Redemption

General Stumm resumes his musings on the mysterious nature of the civilian world. As a military man he knew quite well the problem of maintaining order among the “unredeemed” peoples of Kakania, the Germans, Hungarians, Romanians, Czechs, Bosnians, Slovaks, Slovenes, Italians and more. But now all he hears from the civilians is the need for a redeemer.

Not that the General regarded this as something to be taken anymore literally than anything else people were saying. “If the Redeemer were to come again today,” he said to himself, “they would bring down his Government just like any other.” Judging by his own personal experience, he supposed that this came of too many people writing too many books and newspaper articles. “How wise of the army to forbid officers to write books without special permission,” he thought, and was startled to feel a hot wave of loyalty for the first time in ages. He was obviously starting to think too much! It all came of keeping company with the civilian mind, which had evidently lost the advantage of having a firm perspective on the world. The General saw this clearly now, and it enabled him to understand all that palaver about redemption from yet another angle. The General’s mind strayed back to distant memories of his classes in religion and history for support along this new line of thought, and if his welter of ideas could have been lifted bodily out of his head and ironed out, it would have looked more or less as follows: To begin briefly with the ecclesiastical aspect of things, as long as one belied in religion, one could defenestrate a good Christian or a pious Jew from any story in the castle of hope or prosperity, and he would always land on his spiritual feet, as it were, because all religions included in their view of life an irrational, incalculable element they called God’s inscrutable will. Whenever a man could not make sense of things, he merely had to remember this rogue element in the equation, and his spirit could rub its hands with satisfaction, as it were. This falling on one’s feet and rubbing one’s hands is called having a working philosophy of life, and this is what modern man has lost. He must either give up thinking about his life altogether, which is what many people are quite content to do, or else he finds himself strangely torn between having to think and yet never quite seeming to arrive at a satisfactory resolution of his problems. This conflict has in the course of history taken on the form of a total skepticism as often as it has that of a renewed subjection to faith, and its most prevalent form today is probably the conviction that without a spiritual dimension there can be no human life worthy of the name, but with too much of it there can be none either. It is on this conviction that our civilization as a whole is based. It takes great care to provide for education and research, but never too well, only enough money to keep education and research properly subordinated to the great sums expended on entertainment, cars, and guns. (I,567-568)

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