all the rivers mingle together in the vast ocean, similarly different religions help men to reach God&rsquo. 18

One does not know whether Nehru read the speech. In any case, he would have preferred Prasad not to go at all. The prime minister thought that public officials should never publicly associate with faiths and shrines. The president, on the other hand, believed that it should be equally and publicly respectful of all. Although he was a Hindu, said Prasadat Somnath, &lsquoI respect all religions and on occasion visit a church, a mosque, a dargah and a gurdwara&rsquo.

Meanwhile, the growing Hindu tint of the Congress had led to the departure of some of its most effervescent leaders. Already in 1948 a group of brilliant young Congress members had left to start the Socialist Party. Now, in June1951, the respected Gandhian J. B. Kripalani left to form his Kisan Majdoor Praja Party (KMPP), which, as its name indicated, stood for the interests of farmers, workers and other toiling people. Like the Socialists, Kripalani claimed that the Congress under Purushottamdas Tandon had become a deeply conservative organization.

As it happened, the formation of the KMPP strengthened Nehru&rsquos hand against Tandon. The Congress, he could now say, had to move away from the reactionary path it had recently adopted and reclaim its democratic and inclusive heritage. In September, when the All-India Congress Committee met in Bangalore, Nehru forced a showdown with Tandon and his supporters. The rank and file of the party was increasingly concerned with the upcoming general election. And, as a southern journalist pointed out, it was clear that the AICC would back the prime minister against Tandon, if only because &lsquothe Congress President is no vote-getter&rsquo. By contrast, &lsquoPandit Nehru is unequalled as a vote-catcher. On the eve of the general elections it is the votes that count and Pandit Nehru has a value to the Congress which none else possesses&rsquo. 19

That indeed, is what happened in Bangalore, where Tandon resigned as president of the Congress, with Nehru being elected in his place. As head of both party and government, &lsquoNehru could now wage full war against all communal elements in the country&rsquo. 20 The first battle in this war would be the general election of 1952.

India&rsquos first general election was, among other things, an act of faith. A newly independent country chose to move straight into universal adult suffrage, rather than &ndash as had been the case in the West &ndash at first reserve the right to vote to men of property, with the working class and women excluded from the franchise until much later. India became free in August 1947, and two years later set up an Election Commission. In March 1950 Sukumar Sen was appointed chief election commissioner. The next month the Representation of the People Act was passed in Parliament. While proposing the Act, the prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, expressed the hope that elections would be held as early as the spring of 1951.

Nehru&rsquos haste was understandable, but it was viewed with some alarm by the man who had to make the election possible. It is a pity we know so little about Sukumar Sen. He left no memoirs and few papers either. Born in 1899, he was educated at Presidency College and at London University, where he was awarded a gold medal in mathematics. He joined the Indian Civil Service (ICS) in 1921 and served in various districts and as a judge before being appointed chief secretary of West Bengal, from where he was sent on deputation as chief election commissioner.

It was perhaps the mathematician in Sen which made him ask the prime minister to wait. For no officer of state, certainly no Indian official, has ever had such as tupendous task placed in front of him. Consider, first of all, the size of the electorate: 176 million Indians aged twenty-one or more, of whom about 85 per cent could not read or write. Each one had to be identified, named and registered. The registration of voters was merely the first step. For how did one design party symbols, ballot papers and ballot boxes for a mostly unlettered electorate? Then, sites for polling stations had to be identified, and honest and efficient polling officers recruited. Moreover, concurrent with the general election would be elections to the state assemblies. Working with Sukumar Sen in this regard were the election commissioners of the different provinces, also usually ICS men.

The polls were finally scheduled for the first months of 1952, although some outlying districts would vote earlier. An American observer justly wrote that the mechanics of the election&rsquopresenta problem of colossal proportions&rsquo. 21 Some numbers will help us understand the scale of Sen&rsquos enterprise. At stake were 4,500 seats &ndash about 500 for Parliament, the rest for the provincial assemblies. 224,000 polling booths were constructed, and equipped with 2million steel ballotboxes, to make which 8,200 tonnes ofsteel were consumed 16,500 clerks were appointed on six-month contracts to type and collate the electoral rolls by constituencyabout 380,000 reams of paper wereused for printing the rolls 56,000 presiding officers were chosen to supervise the voting, these aided by another 280,000 helpers 224,000 policemen were puton duty to guard against violence and intimidation.

The election and the electorate were spread over an area of more than a million square miles. The terrain was huge, diverse and &ndash for the exercise at hand &ndash sometimes horrendously difficult. In the case of remote hill villages, bridges had to be specially constructed across rivers in the case of small islands in the Indian Ocean,naval vessels were used to take the rolls to the booths. A second problem was social rather than geographical: the diffidence of many women in northern India to give their own names, instead of which they wished to register themselves as A&rsquos mother or B&rsquos wife.Sukumar Sen was outraged by this practice, a &lsquocurious senseless relic of the past&rsquo, and directed his officials to correct the rolls by inserting the names of the women &lsquoin the place of mere descriptions of such voters&rsquo. Nonetheless, some 2.8 million women voters had finally to be struck off the list. The resulting furore over their omission was considered by Sen to be a &lsquogood thing&rsquo, for it would help the prejudice vanish before the next elections, by which time the women could be reinstated under their own names.

Where in Western democracies most voters could recognize the parties by name, here pictorial symbols were used to make their task easier. Drawn from daily life, these symbols were easily recognizable: a pair of bullocks for one party, a hut for a second, an elephant for a third, an earthenware lamp for a fourth. A second innovation was the use of multiple ballot boxes. On a single ballot, the (mostly illiterate) Indian elector might make a mistake thus each party had a ballot box wit hits symbol marked in each polling station, so that voters could simply drop their paper in it. To avoid impersonation, Indian scientists had developed a variety of indelible ink which, applied on the voter&rsquos finger, stayed there for a week. A total of 389,816 phials of this ink were used in the election. 22

Throughout 1951 the Election Commission used the media of film and radio to educate the public about this novel exercise in democracy. A documentary on the franchise and its functions, and the duties of the electorate, was shown in more than 3,000 cinemas. Many more Indians were reached via All-India Radio, which broadcast numerous programmes on the constitution, the purpose of adult franchise, the preparation of electoral rolls and the process of voting. 23

It is instructive to reflect on the international situation in the months leading up to India&rsquos first general election. Elsewhere in Asia the French were fighting the Viet-Minh and UN troops were thwarting a North Korean offensive. In South Africa the Afrikaner National Party had disenfranchised the Cape Coloureds, the last non-white group to have the vote. America had just tested its first hydrogen bomb Maclean and Burgess had just defected to Russia. The year had witnessed three political assassinations: of the king of Jordan, of the prime minister of Iran and of the prime minister of Pakistan, Liaqat Ali Khan, shot dead on 16 October 1951, nine days before the first votes were cast in India.

Most interestingly, the polls in India were to coincide with a general election in the United Kingdom. The old warhorse Winston Churchill was seeking to bring his Conservatives back into power. In the UK the election was basically a two-party affair. In India, however, there was a dazzling diversity of parties and leaders. In power was Jawaharlal Nehru&rsquos Indian National Congress, the chief legatee and beneficiary of the freedom movement. Opposing it were a variety of new parties formed by some greatly gifted individuals.

Prominent among parties of the left were J. B. Kripalani&rsquos KMPP and the Socialist Party, whose leading lights included the young hero of the Quit India rebellion of 1942, Jayaprakash Narayan. These parties accused the Congress of betraying its commitment to the poor. They claimed to stand for the ideals of the old &lsquoGandhian&rsquo Congress, which had placed the interests of workers and peasants before those of landlords and capitalists. 24 A different kind of critique was offered by the Jana Sangh, which sought to consolidate India&rsquos largest religious grouping, the Hindus, into one solid voting bloc. The party&rsquos aims were well expressed in the symbolism of its inaugural meeting, held in New Delhi on 21 September 1951. The session began with a recitation from the Vedas and a singing of the patriotic hymn &lsquoVande Matram&rsquo. On the rostrum, the party&rsquos founder, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, sat along with other leaders, behind them a

white background [with] pictures of Shivaji, Lord Krishna persuading the remorse-striken Arjunato take up arms to fight the evil forces of the Kauravas on the battle-field of Kurukshetra,Rana Pratap Singh and of an earthen deepak [lamp], in saffron. From the Pandal was hung banners inscribed with &lsquoSangh Shakth Kali Yuge&rsquo, adictum taken from [the] Mahabharata, professing to tell the people who attended the convention that in the age of Kali there was force only in [Jana] Sangh. 25

The imagery was striking: taken from the Hindu epics but also invoking those Hindu warriors who had later fought the Muslim invader. But who, one wonders, represented the evil enemy, the Kauravas? Was it Pakistan, the Muslims, Jawaharlal Nehru or the Congress Party? All figuredas hate objects in the speeches of the Sangh&rsquos leaders. The party stood for the reunification of the motherland through the absorption (or perhaps conquest) of Pakistan. It suspected the Indian Muslims as a problem minority, which had &lsquonot yet learnt to own this land and its culture and treat them as their first love&rsquo. The Congress Party was accused of &lsquoappeasing&rsquo these uncertainly patriotic Muslims. 26

S. P. Mukherjee had once been a member of the Union Cabinet. So had B. R. Ambedkar, the great Untouchable lawyer who, as the Union&rsquos law minister, helped draft the Indian Constitution. Ambedkar had resigned from office to revive the Scheduled Caste Federation in time for the election. In his speeches he sharply attacked the Congress government for doing little to uplift the lower castes. Freedom had meant no change for these peoples: it was &lsquothe same old tyranny, the same old oppression, the same old discrimination. . .&rsquo After freedom was won, said Ambedkar, the Congress had degenerated into a dharamsala or rest-home, without any unity of purpose or principles, and &lsquoopen to all, fools and knaves, friends and foes, communalists and secularists, reformers and orthodox and capitalists and anti-capitalists&rsquo 27

Still further to the left was the Communist Party of India. As we have seen, in 1948 many activists of the CPI had gone underground to lead a peasant insurrection that they hoped would fructify into a countrywide revolutionary upsurge on the Chinese model. But the police and in some places the army had cracked down hard. So the communists came overground in time to fight the election. The Telengana struggle, said the party&rsquos general secretary, had been withdrawn &lsquounconditionally&rsquo. A temporary amnesty was granted and the militants put away their arms and went seeking votes. This abrupt change of roles produced dilemmas no text by Marx or Lenin could help resolve. Thus a woman communist standing for a seat in Bengal was not sure whether to wear crumpled saris, which would certify her identity with the poor, or wash and iron them, to better appeal to the middle-class audience. And a parliamentary candidate in Telengana (where the peasant revolt had been at its most intense) recalled his confusion at being offered a drink by a senior official: he said &lsquoyes&rsquo, and gulped down the offering, only to be hit by a &lsquoreeling sensation&rsquo in his head as it turned out to be whisky rather than fruit juice. 28

The election campaign of 1951&ndash2 was conducted through large public meetings, door-to-door canvassing, and the use of visual media. &lsquoAt the height of election fever&rsquo, wrote a British observer, &lsquoposters and emblems were profuse everywhere &ndash on walls, at street corners, even decorating the statues in New Delhi and defying the dignity of a former generation of Viceroys&rsquo. A novel method of advertising was on display in Calcutta, where stray cows had &lsquoVote Congress&rsquo written on their backs in Bengali. 29

Speeches and posters were used by all parties, but only the communists had access to the airwaves. Not those transmitted by All-India Radio, which had banned party propaganda, but of Moscow Radio, which relayed its programmes via stations in Tashkent. Indian listeners could, if they wished, hear how the non-communist parties in the election were &lsquocorrupt stooges of Anglo-American imperialists and oppressors of the workers&rsquo. 30 For the literate, a Madras weekly had helpfully translated an article fromPravdawhich called the ruling Congress &lsquoa government of landowners and monopolists, a government of national betrayers, truncheons and bullets&rsquo, and announced that the alternative for the &lsquolong-suffering, worn-out Indian people was the Communist Party, around which &lsquoall progressive forces of the country, everyone who cherishes the vital interests of his fatherland, are grouping&rsquo. 31

Adding to the list (and interest, and excitement) were regional parties based on affiliations of ethnicity and religion. These included the Dravida Kazhagam in Madras, which stood for Tamil pride against northIndian domination the Akalis in Punjab, who were the main party of the Sikhs and the Jharkhand Party in Bihar, which wanted a separate state for tribal people. There were also numerous splinter groupings of the left, as well as two Hindu parties more orthodox than the Jana Sangh: the Hindu Mahasabha and the Ram Rajya Parishad.

The leaders of these parties all had years of political service behind them. Some had gone to jail in the nationalist cause others in the communist cause. Men like S. P. Mookerjee and Jayaprakash Narayan were superb orators, with the ability to enchant a crowd and make it fall in line behind them. On the eve of the election the political scientist Richard Park wrote that &lsquothe leading Indian parties and party workers are surpassed by those of no other country in electioneering skill, dramatic presentation of issues, political oratory, or mastery of political psychology&rsquo. 32

Some might celebrate this diversity as proof of the robustness of the democratic process. Others were not so sure. Thus a cartoon strip in Shankar&rsquos Weekly lampooned the hypocrisy of the vote-gathering exercise. It showed a fat man in a black coat canvassing among different groups of voters. He told an emaciated farmer that &lsquoland for peasants is my aim&rsquo. He assured a well-dressed young man that &lsquolandlords&rsquo rights will be protected&rsquo. At one place he said that he was &lsquoall for nationalization&rsquo at another he insisted that he would &lsquoencourage private enterprise&rsquo. He told a lady in a sari that he stood for the Hindu Code Bill (a reform aimed principally at enhancing the rights of women), but said to a Brahmin with a pigtail that he would &lsquosafeguard our Ancient Culture&rsquo. 33

These varied parties all had one target: the ruling Congress. Its leader, Jawaharlal Nehru, had just survived a challenge to his leadership of the party. With the death of Vallabhbhai Patel he was also the dominant presence within the government. But he faced problems aplenty. These included angry refugees from East and West Pakistan, not yet settled in their new homes. The Andhras in the south and the Sikhs in the north were getting restive. The Kashmir question was, in the eyes of the world, still unresolved. And Independence had not as yet made any dent in the problems of poverty and inequality: a state of affairs for which, naturally, the ruling party was likely to be held responsible.

