Peculiar man this Stephane Hessel. The man of no fixed address in the spiritual sphere, floating vaguely between strains of Jewish thought and Christianity who grounded himself by welding his soul onto onto the deck of likely the ship of fools. The pure innate moral code and all the Enlightenment values that liberal academic hacks can scribble away at and call it the highest moral ground. The liberal, the secular, the flagship brand of enlightened democratic thought that throw up the canard of fascism to anything that doesn’t pass the litmus test.
Its a problem when your moral mentors are issued from the tender shoots of the likes of Andre Breton and Marcel Duchamp, the latter one of the truly great terrorists of modern aesthetics. Hessel himself loved swallowing the candy and philosophically transformed the “readymade” , like Duchamp into a perverse undermining the difference between good and bad which gives license to all manner of intellectual perversity, a sequence of perverse theories that are bandied about and stuck and glued together in unnatural contexts to create what is in sum, a honking pile of conceptual kitsch which is the most pretentious kitsch , since it mirrors the fascistic strands he seeks to fight against. Of course, the acid test is his comprehension of Judaism and Israel in which among other digressive jabs and low blows, asserts that monotheism is one of the most dangerous things in modern society. And as soon as Israel is not socialist and secular it is worthy of Biblical condamnation. Hessel, in many ways is the socialist equivalent of the Salafist kook. The heavy dogma and the complete denial of the relation between god, the Jews and the land of Israel.
(see link at end)…PARIS — Stephane Hessel of France was a man of many talents.
As a spy for the French Resistance, he survived the Nazi death camp at Buchenwald by assuming the identity of a French prisoner who was already dead. As a diplomat, he helped write the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And at age 93, after a distinguished but relatively anonymous life, he published a slim pamphlet that even he expected would be little more than a vanity project.
Hessel’s 32-page “Time for Outrage” sold millions of copies across Europe, tapping into a vein of popular discontent with capitalism and transforming him into an intellectual superstar within weeks. Translated into English, the pocket-sized book became a source of inspiration for the Occupy Wall Street movement.In the book, Hessel urges young people to take inspiration from the anti-Nazi resistance to which he once belonged and rally against what he saw as the newest evil: The love of money. The book, called “Indignez-vous” in French, had an initial run of 8,000 copies in 2010 and sold for (EURO)3 ($4) before becoming a best-seller.Hessel died overnight in Paris. He was 95.
“I’m eagerly awaiting the taste of death. Death is something to savor, and I hope to savor mine. In the meantime, given that it has not yet happened and that I’m generally getting around normally, I’m using the time to throw out some messages,” Hessel told RTL radio in 2011.
Born in Germany, Hessel and his parents immigrated to France in 1924, where they settled into an avant-garde life, hanging out with artists like Alexander Calder and Marcel Duchamp.Hessel fled to London to join the resistance led by Gen. Charles de Gaulle in 1941, but snuck back into occupied France on a spying mission in 1944, where he was arrested by the Gestapo and shipped off to the Nazis’ Buchenwald concentration camp. The day before he was to be hanged, he swapped his identity with another French prisoner who had died of typhus. As a French diplomat after World War II, Hessel joined a panel that included former U.S. first lady Eleanor Roosevelt which wrote up the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Read more here: http://www.modbee.com/2013/02/27/2596582/holocaust-survivor-stephane-hessel.html#storylink=cpy
There is something eerily nihilistic and destructive about the views of Hessel, the kind of nasty malevolence of Duchamp mixed with the messianic violence, the ecstasy of destruction in Walter Benjamin, the complete overthrow of history and time. But as Duchamp’s work failed in its critique, or rather, the critique being of built-in obsolescence and disposable, it also became institutionalized as part of the tradition of the new, an academic form of idolatry since it is purely intellectual. Duchamp himself may have understood that his art was a failure: impossible in modernism to make art that resistant to , or independent of, institutionalization, much like the politics of a Hessel which comes to be respected not for the content but for the aesthetic and the “beauty” of the idea. Whereas Duchamp’s choices were based on the complete absence of good taste and visual indifference, it became in the public sphere something tasteful and a phenomenon of sorts, institutionalized contempt and destruction itself as a fetish object. That element of malevolence in Hessel, is a negativism bordering on the pathological where resentment finds a means of expression that needs a victim, mocked and ruined; for Duchamp the destructive negativism was found in women and in Hessel in the vague and tailored target of fascism as well as the Jew, or those elements that defy neat categorization and filing cabinet style compartmentalization. The Dadaists were sometimes described as joyful terrorbut the likes of Duchamp, Breton, and Hessel are rather joyless ones. dour and violent.
