Gorka König as Shostakovich

At the intellectual level the decades that followed were marked by a set of radical de-constructions, since to understand what in fact had been happening in the world I had first to free myself from the complex constructions that had been built up by the ruling elite. To be precise, the crucial de-construction was that the ruling elite, far from being a set of elected governments, were an unelected oligarchy of wealth which employed these governments as their guard-dogs. It is not an accident that while I struggled to make sense of the historical process, the now dominant culture was making absolutely sure that history, even their fantasy version of it, was not to be taught to the people. The arrogance and certainty with which society was now dictated to, and the woeful passivity of the rising generations, made it clear that the dystopic visions of Orwell and Huxley were not even adequate to this sea-change.

My first intention on writing ‘The Ten Symphonies of Gorka König’ was to present a study of the dilemma of Shostakovich. I was fascinated by the rejection that Shostakovich had experienced inside a totalitarian regime, and then on his appearance inside a liberal democracy. As I examined the subject closer, the full outrage and the full irony of a modern artist rejected by the two systems which pretended to be opposites did not seem clear enough to me. It was only if one relocated the artist inside the democracy that the full contradiction could be seen clearly. What convinced me was Leni Riefenstahl’s complaint that she was persecuted for movie-making that glorified the Third Reich, while nobody attacked Eisenstein for having helped create the ethos of Stalinism. The official version of why Europe had turned totalitarian was forced to abandon its own humanism and atheism, and to construct a false metaphysic in which these undoubted criminals were metamorphosed into demonic forces utterly created by evil people. The situation was clearly demonstrated in the case of my friend, Ernst Jünger. He had openly attacked dictatorship and the dictator in ‘Under the Marble Cliffs’. Himmler identified him as one of the plotters in the assassination attempt of Staufenberg. Hitler, whose regime achieved a genocide of millions, refused to go on record as executing Jünger, the most decorated soldier of World War I. For this amnesty he was never forgiven. Jünger’s own view of history, as is clearly seen in his works, was much more profound and complex, and in that view Hitler was, as he put it to me, “Only ‘ein kleiner Mann’”.

Normal Mailer, the last of the giants from the Hellman, Faulkner, Hemmingway generation, stated the issue clearly, although no-one in America is able to listen, for we have already entered an age in which whole countries can have a new regime imposed on them by simple techniques of mass-media manipulation. Mailer observed:

‘Nobody ever said, so far as I know, that a democracy should be a place where the richest people in the country earn a thousand times more than the poorest. Should the richest man in a town amass ten times more, even fifty times more, it is not hard to conceive of a reasonably decent society. When you get to the point where you’re speaking of thousands to one, something outrageous is taking place. The people who feel this lack of balance probably make up two thirds of the country, but then don’t want to think about it. They can’t, after all, do a damn thing about it. We don’t control our country. Corporate power is running this country now. The notion that we have an active democracy that controls our fate is not true. […]
But the situation is serious. If we have a depression or fall into desperate economic times, I don’t know what’s going to hold the country together. There’s just too much anger here, too much ruptured vanity, too much shock, too much identity crisis. And, worst of all, too much patriotism. […] In a country where values are collapsing, patriotism becomes the hand-maiden to totalitarianism.’

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