One way of telling the story of the election campaign is through newspaper headlines. These makeinteresting reading,notleast because the issuesthey flag have remained at the forefront of Indian elections ever since. &lsquoMINISTERS FACE STIFF OPPOSITION&rsquo read a headline from Uttar Pradesh. &lsquoCASTE RIVALRIES WEAKEN BIHAR CONGRESS&rsquo, read another. From the north-eastern region came this telling line: &lsquoAUTONOMY DEMAND IN MANIPUR&rsquo. From Gauhati came this one: &lsquoCONGRESS PROSPECTS IN ASSAM: IMPORTANCEOF MUSLIM AND TRIBAL VOTE&rsquo. Gwalior offered &lsquoDISCONTENT AMONG CONGRESSMEN: LIST OF NOMINEES CREATES WIDER SPLIT&rsquo. A Calcutta headline ran: &lsquoW. BENGAL CONGRESS CHIEF BOOED AT MEETING&rsquo (the hecklers being refugees from East Pakistan). &lsquoNO HOPES OF FREE AND FAIR ELECTION&rsquo, started a story datelined Lucknow: this being the verdict of J. B. Kripalani, who claimed that state officials would rig the polls in favour of the ruling party. And the city of Bombay offered, at three different moments in the campaign, these more-or-less timeless headlines: &lsquoCONGRESS BANKS ON MUSLIM SUPPORT&rsquo &lsquoCONGRESS APATHY TOWARDS SCHEDULED CASTES: CHARGES REITERATED BY DR AMBEDKAR&rsquo and &lsquoFOURTEEN HURT IN CITY ELECTION CLASH&rsquo. But there was also the occasional headline that was of its time butemphatically not of ours -notably the one in the Searchlight of Patna which claimed: &lsquoPEACEFUL VOTING HOPED [FOR] IN BIHAR&rsquo.

Faced with wide-ranging opposition from outside, and with some dissidence within his own party, Jawaharlal Nehru took to the road &ndash and on occasion the plane and the train as well. From 1 October he commenced a tour which a breathless party functionary later described as comparable to the &lsquoimperial campaigns of Samudragupta, Asoka and Akbar&rsquo as well as to the &lsquotravel[s] of Fahien andHieun Tsang&rsquo. In the space of nine weeks Nehru covered the country from end to end. He travelled 25,000 miles in all: 18,000 by air, 5,200 by car, 1,600 by train, and even 90 by boat. 34

Nehru kicked off his party&rsquos campaign with a speech in the Punjab town of Ludhiana on Sunday 30 September. The choice of venue was significant: as was the thrust of his talk, which declared &lsquoan all-out war against communalism&rsquo. He &lsquocondemned the communal bodies which in the name of Hindu and Sikh culture were spreading the virus of communalism as the Muslim League once did&rsquo. These &lsquosinister communal elements would if they came to power &lsquobring ruin and death to the country&rsquo. He asked his audience of half a million to instead &lsquokeep the windows of our mind open and let in fresh breeze from all corners of the world&rsquo.

The sentiment was Gandhi-like, and indeed Nehru&rsquos next major speech was delivered in Delhi on the afternoon of 2 October, the Mahatma&rsquos birthday. To a mammoth crowd he spoke in Hindustani about the government&rsquos determination to abolish both untouchability and landlordism. Once more he identified communalists as the chief enemies, who &lsquowill be shown no quarter&rsquo, and &lsquooverpowered with all our strength&rsquo. His 95-minute speech was punctuated by loud cheers, not least when he made this ringing declaration: &lsquoIf any person raises his hand to strike down another on the ground of religion, I shall fight him till the last breath of my life, both at the head of the Government and from outside.&rsquo

Wherever he went Nehru spoke out strongly against communalism. In S. P. Mookerjee&rsquos native Bengal he dismissed the Jana Sangh as the &lsquoillegitimate child of the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha&rsquo. To be sure, he touched on other themes as well. In Bihar he deplored the &lsquomonster of casteism&rsquo. In Bombay he reminded his audience that a vote for Congress was also a vote for its foreign policy of principled neutralism. In Bharatpur and Bilaspur he deplored the impatience of his left-wing critics, whose ends he shared but not their means: as he put it, &lsquowe can build the edifice of Socialism brick by brick only&rsquo. In Ambala he asked the women to cast off their purdahs and &lsquocome forward to build the country&rsquo. In many places he expressed his admiration for the best among his opposition: for men such as Ambedkar, Kripalani, and Jayaprakash Narayan, who had once been his colleagues in the party or in government. &lsquoWe want a number of [such] men with ability and integrity&rsquo, he said. &lsquoThey are welcome. But all of them are pulling in different directions and doing nothing in the end&rsquo. He was particularly sorry to find himself in opposition to the Socialist Party, which, he said, &lsquocontains some of my old intimate friends whom I admire and respect&rsquo. These sentiments were not shared by his daughter, Indira Gandhi, who in her own speeches alleged that the socialists were funded by American dollars. 35

In the course of his campaign Nehru &lsquotravelled more than he slept and talked more than he travelled&rsquo. He addressed 300 mass meetings and myriad way side ones. He spoke to about 20 million people directly, while an equal number merely had his darshan, eagerly flanking the roads to see him as his car whizzed past. Those who heard and saw Nehru included miners, peasants, pastoralists, factory workers and agricultural labourers. Women of all classes turned out in numbers for his meetings. Sometimes there was a sprinkling of hostiles among the crowd. In parts of northern India Jana Sangh supporters shouted out at Nehru&rsquos rallies that he was not tobe trusted because he ate beef. Coming across a group of communists waving the hammer and sickle, Nehru asked them to &lsquogo and live in the country whose flag you are carrying&rsquo. &lsquoWhy don t you go to New York and live with the Wall Street imperialists?&rsquo they shot back. 36

But for the most part the people who came to hear Nehru were sympathetic, and often adulatory. This summation by a Congress booklet exaggerates, but not by very much:

[At] almost every place, city, town, village or wayside halt, people hadwaited overnight to welcome the nation&rsquos leader. Schools and shops closed: milkmaids and cowherds had taken a holiday the kisan and his helpmate took a temporary respite from their dawn-to-dusk programme of hard work in field and home. In Nehru&rsquos name, stocks of soda and lemonadesold out even water became scarce . . . Special trains were run from out-of-the-way places to carry people to Nehru&rsquos meetings, enthusiasts travelling not only on foot-boards but also on top of carriages. Scores of people fainted in milling crowds. 37

The independent press provided many instances of the popular mood. When Nehru spoke in Bombay, a procession, mainly of Muslims, marched to Chowpatty to the accompaniment of pipes and cymbals. It was headed by a pair of bullocks and a plough (the Congress symbol). Everywhere, crowds started collecting from early morning for talks scheduled for the afternoon almost everywhere, barricades were broken in &lsquothe enthusiasm to catch a glimpse of Mr Nehru&rsquo. After he finished his speech in Delhi, Nehru was met as he came off the dais by a famous wrestler, Massu Pahalwan, who offered him a gold chain and remarked, &lsquoThis is only a token. I am prepared to give my life for you and the country. The media was much taken with a Telugu-speaking woman who went to listen to Nehru speak in the railway town of Kharagpur. As the prime minister lectured on she was consumed by labour pains. Immediately, a group of fellow Andhras made a ring around her: the baby was safely delivered, no doubt while the mid wives had an ear cocked to hear what their hero was saying.

The extraordinary popular appeal of the Indian prime minister is best captured in the testimony of the confirmed Nehru-baiter D. F. Karaka, editor of the popular Bombay weekly, the Current. He was in the vast crowd at Chowpatty beach, one of 200,000 people gathered there, many standing in the sea. Karaka noted &ndash no doubt to his regret &mdash &lsquothe instant affinity between the speaker and his audience&rsquo. This is how the editor reported Nehru&rsquos speech:

He had come to Bombay after along time, he told them. Many years.

He paused and looked at them with that wistful look he specialises in. In that pause, ominous for his political opponents, a thousand votes must have swung in his favour.

Yes, he felt a personal attachment to the city.

Two thousand votes. It was like coming home. Pause.

In Bombay he had passed some of the happiest moments in his life. Yes, the happiest.

He remembered those great moments so vividly. And some of the saddest moments too &ndash the sad, hard days of the [freedom] struggle.

Ten thousand votes for the Congress.

Pause. &lsquoBy looking at the people who have struggled together with me in the fight for freedom, I derive freedomand strength,&rsquo he said.

The affinity was complete.

A deep, sorrowful, soulful look in the fading twilight hour with the air pregnant with emotion . . . He told the gathering that he had taken upon himself the role of a mendicant beggar. Amidst cheers, he said: &lsquoIf at all I am abeggar, I am begging for your love, your affection and your enlightened co-operation in solving the problems which face the country&rsquo.

Thirty thousand votes were sure for Nehru.

Astir in the audience. A tear on the face of the man or woman sitting on the beach or standing on the shore.Two tears, a sari-end wiping them gently off awoman&rsquos face. She would give her vote to Nehru no matter what anyone else said. Memories of Gandhi came back to the people &ndash the days when Nehru stood beside the Mahatma. Nehru . . . was the man he left to us as his political heir.

Fifty thousand votes! a hundred thousand! Two hundred thousand! 38

The crowds were moved by Nehru and he, in turn, was moved by them. His own feelings are best captured in a letter he wrote to one who with both delicacy and truth can be referred to as his closest lady friend, Edwina Mountbatten:

Wherever I have been, vast multitudes gather at my meetings and I love to compare them, their faces, their dress, their reactions to me and what I say. Scenes from past history of that very part of India rise up before me and my mind becomes a picture gallery of past events. But, more than the past, the present fills my mind and I try to probe into the minds and hearts of these multitudes. Having long been imprisoned in the Secretariat of Delhi, I rather enjoy these fresh contacts with the Indian people . . . The effort to explain in simple language our problems and our difficulties, and to reach the minds of these simple folk is both exhausting and exhilarating.

As I wander about, the past and the present merge into one another and this merger leads me to think of the future. Time becomes like allowing river in continuous motion with events connected with one another. 39

One place even Nehru didn&rsquot get to was the tahsil of Chini in Himachal Pradesh. Here resided the first Indians to cast votes in a general election, a group of Buddhists. They voted on 25 October 1951, days before the winter snows shut their valleys from the world. The villagers of Chini owed allegiance to the Panchen Lama in Tibet, and were ruled by rituals administered by local priests. These included gorasang, a religious service to celebrate the completion of a new house kangur zalmo,a ceremonial visit to the Buddhist library at Kanam menthako, &lsquowhere men, women, and children climb hills, dance and sing&rsquo and jokhiya chug simig, the interchange of visits between relatives. Now, although they didn&rsquot as yet know it, was added a new ritual, to be performed at five-year intervals: voting in a general election. 40

Polling began in the UK general election on the same day, although there the first voters were not Buddhist peasants in a Himalayan valley but &lsquomilkmen, charwomen and all-night workers returning home from work&rsquo. 41 However, in those small islands the results of the election were known the following day &ndash Labour had been swept out of power and Winston Churchill returned as prime minister. In India, the first voters had to wait months, for the rest of the country did not go to the polls until January and February 1952.

The highest turnout, 80.5 per cent, was recorded in the parliamentary constituency of Kottayam, in present-day Kerala the lowest, 18.0, was in Shahdol in what is now Madhya Pradesh. For the country as a whole, about 60 per cent of registered voters exercised their franchise, this despite the high level of illiteracy. A scholar from the London School of Economics described how a young woman in Himachal walked several miles with herfrail mother to vote: &lsquofor a day, at least, she knew she was important&rsquo. 42 A Bombay-based weekly marvelled at the high turnout in the forest districts ofOrissa, where tribals came to the booths with bows and arrows. One booth in the jungle reported more than 70 per cent voting but evidently Sukumar Sen had got at least some things wrong, for the neighbouring booth was visited only by an elephant and two panthers. 43 The press highlighted the especially aged: a110-year-old man in Madurai who came propped up on either side by a great-grandson, a 95-year-old woman in Ambala, deaf and hunchbacked, who still turned up to vote. There was alsothe90-year-old Muslim in rural Assam who had to return disappointed after being told by the presiding officer that &lsquohe could not vote for Nehru&rsquo. A nonagenarian in rural Maharashtra cast his vote for the Assembly election, but fell down and died before he could do the same for Parliament. And there was a vindication of Indian democracy in the electoral roll of Hyderabad, where among the first who voted was the Nizam himself.

One place in which there was especially brisk polling was Bombay. Delhi was where the rulers lived, but this island metropolis was India&rsquos financial capital. It was also a very politically aware city. Altogether, 900,000 residents of Bombay, or 70 per cent of the city&rsquos electorate, exercised their democratic right on election day. The workers came in far greater numbers as compared to the fashionable middle class. Thus, reported the Times of India, &lsquoin the industrial areas voters formed long queues long before the polling stations opened, despite the particularly cold and dewy morning. In contrast to this, at the WIAA Club [in Malabar Hill], which housed two polling stations, it appeared as if people straggled in for a game of tennis or bridge and only incidentally to vote&rsquo.

The day after Bombay went to the polls it was the turn of the Mizo hills. With regard to both culture and geography there could not have been a greater contrast. Bombay had a great density of polling stations: 1,349 in all, packed into just 92 square miles the Mizo, a tribal area bordering East Pakistan and Burma, required a mere 113 booths spread over more than 8,000 square miles of territory. The people who lived in these hills, said one scribe, &lsquohave not known any queues hit her to except those in battle arrays&rsquo. But they had nonetheless &lsquotaken a strong fancy&rsquo to the exercise, reaching their booths after walking for days on &lsquoperilous tracks through wild jungles, camping at night on the way amid song and community dances around the fire&rsquo. And so 92,000 Mizos, who &lsquohave through the centuries decided an issue with their arrows and spears, came forward to give their decision for the first time through the medium of the ballot&rsquo.

An American woman photographer on assignment in Himachal Pradesh was deeply impressed by the commitment shown by the election officials. One official had walked for six days to attend the preparatory workshop organized by the district magistrate another had ridden four days on a mule. They went back to their distant stations with sewn gunny sacks full of ballot boxes, ballots, party symbols and electoral lists. On election day the photographer chose to watch proceedings at an obscure hill village named Bhuti. Here the polling station was a school-house which had only one door. Since the rules prescribed a different entry and exit, a window had been converted into a door, with improvised steps on either side to allow the elderly and ailing to hop out after voting. 44

At least in this first election, politicians and the public were both (to quote the chief election commissioner) &lsquoessentially law-abiding and peaceful&rsquo. There were only 1,250 election offences reported. These included 817 cases of the &lsquoimpersonation of voters&rsquo, 106 attempts to take ballot papers out of a polling station and 100 instances of &lsquocanvassing within onehundred yards of a polling station&rsquo, some of these last offences doubtless committed unknowingly by painted cows. 45

Polling for the general election ended in the last week of February 1952. When the votes were counted, the Congress had won comfortably. The party secured 364 out of 489 seats in Parliament and 2,247 out of 3,280 seats in the state assemblies. As critics of the Congress were quick to point out, the first-past-the-post system had produced a far from representative result. More than 50 per cent of the electorate had voted for non-Congress candidates or parties. For Parliament as a whole, Congress had polled 45 per cent of the vote and won 74.4 per cent of the seats the corresponding figures for the states were 42.4 per cent and 68.6 per cent. Even so, twenty-eight Congress ministers had failed to win a seat. These included such men of influence as Jai Narayan Vyas, in Rajasthan, and Morarji Desai, in Bombay. More striking still was the fact that it was a communist, Ravi Narayan Reddy -hewho drank his first glass of whisky during the campaign &mdash who achieved the largest majority, larger even than Jawaharlal Nehru s.

