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A Message from Thomas Mann Author(s): Thomas Mann Source: The English Journal, Vol. 35, No. 6 (Jun.

, 1946), pp. 287-288 Published by: National Council of Teachers of English Stable URL: . Accessed: 27/05/2011 07:34
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FORE WORD the habit of thinking mainly in terms of groups. Otherwise, in our eagerness to defend the group, we may, as effectively as those who are prejudiced, imprison the individual within his group. For it is the opportunity to live in many worlds at once that insures the ultimate freedomof the individualAmericanto be an individual. On behalf of the Committee on Inter-


cultural Relations, I wish to thank the Editor for opening the pages of the English Journal to us and for his hearty co-operation.We are indebtedalso to the National Conference of Christians and Jews for its generous and unrestricting sponsorshipof this issue.

Guest Editor

A Message from ThomasMann

IT IS a pleasure and a privilege for me to contribute a few wordsto the number of the English Journal that will be dedicated to the great subject of racial and religioustolerance. It is truly a beautiful and generous idea which is to be the basis of this issue: the idea that the study of literature, "not as texts for moralizing,but through the imaginative insights it offers," can help young people to overcome prejudices which are in contradiction to human dignity and the respect of the individual. This confidencein the cathartic effect of literatureis good and noble. One may indeed talk of a cleansing, redeeming effect of literature;one may say that it razes out passions through the mind and by the word; that it is the road to understandingand love. One may rightfully see in literaturethe strong pillar of peace and understanding,the great promoter of human improvement-attributes which are connectedwith its essentially critical character.An art whose instrument is language will always create works that are critical to a high degree, because language itself is a critique of life: by creating, it names, it strikes, it labels and judges, and it possesses the
unworthy of a developedhumanity. Literature has often worked in that way, but one must admit that it does not necessarilydo so. The mind has frequently played another role on earth-a role opposed to peace and a civilized morality. The tendency to perversion is not foreign to the mind-the inclination to turn against itself, to deride itself, and to take sides against itself with the crude forces of existence, of power, of glowing but brutal vitality. The mind may find an ecstatic satisfaction in this self-renunciationwhich far removesit from its natural role on earth: to representgoodness, peace, liberty, and democracy. It forgets in such cases that there is an idea which binds it to real human life and its political and social interests-an idea which should prevent it from indulging abstract sphere. I mean the idea of responsibility. The mind should always feel responsibletowardlife, and, because of a pragmatismwhich deserves no disparagement,it shouldbe put at the service of life and mankind. The horrible experiences of our lifetime have led us to this knowledge, to
in romantic self-gratification in a purely power to inspire shame of low passions





this new morality; for it is undeniable that ideas, daringbut irresponsible ideas, preparedthe way for an evil that became overpoweringand which is even today by no means divested of all might. The evil whose name we all know is at home in the whole world and is by no means unknown to our great country with its happy history. Utilizing the difficultiesof a periodof transition,it boldly raisesits head among us and tries to gain ground by declaringthat Americais not a democracy but a republic-a mere form, that is, whichcan be filledwith any contents-even with fascism. HitlerGermany was also a republic and even claimed to be democratic, to represent the most perfect and modernform of democracy.And yet to apply the word"democracy"to Hitler's "Third Reich" was a monstrous abuse-but such abuse of well-sounding words is quite popular these days. Also the word"freedom"today is often misused in that way, namely, by economic reactionarieswho mean approximately its opposite when using the word. What we call "fascism" and what is always connectedwith racial discrimination, oppression of minorities, and enmity to foreigners,is an unhappy mixture of an alphabetical lack of literature and a feelingof morbidhatredwhich hardly cares what its object is, if only it can defame, persecute,and possibly torture and kill. It is a murderousmixture of a strongly psychopathic nature. In

difficult and confusing times like ours, many people succumb to slight psychic defects; and, if these unite with stupidity, the result is intolerance and blind cruelty, with all their familiarcharacteristics, which can be observed in the adherents of fascist doctrines.These people consider their ideas to be "political," while in reality they are only the result of ignorancepoisonedwith hatred. The racial idea, taken personally and individually, is the aristocratism of submisery, a wretchedhonor-and-rank stitute for the poor in spirit who can still feel noble by saying: "Though I am nobody, I am still no Jew and no Negro." On a big and international scale, the racial idea, this "modern" form of nationalism, serves as a means of justification for all imperialistic aggressiveness and for the oppressionand enslavement of" inferiorraces."This is the roleplayed by the racialidea in Germany,and there is no doubt that it can never and nowhere play a differentrole. It is of the greatest importance that especially those who are intrusted with the education of our youth in this country possess or acquire full insight into this enormousdangerof false racialideas. Therefore,the EnglishJournalis rendering a great servicewith its seriousefforts at enlightenment.I can only repeat that it is an honor and a satisfactionto me to support the editors in their endeavors with these necessarily fragmentary remarks.