A NEW MYTH
By DUNCAN WILSON
ASEEMINGLY innocent paragraph appeared in the foreign .news sections of the daily Press a short time ago, first jauntily in the pennies, then fashionably un- punetttal and decently dressed in The Times. The German Minister of Propaganda had, it seems, been discussing the meaning of Nordicity. The true Nord, he pro- nounced, is no longer to be recognised by those adven- turous blue eyes, those delicious golden curls, that we have learned to love. It is character that tells, when all is said and done, and the Nordic type is no more to be distinguished by the minute variations of physical features. This statement has not attracted much atten- tion. Just another attempt to laugh Germany off ; just another pinprick of the kind that so much annoys the inhabitants of the Third Reich, accustomed as they are to enmity, and prepared for any other martyrdom but that of mockery.
The quotation may indeed be destined to do no more than provoke the laughter of nations without a mission; but it may well mark a revolution in neo-German thought. Its immediate practical significance is small. The myth that pictures the Nord fair-haired, blue-eyed, born to conquer and to rule, may not have much visible effect in guiding the lives of ordinary Germans. The eyes of the common devout practising Nazi are fixed more steadfastly on the Fiihrer's black forelock. Of the adored "Deutsche Recken" or German he-men, Frederick the Great, Bismarck and Hindenburg, none seems to conform to the primitive German type. Operatic heroes are still furnished with blonde wigs in which to perform their antics, but nobody expects blondeness of a serious politician. The myth was .never accepted literally and entirely. But it had its importance in the field of German thought, that so surprising manifestation of the human intellect. Even politicians felt bound to excuse themselves for falling so far short of the visible ideal. Categories were invented by ingenious experts in " Rassenktenck " which should cover the appearance of Germany's leading figures. The " nachgedunkeller Schrurnpfgermoner " or " after-dar- kened dwarf-German " may find as much honour in his own country as the original blonde beast. But by his self-definition, by that ingenious use of the participial adjective with its untranslatable prefix, implying an unwilling variation on a blonde theme, he has paid his respects to the curly-headed idol. " Nimai dich in Acht nor blondes Frames " sang Miss Dietrich in Republicaii days, "Sic habeas so thews gewisses." The blonde man too had a charm all of his own. The reforming Minister himself pays his homage to the dethroned idol. He dwells tenderly on the beauties which are no longek to be the signs of race and the passports to oflice. It is implied that such beauties are desirable secondary qualities ; but their owners must not be worshipped for looks alone, however excusable such idolatry may be.
Facts must be faced ; the old idol has been gently but nevertheless pulled down, and something new must be put up in its place. There may be crude and simple reasons for the change. The supply of blondes with blue eyes may be running short. Even where the complete physical make-up is excellently done, God may not have done all. But it is unlikely that such practical difficulties would give pause to any Reichs- minister worthy of the title. There is surely some "unerforschlich tiefer Grund," to employ the Wagnerian mystic language that is so apt to express the nebulous abstractions clear to the new masters of Germany. It is possible that the Reichsminister has been reading Plato. At any rate the parallel between Greek theory and German practice may be not uninstruetive.
When Plato founded his Republic by the mouth of his Socrates he sought for a means to make the people accept willingly the government of the trained guardians. How can they be made obedient, he asked, and how can the desire for individual liberty in the ordinary sense be extinguished ? The answer was that there should be told to the people a great lie. The end should justify the means. And the great lie was to take the form of a theory of race ; the elite were to be called, in Plato's mystical. language, a race of gold, and the rest were originally made, it should be said, of progressively baser metals. Recognising the inferiority of their birthi they would be content to be subjected to the guardians. So far, perhaps, the parallel is not close enough to be interesting. The Platonic myth secured internal order in the Republic, whereas in the Third Reich it is only a secondary political myth that serves this end, the partly justified story of the Communist Bogey. The Platonic Republic was constructed in vacuo, the Third Reich, owing its existence largely to the action or inaction of other nations, is naturally preoccupied with its status among them. It is not surprising, therefore, that the principal German myth, emphasising the predominance of the Aryan race, should be designed to secure unanimity in the foreign policy of the nation.
But the latest edict brings German policy more closely into line with Platonic theory. Perhaps the non-Aryans have been combed out, and the word Nordic must be given a new meaning in a land where nominally all are Nords together. The Platonic distinction of race, though it was to become hereditary, depended first on virtues of character and training. Provision was made for the degradation of degenerates. The character of the true Nord, on the other hand, was for a long time judged by ancestry alone. " Let us see if Philip can Bc a little Aryan" was the main question, and it could best be answered by an exhaustive search in municipal archives and the like. Indeed one good look at Philip himself might do much to solve the problem. Efficiency, of course, always had a considerable impor- tance in the determination of Nordicity. If Philip already held a government office, and was reasonably agreeable, he could chance his appearance, and grow some Aryan ancestors. But other things being equal, it was family that counted ; and if appearance was sufficiently con- vincing, family questions might be spared. One may derive profit from looking like a good Nord. But, as has been remarked, that is no longer the point. Even in a nation composed entirely of blonde beasts, one Nord cannot be considered as good as another. The word must retain its virtue ; the Nord has a mission at home as well as to foreign nations. And we have come back to Struw- welpeter unadapted. " Let us see if Philip can Be a little gentleman."
Ancestry, in fact, is no longer recognised to be the sole guarantee of virtue. From the ethical point of view, German thought has advanced a step to free itself from the deterministic and depressing implications of the racial theory in its full glory. The theory is retained in form but not in substance. The word Nordic is still the pass- word, but it has changed its meaning and increased it. Guardians of the State are no longer simply Aryan-born; they must also be made into better Aryans in the new training-castles specially adapted for the education of philosopher-kings. With the substitution of a new myth for the old, the whole direction of German education has, it seems, been slightly altered. The primitive German virtues as lauded by Tacitus are no doubt still held in honour, but many characteristics of the Nordic man may be thrown aside along with the laughing mask and the blonde wig. The fashionable figure will probably be that of the Teutonic knight, no longer that of the barbarian chief. In that case, the loudest of the new pagans will be silent for a while.
It seems that the German people has been educated up to the first ideal proposed to it. The new type put forward for its admiration contains some qualities other than the purely physical. The change in direction may once more be briefly summed up ; the old motto " Be good my child and let who will be clever " must undergo a slight renovation. The great lie, the myth of race, is still predominant. But it must prevail in a form more palatable to a better educated public. " Be good my child and let who will be blonde " sounds a little more convincing. But, of course, be blonde also if you can. It is as well to be on the safe side of the myth.