One of the more notable defeats was that of the Scheduled Caste leader B. R. Ambedkar. Opposing him in his Bombay constituency was an obscure milkman named Kajrolkar. The gifted Marathi journalist P. K. Atre popularizeda slogan which went:

Kuthe to Ghatnakar Ambedkar,

Aani Kuthe ha Lonivikya Kajrolkar?

which, roughly translated, means:

Where is the (great) constitution-maker Ambedkar
And where the (obscure) butter-seller Kajrolkar? 46

Yet, in the end, the prestige and hold of the Congress, and the fact that Nehru made several speeches in Bombay, carried Kajrolkar to victory. As one wag remarked, even a lamp-post standing on the Congress ticket could have been elected. Or, as apolitical scientist more dispassionately put it, the election was won on &lsquoNehru&rsquos personal popularity and his ability to express the aspirations of a newly independent India in a vivid and forceful manner&rsquo. 47

On the eve of the polls Sukumar Sen suggested they constituted &lsquothe biggest experiment in democracy in human history&rsquo. A veteran Madras editor was less neutral he complained that &lsquoa very large majority [will] exercise votes for the first time: not many know what the vote is, why they should vote, and whom they should vote for no wonder the whole adventure is rated as the biggest gamble in history&rsquo. 48 And a recently dispossessed maharaja told a visiting American couple that any constitution that sanctioned universal suffrage in a land of illiterates was &lsquocrazy&rsquo. &lsquoImagine the demagoguery, the misinformation, the dishonesty possible&rsquo, said the maharaja, adding, &lsquoThe world is far too shaky to permit such an experiment.&rsquo 49

Sharing this scepticism was Penderel Moon, a Fellow of All Souls College, and an ex-ICS man who had chosen to stay on in India. In 1941, Moon had spoken to the graduating students of Punjab University about the unsuitability of Western-style democracy to their social context. Now, eleven years later, he was the chief commissioner of the hill state of Manipur, and had to depute election officers and supervise the polling and the counting. As the people of Manipur went to the polls on 29 January, Moon wrote to his father that &lsquoa future and more enlightened age will view with astonishment the absurd farce of recording the votes of millions of illiterate people&rsquo. 50

Just as sceptical as the All Souls man was the Organiser, a weekly published by the revanchist Hindu group, the RSS. This hoped that Jawaharlal Nehru &lsquowould live to confess the failure of universal adult franchise in India&rsquo. It claimed that Mahatma Gandhi had warned against &lsquothis precipitate dose of democracy&rsquo, and that the president, Rajendra Prasad, was &lsquosceptical about this leap in the dark&rsquo. Yet Nehru, &lsquowho has all along lived by slogans and stunts, would not listen&rsquo. 51

There were times when even Nehru had second thoughts about universal franchise. On 20 December 1951 he took a brief leave of absence from the campaign to address a UNESCO symposium in Delhi. In his speech Nehru accepted that democracy was the best form of government, or self-government, but still wondered whether

the quality of men who are selected by these modern democratic methods of adult franchise gradually deteriorates because of lack of thinking and the noise of propaganda . . . He [the voter] reacts to sound and to the din, he reacts to repetition and he produces either adictator or a dumb politician who is insensitive. Such a politician can stand all the din in the world and still remain standing on his two feet and, therefore, he gets selected in the end because the others have collapsed because of the din.

This was a rare confession, based no doubt on his recent experiences on the road. A week later Nehru suggested that it might be better to have direct elections at the lower levels &ndash say within the village and district &ndash and indirect elections for the highest levels. For, as he put it, &lsquodirect election for such a vast number is a complicated problem and the candidates may never come into touch with the electorate and the whole thing becomes distant&rsquo. 52

Nehru had an unusual capacity &ndash unusual among politicians, at any rate &ndash to view both sides of the question. He could see the imperfections of the process even while being committed to it. However, by the time the final results were in, and the Congress had emerged as the unchallenged party of rule, the doubts in Nehru&rsquos own mind had disappeared. &lsquoMy respect for the so-called illiterate voter&rsquo, he said, &lsquohas gone up. Whatever doubts I might have had about adult suffrage in India have been removed completely.&rsquo 53

The election itself also comprehensively set to rest the doubts of the newAmerican ambassador to India, Chester Bowles. This representative of the world&rsquos richest democracy assumed his post in Delhi in the autumn of 1951. He confessed that he was &lsquoappalled at the prospect of a poll of200 million eligible voters, most ofwhom were illiterate villagers&rsquo. He &lsquofeared a fiasco&rsquo, even (as the Madras Mail put it), &lsquothe biggest farce ever staged in the name of democracy anywhere in the world&rsquo. But a trip through the country during polling changed his mind. Once, he had thought that poor countries needed a period of rule by a benevolent dictator as preparation for democracy. But the sight of many parties contesting freely, and of Untouchables and Brahmins standing in the same line,persuaded himotherwise. He no longer thought literacy was atest of intelligence, no longer believed that Asia needed a &lsquoseries of Ataturks&rsquo before they would be ready for democracy. Summing up his report on the election, Bowles wrote: &lsquoIn Asia, as in America, I know no grander vision than this, government by the consent of the governed.&rsquo 54

A visiting Turkish journalist focused on the content of the election rather than its form. He admired Nehru&rsquos decision not to follow other Asian countries in taking &lsquothe line of least resistance&rsquo by developing &lsquoa dictatorship with centralisation of power and intolerance of dissent and criticism&rsquo. The prime minister had &lsquowisely kept away from such temptations&rsquo. Yet the &lsquomain credit&rsquo, according to the Turkish writer, &lsquogoes to the nation itself 176,000,000 Indians were left all alone with their conscience in face of the polling box. It was direct and secret voting. They had their choice between theocracy, chauvinism, communal separatism and isolationism on the one side secularism, national unity, stability, moderation and friendly intercourse with the rest of the world on the other. They showed their maturity in choosing moderation and progress and disapproving of reaction and unrest.&rsquo So impressed was this observer that he took a delegation of his countrymen to meet Sukumar Sen. The chief election commissioner showed them samples of ballot boxes, ballot papers and symbols, as well as the plan of a polling station, so that they could work to resume the interrupted progress of democracy in their own country. 55

In one sense the Turkish journalist was right. There were indeed 176 million heroes or, at least 107 million &ndash those among the eligible who actually took the trouble to vote. Still, some heroes were more special than others. As the respected Lucknow sociologist D. P. Mukerji pointed out, &lsquogreat credit is due to those who are in charge of this stupendous first experiment in Indian history. Bureaucracy has certainly proved its worth by honestly discharging the duties imposed on it by a honest prime minister.&rsquo 56

The juxtaposition is important, and also ironical. For there was a time when Nehru had little but scorn for the bureaucracy. As he put it in his autobiography, &lsquofew things are more striking today in India than the progressive deterioration, moral and intellectual, of the higher services, more especially the Indian Civil Services. This is most in evidence in the superior officials, but it runs like a thread throughout the services.&rsquo 57 This was written in 1935, when the objects of his derision had the power to put him and his like in jail. And yet, fifteen years later, Nehru was obliged to place the polls in the hands ofmen he would once have dismissedas imperialist stooges.

In this respect, the 1952 election was a script jointly authored by historical forces for so long opposed to one another: British colonialism and Indian nationalism. Between them these forces had given this new nation what could be fairly described as a jump-start to democracy.


Detente Was Caused By Political And Economic Motivations History Essay

In the context of the Cold War, détente (the French word for “relaxation”) was an easing of tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. It lasted through the 1970s, starting with the Nixon administration and ending with the Carter administration.

Détente was mainly caused by political and economic motivations. The Sino-Soviet Split strained relations between the Soviet Union and China, the two largest Communist countries at the time. As China began to form a more diplomatic relationship with the United States, evidenced by President Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, the USSR feared that an alliance between the two countries would undermine its power, prompting it to seek amicable relations with the United States as well. Economic motivations were also a factor. Before détente, both the US and the USSR stockpiled weapons to keep on par with the other – it was believed that Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) could be averted only if both countries had the same nuclear capability. However, nuclear arms buildup was proving to be more and more unfeasible for both countries. In the United States, a combination of arms buildup and the Vietnam War strained the federal budget and stifled President Johnson and Nixon’s domestic policy of the expanding social welfare.

Naturally, détente led to greater cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union. Probably the most significant act of cooperation between the two countries was the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (dubbed SALT I) of 1972, an agreement that limited nuclear arms production for both countries. During the same year, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty limited systems that defended against Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs). The Apollo-Soyuz project in July 1975 was a space flight cooperative between the two countries, where American astronauts worked collaboratively alongside Russian cosmonauts on scientific experiments. The project eased Space Race tensions and provided a foundation for future space cooperatives such as the International Space Station. Cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union also extended economically, as the US shipped grain to the USSR after the failure of its collectivized agriculture program, where the state controlled large conglomerate farms.

Unfortunately, however, détente was abandoned by the 1980s. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan forced President Jimmy Carter to abandon the SALT II talks that were in progress and to increase US military spending. President Reagan continued the increase of Cold War tensions throughout his presidency, until the collapse of the Soviet Union by the end of the 1980s.

-Greek Philosopher, co-founder of Cynic philosophy

-Born in Sinope, a Greek colony

-Worked with father as a banker, exiled for defacing currency

-Traveled to Greece and made a personal goal of challenging the status quo

-Became the pupil of the ascetic Antisthenes, who was a pupil of Socrates

-Captured by pirates on his way to Aegina sold to the Corinthian Xeniades tutored Xeniades’ sons and lived in Corinth for the rest of his life

-Divergent stories of his death: held his breath, infection from a dog bite, complications from eating a raw octopus supposedly, he left instructions to be cast outside the wall of the city after he died so that animals could eat his carcass

-None of his written works survive anecdotes about his life provide the source for his philosophy

-Protested against the artificial material comforts of society and called for a return to a simplistic life in harmony with nature

-Obscene: urinated and defecated and masturbated in public

-Called himself a “citizen of the world,” a cosmopolite, at an era where one’s social standing was intimately tied with one’s city-state.

-The word cynic is derived from the Greek word meaning “dog”

-Extolled the dog’s honest simple living and mocked the artifice and hypocrisy of civilized living

-Threw away his wooden bowl as a child so he could drink from his hands

-Said to have lived in a tub

-Walked with a lamp in broad daylight, as he was “looking for humans”

-When Alexander asked him if there was a favor he wanted, he told Alexander to stand out of his sunlight

Diogenes was a Greek philosopher who lived from 412 BCE to 323 BCE. As a co-founder of the Cynic philosophy, he is famous for anecdotes of his asceticism and disregard for social conventions.

Born in Sinope, a Greek colony, in his youth Diogenes worked with his father as a banker. He was exiled from the city after he was found complicit in a controversy surrounding the defacement of currency. After being exiled, he settled in Athens and made a personal commitment to challenge the status quo there. He subscribed to the ascetic philosophy of Antisthenes, who was a pupil of Socrates, and became his only pupil. At some point in time, he was captured by pirates on his way to visit the Greek city of Aegina. The pirates then sold him to a Corinthian man named Xeniades. Diogenes tutored Xeniades’ sons and lived in Corinth for the rest of his life. There are multiple accounts of his death: he either died by holding his breath, by an infection from a dog bite, or from complications after eating raw octopus. Supposedly, he left instructions to be cast outside the wall of the city after he died so that animals could eat his carcass.

While it is believed that Diogenes had a respectable body of written work, none survive today only anecdotes about his life provide the source for his philosophy. As a Cynic, he protested against the artificial material comforts of society and called for a return to a simplistic life in harmony with nature. In perhaps the most famous anecdote about Diogenes, Alexander the Great, awed by the great philosopher, asked him what favor could he do for him. Diogenes only asked Alexander to step away, for he was blocking the sunlight. During a time when success was measured in material gains, he lived in destitute poverty. It was said that, as a young boy, he cast away his wooden bowl so that he could drink from his hands. During a time when one’s social standing was intimately tied with one’s city-state, he called himself a “citizen of the world” – a cosmopolite. As Diogenes lampooned the follies of man, he praised the virtues of the dog – indeed, the word cynic is derived from the Greek word meaning “dog.” He himself was comparable to a dog, as he lived shamelessly – he often defecated and urinated in public, much to the chagrin of the people around him.

Because of his radical break from the traditions of his time, Diogenes is still well-remembered today. He is often seen as a symbol of truth and honesty – an image of candid, if eccentric, simplicity against corrupt artificiality.


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Kierkegaard was born to an affluent family in Copenhagen. His mother, Ane Sørensdatter Lund Kierkegaard, had served as a maid in the household before marrying his father, Michael Pedersen Kierkegaard. She was an unassuming figure: quiet, and not formally educated. Her granddaughter, Henriette Lund, wrote that she "wielded the sceptre with joy and protected [Søren and Peter] like a hen protecting her chicks". [25] She also wielded influence on her children so that later Peter said that his brother preserved many of their mother's words in his writings. [26] His father, on the other hand, was a well-to-do wool merchant from Jutland. [26] He was a "very stern man, to all appearances dry and prosaic, but under his 'rustic cloak' demeanor he concealed an active imagination which not even his great age could blunt". [27] He was also interested in philosophy and often hosted intellectuals at his home. [28] The young Kierkegaard read the philosophy of Christian Wolff. [29] Kierkegaard, who followed his father's beliefs as a child, was heavily influenced by Michael's devotion to Wolffian rationalism, which caused his father to retire partly to pursue more of Wolff's writings. [30] He also preferred the comedies of Ludvig Holberg, [31] the writings of Johann Georg Hamann, [32] Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, [33] Edward Young, [34] and Plato. The figure of Socrates, who Kierkegaard encountered in Plato's dialogues, would prove to be a phenomenal influence on the philosopher's later interest in irony, as well as his frequent deployment of indirect communication.

Copenhagen in the 1830s and 1840s had crooked streets where carriages rarely went. Kierkegaard loved to walk them. In 1848, Kierkegaard wrote, "I had real Christian satisfaction in the thought that, if there were no other, there was definitely one man in Copenhagen whom every poor person could freely accost and converse with on the street that, if there were no other, there was one man who, whatever the society he most commonly frequented, did not shun contact with the poor, but greeted every maidservant he was acquainted with, every manservant, every common laborer." [35] Our Lady's Church was at one end of the city, where Bishop Mynster preached the Gospel. At the other end was the Royal Theatre where Fru Heiberg performed. [36]

Based on a speculative interpretation of anecdotes in Kierkegaard's unpublished journals, especially a rough draft of a story called "The Great Earthquake", [37] some early Kierkegaard scholars argued that Michael believed he had earned God's wrath and that none of his children would outlive him. He is said to have believed that his personal sins, perhaps indiscretions such as cursing the name of God in his youth [28] or impregnating Ane out of wedlock, necessitated this punishment. Though five of his seven children died before he did, both Kierkegaard and his brother Peter Christian Kierkegaard outlived him. [38] Peter, who was seven years Kierkegaard's elder, later became bishop in Aalborg. [38] Julia Watkin thought Michael's early interest in the Moravian Church could have led him to a deep sense of the devastating effects of sin. [39]

Kierkegaard came to hope that no one would retain their sins even though they have been forgiven. And by the same token that no one who truly believed in the forgiveness of sin would live their own life as an objection against the existence of forgiveness. [40] He made the point that Cato committed suicide before Caesar had a chance to forgive him. This fear of not finding forgiveness is devastating. [41] [42] Edna H. Hong quoted Kierkegaard in her 1984 book, Forgiveness is a Work As Well As a Grace and Kierkegaard wrote about forgiveness in 1847. [43] [44] [45] In 1954, Samuel Barber set to music Kierkegaard's prayer, "Father in Heaven! Hold not our sins up against us but hold us up against our sins so that the thought of You when it wakens in our soul, and each time it wakens, should not remind us of what we have committed but of what You did forgive, not of how we went astray but of how You did save us!"

