I’ve reread Tom Sharpe’s “The Wilt Alternative” a couple of weeks ago, while on vacation. The plot revolves around a German student (Gudrun Schautz) the Wilt family lets an attic room to in their home, who turns out to be planning all sorts of terrorist assaults together with her Argentinian and Irish coreligionists. Of course this is all redolent of Ulrike Meinhof and the Rote Armee Fraktion. At some point, Wilt and Gudrun are together in the Wilt home, surrounded by the police, who suspect Will of being an accomplice of Schautz’s and her cronies. What follows is outrageously funny, convoluted, complicated. Read the book: it’s pure, undiluted Sharpe.
Now, why do I mention this? In the last few months and weeks, we’ve been confronted with gruesome, sadistic acts of the most loathsome violence, all (allegedly) in the name of some vague ideal. And I was reminded of what Sharpe had written, so I looked it up again. I’m giving it verbatim, because I think the text speaks for itself. Of course, it’s politically extremely incorrect, and it’s not really kind on German philosophers. But I think it’s spot on…
“The woman was an ideologue, and a German one at that. Behind her a terrible tradition stretched back into the mists of history, a cultural heritage of solemn, monstrously serious and ponderous Dichter und Denker, philosophers, artists, poets and thinkers obsessed with the meaning, significance and process of social and historical development. The word Weltanschauung sprang, or at least lumbered, to mind. Wilt had no idea what it meant and doubted if anyone else knew. Something to do with having a world view and about as charming as Lebensraum which should have meant living-room but actually signified the occupation of Europe and as much of Russia as Hitler had been able to lay his hands on. And after Weltanschauung and Lebensraum there came, even less comprehensibly, Weltschmerz or world pity which, considering Fräulein Schautz's propensity for putting bullets into unarmed opponents without a qualm, topped the bill for codswallop. And beyond these dread concepts there were the carriers of the virus, Hegel, Kant, Fichte, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche who had gone clean off his nut from a combination of syphilis, superman and large ladies in helmets trumpeting into theatrical forests at Bayreuth. Wilt had once waded lugubriously through Thus Spake Zarathustra and had come out convinced that either Nietzsche hadn't known what the hell he was on about or, if he had, he had kept it very verbosely to himself. And Nietzsche was sprightly by comparison with Hegel and Schopenhauer, tossing off meaningless maxims with an abandon that was positively joyful. If you wanted the real hard stuff Hegel was your man, while Schopenhauer hit a nadir of gloom that made King Lear sound like an hysterical optimist under the influence of laughing gas. In short, Gudrun Schautz's weak spot was happiness.”
“None of these self-appointed executioners had been driven to murder by the desperation of poverty, and as far as Wilt could tell their fanaticism had its roots in no specific cause. They weren't trying to drive the British from Ulster, the Israelis from the Golan Heights or even the Turks from Cyprus. They were political poseurs whose enemy was life. In short they were murderers by personal choice, psychopaths who camouflaged their motives behind a screen of Utopian theory. Power was their kick, the power to inflict pain and to terrify. Even their own readiness to die was a sort of power, some sick and infantile form of masochism and expiation of guilt, not for their filthy crimes, but for being alive at all. Beyond that there were doubtless other motives concerned with parents or toilet training. Wilt didn't care. It was enough that they were carriers of the same political rabies that had driven Hitler to construct Auschwitz and kill himself in the bunker, or the Cambodians to murder one another by the million. As such they were beyond the pale of sympathy.”
But best of all, this little phrase:
“She was stoned out of her mind by the drug of revolutionary dogma”.