What are your views on a return of the Swiss people to the simple life?
The return to the simple life can be regarded as an unhoped-for piece of good fortune even though it demands considerable self-sacrifice and is not undertaken voluntarily.
Thanks to the mass media and the cheap sensationalism offered by the cinema, radio, and newspapers, and thousands of amusements of all kinds, life in the recent past has rapidly been approaching a condition that was not far removed from the hectic American tempo.
Indeed, up in the matter of divorces, Zurich has already reached the American record.
All time-saving devices, amongst which we must count easier means of communication and other conveniences, do not, paradoxically enough, save time but merely cram our time so full that we have no time for anything.
Hence the breathless haste, superficiality, and nervous exhaustion with all the concomitant symptoms—craving for stimulation, impatience, irritability, vacillation, etc.
Such a state may lead to all sorts of other things, but never to any increased culture of the mind and heart.
Do you think we should turn more and more to the treasures of our culture?
As the booming book trade in many countries shows, if the worst comes to the worst people will even turn to a good book.
Unfortunately, such a decision always needs a compelling external cause. Unless driven by necessity, most people would never dream of “turning to the treasures of our culture.”
The delusion of steady social improvement has been dinned into them so long that they want to forget the past as quickly as possible so as not to miss the brave new world that is constantly being dangled before their eyes by unreformable world-reformers.
Their neurasthenic craving for the latest novelty is a sickness and not culture.
The essence of culture is continuity and conservation of the past; craving for novelty produces only anti-culture and ends in barbarism.
The inevitable outcome is that eventually the whole nation will yearn for the very culture which, owing to the delusion of better conditions in the future (which seldom if ever materialize), has almost (or entirely) disappeared.
Unfortunately our world, or perhaps the moral structure of man, is so constituted that no progress and no improvement are consistently good, since sooner or later the corresponding misuse will appear which turns the blessing into a curse.
Can anyone seriously maintain that our wars are in any way “better” than those of the Romans?
The craze for mass organization wrenches everyone out of his private world into the deafening tumult of the market-place, making him an unconscious, meaningless particle in the mass and the helpless prey of every kind of suggestion.
The never failing bait is the alleged “better future,” which prevents him from adapting himself to the actual present and making the best of it.
He no longer lives in the present and for the future, but—in a totally unrealistic way—already in the future, defrauded of the present and even more of the past, cut off from his roots, robbed of his continuity, and everlastingly duped by the mocking fata morgana of a “better future.”
A tremendous disillusionment is needed to save people from wishful thinking and bring them back to the sound bases of tradition, and to remind them of the blessings of a spiritual culture which the “age of progress” has destroyed with its nihilistic criticism.
One has only to think of the spiritual devastation that has already been wrought by materialism, the invention of would-be intellectuals equipped with truly infantile arguments.
It will be difficult to get rid of the kind of thinking whose very stupidity makes it so popular.
Do you believe that happiness is found not in material but in spiritual things?
To remove the ideal from the material to the spiritual world is a tricky business, because material happiness is something tangible (if ever it is attained), and the spirit an invisible thing which it is difficult to find or to demonstrate.
It is even supposed that most of what goes by the name of “spirit” is so much empty talk and a clattering of words.
An attainable sausage is as a rule more illuminating than a devotional exercise ; in other words, to find happiness in the spirit one must be possessed of a “spirit” to find happiness in.
A life of ease and security has convinced everyone of all the material joys, and has even compelled the spirit to devise new and better ways to material welfare, but it has never produced spirit.
Probably only suffering, disilLusion, and self-denial_do that.
Anyone who can live under such stresses and still find life worth while already has spirit, or at least has some inklings of it.
But at all times there are only very few who are convinced from the bottom of their hearts that material happiness is a danger to the spirit, and who are able to renounce the world for its sake.
I hope, therefore, that the scourge which is now lashing Europe will bring the nations to realize that this world, which was never the best of all possible worlds in the past will not be so in the future either.
It is, as always, compounded of day and night, light and darkness, brief joys and abiding sorrows, a battleground without respite or peace, because it is nothing but the melting-pot of human desires.
