MINIMA MORALIA: Reflections from the damaged life. By THEODOR ADORNO

PART THREE: 1946/47. Aphorism #103:

Boy from the heath.

Translated by Dennis Redmond


Boy from the heath. – What one most fears for no real reason, apparently obsessed by a fixed idea, has the unnerving habit of occurring. The question which one would at no price like to hear, is asked by an assistant in a perfidiously friendly manner; the person, who one most wishes to keep distant from one’s beloved, will end inviting the latter, even if the former is three thousand miles away, thanks to a well-meaning recommendation, leading to precisely the circle of acquaintances, from which the danger threatens. It is an open question as to what extent one invites such terrors oneself; if one perhaps elicits that question from the malicious one by an all too eager silence; if one provokes the fatal contact, by requesting the mediator, out of a foolishly destructive trust, not to mediate. Psychology knows, that whoever envisions the calamity, also somehow wishes for it. But why does the latter seem too eager to meet them? Something appeals, in the reality, to the paranoid fantasy which distorts such. The latent sadism of all unerringly guesses the latent weakness of all. And the persecution fantasy is infectious: whoever encounters it as a spectator is irresistibly driven to imitate it. This succeeds most easily, when one gives it justifiable grounds, by doing what the other fears. “One fool makes many” – the abyssal loneliness of delusion has a tendency towards collectivization, which cites the picture of delusion into life. This pathic mechanism harmonizes with the socially determining one of today, wherein those who are socialized into desperate isolation hunger for togetherness and band together in cold clumps. Thus folly becomes epidemic: vagrant sects grow with the same rhythm as large organizations. It is that of total destruction. The fulfillment of persecution manias stems from its affinity to bloody being [Wesen: nature, essence, character]. Violence, on which civilization is based, means the persecution of all by all, and those with persecution manias miss the boat solely, by displacing what is wrought by the whole onto their neighbors, in the helpless attempt to make incommensurability commensurable. They burn, because they wish to immediately grasp, with their bare hands, as it were, the objective illusion which they resemble, while the absurdity consists precisely of the perfected mediacy [Mittelbarkeit]. They fall as victims to the perpetuation of the context of delusion. Even the worst and most senseless conception of events, the wildest projections, contain the unconscious effort of consciousness, to recognize the fatal law, by virtue of which society perpetuates its life. The aberration is actually only the short-circuit of adaptation: the open foolishness of the one mistakenly calls, in others, the foolishness of the whole by its correct name, and the paranoid are the mocking image of the right life, by choosing on their own initiative to make it similar to the wrong one. Just as sparks fly in a short-circuit, so too does delusion communicate with delusion truly like lightning. Points of communication are the overpowering confirmations of persecution manias, which mock the one who is ill for being right, and thereby only push them in deeper. The surface of existence immediately closes up again and proves to them, that things are not that bad and that they must be mad. They anticipate subjectively the condition, in which objective madness and the powerlessness of the individual pass, unmediated, into each other, as in Fascism, where the dictatorship of those who are persecution maniacs realizes the fears of persecution of its victims. The question of whether an exaggerated suspicion is paranoid or realistic, the faint private echo of the tumult of history, can thus be solely determined retrospectively. Psychology does not reach into horror.

–Translated by Dennis Redmond

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