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A very interesting interview in Der Spiegel in which Art historian Birgit Schwarz argues that Hitler’s megalomania was rooted in his belief in his artistic genius:

 In my opinion, people have underestimated the notion that Hitler considered himself an artist, in fact, an artistic genius, and that much can be deduced from this self-image, this overheated artist’s ego. However, this has hardly played a role in the research to date. That’s the starting point, from my perspective, because it can help us gain a better understanding of Hitler as a person, as well as his system of power. Hitler’s deluded view of himself as a genius is based on the confused system of thought emerging in the late 19th century, which centered on the idea that a genius — a strong personality who outshone everything else — could do anything and could do anything he pleased.

“Late” 19th Century? Try “early”.  Reading this interview, I immediately thought of Percy Bysshe Shelley and his rot about poets being the unacknowledged legislators of the world.  Indeed, let’s have a dekko at a somewhat more expanded sample of ol’ Bysshe’s “In Defense of Poetry“, from which that oft-quoted line comes:

But poets, or those who imagine and express this indestructible order, are not only the authors of language and of music, of the dance, and architecture, and statuary, and painting: they are the institutors of laws, and the founders of civil society, and the inventors of the arts of life, and the teachers, who draw into a certain propinquity with the beautiful and the true that partial apprehension of the agencies of the invisible world which is called religion. Hence all original religions are allegorical, or susceptible of allegory, and, like Janus, have a double face of false and true. Poets, according to the circumstances of the age and nation in which they appeared, were called, in the earlier epochs of the world, legislators, or prophets: a poet essentially comprises and unites both these characters. For he not only beholds intensely the present as it is, and discovers those laws according to which present things ought to be ordered, but he beholds the future in the present, and his thoughts are the germs of the flower and the fruit of latest time. Not that I assert poets to be prophets in the gross sense of the word, or that they can foretell the form as surely as they foreknow the spirit of events: such is the pretence of superstition, which would make poetry an attribute of prophecy, rather than prophecy an attribute of poetry. A poet participates in the eternal, the infinite, and the one; as far as relates to his conceptions, time and place and number are not. The grammatical forms which express the moods of time, and the difference of persons, and the distinction of place, are convertible with respect to the highest poetry without injuring it as poetry; and the choruses of Aeschylus, and the book of Job, and Dante’s “Paradise” would afford, more than any other writings, examples of this fact, if the limits of this essay did not forbid citation. The creations of sculpture, painting, and music are illustrations still more decisive.

Yup.  In brief, the artiste simply knows better than anyone else the Way Things Ought To Be and may run rough-shod over everyone and everything in order to get there.  Ol’ Percy was just a salon blowhard.  But if Dr. Schwarz’s theory is to be believed, Hitler actually took this sentiment to its logical, albeit horrid, end.

Damned Romantics.  See what happens, children, when Man thinks he can play God?

I was intrigued and, frankly, a bit surprised at some of the responses to my last post, particularly those focusing on the social aspect of kitchen-centric entertaining.  In particular, I didn’t expect the negative reaction to my dislike of blanket informality in the modern age.  

But there it is.  The times, they are a’changin.  Kathy probably put her finger on it best when she remarked:

My mother was like you: the door was shut, things were done, and she made it all look effortless. No one dared to enter her kitchen when she was preparing dinner for a party. The only time I ever remember handing over her kitchen was when my aunt died, and it was shocking. I tried to follow in her footsteps, but my guests weren’t having it. Standards have simply changed, and while I can only speak for myself, I think people are somewhat uncomfortable with the thought of being waited upon. They want to help. In the spirit of giving my guests what they want, I let them.

Yes, I realize more and more that I have inherited a sense of propriety that is probably forty years out of date and also somewhat class- and geographically-centric.  It is interesting that I get on very easily with many of my more elder acquaitances such at the Mothe’s friends, but that most younger folk (including a number of members of my immediate and extended family) consider me to be cold, stuffy, aloof and, not to put too fine a point on it, extremely strange.

Well, leopards and spots, you know.   On the other hand, I suppose one could also say “When in Rome.”  It’s a perpetual struggle, trying to hang on to time-honored standards and traditions while attempting to accommodate current trends and fads.   Come to think of it, I guess that’s what this blog – with its theme and tag-line – is all about.


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August 2009