But the spirit is another world within this world.
If it is not just a refuge for cowards, it c0mes only to those who suffer life in this world and accept even happiness with a gesture of polite doubt.
Had the Christian teachings not been so utterly forgotten in the face of all this technological “progress,” the avalanches that now threaten to engulf Europe would never have started rolling.
Belief in this world leaves room neither for the spirit of Christianity nor for any other good spirit.
The spirit is always hidden and safe in the world, an inviolable sanctuary for those who have forsworn, if not the world, at least their belief in it.’}
Can there be an optimism of austerity?
Instead of “optimism,” I would have said an “optimum” of austerity.
But if “optimism” is really meant, very much more would be required, for “austerity” is anything but enjoyable.
It means real suffering, especially if it assumes acute form.
You can be “optimistic” in the face of martyrdom only if you are sure of the bliss to come.
But a certain minimal degree of austerity I regard as beneficial.
At any rate, it is healthier than affluence, which only a very few people can enjoy without ill effects, whether physical or psychic.
Of course one does not wish anything unpleasant for anybody, least of all oneself, but, in comparison with other countries, Switzerland has so much affluence to spare (however honourably earned) that we are in an excellent position to give some of it away.
There is an “optimum” of austerity which it is dangerous to exceed, for too much of it does not make you good but hard and bitter.
As the Swiss proverb trenchantly puts it: ”Behind every rich man stands a devil and behind every poor man two.”
Since “optimism” seems to have been meant, and hence an optimistic attitude towards something unpleasant, I would add that in my view it would be equally instructive to speak of a “pessimism” of austerity.
Human temperaments being extremely varied, indeed contradictory, we should never forget that what is good for one man is harmful for another.
One man, because of his inner weakness, needs encouragement ; another, because of his inner assurance, needs the restraint of austerity.
Austerity enforces simplicity, which is true happiness.
But to live simply, without regret and bitterness, is a moral task which many people will find very hard.
Will turning away from material things foster the team-spirit?
A common need naturally strengthens the team-spirit, as we can see in England at this moment.
But the very existence of many moral weaklings increases the danger of selfishness.
All extraordinary conditions bring men’s badness as well as their goodness to light.
However, since the majority of our people may be regarded as morally healthy, there is ground for hope that a common need will cause their virtues to shine more brightly.
Believing as I do in the virtues and diligence of the Swiss, I am convinced that they have an absolute will to preserve their national independence and are ready to make the heaviest sacrifices.
At any rate, the team-spirit in Switzerland is not undeveloped and hardly needs special strengthening.
Above all, we do not have those social contrasts between a solid upper crust or party on the one hand and an anonymous mass on the other, which in other countries keep citizens apart.
Class conflicts with us are mainly imported from abroad.
Instead of pushing the team-spirit artificially to the fore, it seems to me more important to stress the development of the personality, since this is the real vehicle of the team.
Faced with the question of what a man does, one should never forget who is doing it.
If a community consists of nothing but trash, then it amounts to nothing, for a hundred imbeciles still do not add up to anything sensible.
The noisy and insistent preaching of the team-spirit only causes them to forget that their contribution to society consists of nothing but their own uselessness.
If I belong to an organization with 100,000 members it does not prove in the least that I am any good, let alone if there are millions of them.
And if I pat myself on the back for being a member, I am merely adding to my non-value the illusion of excessive value.
Since, in accordance with the laws of mass psychology, even the best man loses his value and meaning in the mass, it is doubly important for him to be in secure possession of his good qualities in order not to damage the community of which he is a member.
Instead of talking so much about the team-spirit it would be more to the point to appeal to the spiritual maturity and responsibility of the individual.
If a man is capable of leading a responsible life himself, then he is a also conscious of his duties to the community.
We Swiss believe in quality; let us therefore use our national belief for improving the value of the individual, instead of letting him become a mere drop in the ocean of the community.
Self-knowledge and self-criticism are perhaps more necessary for us in Switzerland, and more important for the future, than a great herd of social irresponsibles.