From 1821 to 1830 Kierkegaard attended the School of Civic Virtue, Østre Borgerdyd Gymnasium when the school was situated in Klarebodeme, where he studied Latin and history among other subjects. During his time there he was described as "very conservative" someone who would "honour the King, love the church and respect the police". [46] He frequently got into altercations with fellow students and was ambivalent towards his teachers. [46] He went on to study theology at the University of Copenhagen. He had little interest in historical works, philosophy dissatisfied him, and he couldn't see "dedicating himself to Speculation". [47] He said, "What I really need to do is to get clear about "what am I to do", not what I must know." He wanted to "lead a completely human life and not merely one of knowledge". [48] Kierkegaard didn't want to be a philosopher in the traditional or Hegelian sense [49] and he didn't want to preach a Christianity that was an illusion. [50] "But he had learned from his father that one can do what one wills, and his father's life had not discredited this theory." [51]

One of the first physical descriptions of Kierkegaard comes from an attendee, Hans Brøchner, at his brother Peter's wedding party in 1836: "I found [his appearance] almost comical. He was then twenty-three years old he had something quite irregular in his entire form and had a strange coiffure. His hair rose almost six inches above his forehead into a tousled crest that gave him a strange, bewildered look." [52] Another comes from Kierkegaard's niece, Henriette Lund (1829–1909). When Søren Kierkegaard was a little boy he "was of slender and delicate appearance, and ran about in a little coat of red-cabbage color. He used to be called 'fork' by his father, because of his tendency, developed quite early, toward satirical remarks. Although a serious, almost austere tone pervaded the Kierkegaards' house, I have the firm impression that there was a place for youthful vivacity too, even though of a more sedate and home-made kind than one is used to nowadays. The house was open for an 'old-fashioned hospitality'" he was also described "quaintly attired, slight and small". [53] [46]

Kierkegaard's mother "was a nice little woman with an even and happy disposition," according to a grandchild's description. She was never mentioned in Kierkegaard's works. Ane died on 31 July 1834, age 66, possibly from typhus. [54] His father died on 8 August 1838, age 82. On 11 August, Kierkegaard wrote: "My father died on Wednesday (the 8th) at 2:00 a.m. I so deeply desired that he might have lived a few years more. Right now I feel there is only one person (E. Boesen) with whom I can really talk about him. He was a 'faithful friend.'" [55] Troels Frederik Lund, his nephew, was instrumental in providing biographers with much information regarding Søren Kierkegaard. Lund was a good friend of Georg Brandes and Julius Lange. [56] Here is an anecdote about his father from Kierkegaard's journals.

At lunch one day I overturned a salt-shaker. Passionate as he was and intense as he easily could become, he began to scold so severely that he even said that I was a prodigal and things like that. Then I made an objection, reminding him of an old episode in the family when my sister Nicoline had dropped a very expensive tureen and Father had not said a word but pretended it was nothing at all. He replied: Well, you see, it was such an expensive thing that no scolding was needed she realized quite well that it was wrong, but precisely when it is a trifle there must be a scolding. Journals X3A78

Journals Edit

According to Samuel Hugo Bergmann, "Kierkegaard's journals are one of the most important sources for an understanding of his philosophy". [57] Kierkegaard wrote over 7,000 pages in his journals on events, musings, thoughts about his works and everyday remarks. [58] The entire collection of Danish journals (Journalen) was edited and published in 13 volumes consisting of 25 separate bindings including indices. The first English edition of the journals was edited by Alexander Dru in 1938. [59] The style is "literary and poetic [in] manner". [60]

Kierkegaard wanted to have Regine, his fiancée (see below), as his confidant but considered it an impossibility for that to happen so he left it to "my reader, that single individual" to become his confidant. His question was whether or not one can have a spiritual confidant. He wrote the following in his Concluding Postscript: "With regard to the essential truth, a direct relation between spirit and spirit is unthinkable. If such a relation is assumed, it actually means that the party has ceased to be spirit." [61]

Kierkegaard's journals were the source of many aphorisms credited to the philosopher. The following passage, from 1 August 1835, is perhaps his most oft-quoted aphorism and a key quote for existentialist studies:

"What I really need is to get clear about what I must do, not what I must know, except insofar as knowledge must precede every act. What matters is to find a purpose, to see what it really is that God wills that I shall do the crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die."

He wrote this way about indirect communication in the same journal entry.

Although his journals clarify some aspects of his work and life, Kierkegaard took care not to reveal too much. Abrupt changes in thought, repetitive writing, and unusual turns of phrase are some among the many tactics he used to throw readers off track. Consequently, there are many varying interpretations of his journals. Kierkegaard did not doubt the importance his journals would have in the future. In December 1849, he wrote: "Were I to die now the effect of my life would be exceptional much of what I have simply jotted down carelessly in the Journals would become of great importance and have a great effect for then people would have grown reconciled to me and would be able to grant me what was, and is, my right." [62]

Regine Olsen and graduation (1837–1841) Edit

An important aspect of Kierkegaard's life – generally considered to have had a major influence on his work – was his broken engagement to Regine Olsen (1822–1904). Kierkegaard and Olsen met on 8 May 1837 and were instantly attracted to each other, but sometime around 11 August 1838 he had second thoughts. In his journals, Kierkegaard wrote idealistically about his love for her. [63]

On 8 September 1840, Kierkegaard formally proposed to Olsen. He soon felt disillusioned about his prospects. He broke off the engagement on 11 August 1841, though it is generally believed that the two were deeply in love. In his journals, Kierkegaard mentions his belief that his "melancholy" made him unsuitable for marriage, but his precise motive for ending the engagement remains unclear. [38] [64] [65] [66] [67] Later on, he wrote: "I owe everything to the wisdom of an old man and to the simplicity of a young girl." [68] The old man in this statement is said to be his father while Olsen was the girl. [28] Martin Buber said "Kierkegaard does not marry in defiance of the whole nineteenth century". [69]

Kierkegaard then turned his attention to his examinations. On 13 May 1839, he wrote, "I have no alternative than to suppose that it is God's will that I prepare for my examination and that it is more pleasing to Him that I do this than actually coming to some clearer perception by immersing myself in one or another sort of research, for obedience is more precious to him than the fat of rams." [70] The death of his father and the death of Poul Møller also played a part in his decision.

On 29 September 1841, Kierkegaard wrote and defended his master's thesis, On the Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates. The university panel considered it noteworthy and thoughtful, but too informal and witty for a serious academic thesis. [71] The thesis dealt with irony and Schelling's 1841 lectures, which Kierkegaard had attended with Mikhail Bakunin, Jacob Burckhardt, and Friedrich Engels each had come away with a different perspective. [72] Kierkegaard graduated from university on 20 October 1841 with a Magister Artium (Master of Arts). His family's inheritance of approximately 31,000 rigsdaler [59] enabled him to fund his work and living expenses including servants.

Kierkegaard published some of his works using pseudonyms and for others he signed his own name as author. Whether being published under pseudonym or not, Kierkegaard's central writing on religion was Fear and Trembling, and Either/Or is considered to be his magnum opus. Pseudonyms were used often in the early 19th century as a means of representing viewpoints other than the author's own examples include the writers of the Federalist Papers and the Anti-Federalist Papers. Kierkegaard employed the same technique as a way to provide examples of indirect communication. In writing under various pseudonyms to express sometimes contradictory positions, Kierkegaard is sometimes criticized for playing with various viewpoints without ever committing to one in particular. He has been described by those opposing his writings as indeterminate in his standpoint as a writer, though he himself has testified to all his work deriving from a service to Christianity. [73] After On the Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates, his 1841 master's thesis under Frederik Christian Sibbern [da] , [74] he wrote his first book under the pseudonym "Johannes Climacus" (after John Climacus) between 1841 and 1842. De omnibus dubitandum est (Latin: "Everything must be doubted") was not published until after his death. [75]

Kierkegaard's magnum opus Either/Or was published 20 February 1843 it was mostly written during Kierkegaard's stay in Berlin, where he took notes on Schelling's Philosophy of Revelation. Either/Or includes essays of literary and music criticism and a set of romantic-like-aphorisms, as part of his larger theme of examining the reflective and philosophical structure of faith. [76] [77] Edited by "Victor Eremita", the book contained the papers of an unknown

"A" and "B" which the pseudonymous author claimed to have discovered in a secret drawer of his secretary. [78] Eremita had a hard time putting the papers of "A" in order because they were not straightforward. "B"'s papers were arranged in an orderly fashion. [79] Both of these characters are trying to become religious individuals. [80] Each approached the idea of first love from an esthetic and an ethical point of view. The book is basically an argument about faith and marriage with a short discourse at the end telling them they should stop arguing. Eremita thinks "B", a judge, makes the most sense. Kierkegaard stressed the "how" of Christianity as well as the "how" of book reading in his works rather than the "what". [81]

Three months after the publication of Either/Or, 16 May 1843, he published Two Upbuilding Discourses, 1843 and continued to publish discourses along with his pseudonymous books. These discourses were published under Kierkegaard's own name and are available as Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses today. David F. Swenson first translated the works in the 1940s and titled them the Edifying Discourses however, in 1990, Howard V. and Edna H. Hong translated the works again but called them the Upbuilding Discourses. The word "upbuilding" was more in line with Kierkegaard's thought after 1846, when he wrote Christian deliberations [82] about Works of Love. [83] An upbuilding discourse or edifying discourse isn't the same as a sermon because a sermon is preached to a congregation while a discourse can be carried on between several people or even with oneself. The discourse or conversation should be "upbuilding", which means one would build up the other person, or oneself, rather than tear down to build up. Kierkegaard said: "Although this little book (which is called "discourses," not sermons, because its author does not have authority to preach, "upbuilding discourses," not discourses for upbuilding, because the speaker by no means claims to be a teacher) wishes to be only what it is, a superfluity, and desires only to remain in hiding". [84]

On 16 October 1843, Kierkegaard published three more books about love and faith and several more discourses. Fear and Trembling was published under the pseudonym Johannes de Silentio. Repetition is about a Young Man (Søren Kierkegaard) who has anxiety and depression because he feels he has to sacrifice his love for a girl (Regine Olsen) to God. He tries to see if the new science of psychology can help him understand himself. Constantin Constantius, who is the pseudonymous author of that book, is the psychologist. At the same time, he published Three Upbuilding Discourses, 1843 under his own name, which dealt specifically with how love can be used to hide things from yourself or others. [85] These three books, all published on the same day, are an example of Kierkegaard's method of indirect communication.

Kierkegaard questioned whether an individual can know if something is a good gift from God or not and concludes by saying, "it does not depend, then, merely upon what one sees, but what one sees depends upon how one sees all observation is not just a receiving, a discovering, but also a bringing forth, and insofar as it is that, how the observer himself is constituted is indeed decisive." [86] God's love is imparted indirectly just as our own sometimes is. [87]

During 1844, he published two, three, and four more upbuilding discourses just as he did in 1843, but here he discussed how an individual might come to know God. Theologians, philosophers and historians were all engaged in debating about the existence of God. This is direct communication and Kierkegaard thinks this might be useful for theologians, philosophers, and historians (associations) but not at all useful for the "single individual" who is interested in becoming a Christian. Kierkegaard always wrote for "that single individual whom I with joy and gratitude call my reader" [88] The single individual must put what is understood to use or it will be lost. Reflection can take an individual only so far before the imagination begins to change the whole content of what was being thought about. Love is won by being exercised just as much as faith and patience are.

He also wrote several more pseudonymous books in 1844: Philosophical Fragments, Prefaces and The Concept of Anxiety and finished the year up with Four Upbuilding Discourses, 1844. He used indirect communication in the first book and direct communication in the rest of them. He doesn't believe the question about God's existence should be an opinion held by one group and differently by another no matter how many demonstrations are made. He says it's up to the single individual to make the fruit of the Holy Spirit real because love and joy are always just possibilities. Christendom wanted to define God's attributes once and for all but Kierkegaard was against this. His love for Regine was a disaster but it helped him because of his point of view. [89]

Kierkegaard believed "each generation has its own task and need not trouble itself unduly by being everything to previous and succeeding generations". [90] In an earlier book he had said, "to a certain degree every generation and every individual begins his life from the beginning", [91] and in another, "no generation has learned to love from another, no generation is able to begin at any other point than the beginning", "no generation learns the essentially human from a previous one." [92] And, finally, in 1850 he wrote, "those true Christians who in every generation live a life contemporaneous with that of Christ have nothing whatsoever to do with Christians of the preceding generation, but all the more with their contemporary, Christ. His life here on earth attends every generation, and every generation severally, as Sacred History. " [93] But in 1848, "The whole generation and every individual in the generation is a participant in one’s having faith." [94]

He was against the Hegelian idea of mediation [95] [96] because it introduces a "third term" [97] that comes between the single individual and the object of desire. Kierkegaard wrote in 1844, 'If a person can be assured of the grace of God without needing temporal evidence as a middleman or as the dispensation advantageous to him as interpreter, then it is indeed obvious to him that the grace of God is the most glorious of all." [98] He was against mediation and settled instead on the choice to be content with the grace of God or not. It's the choice between the possibility of the "temporal and the eternal", "mistrust and belief, and deception and truth", [99] "subjective and objective". [100] These are the "magnitudes" of choice. He always stressed deliberation and choice in his writings and wrote against comparison. [101] This is how Kant put it in 1786 and Kierkegaard put it in 1847:

Thinking for one's self is to seek the chief touchstone of truth in one's self (id est, in one's own reason) and the maxim, to think for one's self at all times is Enlightening. Thereto belongs not just so much, as those may imagine who take knowledge, to be enlightening as it is rather a negative principle in the use of one's cognoscitive faculty, and he, who is very rich in knowledge, is often the least enlightened in the use of it. To exercise one's own reason, means nothing more, than, relatively to every thing which one is to suppose, to question one's self.