(see link at end)…Thanks to the threesome who raised him, Hessel was surrounded by Jewish intellectuals in his childhood and adolescence. As a young man he saw them being persecuted and murdered. In the introduction to “Dance with the Century,” he cross-checks the history of the 20th century with the events of his life. He was born in Berlin in 1917, as revolution raged in Russia. The artist Marcel Duchamp taught him mathematics and chess. He received French citizenship in 1937 and was one of the last to see the philosopher and family friend Walter Benjamin, a few days before Benjamin killed himself. In October 1944, he switched identities with a dead inmate in Buchenwald in order to survive. A year after the establishment of the United Nations, he was hired by the world organization and helped draw up the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “My life,” he wrote in regard to his ride during the 20th century, “is about to come to an end upon its end.”…
…You miss the ideological revolutions?
“No. The revolutions of my century, the 20th century − the Soviet revolution, or the Chinese, or the revolutions that were fomented in Latin America, such as in Cuba − failed for the most part, a failure which was completely clear by the end of the century. It was not only Communism that failed; the neoliberal ideology also placed us on a dangerous course. The 21st century is trying to do something different. The difference, I think, lies in a reassessment of democracy. The word ‘democracy’ is crucially important here. For me, true and authentic democracy occurs when the privileged groups assist the unprivileged groups to become more privileged.”…
…“I was working at the United Nations in New York when Israel was born,” he continues. “I knew and loved Ralph Bunche, the man who demarcated the partition boundaries and who succeeded the mediator [Count Folke] Bernadotte after he was assassinated. The world war, in which I was witness to the horrific Holocaust, had ended not long before. I was delighted on the day the decision was made to establish the state. At last, I told myself, the Jews will have a state. At the time, it did not especially grieve me that Palestinians had to be removed. I thought this was a natural reaction by Israel and I told myself that maybe this is a sad story for a particular nation, but a wonderful story for our Jewish friends.”
You say “our Jewish friends.” Did you never identify yourself as a Jew?
“I never felt like a ‘good Jew.’ My mother was not Jewish, and that makes me a non-Jew according to Jewish religious law,” whose paternal grandparents forsook Judaism and had his father, Franz Hessel, baptized. “My father, who was a Jew, took more of an interest in Greek mythology than in Judaism. Actually, I am doing him an injustice. He was a treasure trove of knowledge and had many Jewish friends, among them two important Zionists − Gerhard (Gershom) Scholem and Walter Benjamin − though the latter, as is known, did not join the ranks of the Israelis.
“My father’s family was a typical Jewish family in Germany. My grandfather was a successful merchant who left a shtetl in Poland and went first to Szczecin and then to Berlin. My father, although he was not a believing Jew, lived in a Jewish milieu. When he married my mother, who was a Protestant, his parents were worried, because they thought she was after his money. That was, of course, very unfair of them, but it shows you that their Jewishness was not completely erased, as they found it difficult to accept the fact that a Protestant woman had fallen in love with a Jew.
“I, in contrast, not only did not have a bar mitzvah, but did not hear much about Judaism or learn about it at home, either. Nevertheless, I felt very close to the Jews. I saw how my homeland, Germany, had treated them. I was a teenager in Paris in 1933, when Hitler took power. I was a young man in 1938, when my father had to flee from Germany − this was a few weeks before Kristallnacht. For all these reasons, I was very moved by Israel’s birth.”…
…Hessel’s older brother, Ulrich, was born in 1914, shortly before their father was recruited to the German army. Hessel’s parents returned to Paris in the 1920s, this time with their two sons. The friendship between Hessel and Roche was resumed and grew closer. Roche introduced the Hessels to many poets and artists, among them Andre Breton, Alexander Calder and Man Ray, who photographed Helen in the nude. But “Marcel Duchamp impressed us more than all of Roche’s friends,” Hessel wrote in his autobiography. “To me, he was a heroic figure. There was an aura about him, stemming from his radically different attitude toward reality and toward artistic creation. I was 14 when he taught me basic mathematics and chess. I saw him as a master and myself as an apprentice.”
In 1926, Franz Hessel and his friend Walter Benjamin started to translate Marcel Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time.” Later, Benjamin wrote his famous essay “The Return of the Flaneur,” which is about Hessel’s 1929 book “On Foot in Berlin,” through which he developed his theories about strollers and strolling. “At that age I could not understand the conversations they held when Benjamin visited us,” Hessel says, “but I remember an introverted person,” someone whose being was “cloudy.”…
…“On the day that a Palestinian state comes into being, and on the day that state will be able to maintain independent relations with Israel − on that day it will be possible to start talking about Israel’s security, which is of central importance in modern history. As long as Palestinian violence exists, but not a Palestinian state, Israel is in danger. That is why I have always supported a two-state solution. I know there are voices today urging one state which will accommodate Jews, Muslims and Christians. That idea is completely unrealistic. None of the sides truly wishes to go in that direction. For me it is clear: we must show very solid support for Israel on issues of security and be highly critical on issues of occupation.”…Read More:http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/magazine/best-selling-french-author-and-holocaust-survivor-has-some-advice-for-israel-1.417320