In Switzerland we could do nothing anyway with masses welded together and controlled by iron discipline; our country is far too small.
What counts with us are the virtues, the stout heartedness and toughness of the individual who is conscious of himself. In the case of extreme necessity everyone has to do his bit in his allotted place.
It is nice to hope for a helper in time of need, but self-reliance is better.
The community is not anything good in itself, as it gives countless weaklings a wonderful opportunity to hide behind each other and palm off their own incompetence on their fellows.
People are only too willing to expect the community to do what they themselves are incapable of doing, and they hold it responsible when they as individuals fail to fulfil their necessary obligations.
Although we Swiss do undoubtedly have a fairly well-developed team-spirit, most of our attempts at community are miserable specimens.
They grow on stony ground and are divided by thorny hedges.
One and all suffer from the Swiss national vices of obstinacy and mistrustfulness—at least, these national qualities are called vices when people get annoyed about them, as very often happens.
But from another point of view they could almost be extolled as virtues.
It is quite impossible to say how much of our political, intellectual, and moral independence of the powerful world around us we owe to these unpleasant qualities.
Fortunately—I am almost inclined to say—their roots penetrate into the deepest recesses of every Swiss heart.
We are not easily fooled.
How many poisonous infections, how many fantastic ideas may we not have avoided in the course of the centuries thanks to these qualities!
The fact that we are in some respects a hundred years behind the times, and that many reforms are desperately overdue, is the price we have to pay for such useful national failings.
Hence I expect more from the Swiss national character than from an artificially fostered team-spirit, because it has deeper roots in our native soil than an enthusiasm which wanes with the words that conjure it up.
It is all very fine to be swept along on a tide of enthusiasm, but one cannot enthuse indefinitely.
Enthusiasm is an exceptional-state,- and human reality is made up of a thousand vulgarities Just what these are is the-decisive thing.
If the ordinary Swiss makes very sure that he himself has it good and can summon up no enthusiasm whatever for the joys of having nothing in glorious solidarity with everybody else, that is certainly unromantic —worse, it is selfish, but it is sound instinct.
The healthy man does not torture others—generally it is the tortured who turn into torturers.
And the healthy man also has a certain amount of goodness which he is the more inclined to expend since he does not enjoy a particularly good conscience on account of his obvious selfishness.
We all have a great need to be good ourselves, and occasionally we like to show it by the appropriate actions.
If good can come of evil self-interest, then the two sides of human nature have cooperated.
But when in a fit of enthusiasm we begin with the good, our deep-rooted selfishness remains in the background, unsatisfied and resentful, only waiting for an opportunity to take its revenge in the most atrocious way.
Community at all costs, I fear, produces the flock of sheep that infallibly attracts the wolves.
Man’s moral endowment is of so dubious a nature that a stable condition seems possible only when every sheep is a bit of a wolf and every wolf a bit of a sheep.
The truth is that a society is more secure the more the much maligned instincts can, of their own accord, start off the counterplay of good and evil.
“Pure good” and “pure evil” are both superhuman excesses.
Although there is naturally no need to preach self-interest, since it is omnipresent, it should not be needlessly slandered; for when the individual does not prosper neither does the whole.
And when he is driven to unnatural altruism, self-interest reappears in monstrous, inhuman form—”changing shape from hour to hour, I employ my savage power” —for the instincts cannot be finally suppressed or eradicated.
Excessive sacrifice of the individual for the
sake of the community makes no sense in our case anyway, since, our country being so small, we are in no position to assert our self-interest in nationalistic form, that is, by the conquest of foreign countries.
In sober scepticism as opposed to propaganda talk, in sure instinct and closeness to nature, in self-limitation grounded in self knowledge, I see more health for our Fatherland than in fervent speeches about regeneration and hysterical attempts at a reorientation.
Sooner or later it will be found that nothing really “new” happens in history.
There could be talk of something really novel only if the unimaginable happened: if reason, humanity, and love won a lasting victory. ~Carl Jung, CW 18, Pages 582-588