τῶν ἁμόθεν γε, θεά, θύγατερ Διός, εἰπὲ καὶ ἡμῖν
National-Socialism and Racism
The story begins with hubris, with a fanatic, an extremist, who stupidly idealized National-Socialism and who spent thirty years propagating it and fighting to implement its abstractions, its beliefs, one of which is racism.
But now I regard National-Socialism – of whatever variety – as an immoral set of beliefs, an example par excellence of hubris, with the Allied victory over NS Germany being a moral necessity, worthy of remembrance and celebration.
As for the indignity of racism, it is abhorrent – redolent of hubris – based as racism is on the dishonour of prejudice and the divisive abstraction of ‘race’. For now, for me, what is important – the understanding wrought via my pathei-mathos – are personal love, compassion, humility, kindness, tolerance, and wu-wei; virtues which are the essence of our humanity and virtues which are anathema to racists, to National-Socialists, and to fascists.
“What is hurtful to you, do not do to someone else. That is the entire Torah; the rest is only explanation.” Hillel the Elder, Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabbat 31a
For decades – both as a neo-nazi and as a Muslim – I believed, I asserted, that the Shoah was a myth, a product of Allied post-war propaganda subsequently maintained and propagated by ‘Zionists’ (a modern NS code-word for Jews, designed to try and circumvent racial hatred legislation) in order to both establish the State of Israel and to enhance ‘Jewish power over Aryans’.
As I wrote in my essay Hitler, National-Socialism, and Politics – A Personal Reappraisal first published on January 30th 2012 ce:
“Over the past year I have continued to study, research, and reflect upon [the] ‘complex philosophical and ethical issues’ in respect of National-Socialism, Hitler, and Reichsfolk […]
This further study and research, perhaps wyrdfully, included getting to know people who shared their personal and familial experiences of National-Socialist Germany with me, with these experiences being of those who were the subject of the Nürnberger Gesetze and who thus traumatically endured the consequences of those laws and the prejudice and hatred they codified. These direct experiences of the personal and moral effects of National-Socialism were those of individuals that I, through a personal knowing of them, considered to be honourable and which personal experiences thus served to place into perspective, into a moral – a numinous – perspective, the accounts given to me, decades earlier, of some German National-Socialists I had met who fought for and gave their loyalty to Adolf Hitler and which accounts had been formative of what became my decades-long dedication to the cause of National-Socialism, a dedication broken only by my personal experiences of Islam and by the πάθει μάθος that was the genesis of my philosophy of The Numinous Way.”
That article led one person to quite naturally enquire why it had taken me nearly forty years to listen to those who had first hand experience of the brutality of National-Socialist Germany and to listen to those who had endured the inhumanity of the concentration camps and who thus knew the terrible reality of the holocaust.
The answer was simple, and not only exposed the appalling reality of my reprehensible extremist past but also possibly exposed something about extremism as well. For the answer was that I fanatically believed that my illusory version of history and of National-Socialism was correct so that I hardened myself and therefore was intolerant of any and all criticism of NS Germany, Hitler, and National-Socialism. Thus I regarded the holocaust as ‘a hoax’, a product of Allied post-war propaganda, and with the intolerance, prejudice, and hatred of a fanatic refused to listen to people and branded as ‘liars’ those who spoke or wrote of their experiences if those experiences in any way reflected badly on NS Germany, Hitler, and National-Socialism.
Therefore, and in common perhaps with other fanatics, other extremists, I ignored, dismissed, all evidence that contradicted or seemed to contradict my cherished beliefs while seizing on and trumpeting any evidence, however slight, that seemed to confirm those beliefs.
With the expiration, in 2009, of the extremist I was, there was an openness toward this evidence, an empathy with the people subsequently met who had suffered because of the policies and the people of NS Germany and an empathy with those who had first-hand or familial experience of the horrors of the camps.
Thus there is no longer any denial by me of the truth of those horrors, of the evil that was NS Germany. As someone once wrote: “Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen.”
Thus there is now lament made for the reprehensible deeds, beliefs, prejudice, and extremism, of my past and for my decades-long hubris.
Change of Beliefs
A criticism often made is that I suddenly and very often ‘change my beliefs, my views’, and flit from one cause or ideology to another. The reality of my life, however, is somewhat different (or at least seems so to me).
For thirty years (1968-1998) I was a loyal and fanatical neo-nazi; was imprisoned twice for my street activism; was involved in many fights and brawls; and did all that I could – openly and covertly – to propagate National-Socialism. Until my conversion to Islam in 1998 I maintained my respect for – and my loyalty to – Colin Jordan (whom I first met in 1968) as I maintained a respect for several other NS activists such as Eddy Morrison (whom I first met in 1971). Regarding that first meeting with Eddy Morrison, I for example wrote in 2010 (in Myngath) that I immediately liked him and that “he was enthusiastic, committed, optimistic, down-to-earth and quite au fait with National-Socialism. He also, at that time, possessed a certain personal charisma, and thus always had a few youthful followers who considered him their leader.” In Ethos of Extremism I additionally wrote that “in contrast to me, Eddy Morrison had a natural charisma, a certain charm, and was an experienced and adept organizer. He also, unlike me at the time, had a good sense of humour and was well-liked.” In the 1980’s I had occasion to defend him to John Tyndall, leading Tyndall to write to me in a letter that “your loyalty to him is commendable”.
