Sunday, October 25, 2009

Powerful Ideas, Powerful Artists, Bad Choices

I just finished reading “Growth of the Soil” by Knut Hamsun. My sister, who is always giving me books to read, insisted I read this one she then leant to me. She made me promise that I would not look up or read anything about the author until I was finished reading the book, so as to not spoil the reading. So of course I suspected that he held some sort of political viewpoint or moral stance that she knew I would be against.

The book is wonderfully written. Unique in capturing you and transporting you into the woods with the Norwegian settlers, working the soil and entwining their lives with nature and each other, a great capturing of the complexities of persons, society, and the wilderness. A truly thoughtful and enjoyable read, thanks sis.

It did not take me long to suspect that Mr. Hamsun was a Nazi sympathizer. The story suggested the correct time frame. Norway was essentially taken over by Germany. And some essential elements of a National Socialist idealist are in the author’s thoughts:
-glorification of hard work
-honoring the simple, hard worker, especially the Aryan
-that morals are only means to adapt to society and to the world, not transcendent laws of God. Thus morals are relative and up to question.
-that human life, like morals, has little inherent value. Only what people make of themselves counts
-that there is a conspiracy of oppression to be found in Western capitalism, organized by the Jews, supported by England and America, which draws people away from their true meaning—hard work and a pure, natural life (this was only really found in the last chapter so blatantly)

In these days, in my circles, it is easy to gloss over the temptations to Nazi thinking. We view the Nazi’s as some sort of sub-human, like Orcs from Lord of the Rings, that would stand out so obviously in their moral deprivation that no one in their right mind would follow them. But in reality, some of the seeds of National Socialism are in those ideas of Hamsun, not dissimilar to many a thinker and writer today: truth is relative, morals are relative and tools rather than guides, “mother earth” is the wise teacher and guide, the “big economies” of the world are conspiring to suppress the rest, and globalize us all into idiocy and dehumanize us.

Ever since Adam and Eve, Lucifer has tempted men and women with the worship of the things, the seeking of the things, rather than of God. In this case, it is the worship of man, especially in his wonderful complexity, and his youthful, energetic connection with a life of connection with and working of the land. A wonderful thing it is, when man and beast work and produce the crops. And oh so “natural” and certainly common for man, to worship the crop, the cow, the sun. To sacrifice even to those things on which he depends. New and strange really, is the message that there is a God bigger than—and in a way separate from--the man-nature relationship. Foreign, opposite, is the notion that God wishes us to worship God, and not the wonderful things and wonderful people that He creates and provides.

Knut Hamsun Link
Wikipedia on Hamsun
"Growth of the Soil" Link

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