On Fanaticism

“But why do they put him in prison?” asked Brielle, the art student. “He’s, like, the most famous filmmaker they have.”

Mr. Magundi was prepared with an answer, as always. “Fanaticism attacks, with the inevitability of a law of nature, whatever is most splendid in its own culture. The Puritans destroyed English drama because it was the wonder of the world; the Calvinists smashed the treasures of medieval art because they were treasures; the Nazis expelled the artists and scientists who threatened to make Germany really glorious; the Khmer Rouge massacred intellectuals because they were intelligent; the Taliban sent the army to bomb the most famous works of art in Afghanistan because they were famous.

“We usually look at these incidents as collateral damage in the fanatics’ struggle for power, but we are wrong. The whole goal of the fanatic is this kind of destruction. The world is evil, says the fanatic; therefore whatever in the world is outstanding must be outstandingly evil. The Puritans destroyed English drama not in spite of Shakespeare, but because of Shakespeare. The Fascists beat Toscanini because he dared to defy the Duce, but more because he dared to be Toscanini. Wherever fanatics have power, they turn it first against whatever is great and beautiful, because it must be punished for finding greatness and beauty and light outside the dark prison of fanaticism.”

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One thought on “On Fanaticism

  1. ” Puritans destroyed English drama because it was the wonder of the world; the Calvinists smashed the treasures of medieval art because they were treasures; the Nazis expelled the artists and scientists who threatened to make Germany really glorious; the Khmer Rouge massacred intellectuals because they were intelligent; the Taliban sent the army to bomb the most famous works of art in Afghanistan because they were famous ”
    So much more needs to be said, however….
    The Puritans were philosophic niggards. The Calvinists hated Catholicism. The Nazis hated Jews. The Khmer Rouge murdered around an agronomical zeitgeist and the Taliban didn’t want Buddhist statuary on their territory.
    Tyrannical ideologies always trade on a negative locus. The choice of locus does not need, it seems, to be rational.

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