Three decades of dedicated activism and of such loyalty are hardly the actions of someone flitting from one cause to another, especially since my move away from National-Socialism toward Islam was a slow process, lasting nearly a decade; a process begun by experiences in Egypt between 1988 and 1998. As I wrote in Part Six of Ethos of Extremism:
” There was no sudden decision to convert to Islam. Rather, it was the culmination of a process that began a decade earlier with travels in the Sahara Desert. During the decade before my conversion I regularly travelled abroad, with this travel including well-over a dozen visits to Egypt and a few visits to other lands where the majority of the population were Muslim.
Egypt, especially, enchanted me; and not because of the profundity of ancient monuments. Rather because of the people, their culture, and the land itself. How life, outside of Cairo, seemed to mostly cling to the Nile – small settlements, patches and strips of verdanity, beside the flowing water and hemmed in by dry desert. I loved the silence, the solitude, the heat, of the desert; the feeling of there being precariously balanced between life and death, dependant on carried water, food; the feeling of smallness, a minute and fragile speck of life; the vast panorama of sky. There was a purity there, human life in its essence, and it was so easy, so very easy, to feel in such a stark environment that there was, must be, a God, a Creator, who could decide if one lived or died.
Once, after a long trip into the Western Desert, I returned to Cairo to stay at some small quite run-down hotel: on one side, a Mosque, while not that far away on the other side was a night-club. A strange, quixotic, juxtaposition that seemed to capture something of the real modern Egypt. Of course, very early next morning the Adhaan from the mosque woke me. I did not mind. Indeed, I found it hauntingly beautiful and, strangely, not strange at all; as if it was some long-forgotten and happy memory, from childhood perhaps.
Once, I happened to be cycling from Cairo airport to the centre of the city as dawn broke, my route taking me past several Mosques. So timeless, so beautiful, the architecture, the minarets, framed by the rising sun…
Once, and many years before my conversion, I bought from a bookshop in Cairo a copy of the Quran containing the text in Arabic with a parallel English interpretation, and would occasionally read parts of it, and although I found several passages interesting, intriguing, I then had no desire, felt no need, to study Islam further. Similarly, the many friendly conversations I had with Egyptians during such travels – about their land, their culture, and occasionally about Islam – were for me just informative, only the interest of a curious outsider, and did not engender any desire to study such matters in detail.
However, all these experiences, of a decade and more, engendered in me a feeling which seemed to grow stronger year by year with every new trip. This was the feeling that somehow in some strange haunting way I belonged there, in such places, as part of such a culture. A feeling which caused me – some time after the tragic death of Sue (aged 39) from cancer in the early 1990’s – to enrol on, and begin, an honours course in Arabic at a British university.
Thus, suffice to say that a decade of such travel brought a feeling of familiarity and resonance with Egypt, its people, its culture, that land, and with the Islam that suffused it, so that when in the Summer of 1998 I seriously began to study Islam, to read Ahadith, Seerah, and the whole Quran, I had at least some context from practical experience. Furthermore, the more I studied Islam in England in those Summer months the more I felt, remembered, the sound of the beautiful Adhaan; remembered the desert – that ætherial purity, that sense of God, there; and remembered that haunting feeling of perhaps already belonging to such a culture, such a way of life. Hence my conversion to Islam, then, in September of that year, seemed somehow fated, wyrdful.”
For eight years I remained a committed, a rather fanatical, and certainly a radical, Muslim. My move away from Islam toward developing my own philosophy of The Numinous Way was again a slow – and an interiorly painful – process, fraught with personal and moral difficulties, and the result of:
“a seminal event outside of my control and beyond the parameters of my then vainglorious understanding, my hubriatic sense of purpose, and the delusion of idealism. This event, this pathei-mathos, was the suicide, in 2006, of my fiancée. That I required three years and more to learn, to understand, the lessons of that and of another, prior, personal tragedy – to rediscover my humanity – certainly speaks of my character, my extremism, my hubris.” Rejecting Abstractions – A Personal Lesson From Extremism (2012)
Again, hardly the actions of someone flitting from one cause to another on a whim…
τὰ δ᾽ ἄλλα σιγῶ: βοῦς ἐπὶ γλώσσῃ μέγας
28th March 2012 ce
This text summarizes my replies to particular questions submitted to or asked of me by various correspondents during February and March of this year (2012) following the publication of various autobiographical essays, such as Ethos of Extremism; essays critical of National-Socialism and Hitler, and the publication of various items – such as So Much Remorse, and Rejecting Abstractions – in which I expressed regret in respect of my past and described that past as that of an extremist immorally pursuing an extremist agenda. It is fair to say that several people seemed rather upset by or were angered by some of my recent essays.
Image credit: Attic Vase c. 480 BCE, depicting Athena (Antikensammlungen, Munich, Germany)