|Human life in common is only made possible when a majority comes together which is stronger than any separate individual and which remains united against all separate individuals. The power of this community is then set up as ‘right’ in opposition to the power of the individual, which is condemned as ‘brute force.’ This replacement of the power of the individual by the power of a community constitutes the decisive step of civilization.
The nature of this discharge is best illuminated by example:
|Itzig ist zur Artillerie eingeteilt worden. Er ist offenbar ein intelligenter Bursche, aber ungeschickt und ohne Interesse für den Dienst. Einer seiner Vorgesetzten, der ihm wohlgesinnt ist, nimmt ihn beiseite und sagt ihm: «Itzig, du taugst nicht bei uns. Ich will dir einen Rat geben: Kauf dir eine Kanone und mach dichselbständig.»||Itzig has been declared fit for service in the artillery. He was clearly an intelligent lad, but intractable and without any interest in the service. One of his superior officers, who was friendlily disposed to him, took him on one side and said to him: “Itzig, you’re no use to us. I’ll give you a piece of advice: buy yourself a cannon and make yourself independent!”|
In this hasty reading, Freud seems disingenuous in decrying Itzig’s stupidity. After all, his underachieving artillerist hero, denied the opportunity to make a snappy comeback, shares his name with the quick-witted protagonist of Freud’s favorite joke: “Itzig, wohin reit’st Du?” “Weiss ich, frag das Pferd.” That other Itzig has no idea where he is riding to. All interested parties should ask the horse. In a hallowed equation, his self-deprecation compensates for his complacency. As an admirer of this tranquil rider, the physician who built his worldview on a painstaking investigation of ostensible coincidences is unlikely to have overlooked this instance of homonymy. The implication of Freud planting his tongue in cheek is borne out by the fact that the butts of each joke derive their shared name from an aphaeresis omitting the first letter of the German word Witzig, witty or jocular. Through the silence of its protagonist, the joke evinces an elusive quality that resists interpretative closure, suggesting great deeds to come from this intelligent but intractable Jewish underachiever. Be it real or feigned, Freud’s confidence in the state’s monopoly on the legitimate use of force already rang hollow upon publication in 1905. The reluctant artillerist had come into his own. His self-employment inaugurated a new stage in democratic pluralism. No longer will this plebe be meekly carried along by the steed of History. ( Collapse )
Crossposted to larvatus, real_philosophy, and history in commemoration of Sigmund Freud’s sesquicentennial.