Why We Kill Each Other: Warfare in a Post-National World

“Fraternity means that the father no longer sacrifices the sons; instead the brothers kill one another. Wars between nations have been replaced by civil war. The great settling of accounts, first under national ‘pretexts,’ led to a rapidly escalating world civil war.”

—Ernst Jünger, Eumeswil

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Death in the Trenches

“When a man fell, the others stood together over his corpse; their gazes met, dark and deep. But when death stood over the trenches like a storm cloud, then it was every man for himself: he stood alone in the darkness, howling and crashing surrounding him, blinded by sudden flashes, with nothing in his breast but endless desolation.”

—Ernst Jünger, Sturm, describing the soldiers awaiting attack during the Battle of the Somme, whose centenary is this year.

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The Inner Experience of Battle

“It wasn’t death that frightened him—that was a certainty—but rather the element of chance, the tumbling movement through time and space, which could descend any second into annihilation—this feeling of having worth and yet not being more than an ant that could be squashed in the street by the heedless step of a giant. Why, if there were a Creator, had he given men the desire to penetrate into the essence of a world that he could never fully fathom? Wouldn’t it be better if men lived like animals or plants than always with this terrible anxiety lurking beneath the surface of everything that they said and did?”
—Ernst Jünger, Sturm, describing the Battle of the Somme, whose centenary is this year.

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In the Midst of Battle

“He tried to imagine how he looked: a trembling bundle in a torn uniform, with a blackened, sweat-streaked face and staring eyes. . . . He stood and tried to calm his nerves through a series of curses. He thought he had talked himself back into heroism, when a new and even more terrible impact hurled him back into his hole. A second that followed immediately upon the first broke off a huge piece of the trench wall and almost buried him. He writhed free from the mass of earth and ran along the trench. No man could be seen at his post. Once he stumbled over a heap of debris under which lay a dead body. Somehow, a long, jagged board had penetrated his body; his eyes, glassy and bulging, stood out of their sockets.”

—Ernst Jünger, Sturm, describing the Battle of the Somme, whose centenary is this year.

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The Language of Warfare

“Today words like ‘persevere’ and ‘hero’s death’ had been so ceaselessly bandied about that they had long since acquired an ironic sound—at least wherever there was actual fighting. . . . Once, before an attack, Sturm had heard an old sergeant say the following: ‘Kids, we’re going over there now to gobble up the Englishmen’s rations.’ It was the best battle address that he had ever heard. That was surely something good in the war—that it destroyed glorious-sounding phrases. Concepts that hung fleshless in the void were overcome by laughter.”
—Ernst Jünger, Sturm, describing the Battle of the Somme, whose centenary is this year.

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Telos 176 (Fall 2016): The Poet and the University: Stefan George among the Scholars

One often speaks of the importance of poetry for thought, even of poetry as a mode of thinking, and perhaps nowhere more than in Germany, the country of Dichter and Denker, of poets and thinkers. The German intellectual tradition is defined by a long, intimately interwoven relation between poetry and thought going back to the solidification of the Modern Age in the eighteenth century: Klopstock’s “Republic of Letters”; Goethe and Schiller’s Classicism, especially Schiller’s “aesthetic state”; Hölderlin’s “founding poets” and the centrality of poets in “the time of need”; Jena Romanticism’s inextricable relation between “Symphilosophie” and “Sympoesie”; Hegel’s definition of beauty as “the sensible shining forth of the idea”; and onward to this day.

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