Institutt for Degenerert Kunst

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Go here for chapter 2: Haplorrhini(an anecdote through a bottle)




Though it may be impossible for me to describe its mechanism to you, at least I can say that I slowly forced myself to consider that wretched life as a deliberate necessity. Never did I seek to make of it something other than what it was, I did not try to adorn it, to mask it, but, on the contrary, I wanted to affirm it in its exact sordidness, and the most sordid signs became for me signs of grandeur.
And what is an authentic madman? It is a man who preferred to become mad, in the socially accepted sense of the word, rather than forfeit a certain superior idea of human honor. So society has strangled in its asylums all those it wanted to get rid of or protect itself from, because they refused to become its accomplices in certain great nastinesses. For a madman is also a man whom society did not want to hear and whom it wanted to prevent from uttering certain intolerable truths.
Han gjør sig umuli i alle måter, gjør sig brutal, drikker sig full. Det hjelper ikke. Tilslut affyrer han i en slags ubevidst astraltilstand et skud mens de er tilstede, det ødelægger hans arm og gjør han til krøbling. Skamferingen bringer ham ved stadige mindelser tilslutt til galskab. Disse optegnelsene egner sig som de er ikke til offentliggjørelse.
The Good Pupil


Jens Bjørneboe, “Den gode elev.” ©1970, 1996 by Pax Forlag A/S. Originally published in Vi Som Elsket Amerika, 1970. Samlede Essays: Politikk,, 9-11. English translation ©1997 by Esther Greenleaf Mürer.


Every time a new formulation of the truth is expressed, it meets a united front of obtuseness. The reason is this:

Each step forward within the culture—in the direction of humanity and reason or in the direction of art—arises through a break with what has gone before; through a break with the past. It cannot be otherwise; culture always tends toward eternal sclerosis, eternal hardening of the arteries; and as the essence of this sclerotization stands the previous generation's dogmas and confessions of faith.

It is these creeds and dogmas of the older generation which dominate the present and determine the intellectual and social climate for those who follow. An idea never attains its widest dissemination and acceptance before it has become so old that it is no longer entirely true or up-to-date. It must first stiffen before it can become a real power factor. Then it comes into the hands of the ruling class of old men who reign over most media, or of their obedient pupils and successors, who have inherited their elders' view of the matter.

Naturally not every protest against the old ways means that the protestant in question is right. There are probably a hundred misguided protestants and rebels for every one who is right, and who brings a new truth, or rather a new form of the truth, the way it must necessarily appear today under the new forms reality has taken. And the prerequisite for legitimate protest is to know the old dogmas thoroughly, to understand them, to understand the elderly bearers of a sclerotized truth. Before one can have a real basis for attacking a dogma, one must actually have been a pupil—one must have a thorough knowledge of what it is one is attacking.

Nietzsche has written a sentence about this: “It is a bad pupil who always remains faithful to his teacher.”

In this sense, in Nietzsche's apprehension of the word, it is the bad, the faithful pupils who hold the world fast in stagnation and in old forms, because they resemble their fathers, respect them to such a high degree that they themselves can't become free and productive, or manage to think for themselves. But unfortunately it is just these bad pupils who are always made heirs by their predecessors, because the old sense their fidelity, their intellectual obedience. They feel that these are people to be trusted, people who can carry on an idea without changing it.

The good pupils, on the other hand—the pupils who matter—who are good in Nietzsche's sense of the word—them one cannot trust. They suck up all that they can use, but they use it themselves, they apply it in another way. They take over their predecessors' knowledge, but not their opinions. It is these people who for the sake of truth can betray the interests of their group, of their class, even betray their fatherland if it is wrong. They betray the rulers and the majority. They divulge the secrets of the clan, broadcast family secrets if it serves a cause which is greater than clan and family.

In a certain sense they will always stand out as turncoats and transgressors, as traitors. Among hundreds of ordinary rebels there is perhaps one innovator -- always a well-informed person, who knows something about something, who sells out the secrets and interests of the group. Only therefore is such a one dangerous, through having been a pupil and an initiate. One belongs to a circle and a class, and one leaves it.

This is why innovators are always met with rage; they stand there not only as rebels, but as something far worse, betrayers of the status quo.

Ours is the culture which burns heretics. The stake is one of the most characteristic emblems of this European culture. The reason is that all religious and social points of view have an inherent need to regard themselves as final and eternally valid, and all who deviate from them after having learned to know them must be regarded as traitors—not as misguided, but as traitors who consciously desire evil. Who desire to insult the state and mock God.

At the entrance to the culture which we call “our own” stand two heresy trials of spiritually gigantic format: The one in Athens and the other in Jerusalem, the trials of Socrates and Jesus, both convicted of blasphemy and threats to the State. These two great judicial murders stand as the gateway to our cultural epoch, and as omens of what would come to characterize it: the individual's fight against the past. The battle between the individual and the mass. This conflict is the central thing, the very nerve in our culture.

One would naturally think that a cultural epoch which was introduced by two monstrous judicial murders would be especially sensitive and conscientious on the score of administration of justice and freedom of opinion. But it turned out otherwise. The line of heresy trials and judicial killings extends beyond the range of vision, through the churches' mass murder of religious heretics and witches, down to our modern political witch trials and judicial murders.

Every single time it is the intellectual type whom Nietzsche calls the good pupil who must go to the stake, it is the aware, critical and responsible person against whom the hate is directed. Only so long as these good and faithless pupils exist is there any hope for us.

When they fall silent, then all will be still. Then the rest is truly silence.

And our culture is entering into its mummy stage.

Jens Bjørneboe




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