Once Aryan Skynet Goes Live It Doesn't Matter Who Pulled The Switch
Emil Cioran (1911-1995) was a pessimistic Romanian antinatalist philosopher who lived the second half of his life in Paris where his existentialist writings were highly regarded. Several of Cioran’s works remain in print in English translation; but one book, 1936’s The Transfiguration of Romania, seems to have suffered a fate similar to that of Solzhenitsyn’s Two Hundred Years Together and remains unavailable excepting excerpts. “Soon after Cioran’s death, a stormy controversy arose in the French and Romanian press,” recounts Jewish-Romanian writer Norman Manea.
It concentrated on his youthful political extremism, his outrageous statements about Hitler and Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, the “Captain” of the infamous Iron Guard, that extreme right-wing Romanian movement of the 1930s that claimed to be “Christian-Orthodox.” Readers were reminded that Cioran wrote in 1937, “No other politician of today inspires a greater sympathy than Hitler. … Hitler’s merit consists in depriving his nation of its critical spirit.” Or what he said in 1940 at a ceremony commemorating the death of his beloved “Captain,” whom he saw as a kind of new messiah.
“In Romania,” Manea continues, “the debate was enhanced by the publication, after the collapse of communism, of Cioran’s complete work, including some of his yet unpublished letters.”1 Unlike most interwar nationalists, however, Cioran’s eccentric infatuation with these ideas was born of the absence of national pride – not an uncommon attitude among the Romanian intelligentsia, as Marta Petreu explains in her study An Infamous Past: E.M. Cioran and the Rise of Fascism in Romania: “Cioran’s bleak view of Romanian culture was far from unique at the time. Young thinkers such as [Mircea] Eliade and Mircea Vulcanescu had also been highly critical of Romanian culture,” and “Eugen Ionescu could not bear to think he would remain ‘a poor relation of the European intelligentsia,’ wondering: ‘What unfortunate circumstances relegated Romania to an insignificant position in the field of culture?’”2 “Both I and Romania were quite lucky, for when I wrote about this country I lacked the intimate knowledge of it,” Cioran confessed to Eliade. “Otherwise, I would have published the most terrifying book ever written about a human community.”3
As with certain other European intellectuals and artists during this period – Carl Jung or Salvador Dalí, for instance – Cioran’s affection for fascism and Hitler was largely a matter of abstraction and preoccupation with symbolism. Petreu points to “the convergence between his metaphysical premises – irrational, vitalistic, applied by the young thinker to the philosophy of culture and of history – and a reality grounded in these premises – Hitlerism. Understanding the Nazi political system to be shaped according to his own philosophical beliefs, Cioran let himself be seduced by what he saw” and “he declared that Germans did not like democracy, that Germany felt the ‘need for a Fuhrer,’ and that Hitler, now profoundly anchored in the ‘German consciousness,’ had become a ‘symbol.’”4
“There is something irresistible in the destiny of this man, for whom every act of his life gains significance only through a symbolic participation in the historical destiny of a nation,” Cioran wrote in a 1934 article published in the conservative journal Vremea (i.e., “The Times”).
For Hitler is a man who does not have what is called a private life. Since the war, his life has been nothing but renunciation and sacrifice. A politician’s lifestyle gains depth only when the desire for power and an imperialistic will to conquer are accompanied by a great capacity for self-restraint.
The Fuhrer’s mystique in Germany is totally justified. Even those who imagine themselves to be Hitler’s passionate adversaries, who claim to hate him, are in reality caught in the waves of this mystique, which has turned Hitler’s personality into a myth. When Roehm’s conspiracy took place and nothing official was yet known, I encountered many of those who only the day before did not hesitate to deprecate Hitler, now exclaiming: “If only Hitler were unharmed!”
His discourses are fraught with a pathos and frenzy that only the visions of a prophetic spirit could possibly reach. Goebbels is a finer, subtler spirit, his irony is more discrete, his gestures are more nuanced, and he appears to be a refined and consummate intellectual, but he cannot explode in a violent and torrential way to the point of depriving you of your critical spirit. […]
As far as Hitler is concerned, the capacity to seduce is even more impressive, since it is not aided by an expressive physiognomy. His face expresses nothing but energy and sadness. Because it needs to be known: Hitler is a sad man. A sadness that is the result of too much seriousness. This is characteristic of the entire German people, a desperately serious people, compared to whom Latin nations are nations of clowns.5
“The experience of Hitler’s Germany heightened Cioran’s inferiority complex and his shame at being Romanian,” Petreu relates. “Foreigners, he discovered, ‘know nearly nothing about our so-called life.’ Many did not even know that ‘the Romanian people exists at all! … Their contempt for us is so exaggerated that it makes us sick and tired of foreign countries.’” “Being Romanian is a dreadful thing,” he despaired, as “no woman will give you a second glance, and otherwise decent people will smirk; if they see that you are smart, they’ll think you’re a confidence man. But what did I do wrong to bear the shame of a nation without history?”6
Cioran outlines his program for the country in The Transfiguration of Romania. Petreu summarizes the author’s sentiments:
