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Friedrich Nietzsche on Germany’s Victory over France and the "Cultural Philistine": Untimely Meditations (1873-76)

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If it were possible to take that calm and tenacious bravery which the German demonstrated against the emotional and shortlived impetuosity of the French and turn it against the enemy within, against that highly ambiguous and in any case alien ‘cultivatedness’ which is nowadays dangerously misunderstood to constitute culture, then all hope for the creation of a genuine German culture, the antithesis of this cultivatedness, would not be lost: for the Germans have never lacked clear-sighted and courageous leaders and generals – though these have frequently lacked Germans. But whether it is in fact possible to redirect German bravery in this way seems to me more and more doubtful and, after the late war, daily more improbable; for I see how everyone is convinced that struggle and bravery are no longer required, but that, on the contrary, most things are regulated in the finest possible way and that in any case everything that needed doing has long since been done – in short, that the finest seeds of culture have everywhere been sown and are in places bursting into leaf and even into luxuriant blossom. In this realm it is not mere complacency, but joy and jubilation which reign. I sense this joy and jubilation in the incomparable self-assurance of our German journalists and manufacturers of novels, tragedies, songs and histories: for these types patently belong together in a single guild which seems to have entered into a conspiracy to take charge of the leisure and ruminative hours of modern man – that is to say, his ‘cultural moments’ – and in these to stun him with printed paper. Since the war, all is happiness, dignity and self-awareness in this guild: after such ‘successes of German culture’ it feels itself not merely confirmed and sanctioned, but almost sacrosanct; and it therefore speaks more solemnly, takes pleasure in addressing itself to the German people, publishes collected editions in the manner of the classics, and goes so far as to employ those international journals which stand at its service to proclaim certain individuals from its midst as the new German classics and model writers. One might perhaps have expected that the more thoughtful and learned among cultivated Germans would have recognized the dangers inherent in such a misuse of success, or at least have felt this spectacle as painful: for what could be more painful than the sight of a deformed man pluming himself before the mirror like a cockerel and exchanging admiring glances with his reflection? But the learned classes are happy to let happen what is happening, and have in any case quite enough to do in maintaining themselves without the additional burden of looking after the welfare of the German spirit. Its members are, moreover, supremely convinced that their own culture is the ripest and fairest fruit of the age, indeed of all the ages, and cannot comprehend why anyone should need to look after the welfare of German culture in general, since they themselves and countless numbers like them have already gone far, far beyond all such considerations. The more cautious observer, however, especially if he is a foreigner, cannot help noticing that what the German scholar now calls his culture and that jubilant culture of the new German classics differ from one another only in the extent of their knowledge: wherever the question is one not of knowledge and information, but of art and ability – wherever, that is to say, life bears witness to the culture – there is now only one German culture: and is it this that is supposed to have triumphed over France?

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