Worldly worry always seeks to lead a human being into the small-minded unrest of comparisons, away from the lofty calmness of simple thoughts. To be clothed, then, means to be a human being-and therefore to be well clothed. Worldly worry is preoccupied with clothes and dissimilarity of clothes. Should not the invitation to learn from the lilies be welcome to everyone just as the reminder is useful to him! Alas, those great, uplifting, simple thoughts, those first thoughts, are more and more forgotten, perhaps entirely forgotten in the weekday and worldly life of comparisons. The one human being compares himself with others, the one generation compares itself with the other, and thus the heaped up pile of comparisons overwhelms a person. As the ingenuity and busyness increase, there come to be more and more in each generation who slavishly work a whole lifetime far down in the low underground regions of comparisons. Indeed, just as miners never see the light of day, so these unhappy people never come to see the light: those uplifting, simple thoughts, those first thoughts about how glorious it is to be a human being. And up there in the higher regions of comparison, smiling vanity plays its false game and deceives the happy ones so that they receive no impression from those lofty, simple thoughts, those first thoughts.

The inwardness of Christianity Edit

Kierkegaard believed God comes to each individual mysteriously. [102] [103] He published Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions (first called Thoughts on Crucial Situations in Human Life, in David F. Swenson's 1941 translation) under his own name on 29 April, and Stages on Life's Way edited by Hilarius Bookbinder, 30 April 1845. The Stages is a sequel to Either/Or which Kierkegaard did not think had been adequately read by the public and in Stages he predicted "that two-thirds of the book's readers will quit before they are halfway through, out of boredom they will throw the book away." [104] He knew he was writing books but had no idea who was reading them. His sales were meager and he had no publicist or editor. He was writing in the dark, so to speak. [105] Many of his readers have been and continue to be in the dark about his intentions. He explained himself in his "Journal": "What I have understood as the task of the authorship has been done. It is one idea, this continuity from Either/Or to Anti-Climacus, the idea of religiousness in reflection. The task has occupied me totally, for it has occupied me religiously I have understood the completion of this authorship as my duty, as a responsibility resting upon me." He advised his reader to read his books slowly and also to read them aloud since that might aid in understanding. [106]

He used indirect communication in his writings by, for instance, referring to the religious person as the “knight of hidden inwardness” in which he’s different from everyone else, even though he looks like everyone else, because everything is hidden within him. [107] He put it this way in 1847: “You are indistinguishable from anyone else among those whom you might wish to resemble, those who in the decision are with the good-they are all clothed alike, girdled about the loins with truth, clad in the armor of righteousness, wearing the helmet of salvation!" [108] [109]

Kierkegaard was aware of the hidden depths inside of each single individual. The hidden inwardness is inventive in deceiving or evading others. Much of it is afraid of being seen and entirely disclosed. “Therefore all calm and, in the intellectual sense, dispassionate observers, who eminently know how to delve searchingly and penetratingly into the inner being, these very people judge with such infinite caution or refrain from it entirely because, enriched by observation, they have a developed conception of the enigmatic world of the hidden, and because as observers they have learned to rule over their passions. Only superficial, impetuous passionate people, who do not understand themselves and for that reason naturally are unaware that they do not know others, judge precipitously. Those with insight, those who know never do this.” [110]

Kierkegaard imagined hidden inwardness several ways in 1848.

Imagine hidden in a very plain setting a secret chest in which the most precious is placed – there is a spring that must be pressed, but the spring is concealed, and the pressure must be of a certain force so that an accidental pressure cannot be sufficient. The hope of eternity is concealed within a person’s innermost being in the same way, and hardship is the pressure. When the pressure is put on the concealed spring, and forcefully enough, the content appears in all its glory! Soren Kierkegaard Christian Discourses 1848 Hong 1997 p. 111

Imagine a kernel of grain placed in the earth if it is to grow, what does it need? First of all space it must have space. Next, pressure there must also be pressure – sprouting is making space for itself in opposition. Eternity’s hope is placed in a person’s innermost being in the same way. But hardship makes space by setting everything else aside, everything provisional, which is brought to despair thus hardship’s pressure is what draws forth! Soren Kierkegaard Christian Discourses 1848 Hong 1997 p. 111-112

Imagine, as indeed is the case, an animal that has a defense weapon with which it defends itself but which it uses only in mortal danger. Eternity’s hope is in a person’s innermost being in the same way hardship is the mortal danger. Imagine a creeping animal that nevertheless has wings that it can use when it is brought to an extremity, but for everyday use it does not find it worth the trouble to use them. Eternity’s hope is in a person’s innermost being in the same way he has wings but he must be brought to an extremity in order to discover them, or in order to develop them, or in order to use them! Soren Kierkegaard Christian Discourses 1848 Hong 1997 p. 112

He was writing about the subjective inward nature of God's encounter with the individual in many of his books, and his goal was to get the single individual away from all the speculation that was going on about God and Christ. Speculation creates quantities of ways to find God and his Goods but finding faith in Christ and putting the understanding to use stops all speculation, because then one begins to actually exist as a Christian, or in an ethical/religious way. He was against an individual waiting until certain of God's love and salvation before beginning to try to become a Christian. He defined this as a "special type of religious conflict the Germans call Anfechtung" (contesting or disputing). [111] [112]

In Kierkegaard's view the Church should not try to prove Christianity or even defend it. It should help the single individual to make a leap of faith, the faith that God is love and has a task for that very same single individual. [113] He wrote the following about fear and trembling and love as early as 1839, "Fear and trembling is not the primus motor in the Christian life, for it is love but it is what the oscillating balance wheel is to the clock-it is the oscillating balance wheel of the Christian life. [114] Kierkegaard identified the leap of faith as the good resolution. [115] Kierkegaard discussed the knight of faith in Works of Love, 1847 by using the story of Jesus healing the bleeding woman who showed the " originality of faith" by believing that if she touched Jesus' robe she would be healed. She kept that secret within herself. [116]

If doubt is the beginning, then God is lost long before the end, and the individual is released from always having a task, but also from always having the comfort that there is always a task. But if the consciousness of guilt is the beginning, then the beginning of doubt is rendered impossible, and then the joy is that there is always a task. The joy, then, is that it is eternally certain that God is love more specifically understood, the joy is that there is always a task. As long as there is life there is hope, but as long as there is a task there is life, and as long as there is life there is hope-indeed, the task itself is not merely a hope for a future time but is a joyful present. Søren Kierkegaard, Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, Hong p. 279-280, 277

Kierkegaard wrote his Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments in 1846 and here he tried to explain the intent of the first part of his authorship. [117] [118] He said, "Christianity will not be content to be an evolution within the total category of human nature an engagement such as that is too little to offer to a god. Neither does it even want to be the paradox for the believer, and then surreptitiously, little by little, provide him with understanding, because the martyrdom of faith (to crucify one's understanding) is not a martyrdom of the moment, but the martyrdom of continuance." [119] [120] The second part of his authorship was summed up in Practice in Christianity:

The deification of the established order is the secularization of everything. With regard to secular matters, the established order may be entirely right: one should join the established order, be satisfied with that relativity, etc. But ultimately the relationship with God is also secularized we want it to coincide with a certain relativity, do not want it to be something essentially different from our positions in life – rather than that it shall be the absolute for every individual human being and this, the individual person’s God-relationship, shall be precisely what keeps every established order in suspense, and that God, at any moment he chooses, if he merely presses upon an individual in his relationship with God, promptly has a witness, an informer, a spy, or whatever you want to call it, one who in unconditional obedience and with unconditional obedience, by being persecuted, by suffering, by dying, keeps the established order in suspense. Søren Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity (1850) p. 91 Hong [121]

Early Kierkegaardian scholars, such as Theodor W. Adorno and Thomas Henry Croxall, argue that the entire authorship should be treated as Kierkegaard's own personal and religious views. [122] This view leads to confusions and contradictions which make Kierkegaard appear philosophically incoherent. [123] Later scholars, such as the post-structuralists, interpreted Kierkegaard's work by attributing the pseudonymous texts to their respective authors. [124] Postmodern Christians present a different interpretation of Kierkegaard's works. [125] Kierkegaard used the category of "The Individual" [126] to stop [127] the endless Either/Or. [128]

Pseudonyms Edit

Kierkegaard's most important pseudonyms, [129] in chronological order, were:

  • Victor Eremita, editor of Either/Or
  • A, writer of many articles in Either/Or
  • Judge William, author of rebuttals to A in Either/Or
  • Johannes de Silentio, author of Fear and Trembling
  • Constantine Constantius, author of the first half of Repetition
  • Young Man, author of the second half of Repetition
  • Vigilius Haufniensis, author of The Concept of Anxiety
  • Nicolaus Notabene, author of Prefaces
  • Hilarius Bookbinder, editor of Stages on Life's Way
  • Johannes Climacus, author of Philosophical Fragments and Concluding Unscientific Postscript
  • Inter et Inter, author of The Crisis and a Crisis in the Life of an Actress
  • H.H., author of Two Minor Ethical-Religious Essays
  • Anti-Climacus, author of The Sickness Unto Death and Practice in Christianity

Kierkegaard explained his pseudonyms this way in his Concluding Unscientific Postscript:

In Either/Or, I am just as little, precisely just as little, the editor Victor Eremita as I am the Seducer or the Judge. He is a poetically actual subjective thinker who is found again in "In Vino Veritas". In Fear and Trembling, I am just as little, precisely just as little, Johannes de Silentio as the knight of faith he depicts, and in turn just as little the author of the preface to the book, which is the individuality-lines of a poetically actual subjective thinker. In the story of suffering ("'Guilty?/'Not Guilty'"), I am just as remote from being Quidam of the imaginary construction as from being the imaginative constructor, just as remote, since the imaginative constructor is a poetically actual subjective thinker and what is imaginatively constructed is his psychologically consistent production. Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Postscript 1846, Hong p. 625-626

All of these writings analyze the concept of faith, on the supposition that if people are confused about faith, as Kierkegaard thought the inhabitants of Christendom were, they will not be in a position to develop the virtue. Faith is a matter of reflection in the sense that one cannot have the virtue unless one has the concept of virtue – or at any rate the concepts that govern faith's understanding of self, world, and God. [130]

The Corsair Affair Edit

On 22 December 1845, Peder Ludvig Møller, who studied at the University of Copenhagen at the same time as Kierkegaard, published an article indirectly criticizing Stages on Life's Way. The article complimented Kierkegaard for his wit and intellect, but questioned whether he would ever be able to master his talent and write coherent, complete works. Møller was also a contributor to and editor of The Corsair, a Danish satirical paper that lampooned everyone of notable standing. Kierkegaard published a sarcastic response, charging that Møller's article was merely an attempt to impress Copenhagen's literary elite.

Kierkegaard wrote two small pieces in response to Møller, The Activity of a Traveling Esthetician and Dialectical Result of a Literary Police Action. The former focused on insulting Møller's integrity while the latter was a directed assault on The Corsair, in which Kierkegaard, after criticizing the journalistic quality and reputation of the paper, openly asked The Corsair to satirize him. [131]

Kierkegaard's response earned him the ire of the paper and its second editor, also an intellectual of Kierkegaard's own age, Meïr Aron Goldschmidt. [132] Over the next few months, The Corsair took Kierkegaard up on his offer to "be abused", and unleashed a series of attacks making fun of Kierkegaard's appearance, voice and habits. For months, Kierkegaard perceived himself to be the victim of harassment on the streets of Denmark. In a journal entry dated 9 March 1846, Kierkegaard made a long, detailed explanation of his attack on Møller and The Corsair, and also explained that this attack made him rethink his strategy of indirect communication. [133]

There had been much discussion in Denmark about the pseudonymous authors until the publication of Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, 27 February 1846, where he openly admitted to be the author of the books because people began wondering if he was, in fact, a Christian or not. [134] [135] Several Journal entries from that year shed some light on what Kierkegaard hoped to achieve. [136] [137] [138] [139] This book was published under an earlier pseudonym, Johannes Climacus. On 30 March 1846 he published Two Ages: A Literary Review, under his own name. A critique of the novel Two Ages (in some translations Two Generations) written by Thomasine Christine Gyllembourg-Ehrensvärd, Kierkegaard made several insightful observations on what he considered the nature of modernity and its passionless attitude towards life. Kierkegaard writes that "the present age is essentially a sensible age, devoid of passion . The trend today is in the direction of mathematical equality, so that in all classes about so and so many uniformly make one individual". [140] In this, Kierkegaard attacked the conformity and assimilation of individuals into "the crowd" [141] which became the standard for truth, since it was the numerical. How can one love the neighbor if the neighbor is always regarded as the wealthy or the poor or the lame? [142]

A useless and perhaps futile conflict goes on often enough in the world, when the poor person says to the wealthy person, "Sure, it's easy for you – you are free from worry about making a living." Would to God that the poor person would really understand how the Gospel is much more kindly disposed to him, is treating him equally and more lovingly. Truly, the Gospel does not let itself be deceived into taking sides with anyone against someone else, with someone who is wealthy against someone who is poor, or with someone who is poor against someone who is wealthy. Among individuals in the world, the conflict of disconnected comparison is frequently carried on about dependence and independence, about the happiness of being independent and the difficulty of being dependent. And yet, yet human language has not ever, and thought has not ever, invented a more beautiful symbol of independence than the poor bird of the air. And yet, yet no speech can be more curious than to say that it must be very bad and very heavy to be – light as the bird! To be dependent on one's treasure – that is dependence and hard and heavy slavery to be dependent on God, completely dependent – that is independence. Søren Kierkegaard, 1847 Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, Hong p. 180-181

As part of his analysis of the "crowd", Kierkegaard accused newspapers of decay and decadence. Kierkegaard stated Christendom had "lost its way" by recognizing "the crowd", as the many who are moved by newspaper stories, as the court of last resort in relation to "the truth". Truth comes to a single individual, not all people at one and the same time. Just as truth comes to one individual at a time so does love. One doesn't love the crowd but does love their neighbor, who is a single individual. He says, "never have I read in the Holy Scriptures this command: You shall love the crowd even less: You shall, ethico-religiously, recognize in the crowd the court of last resort in relation to 'the truth.'" [143] [144]

Kierkegaard began to write again in 1847: the three-part Edifying Discourses in Diverse Spirits. [64] It included Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing, What we Learn from the Lilies in the Field and from the Birds in the Air, [145] and The Gospel of Sufferings. He asked, What does it mean to be a single individual who wants to do the good? What does it mean to be a human being? What does it mean to follow Christ? He now moves from "upbuilding (Edifying) discourses" to "Christian discourses", however, he still maintains that these are not "sermons". [146] A sermon is about struggle with oneself about the tasks life offers one and about repentance for not completing the tasks. [147] Later, in 1849, he wrote devotional discourses and Godly discourses.

