The P.I.C.

Ulrich encounters the banker Fischel on the street, who has belatedly opened up his invitation to the great patriotic committee. He is genuinely puzzled by the phrase “true patriotism.”

“What is really meant by ‘the true patriotism,’ ‘the true progress,’ and ‘the true Austria’?”

Startled out of his mood but continuing its spirit, Ulrich replied in the manner he always fell into in his conversations with Fischel: “The P.I.C.”

“The what?” Director Fischel innocently spelled the letters out after him, this time not suspecting a joke, because such abbreviations, while not so numerous then as they are now, were familiar from cartels and trusts, and radiated confidence. But then he said: “Please, no jokes just now, I’m in a hurry and late for a meeting.”

“Principle of Insufficient Cause,” Ulrich elucidated. “You are a philosopher yourself and know about the Principle of Sufficient Cause. The only exception we make is in our own individual cases: in our real, I mean our personal, lives, and in our public-historical lives, everything that happens happens for no good or sufficient reason.”

Leo Fischel wavered between disputing this and letting it pass. Director Leo Fischel of the Lloyd Bank loved to philosophize (there still are such people in the practical professions) but he actually was in a hurry, so he said: “You are dodging the issue. I know what progress is, I know what Austria is, and I probably know what it is to love my country too, but I’m not quite sure what true patriotism is, or what the true Austria, or true progress may be, and that’s what I’m asking you.”

“All right. Do you know what an enzyme is? Or a catalyst?”

Leo Fischel only raised a hand defensively.

“It doesn’t contribute anything materially, but it sets processes in motion. You must  know from history that there has never been such a thing as the true faith, the true morality, and the true philosophy. But the wars, the viciousness, and the hatreds unleashed in their name have transformed the world in a fruitful way.” (I,140-141)

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