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George Grosz, "Among Other Things, a Word for German Tradition" (1931)

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Hundreds of thousands who would like to work find no employment. Every new machine pensions off so-and-so-many from their work. Eventually it all becomes too stupid even for the most self-satisfied capitalists, and they bust their thick-necked heads about how to overcome the evil. The talk of dictatorship is making the rounds. But will that make them master of the machine, which everyone knows is endlessly voracious? I have my modest doubts. As always, needs are blithely cultivated just so the beast does not stop. For that would mean death to production and prosperity. It is impossible to conceive ... that tomorrow no more forests would be turned into paper, impossible to imagine a civilization without artificial silk stockings and sweaters. No. Needs have to be cultivated—always go after the masses. Comfort in the name of progress. Raising the standards before all else. It is funneled into us daily through a thousand press channels. To live without a vacuum cleaner and a car ... is not worth living. Then one takes a look at American magazines. True documents of unchecked civilization. Three-quarters advertisements; ever-new needs. Scattered among bits of a novel, in which thinly-veiled propaganda, even to the point of surfeit, is made for this doubtful life of comfort. Ceaselessly the machine swallows and spits ... ready-made goods, more and more. It will not rest until the North Pole is artificially thawed and the Eskimos bound to an assembly line.

The big city, real water on the brain: trade city, sales city, marketplace. After work, doubtful amusements ... rushed, noisy ... fake sparkle, to rev up tired businessmen for a couple of hours. Just do not think ... money, women, champagne. Cheap theater. Not to be had for anything serious outside their nerve-grating businesses. A revue and the endlessly cute, predigested cinema pictures. The women, made-up, manicured, highheeled, and neglected, with gigolos in the hotels and at the tea dance. What life?

The crowning achievement: a big villa in a safe place, stuffed full of ancient artworks as financial investments ... expensive cars and a storehouse of fancy shirts. Ghastly materialism and boredom.

The palaces of our time: office highrises with seven floors, warehouse cathedrals, radio palaces, cinema temples ... consecrated to the unknown deities of senseless production.

The mighty of the earth glued to money. Their fate: sales and the purchasing power of the little man.

Work scientifically organized to the last detail. What is the meaning of craftsmanship in that? Cheapen ... cheapen. Tackle that job. A few hours more and even the dullest fellow will get it ... and become part of the production process. Tighten his screw from early to late. Faster, faster; as grotesque as it sounds, of all the junk the machines mass produce, there is still far too little. Frantically the people compete and produce against each other. Frenzied race for markets. Cheapen ... Raising domestic purchasing power ... the catchwords. That all of this rubbish from pressed metal, enamel, ... pressed glass, and reinforced pasteboard is utterly superfluous to life occurs to no one.

Endless wage battles. Apparently inescapable eternal circulation. The workers banded together in mighty organizations. Union popes ascended from below and became almost more powerful than kings. Pompous union palaces in the latest style; statues symbolizing power on display in the vestibules ... heralds of splendor and progress. Mile-long resort facilities and vacation colonies on the sea. Who would have suspected all this in 1830 as simpletons in prophetic transport were destroying the first English machines? ... But it is real progress, is it not?

So it is in 1931, in the age of socialism.

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