Is it really hopelessness to reject the task because it is too heavy is it really hopelessness almost to collapse under the burden because it is so heavy is it really hopelessness to give up hope out of fear of the task? Oh no, but this is hopelessness: to will with all one's might-but there is no task. Thus, only if there is nothing to do and if the person who says it were without guilt before God-for if he is guilty, there is indeed always something to do-only if there is nothing to do and this is understood to mean that there is no task, only then is there hopelessness. Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, Hong p. 277

While the Savior of the world sighs, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me," the repentant robber humbly understands, but still also as a relief, that it is not God who has abandoned him, but it is he who has abandoned God, and, repenting, he says to the one crucified with him: Remember me when you come into your kingdom. It is a heavy human suffering to reach for God's mercy in the anxiety of death and with belated repentance at the moment of despicable death, but yet the repentant robber finds relief when he compares his suffering with the superhuman suffering of being abandoned by God. To be abandoned by God, that indeed means to be without a task. It means to be deprived of the final task that every human being always has, the task of patience, the task that has its ground in God's not having abandoned the sufferer. Hence Christ's suffering is superhuman and his patience superhuman, so that no human being can grasp either the one or the other. Although it is beneficial that we speak quite humanly of Christ's suffering, if we speak of it merely as if he were the human being who has suffered the most, it is blasphemy, because although his suffering is human, it is also superhuman, and there is an eternal chasmic abyss between his suffering and the human being's. Søren Kierkegaard, 1847 Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, Hong p.280

Works of Love [148] followed these discourses on (29 September 1847). Both books were authored under his own name. It was written under the themes "Love covers a multitude of sins" and "Love builds up". (1 Peter 4:8 and 1 Corinthians 8:1) Kierkegaard believed that "all human speech, even divine speech of Holy Scripture, about the spiritual is essentially metaphorical speech". [149] "To build up" is a metaphorical expression. One can never be all human or all spirit, one must be both.

When it is said, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," this contains what is presupposed, that every person loves himself. Thus, Christianity which by no means begins, as do those high flying thinkers, without presuppositions, nor with a flattering presupposition, presupposes this. Dare we then deny that it is as Christianity presupposes? But on the other hand, it is possible for anyone to misunderstand Christianity, as if it were its intention to teach what worldly sagacity unanimously-alas, and yet contentiously-teaches, "that everyone is closest to himself." Is it possible for anyone to misunderstand this, as if it were Christianity's intention to proclaim self-love as a prescriptive right? Indeed on the contrary, it is Christianity's intention to wrest self-love away from us human beings. Soren Kierkegaard Works of Love, Hong p. 17

All human speech, even the divine speech of Holy Scripture, about the spiritual is essentially metaphorical [overfot, carried over] speech. And this is quite in order or in the order of things and of existence, since a human being, even if from the moment of birth his is a spirit, still does not become conscious of himself as a spirit until later and thus has sensately-psychically acted out a certain part of his life prior to this. But this first portion is not to be cast aside when the spirit awakens any more than the awakening of the spirit in contrast to the sensate-physical announces itself in a sensate-physical way. On the contrary, the first portion is taken over –[overtage] by the spirit and, used in this way, is thus made the basis –it becomes the metaphorical. Therefore, the spiritual person and the sensate person say the same thing yet there is an infinite difference, since the latter has no intimation of the secret of the metaphorical words although he is using the same words, but not in their metaphorical sense.

There is a world of difference between the two the one has made the transition or let himself be carried over to the other side, while the other remains on this side yet they have the connection that both are using the same words. The person in whom the spirit has awakened does not as a consequence abandon the visible-world. Although conscious of himself as spirit, he continues to remain in the visible world and to be visible to the senses, in the same way he also remains in the language, except that his language is the metaphorical language!

But the metaphorical words are of course not brand-new words but are the already given words. Just as the spirit is invisible, so also is its language a secret, and the secret lies in its using the same words as the child and the simpleminded person but using them metaphorically, whereby the spirit denies the sensate or sensate-physical way. The difference is by no means a noticeable difference. For this reason we rightfully regard it as a sign of false spirituality to parade a noticeable difference-which is merely sensate, whereas the spirit's manner is the metaphor's quiet, whispering secret – for the person who has ears to hear. Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 1847, Hong 1995 p. 209-210

Love builds up by presupposing that love is present. Have you not experienced this yourself, my listener? If anyone has ever spoken to you in such a way or treated you in such a way that you really felt built up, this was because you very vividly perceived how he presupposed love to be in you. Wisdom is a being-for-itself quality power, talent, knowledge, etc. are likewise being-for-itself qualities. To be wise does not mean to presuppose that others are wise on the contrary, it may be very wise and true if the truly wise person assumes that far from all people are wise. But love is not a being-for-itself quality but a quality by which or in which you are for others. Loving means to presuppose love in others. Soren Kierkegaard Works of Love, Hong p. 222-224

Later, in the same book, Kierkegaard deals with the question of sin and forgiveness. He uses the same text he used earlier in Three Upbuilding Discourses, 1843 Love hides a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8). He asks if "one who tells his neighbors faults hides or increases the multitude of sins". [150]

But the one who takes away the consciousness of sin and gives the consciousness of forgiveness instead-he indeed takes away the heavy burden and gives the light one in its place. Soren Kierkegaard, 1847 Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, Hong p. 246 The one who loves sees the sin he forgives, but he believes that forgiveness takes it away. This cannot be seen, whereas the sin can indeed be seen on the other hand, if the sin did not exist to be seen, it could not be forgiven either. Just as one by faith believes the unseen into what is seen, so the one who loves by forgiveness believes away what is seen. Both are faith. Blessed is the believer, he believes what he cannot see blessed is the one who loves, he believes away that which he indeed can see! Who can believe this? The one who loves can do it. But why is forgiveness so rare? Is it not because faith in the power of forgiveness is so meager and so rare? Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 1847 Hong p. 289-295

In 1848 he published Christian Discourses under his own name and The Crisis and a Crisis in the Life of an Actress under the pseudonym Inter et Inter. Christian Discourses deals the same theme as The Concept of Anxiety, angst. The text is the Gospel of Matthew 6 verses 24–34. This was the same passage he had used in his What We Learn From the Lilies in the Field and From the Birds of the Air of 1847. He wrote:

A man who but rarely, and then only cursorily, concerns himself with his relationship to God, hardly thinks or dreams that he has so closely to do with God, or that God is so close to him, that there exists a reciprocal relationship between him and God, the stronger a man is, the weaker God is, the weaker a man is, the stronger God is in him. Every one who assumes that a God exists naturally thinks of Him as the strongest, as He eternally is, being the Almighty who creates out of nothing, and for whom all the creation is as nothing but such a man hardly thinks of the possibility of a reciprocal relationship. And yet for God, the infinitely strongest, there is an obstacle He has posited it Himself, yea, He has lovingly, with incomprehensible love posited it Himself for He posited it and posits it every time a man comes into existence, when He in His love makes to be something directly in apposition to Himself. Oh, marvelous omnipotence of love! A man cannot bear that his 'creations' should be directly in apposition to Himself, and so he speaks of them in a tone of disparagement as his 'creations'. But God who creates out of nothing, who almightily takes from nothing and says, 'Be', lovingly adjoins, 'Be something even in apposition to me.' Marvellous love, even His omnipotence is under the sway of love! Soren Kierkegaard, Christian Discourses, 1848 Lowrie 1940, 1961 p. 132

It is actually true that Christianity requires the Christian to give up and forsake all things. This was not required in Old Testament times, God did not require Job to give up anything, and of Abraham he required expressly, as a test, only that he give up Isaac. But in fact Christianity is also the religion of freedom, it is precisely the voluntary which is the Christian. Voluntarily to give up all is to be convinced of the glory of the good which Christianity promises. There is one thing God cannot take away from a man, namely, the voluntary – and it is precisely this which Christianity requires of man. Thoughts Which Wound From Behind – For Edification 1848 p. 187-188 (From Christian Discourses Translated by Walter Lowrie 1940, 1961)

Kierkegaard tried to explain his prolific use of pseudonyms again in The Point of View of My Work as an Author, his autobiographical explanation for his writing style. The book was finished in 1848, but not published until after his death by his brother Christian Peter Kierkegaard. Walter Lowrie mentioned Kierkegaard's "profound religious experience of Holy Week 1848" as a turning point from "indirect communication" to "direct communication" regarding Christianity. [151] However, Kierkegaard stated that he was a religious author throughout all of his writings and that his aim was to discuss "the problem 'of becoming a Christian', with a direct polemic against the monstrous illusion we call Christendom". [152] He expressed the illusion this way in his 1848 "Christian Address", Thoughts Which Wound From Behind – for Edification.

Oh, in the customary course of life there is so much to lull a man to sleep, to teach him to say, ‘Peace and no danger.’ It is for this cause we go into the house of God, to be awakened out of sleep and to be riven away from the enchantments. But then again when there is so much in the house of God to lull us! Even that which in itself is arousing, such as thoughts, reflections, ideas, can by custom and monotony lose all their significance, just as a spring can lose the resilience which makes it what it is. So, then (to approach nearer to the subject of this discourse), it is right, reasonable, and a plain duty, to invite men, over and over again, to come to the house of the Lord, to summon them to it. But one may become so accustomed to hearing this invitation that one may lose all sense of its significance, so that at last one steps away and it ends with the invitation preaching the church empty. Or one may become so accustomed to hearing this invitation that it develops false ideas in those that come, makes us self-important in our own thoughts, that we are not as they who remain away, makes us self-satisfied, secure, because it envelops us in a delusion, as though, since we are so urgently invited, God were in need of us, as though it were not we who in fear and trembling should reflect what He may require of us, as though it were not we who should sincerely thank God that He will have dealings with us, that He will suffer and permit us to approach Him, suffer that we presume to believe that He cares for us, that without being ashamed He will be known as one who is called our God and our Father. So concerning this matter let us for once talk differently, in talking of these words of the preacher: Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of the Lord. (Ecclesiastes 5:1) Soren Kierkegaard, Thoughts Which Wound From Behind – for Edification, Christian Address, Copenhagen 1848, Lowrie translation1961 p. 173 -174 [153]

He wrote three discourses under his own name and one pseudonymous book in 1849. He wrote The Lily in the Field and the Bird of the Air. Three Devotional Discourses, Three Discourses at the Communion on Fridays and Two Ethical-Religious Essays. The first thing any child finds in life is the external world of nature. This is where God placed his natural teachers. He's been writing about confession and now openly writes about Holy Communion which is generally preceded by confession. This he began with the confessions of the esthete and the ethicist in Either/Or and the highest good peace in the discourse of that same book. His goal has always been to help people become religious but specifically Christian religious. He summed his position up earlier in his book, The Point of View of My Work as an Author, but this book was not published until 1859.

In the month of December 1845 the manuscript of the Concluding Postscript was completely finished, and, as my custom was, I had delivered the whole of it at once to Lune [the printer]-which the suspicious do not have to believe on my word, since Luno's account-book is there to prove it. This work constitutes the turning-point in my whole activity as an author, inasmuch as it presents the 'problem', how to become a Christian.

In a Christian sense simplicity is not the point of departure from which one goes on to become interesting, witty, profound, poet, philosopher, &c. No, the very contrary. Here is where one begins (with the interesting, &c.) and becomes simpler and simpler, attaining simplicity. This, in 'Christendom' is the Christian movement: one does not reflect oneself into Christianity but one reflects oneself out of something else and becomes, more and more simply, a Christian.

I have never fought in such a way as to say: I am the true Christian, others are not Christians. No, my contention has been this: I know what Christianity is, my imperfection as a Christian I myself fully recognize—but I know what Christianity is. And to get this properly recognized must be, I should think, to every man's interest, whether he be a Christian or not, whether his intention is to accept Christianity or to reject it. But I have attacked no one as not being a Christian, I have condemned no one. And I myself have from the first clearly asserted, again and again repeated, that I am 'without authority'. [154] Soren Kierkegaard, The Point of View of My Work as an Author Lowrie, 53, 144, 153–155

The Second edition of Either/Or was published early in 1849. Later that year he published The Sickness Unto Death, under the pseudonym Anti-Climacus. He's against Johannes Climacus who kept writing books about trying to understand Christianity. Here he says, "Let others admire and praise the person who pretends to comprehend Christianity. I regard it as a plain ethical task – perhaps requiring not a little self-denial in these speculative times, when all 'the others' are busy with comprehending-to admit that one is neither able nor supposed to comprehend it." [155] Sickness unto death was a familiar phrase in Kierkegaard's earlier writings. [156] This sickness is despair and for Kierkegaard despair is a sin. Despair is the impossibility of possibility. [157] Kierkegaard writes:

When a person who has been addicted to some sin or other but over a considerable period has now successfully resisted the temptation-when this person has a relapse and succumbs again to the temptation, then the depression that ensues is by no means always sorrow over the sin. It can be something quite different it might also, for that matter, be resentment of divine governance, as if it were the latter that had let him fall into temptation and should not have been so hard on him, seeing that until now he had for so long successfully resisted the temptation. Such a person protests, perhaps in even stronger terms, how this relapse tortures and torments him, how it brings him to despair: he swears, 'I will never forgive myself.' He never forgives himself-but suppose God would forgive him then he might well have the goodness to forgive himself. The Sickness Unto Death, by Anti-Climacus, Edited by Soren Kierkegaard, Copyright 1849 Translation with an Introduction and notes by Alastair Hannay 1989 p. 144

In Practice in Christianity, 25 September 1850, his last pseudonymous work, he stated, "In this book, originating in the year 1848, the requirement for being a Christian is forced up by the pseudonymous authors to a supreme ideality." [158] This work was called Training in Christianity when Walter Lowrie translated it in 1941.

Christ is the truth in the sense that to be the truth is the only true explanation of what truth is. Therefore one can ask an apostle, one can ask a Christian, "What is truth?" and in answer to the question the apostle and the Christian will point to Christ and say: Look at him, learn from him, he was the truth. This means that truth in the sense in which Christ is the truth is not a sum of statements, not a definition etc., but a life. The being of truth is not the direct redoubling of being in relation to thinking, which gives only thought-being, safeguards thinking only against being a brain-figment that is not, guarantees validity to thinking, that what is thought is-that is, has validity. No, the being of truth is the redoubling of truth within yourself, within me, within him, that your life, my life, his life is approximately the being of the truth in the striving for it, just as the truth was in Christ a life, for he was the truth. And therefore, Christianly understood, truth is obviously not to know the truth but to be the truth. Søren Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity, Hong p. 205 (1850)

He now pointedly referred to the acting single individual in his next three publications For Self-Examination, Two Discourses at the Communion on Fridays, and in 1852 Judge for Yourselves!. [159] [160] Judge for Yourselves! was published posthumously in 1876. Here is an interesting quote from For Self Examination.

If in observing the present state of the world and life in general, from a Christian point of view one had to say (and from a Christian point of view with complete justification): It is a disease. And if I were a physician and someone asked me "What do you think should be done?" I would answer, "The first thing, the unconditional condition for anything to be done, consequently the very first thing that must be done is: create silence, bring about silence God's Word cannot be heard, and if in order to be heard in the hullabaloo it must be shouted deafeningly with noisy instruments, then it is not God’s Word create silence!

Ah, everything is noisy and just as strong drink is said to stir the blood, so everything in our day, even the most insignificant project, even the most empty communication, is designed merely to jolt the senses and to stir up the masses, the crowd, the public, noise!

