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Kurt Tucholsky, "We Nay-Sayers" (1919)

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We Nay-Sayers

How gentle and tender it is herel It wills well-being, and quiet enjoyment, and mild pleasures for itself, for others, for all. This is the theme of Anacreon. Thus by allurement and flattery it works its way into life; but when it is in life, then misery introduces crime, and crime misery; horror and desolation fill the scene. This is the theme of Aeschylus. SCHOPENHAUER*

We at the Weltbühne are always being reproached for saying no to everything and not being positive enough. We only reject and criticize and even foul our own German nest. And we have fought—this is taken to be the worst—hate with hate, violence with violence, fist with fist.

The people airing their views in this magazine are in fact always the same ones. And it bears pointing out for once how sincerely we all agree, even though we barely know each other. Some issues of the Weltbühne have every appearance of having been created in long editorial meetings, but the truth is that the editor produced them altogether on his own. It therefore seems to me that the reproach that we are negative applies to intellectually independent men, innocent of mutual influence. But are we negative? Are we really?

I want finally to pull out all the drawers of our German dresser to see what is to be found in them.

The revolution. If revolution means merely collapse, then it was one; but no one should expect the ruins to look any different from the old building. We have suffered failure and hunger, and those responsible just walked away. And the people remain: they had their old flags torn down, but had no new ones.

The bourgeois citizen. Citizenship is—how often this has been misunderstood!—a classification of the spirit; one is a citizen by virtue of predisposition not birth, and least of all on account of profession. These middle-class citizens of Germany are antidemocratic through and through—their like scarcely exist in any other country—and that is the seat of all misery. It simply is not true that they were oppressed before the revolution; it was their deepest need to look up from below, eyes true as a dog’s, to submit to forcible correction and to feel the strong hand of God’s guardians! Now the guardians are gone and the citizens are chilled by their sense that something is missing. The censor has been abolished; obedient, they continue to pray the old prayers, babbling anxiously as if nothing had happened. They know no middle between patriarchal domination and the banditry of a degenerate bolshevism, for they are unfree. They accept everything so long as they are allowed to continue earning money. And to that we are supposed to say yes?

*Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, vol. 2, trans. E. F. Payne (New York: Dover, 1966), p. 569.

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