Democracy, suitable only for a certain historical period, had […] to be replaced by “another political system,” a “dictatorial regime.” This replacement would require a revolution, coordinated and directed by a movement of national revival, an engaged nationalism. We know that Cioran was highly critical of all Romanian nationalist movements, seeing them as reactionary and misguided. He accused nationalism of nativism and traditionalism; anti-liberalism; anti-democratism and anti-modernism per se; xenophobia and anti-Semitism as its single motivating force; an anti-Western attitude; and indifference to social problems. Such objections indicate that he challenged primarily the right-wing nationalist movements. But, as we have seen, he also rejected the kind of national movement that envisaged a future Romania in the image of a peaceful Switzerland, thereby refusing the liberal and democratic alternative as well. As to the National Peasants party, supporter of Transylvanian interests, it had bitterly disappointed Cioran because its leader, Iuliu Maniu, had proven too weak to “Transylvanize” the whole of Romania. For Cioran, the only suitable nationalism, now and in the future, was a “messianic nationalism,” frantic and apocalyptic. It would engineer the revolution, replace democracy with dictatorship, and turn the minor culture into an intermediate one. It would both solve the country’s social problems and ensure the emergence of a Romanian nation.7
“The rise of anti-Semitism in Europe and in Romania during the interwar years provided Cioran with additional sources of inspiration; in the absence of this phenomenon he might have ignored the ‘Jewish question’ altogether,” Petreu writes, adding, “At the same time he never uses the offensive term ‘kike’ (jidan), often found in the anti-Semitic Romanian press, and instead always refers to ‘Jews.’”8 Notwithstanding the fact that Cioran criticized the obsessive preoccupation with the Jews that he observed in other nationalist figures, he himself had a number of criticisms to level at the Jews, whom he characterized as almost a separate species. The humanoid population of the world, Cioran averred, can be divided into non-Jews and Jews:
The Jew is not our fellow man, our kind, and no matter how close we become, the chasm is still there, whether we like it or not. It is as if they were descended from a different breed of monkey than ourselves, condemned to a sterile tragedy, to hopes that always turn out to be false. It is at a human level that we cannot get close to them, for a Jew is first Jewish, and only then human.9
“Cioran’s premise,” Petreu continues, “is that contacts between Jews and non-Jews could only take the form of ‘contempt and hatred’; in any event, you cannot love them, he decided. Jews were defined by ‘vampirism’ and ‘aggressiveness’; they were ‘the smartest, the most gifted, and the most brazen of nations,’ a ‘hardworking people of exploiters’ using their ‘century-old … cynicism and experience’ to exploit the peoples and nations they managed to infiltrate. They were,” he said, “a ‘nuisance,’ and after the First World War they had ‘invaded’ and paralyzed Romania, using the ‘idiotic and degenerate’ representatives of the Romanian democratic regime to establish a system that allowed them to dominate the country.”10
As these quotations indicate, there was admiration mingled with Cioran’s contempt for the Semites who had insinuated themselves into his society. “Cioran’s portrayal of the Jews is always ambivalent, a mixture of admiration and rejection,” Petreu writes. “He regards the Jews as superior, the Romanians as the inferior people.”11 The author’s mother, after reading The Transfiguration of Romania, told him, “One cannot tell whether you are for or against the Jews. The impression I got was that of a tormenting mixture of feelings.”12 In any case, Cioran declared that Jewry “survived Hellenistic Greece and the Roman Empire, and will certainly outlive the West, hated and despised by all the other nations who are born and know death.”13
In the shifted atmosphere of a ruined postwar Europe, Cioran abandoned his nationalist ideas and settled in Paris, where the remainder of his life’s output was published in the French language. “He who reneges his language and adopts the language of others basically renounces his identity and even his disappointments,” the self-loathing philosopher confessed. “He becomes separated – a heroic betrayal – from his memories and, to a certain point, from himself.”14 As a “passionate foreigner”, he finds in the French language “an instrument of redemption, an exercise in austerity, and a cure.”15 “Tormented by guilt” – because of the Nazi “Holocaust”, presumably – “he returned time and again to the Jewish question, though sometimes in a cryptic, symbolic manner,” Petreu reveals. Her portrait of the decrepit ethnomasochist’s final days is disgusting:
Shortly before his death, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and receiving treatment at the Broca Hospital in Paris, Cioran was still trying to atone for his past sins. Visited by Alexandru Mirodan, from his hospital bed, desperately trying to overcome the symptoms of his disease, Cioran told his guest: “I … am … not … an … anti- … Semite.”16
Emil Cioran may have been of little account as a nationalist; but have his attitudes toward Jewish “vampirism” been extinguished from the Romanian psyche? The Guardian’s Nick Cohen is skeptical, finding “the antisemitic echoes of the Nazi and communist eras in the vilification of Soros” in Eastern Europe. “They are so loud they deafen,” Mr. Cohen deplores:
It’s not just Putin who goes for Soros. Macedonia’s former autocratic prime minister, Nikola Gruevski, has called for a “de-Sorosisation” of society, as the country’s right uses every trick it can think of, including the threat of street violence by “patriotic associations”, to stop the opposition taking power.
In Hungary, Viktor Orbán’s self-proclaimed illiberal democracy is threatening the Soros-funded Central European University. […]
I could go on. Romania’s socialist elite imitates Trump and claims Soros pays citizens to take to the streets to demonstrate […]17
Two Romanian ghosts, it seems, compete for the privilege of haunting Europe – the “Holocaust”-harbingering specter of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu and that of the identity-denying eccentric Emil Cioran.