And man, this clever fellow, seems to have become sleepless in order to invent ever new instruments to increase noise, to spread noise and insignificance with the greatest possible haste and on the greatest possible scale. Yes, everything is soon turned upside-down: communication is indeed soon brought to its lowest point in regard to meaning, and simultaneously the means of communication are indeed brought to their highest with regard to speedy and overall circulation for what is publicized with such hot haste and, on the other hand, what has greater circulation than—rubbish! Oh, create silence!” Soren Kierkegaard, For Self-Examination 1851 p. 47-48 Hong 1990

In 1851 Kierkegaard wrote his Two Discourses at the Communion on Fridays where he once more discussed sin, forgiveness, and authority using that same verse from 1 Peter 4:8 that he used twice in 1843 with his Three Upbuilding Discourses, 1843.

  • Soren Kierkegaard, Two Discourses at Friday Communion, 1851 (Love Will Hide a Multitude of Sins 1 Peter 4:8) From Without Authority, Hong 1997 p. 184-185

Kierkegaard began his 1843 book Either/Or with a question: "Are passions, then, the pagans of the soul? Reason alone baptized?" [161] He didn't want to devote himself to Thought or Speculation like Hegel did. Faith, hope, love, peace, patience, joy, self-control, vanity, kindness, humility, courage, cowardliness, pride, deceit, and selfishness. These are the inner passions that Thought knows little about. Hegel begins the process of education with Thought but Kierkegaard thinks we could begin with passion, or a balance between the two, a balance between Goethe and Hegel. [162] He was against endless reflection with no passion involved. But at the same time he did not want to draw more attention to the external display of passion but the internal (hidden) passion of the single individual. Kierkegaard clarified this intention in his Journals. [106]

Schelling put Nature first and Hegel put Reason first but Kierkegaard put the human being first and the choice first in his writings. He makes an argument against Nature here and points out that most single individuals begin life as spectators of the visible world and work toward knowledge of the invisible world.

Is it a perfection on the part of the bird that in hard times it sits and dies of hunger and knows of nothing at all to do, that, dazed, it lets itself fall to the ground and dies? Usually we do not talk this way. When a sailor lies down in the boat and lets matters take their course in the storm and knows nothing to do, we do not speak of his perfection. But when a doughty sailor knows how to steer, when he works against the storm with ingenuity, with strength, and with perseverance, when he works himself out of the danger, we admire him.


John Nash, RIP

Sad news this morning of the car accident death, at age 86, of Nobel Prize winning economist and mathematician John Nash, made more publicly famous (if not entirely accurately) in A Beautiful Mind.

A psychiatrist friend posted the following note on Facebook about the news:

Let me try, surely in vain, to set the record straight as there are so many subtle but horrifying myths that the Left has created about Nash to suit their purposes. (1) His name has entered science largely through his theory of balance in conflict—the Nash Equilibrium. The first movie to get this wrong had him as a reclusive professor whose computer, Joshua, arrived at the conclusion, “Don’t Play” to avert nuclear armageddon. In fact a stable Nash Equilibrium th at averts a nuclear holocaust is attained via Mutually Assured Destruction—peace through strength. This idea was previously lampooned by the Hollywood Left’s caricature of Nash’s mentor, John von Neumann, the mad man with the autonomous glove in “…How I Learned to Love the Bomb”. (2) The bar scene in “A Beautiful Mind” likewise gets it 180 degrees wrong—going for the non-beautiful girl is NOT a Nash equilibrium. The setup cannot produce a Nash equilibrium at all. (3) Nash almost certainly did NOT have “paranoid schizophrenia” as he remained productive until the end. He almost certainly had bipolar disorder, a condition that may yield transient psychotic episodes. I know many brilliant scientists with this condition. He may have been diagnosed with schizophrenia upon his initial admission to Maclean Hospital, but that would have been before Harrison and Pope, at Maclean, in 1984, later reviewed all the previous records and discovered that 50% of such “schizophrenia” diagnoses were in error and were actually manic-depression (bipolar). (3) During his manic/psychotic episodes, Nash would become paranoid (this happens in mania) and would then begin spouting crazed LEFTWING fantasies. When he was normal, he was politically conservative. The movie “A Beautiful Mind” deliberately reversed this because of its obvious implications. (4) To this day, Paul Krugman admires and looks up to Nash—because Nash was in fact von Neumann’s heir. Krugman does not allow this to be much known.


Three Pound Brain

Information technology made Plato anxious. Writing, he feared, would lead people to abandon their memory, to trust in “external characters which are no part of themselves.” Now we find ourselves living through a new revolution in information technology, one with consequences every bit as dramatic and likely even more profound. How could we not be anxious? Our old ways of communicating are either becoming obsolete or finding themselves dramatically ‘repurposed’ before our very eyes.

Including the grandest one of all: literature.

Literature is one of those categories that have vexed the human intellect for centuries. Typically we think of the classics – Shakespeare, Melville, Joyce, and so on – when we think of literature. If we don’t know exactly what it is, we like to think we know what it looks like. In other words, we use resemblance as our primary criterion. And indeed when you look at the output of contemporary literary authors you find no shortage of family resemblances: lyricism of prose, thematic sophistication, quotidian subject matters, and of course the all important yen for experimentation.

The morphology of what we like to call literature has remained fairly stable since at least the beginning of the twentieth century. The ‘norms of representation’ have been smashed and gratuitously rearranged the protagonist has been subjected to endless sessions of existential water torture the language has been stripped pornographically bare and heaped with gaudy ornamentation, again and again and again. All the patterns have become easily recognizable, so much so that you can typically identify a literary piece within the first few sentences of reading. Literature, as it is typically understood, is a very distinct cultural animal. Most of us can smell it even before it comes into view.

The problem, I would like to argue, is one of habitat. The fact is, the baroque morphology of literature belongs to a far different social and technological environment than our own. We are presently witnessing what is already the most profound transformation of human communication in history (short of the written word, maybe). The internet, the smartphone, the tablet, satellite and cable on-demand television, market segmentation, algorithmic marketing: the list of game-changers goes on and on. Make no mistake, we are talking about social and semantic habitat destruction without compare. The old rainforests of culture have been cleared away, and literature, with its prehensile hands and brachiating arms, now reaches for heights it can no longer climb and stares into distances it can no longer see.

No generation has witnessed such a sudden change in cultural environment, period. And yet, if anything, the health of the literary animal seems entirely unaffected. When Professor John Mullan of University College was recently asked by The Guardian to provide an overview of the ‘state of British literary fiction,’ he called it “one of the most extraordinary publishing phenomena of recent decades.”

Mullan paints his own picture of social transformation, one where the slow trickle of writers and readers through the post-secondary bottleneck has managed to rewrite the culture of reading. On the composition side, he notes the explosion in creative writing programs, and how almost all writers of literary fiction have some sort of university background. On the reception side, he notes that “there are more graduates from literature, especially English literature, degrees than ever.”

The situation is precisely opposite what Alvin Kernan predicted in The Death of Literature some twenty years ago: far from killing literature (by adopting postmodern critiques of its rationale in a time profound social change), academia has transformed it into a cultural juggernaut. In the course of teaching theory and the classics, universities have inadvertently produced both the suppliers and the consumers of literary fiction, to the point where work that was once the province of intellectual avant garde movements now enjoys mass consumption and pride of place in many media. The results are so profound that Mullan dares imagine the unthinkable: that far from retreating “before the forces of electronic media and consumer idiotism,” higher literacy is carrying the day.

Assuming that this account applies to the whole English speaking world as much as Britain, you might say that the literary animal is flourishing. Somehow, the implication seems to be, the ongoing communication revolution has all but passed literature over, allowing an old institution, the university, to bring about a happy revolution all its own. Far from threatened with extinction, literature is thriving in the age of information technology…

So why does it all feel so, well, dusty?

To be sure, not everyone in the literary world shares Mullan’s triumphal outlook. The sales figures may be difficult to argue with, but for many this is more cause for worry than celebration. In his notorious “Where Have All the Mailers Gone?” Lee Siegel declares that “fiction has become a museum-piece genre,” that readers wanting to be challenged and illuminated had better turn to nonfiction. In his most recent interview in The Guardian, Gabriel Josipovici, author of What Ever Happened to Modernism? claims that the recent efflorescence so extolled by Mullan is little more than “prep-school boys showing off.”

A kind of shadowy consensus has grown among certain critics and academics that something has gone drastically wrong in the world of literature, that far from healthy, the literary animal is in fact dead or on death’s door. Everyone has their own diagnosis: for Siegel it is the professionalization of what should be a vocation for Josipovici it is a failure of nerve and imagination in the face of market temptation. But for most all of them, the problem is that literature, despite all the ways it resembles literary works from days gone by, no longer does what it once did. Where’s the scandal? Where’s the daring? The revelation?

The tendency among these critics is to gloss the communications revolution and blame the practitioners, to think the problem is primarily one of execution. Literature isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do because contemporary literary writers and editors are too institutionalized, too timid or too inept. But what if the old morphology is to blame?

What if information technology has so transformed the social and economic conditions of literature, that the old forms are simply no longer capable of reliably producing literary effects?

In order to be stable, communication must mutually benefit both the sender and the receiver, otherwise the incentive to communicate evaporates. Receivers typically assess the value of any communication through what is called trust calibration, where we evaluate the motives of the sender, and coherence checking, where we evaluate the ‘fit’ between the message and our background beliefs. If a cold-calling salesperson makes a pitch, we close the door because we don’t trust their motives. If an otherwise trusted friend tells us something we think outlandish, we change the topic to avoid arguing at the dinner table. All communication is biased toward ingroup identification and a shared background of beliefs and assumptions.

We have a strong inclination, in other words, to ‘talk amongst ourselves.’

As antithetical to ‘unfettered creative expression’ as this social psychological approach sounds, it actually provides a clear way to understand something essential to literary communication. Literature, you could say, is the kind of narrative message that challenges rather than reinforces our background assumptions. If a given form of narrative reinforces assumptions, then it is quite simply not literature, no matter what it resembles. This is why we think literature has a special relationship with risk: a literary communication is one where the sender actively works against the coherence of his or her message relative to some reader. It is inherently unstable.

This is the reason we should be suspicious of the stability of the happy picture offered by Mullan. In Mullan’s account, literary fiction has evolved into what could only be called a spectacular ingroup exercise: thousands of university trained writers writing for millions of university trained readers. As a product of the same institution, the sender can be trusted to provide content that will readily conform to the receiver’s background beliefs. No matter what purported difficulty they encounter, they can be sure that it will fit. In Mullan’s account, the literary animal is so healthy simply because it lives in a communicative zoo, a place where no one need fear that the animal does anything really unexpected because everyone has been trained to anticipate its wiles.

Human beings are parochial, blinkered creatures, loathe to relinquish any number of injurious views no matter what their political stripe. The social value of literature has always turned on its ability to reveal and mitigate these shortcomings, to ‘shake things up,’ and so, bit by corrosive bit, effect cultural reform. But doing this requires forming stable communicative relationships despite the absence of ‘fit’ between the sender’s and receiver’s default assumptions. Not an easy thing to do. This is why ‘finding the reader’ has always been the great problem faced by literary fiction, so much so that posterity is ritually called upon to redeem its insularity: as a form of communication antagonistic to existing conditions of communication, it often has to wait for the rest of the world to catch up.

And this, I want to argue, is where the information revolution becomes a fundamental game-changer.

Time and place have always been the great communicative constraints. Before the advent of writing, senders and receivers always had to communicate face to face. Writing more or less banished time from the equation, and minimized the importance of geography to a certain degree. The printing press revolutionized the economics, and therefore the efficiencies of this first great transformation. And now, with information technology, both time and place have been rendered moot, more or less. We can receive communiques from Plato anywhere at anytime.

The great communication constraint of today has to do with sorting, finding those communications that you want in an ocean of shouting pixels. Whole industries have sprung up around the problem of finding in the internet age. And with them, the old world of connecting suppliers and buyers has been utterly swept away.

Armed with ever more sophisticated ways of gathering consumer information, and ever more powerful mathematical tools for mining and interpreting that information, suppliers have been able to segment markets and target buyers in ways their business forebears could scarce imagine. The tools have become so powerful, in fact, that many commentators, like Stephan Baker, author of The Numerati, worry we are turning ourselves into ‘data serfs,’ slaves to the very systems that anticipate our merest desires. For the bulk of human history, need has driven the economic connection of supplier and buyer. The industrial revolution ushered in the advent of want as the main economic driver. We are now entering what might be called the Age of Whimsy.

As a luxury good, the literary novel is an artifact of the Age of Want, a time when suppliers could only connect with buyers in bulk, lumping large populations together in the hope of hitting ‘targets’ they could never definitively define. Relying on ‘hunches’ rather than hard data, suppliers had to take a ‘shot-gun’ approach. The result was a far more amorphous marketplace, one where the chances of forming less than optimal supplier-buyer connections were relatively high.

In the publishing industry, the connection of suppliers and buyers is at once the connection of senders and receivers, simply because this latter, communicative connection is the very commodity supplied. The ‘misses’ of the former actually facilitated the possibility of less-than-stable connections between senders and receivers. The literary writer could, as the truism goes, ‘write for themselves,’ according to their own want and whimsy, confident that the inefficiencies of the system would allow them to ‘find their reader,’ receivers with incompatible background beliefs. At the same time, you might imagine that buyer-receivers, who were accustomed to misses, would be more prone to forgive discrepancies, to ‘settle’ for less than stable communicative relationships and so be more open to literary experiences.

The last two decades have all but swept this social and economic environment away. The kinds of preference parsing algorithms behind Amazon’s ubiquitous, ‘You might also like…’ feature allow suppliers to target buyers with uncanny accuracy and provide us with exactly what we want. The problem is that we want to be right. Even though challenging background beliefs typically benefits everyone, human beings are averse to criticism. We are literally hardwired to seek out confirmation and to overlook or dismiss incompatible information. As a consequence marketing algorithms such as those employed by Amazon typically connect readers with novels that accord with their attitudes and assumptions.

The ‘flat world,’ it turns out, is an increasingly sycophantic one.

In the Age of Whimsy, the ever increasing efficiency with which suppliers connect with buyers assures that ‘writing for yourself’ amounts to writing to people like yourself, to people who (thanks to the indoctrinating power of the university system) share the bulk of your values and attitudes. ‘Writing for yourself’ now means writing books entirely amenable to trust calibration and coherence checking, and so forging communicative relationships as stable as any other form of commercial fiction.

To ‘write for yourself,’ you might say, is in the process of becoming indistinguishable from ‘selling out.’ Literary fiction is becoming precisely what you might expect given the way information technology is transforming markets: a fixed form with a dedicated audience.

In other words, writing literary fiction today amounts to writing entertainment in the guise of writing literature. Some authors, such as Jonathan Franzen, have retreated from the lofty concepts of our recent literary past, realizing that things have changed. Others, like Tom McCarthy, persist in making the same old claims and pronouncements, and talk of ‘disrupting’ a culture of receivers with which they have little or no connection. More and more, you find references to what might be called the ‘Ideal Philistine’ in literary culture, to people with dissenting beliefs who would be challenged by literary works, were they to read them.

