Forgotten Satiric Genius: Christian Schütze

(x-posted to The Valve)

About two-thirds of the way through Theodor Adorno’s admirable book The Jargon of Authenticity, illuminating the entire volume, is a little piece of German satire that nobody has ever heard of: Christian Schütze’s “Stenciled Speech for Festive Occasions.” Its relevance to the present moment is astonishing, particularly in these days of change, hope, changeful hope, and hopeful change. It brings us laughingly to our senses.

Most honored Mr. President, ministers, secretaries of state, mayors, advisors, administrators, and assistants, highly esteemed men and women of our cultural life, representatives of science, of industry, and of the self-employed middle-class, honored public of this festive gathering, ladies and gentlemen!

It is not by chance that we are gathered here today for the purpose of celebrating this day. In a time like ours, in which the true human values have more than ever to be our innermost concern, a statement is expected from us. I do not wish to present you with a patented solution, but I would merely like to bring up for discussion a series of hot potatoes which do after all face us. For we do not need ready-made opinions, which anyway do not touch us deeply, but what we need is rather the genuine dialogue which moves us in our humanity. What brought us together here is our knowledge of the power of encounter in the forming of the intrahuman sphere. The things which matter are settled in this intrahuman sphere. I do not have to tell you what I mean by this. You will all understand me, for in a particular and extraordinary sense you all have to do with people.

In a time like ours—I have mentioned it already—in which the perspective of things has everywhere begun to waver, everything depends more than ever on the individual who knows of the essence of things, of things as such, of things in their authenticity. We need openhearted people who are capable of this. Who these people?—you will ask me—and I will answer you: You are they! By being gathered here you have proven more thoroughly than by words that you are prepared to put emphasis on your concern. That is what I would like to thank you for. But I would also like to thank you for energetically opposing, by your commitment to this good cause, the flood of materialism which threatens to drown everything around us. To say it in a nutshell from the start: you have come here to be given directions; you have come to listen. From this encounter, on an intrahuman level, you expect a contribution to the reestablishing of the interhuman climate. You expect a restoration of that homely warmth which seems to be lacking, in our modern industrial society, to such a terrifying degree…

But what does this mean for our concrete similarities here and now? To pronounce the question means to pose it. But in fact it means much more than that. It means that we expose ourselves ot it, that we surrender to it. That we must not forget. But in the rush and busy work of the day, modern man forgets it all too easily. But you who belong to the silent majority, you know of it. For our problems stem from a region which it is our vocation to preserve. The wholesome perplexity which comes from this situation opens perspectives which we should not simply block out by turning away in boredom. It is important to think with the heart and to tune in the human antenna to the same wave length. Today no one knows better than man that which is of importance in the end.