MINIMA MORALIA: Reflections from the damaged life. By THEODOR ADORNO
PART ONE: 1944. Aphorism #9:
Above all one thing, my child.
Translated by Dennis Redmond
Above all one thing, my child. – What is unmoral about lies does not consist of the injury to the sacrosanct truth. No society which forces its compulsory members to hand themselves over with language, in order to overtake them that much more quickly, has the right to call on such. It does not befit universal untruth, to insist on the particular truth, while nonetheless inverting the latter straightaway into its opposite. In spite of this, something repellent clings to the lie, and though the consciousness of this was indeed beaten into one with the old whip, this simultaneously said something about the master of the dungeon. The mistake lies in all too much honesty. Whoever lies, is ashamed, because in every lie they must experience what is degrading in the existing state of the world, which compels them to lie, if they wish to live, while warbling “Be ever true and honest” [song scored by Mozart] in their ear. Such shame saps the energy of the lies of those who are more subtly organized. They do it badly, and only thereby does the lie come to be genuinely unmoral for others. It suggests the former think the latter are stupid, and serves to express disrespect. Among today’s cunning practitioners, the lie has long since lost its honest function, of concealing something real. No one believes anyone, everyone is in the loop. Lies are told only when someone wants others to know they aren’t important, that the former does not need the latter, and does not care what they think. Today the lie, once a liberal means of communication, has become one of the techniques of brazenness, with whose help every single person spreads the iciness, in whose shelter they thrive.
–Translated by Dennis Redmond