Where some have given up the literary ghost, others simply pretend that nothing has changed.

Does this mean the information revolution has rendered genuine literary communication impossible? Not at all. Just as dramatic environmental change begets evolutionary innovations (like us), literary writers actually find themselves in a time of profound opportunity. Even as technology threatens the old literary animal with extinction, it has provided powerful tools for the evolution of something new, and perhaps even better.

The primary dilemma for the contemporary literary author is simply this: how do you find a reader who doesn’t necessarily want to find you?

The luxury of ‘writing for yourself’ is simply no longer an option. As should be clear by this point, the worst possible thing one could do is write literary fiction, serve a market where almost no one is challenged and nearly everyone is gratified. You need to be both more expansive and more savvy.

So how do you find readers who don’t necessarily want to find you? In the absence of all the old inefficiencies, the literary author has to exploit the efficiencies of the new marketplace. Despite the dire pronouncements of recent years, the ‘reading public’ exists the same as before: according to the American Association of Publishers, 2010 book sales actually rose 3.6% over the 2009 calendar year. What has changed is all the socio-economic machinery between the author and the reader, machinery that the former can no longer afford to ignore. Since a work only produces literary effects relative to some audience of readers, literary authors need to know their readers. They need to identify audiences possessing dissenting values and attitudes. Then they need to either hijack or embrace the narrative forms most commonly marketed to them.

This means all the old and largely unfounded prejudices against genre fiction must be set aside. Genre only seems antithetical to ‘literature’ because the literary have turned it into a flattering foil, abandoned it, in effect, leaving a rhetorical fog of self-congratulation in their wake. In my own case, I chose epic fantasy because I knew the best way to provoke readers with a narrative meditation on the nature and consequences of belief was to reach actual believers. And provoke I did. Other writers, like China Mieville, M. John Harrison, Gene Wolfe, John Crowley, to name just a few, are doing the same thing, producing work that is obviously literary, openly provocative, yet unheard of in literary circles for the simple sin of wearing wrong generic skin. These are the writers who are genuinely shaking things up, as opposed to hawking intellectual and aesthetic buzzes inside the literary echo chamber.

Commercial genres must be seen for what they are, relatively fixed channels of communication to relatively dedicated audiences, not as ‘cages’ preventing some mythic ‘free expression.’ All channels of communication force senders to ‘play the game’ to reach a given group of receivers. English is such a game. The rules only seem coercive, ‘like work,’ when you don’t enjoy the game or if you think it’s ‘stupid’ or ‘beneath’ you. The literary author has to move past these old and embarrassing conceits. The idea is to play the margins, to play the game well enough to be identified as a ‘trusted sender’ by the receiver, all the while exploring ways to challenge their background assumptions.

This is no easy task. Luckily, information technology has brought about a curious and potentially revolutionary reversal of the roles traditionally assigned to writers and readers. Before the internet, writers were almost exclusively senders and readers were almost exclusively receivers. The effort required to contact an author effectively restricted communication to ‘fan mail’ and ‘kaffeeklatches.’ This assured that most of the feedback a writer received would be complimentary, something useful for motivation perhaps, but not so useful for calibrating communicative tactics. Now, every author living is simply one ‘vanity google’ away from all stripes of unfiltered feedback from blogs, messageboards, and special interest sites (such as Goodreads).

The internet allows the contemporary author to understand their readers better than at any time in modern history, simply because it allows them to literally see the consequences of their artistic decisions. This can become something of a masochistic exercise, to be sure, but if you are serious about writing something that actually challenges actual readers without scaring them away, then access to this kind of information is invaluable. Senders no longer have to rely on blind guesswork. In my own novels I have used the internet to craft everything from storylines that collapse pulp into philosophy, to protagonists designed to simultaneously gratify and deny the kinds of wish-fulfilment that underwrite ‘character identification’–things that no English department in the world teaches, let alone considers.

The internet, in other words, allows the contemporary literary author to run genuine experiments. The old literary use of the term ‘experiment’ was largely specious: formal innovations in the absence of consequence testing can only be ‘for their own sake,’ or the sake of readers who have been trained to expect them. Thanks to the internet, I have been able to develop a fairly detailed understanding of which experiments have failed and which have succeeded. Once you adopt a genre as a vehicle for expression, everything becomes a matter of give and take. Some points are simply not worth scoring because they crash your communicative relationship with too many readers. Some tactics allow you to get away with ideological murder, if executed with enough elegance and momentum. Others end up having the exact opposite effect you intended!

If there’s one thing the internet shows you as a writer, it’s that there is no such thing as ‘the Reader.’ As a writer you are communicating to populations of readers. And as a genre writer, you’re communicating to populations of readers with a far more eclectic set of background beliefs than you could ever hope to find in the ‘literary mainstream.’ Genre, in fact, is where you find most all the people who disagree.

There’s a reason why only Harry Potter gets burned anymore.

My argument is simple: To thrive in the fluid, multifarious information habitat of today, the literary animal must become a chameleon. Authors who want to be part of the cultural solution can no longer trust in posterity or the ‘power of their art’ they have to game the new social, economic, and technological conditions of their practice. Either you stick with literary resemblance, gratify your tastes and sense of superiority, and simply entertain (which is quite alright, so long as your rhetoric reflects as much), or you get serious about literary effects and begin creating the new, many-coloured literature of the information age.

Even if you disagree with my analysis, there can be no doubt that the consequences of information technology imperil literature in a multitude of ways, only a few of which have been considered here. The threat is existential. Literary culture must reinvent itself or risk extinction: there can be no question about this.

If Mullan is right, and universities are the primary engine of contemporary literary culture, then the prospects are dim simply because of the way academia is entrenched outside the demands of mainstream society. Short of some sweeping, generational change in ideological fashion, it has the demonstrated capacity to cling to its values, no matter how maladapted, in perpetuity.

The fact that these values are so flattering, that readers and writers of literary fiction are so prone to identify themselves (despite their complicity) against ‘consumer idiocy,’ will only make them that much more difficult to dislodge. Concepts are bigots: if you identify yourself as literary, then you will automatically and unconsciously sort the ‘serious’ from the ‘silly’ in ways that conserve the literary status quo. Thanks to the psychological mechanisms of value attribution, we pass judgement with our every breath, no matter how ‘self-critical’ we pretend to be.

Our brains have preference parsing algorithms of their own!

And perhaps worst of all, these values allow the so-called literary writer to be lazy, to indulge their own tastes and assumptions under the guise of ‘making the world a better place.’ Wherever you find a high opinion, hypocrisy is never far.

These three things, institutional inertia, value attribution, and good old-fashioned laziness all but guarantee years, if not decades, of denial and rationalization from literary culture. Defectors will be dismissed, lampooned, and ignored, the same as defectors from any other vested institution. This is why the path I’m advocating is sure to remain the lesser travelled one: It involves real professional risk and real creative toil.


This film includes examples of:

  • 555: Burpleson 3-9180 is the number of the booth phone from which Group Captain Mandrake is calling the President to try and stop the bombers from attacking Russia.
  • Accidental Pervert: Col. "Bat" Guano, heading an Army division that fought its way into an Air Force base, takes British military attaché Group Captain Mandrake to be "some kind of deviated prevert" who killed the commanding general for "finding out about his preversion and organizing a mutiny of preverts" - most likely on the evidence of his odd accent and uniform.
  • Action Bomb: Major T.J. "King" Kong rides the nuke down to its destination below, thereby causing the Soviets' doomsday device to detonate and end the world .
  • Adaptation Title Change: Dr. Strangelove was based on the novel Red Alert.
  • Aluminium Christmas Trees/Truth in Television:
    • Ripper's paranoia about water fluoridation was based on real conspiracy theories about the effects of fluoridation, some of which persist to this day on both extremes of the political spectrum, minus the "vodka-drinking Russians did it" part.
      • Fears that the Russians are trying to corrupt American institutions through other means, on the other hand, are alive and well on both sides of the aisle (though they'll often disagree on which institutions they're gunning for.)
      • General Ripper's pistol, which he dramatically unveils to threaten Captain Mandrake. He leaves the Browning Machine Gun with Mandrake as he steps into the bathroom, but not before handing him his coat and giving the camera a glimpse of the pistol stuffed into his pants.
      • The CRM-114 alphabetic code, OPE, is shown to the audience as the crew of the Leper Colony prepare for Plan R. Only later is it revealed that OPE was selected because of Ripper's infatuation with "Purity of Essence" and "Peace on Earth."
      • Miss Scott, Turgidson's secretary, is seen briefly as the centerfold model in the Playboy magazine which Kong is reading at the start of the film.
      • Animals. vill be brred. and SLAUGHTERED.HAAAAAA!(wrestles with own arm)MEIN FUHRER! I CAN WALK.
      • Stanley Kubrick actually tricked Scott into doing this (as General Buck Turgidson). For each scene he told Scott to go completely over the top in the first few takes, before playing it straight in the later ones, promising to not use the earlier, wilder ones. (He lied).
      • After being informed of the badness of the Doomsday Machine, a world-ending device, Turgidson's first reaction is, "Gee, I wish we had one of them doomsday machines."
      • Also played with by one of the moments shortly afterward, as Turgidson gleefully details the last bomber's chances. then realises they're screwed.
      • Another Turgidson one comes when Plan R is in danger of causing the end of the world, and he says that the reliability of it (and the psychological screening process given to those who can enable the Plan that theoretically isn't supposed to allow this situation to happen in the first place) shouldn't be written off after a "single incident".
      • DeSadesky is going to be trapped with the US officials or left to die in the upcoming radioactive wasteland. He still sneaks photographs of the Big Board after this is a foregone conclusion, even though the photos would be obsolete and he'd die long before he could deliver them anyway &mdash symbolic of the pointlessness of the war, and its probable continuation.
      • Ambassador DeSadesky accuses General Turgidson of trying to plant a Spy Cam on him and is later shown with another spy camera. This means that either Turgidson always carries a spy camera in case of such an eventuality, or the Russian ambassador carried two spy cameras.
      • The survival kit carried by the crew of The Leper Colony. There's a season's worth of MacGyver material in there (not to mention that you could have a pretty good weekend in Dallas Vegas with all that stuff). Doubles as Aluminum Christmas Trees, since it was based almost entirely on real USAF pilot survival kits.
      • The collection of Attack Plans kept in a safe aboard each B-52 provides instruction for every possible scenario that could be played out in a nuclear exchange. Truth in Television.
      • General Ripper (emphasis on crazy), commander of an Air Force base, casually carries a machine gun in his golf bag, handy for additional holes.
      • In his binder marked, "Targets in Megadeath," General Turgidson had a study ready for "this eventuality."
      • General Turgidson comes off like an unhinged, paranoid goofball, but darned if he isn't right about the Russian ambassador spying in the War Room.
      • Doctor Strangelove is right about why building a doomsday machine as a defensive measure and not telling anybody about it is a terribly bad idea.
      • Pretty much what sets the plot in motion General Ripper believes that Russians are fluoridating his drinking water.
      • The Doomsday Device is designed and built to respond to an attack &mdash any attack of any magnitude &mdash with the detonation of so much salted nuclear ordnance that Earth's surface will be sterilized of all life with the possible exception of the cockroach.
      • A more subtle form of symbolism: chewing gum represents the upcoming war. Mandrake forlornly fidgets with a stick of chewing gum while sitting on Ripper's couch, while Turgidson gobbles down stick after stick of gum with aplomb.

      No Endor Holocaust

      Explosions are cool. So are giant objects. Therefore, giant objects exploding are extremely cool, but let's think about this for a moment. Halt the Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever in a major city by blowing it up. Or just kill it and let it fall over, for that matter. That's going to do some monstrous damage to the city. Yet any collateral damage or casualties are depicted as minimal. Either we cut to credits before we see any aftermath, or (more blatantly) we see that there was no collateral effect at all. If there are, they are just Conveniently Empty Buildings.

      Why? You can't have the heroes take down the alien spacecraft For Great Justice, only to look sheepish when the flaming debris flattens the city. Not in any show on the idealism end of the scale, anyway. Maybe they have a brilliant plan to lure it somewhere uninhabited before they blow it to rubble, but surprisingly often, it's just not something the writers concern themselves with, leading viewers to notice the Inferred Holocaust.

      If you're a hero, you needn't worry about this. Even if there is collateral damage, your Hero Insurance is going to cover it. If not, then Hilarity Sues.

      See Colony Drop for when a large man-made object is deliberately dropped on top of a planet in order to cause a massive impact. The Trope Namer is the fan theory about the destruction of Endor as a result of the detonation of the Death Star in Return of the Jedi (see Film section below). (And not the Ender Holocaust, which is about the opposite.)

      Compare There Are No Global Consequences and Never Say "Die". Inferred Holocaust is when you realize the Monster of the Week might be dead but chances of survival are grim after the extensive damage.

      As potentially mass-death-causing events tend to happen during pivotal plot points, expect spoilers.


      WHAT HAS BECOME OR WILL BECOME OF THIS GENRE?

      • Spy Hard (1996) which also starred Leslie Nielsen was written in part by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. Since then they have done more parody movies. Do you remember them or like them? Probably not, because while most at least made their money back they pretty much are forgotten with only about 1 star reviews on IMDB.
        • Date Movie, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, Disaster Movie, and Vampires Suck.
        • The Wayans family is a comedy dynasty. Ever since Keenan Wayans created In Living Color, which starred other members of the family, the Wayans have made a lasting mark on the parody genre.
        • Two of their most successful spoofs are: Don’t be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, and I’m Gonna Get You Sucka.
          • These films lampooned a series of Black coming-of-age films that take place in “the hood,” such as: Boyz n the Hood, South Central, and Menace to Society.
          • Will Ferrell
            • Blades of Glory
            • Eurovision
            • Austin Powers
            • The Love Guru

            Judd Apatow is largely credited with giving new life to the R-rated comedy genre in the 21st century thanks to critical and commercial hits “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up.” But even though Apatow has found mainstream success with his films, he’s still very aware of just how far the comedy genre has fallen in Hollywood. He believes the major studios are no longer “smart enough and funny enough” to make the kind of comedies that were once guaranteed blockbusters, such as Paramount Pictures’ “Airplane!” Apatow explains:

            “After the last writers’ strike, it felt like the studios decided not to develop movies. They used to buy a lot of scripts, and they had big teams of people giving notes, and they worked for years with people in collaboration on those scripts. I feel like the studios don’t buy as many scripts now. It used to be you’d open up Variety, and you’d see a movie studio had just bought a big high-concept comedy. Now it seems like they’d rather things come in packaged: a script, a cast, a director. As a result, a lot of great comedy writers are going to television instead of sitting at home and trying to write a script for a film, write the way I was.”


            Watch the video: MAD Mutually Assured Destruction. The Cold War 1960 72 12 of 24 (May 2022).