Engineers of the Human Soul

Stalin said, “The writer is the engineer of the human soul.” One of the characters in the film The Lives of Others slightly misquotes Stalin to include all artists as engineers of the human soul. It seems that Stalin was a few decades ahead of Andrew Breitbart’s politics is downstream from culture. Totalitarians know their stuff.

This is not a movie review but I do recommend this film. It’s about the Stasi in East Germany, set a few years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. It’s in German with subtitles, streaming on Netflix. I enjoyed this joke from the movie:

Unterleutnant Axel Stigler: Honecker, I mean… the General Secretary… sees the sun, and says, ‘Good morning dear sun!’
Oberstleutnant Anton Grubitz: [with high pitch mocking voice] ‘Good morning dear sun!’
Unterleutnant Axel Stigler: …and the sun answered, ‘Good morning dear Erich!’ At afternoon Erich sees the sun again and says, ‘Good day dear sun’ And the sun says: ‘Good day dear Erich!’ After work Honecker goes back to the window and says, ‘Good evening dear sun!’ But the sun doesn’t answer! So he says again, ‘Good evening dear sun, what’s wrong?’ And the sun answered and said, ‘Oh, kiss my ass, I’m in the West now!’

The translation from IMDb is a bit off but I’m not going to watch the movie again to fix it.

13+

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Author: drlorentz

photon whisperer & quantum mechanic

10 thoughts on “Engineers of the Human Soul”

  1. It seems to be always dangerous if one thinks they can engineer the soul. Isn’t this what PC is all about? Or SJWs?

    5+

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  2. drlorentz:
    Stalin said, “The writer is the engineer of the human soul.”

    The circumstances of Stalin’s making that remark are interesting.  He said it at a meeting on October 26th, 1932 with a group of writers who were not members of the Communist Party.  Six days earlier, he had attended a meeting of party member writers, where he spoke about his decision, on 1932-04-23, to abolish the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers and replace it with a new Union of Soviet Writers which would be open to non-party members.  In volume 2 of his Stalin biography, Stephen Kotkin describes the rationale for this decision as:

    The zeal of the self-described proletarians … with each striving to expose the tiniest ideological deviation in rivals, was outweighed by their lack of creative achievement.  At the same time, the deep political suspicion about the non-party writers … was balanced by their usually superior abilities.

    At the non-party meeting, he said,

    I forgot to talk about what you are “producing”.  There are various forms of production: artillery, locomotives, automobiles, trucks.  You also produce “commodities”, “works”, “products,” … You are engineers of human souls.

    At this point, Voroshilov, the defence minister, interjected “Not really.”  (This was 1932, well before the Terror got going in earnest, when senior officials still felt free to disagree with Stalin.)  Stalin replied, “Your tanks would be worth little if the souls inside them were rotten.  No, the production of souls is more important than the production of tanks.”

    8+

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  3. I love this movie and concur in recommending it. (As does WFB, who called it the greatest movie he’d ever seen.) One really feels a sense of oppression throughout the film, even though it is a “quiet” film.

    There’s a series on Netflix called “The Same Sky,” set in Berlin in the 1970s. I don’t think it’s nearly the same quality as The Lives of Others, but I felt the same sense of oppression when I watched it.

    2+

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  4. 10 Cents:
    It seems to be always dangerous if one thinks they can engineer the soul. Isn’t this what PC is all about? Or SJWs?

    I wondered if he thought of the soul as a blank slate.

    1+

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  5. JJ:

    10 Cents:
    It seems to be always dangerous if one thinks they can engineer the soul. Isn’t this what PC is all about? Or SJWs?

    I wondered if he thought of the soul as a blank slate.

    They did have the idea of the “New Soviet Man/Woman,” so I think that a blank slate concept could apply.

    5+

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  6. The new verbiage of the left – informed by the same totalitarian ethos – says, “There is no such thing as human nature. It is only a social construct.” There is no shortage of latter-day Stalins. The danger they represent becomes more apparent with every day that passes. Like Angelo Codevilla and others, I have the strong sense we are on the edge of widespread violence. Though I am afraid, I will not surrender to these would-be tyrants.

    5+

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  7. danok1:

    JJ:

    10 Cents:
    It seems to be always dangerous if one thinks they can engineer the soul. Isn’t this what PC is all about? Or SJWs?

    I wondered if he thought of the soul as a blank slate.

    They did have the idea of the “New Soviet Man/Woman,” so I think that a blank slate concept could apply.

    Marxists are necessarily blank-slaters: true in Stalin’s day and true today. The blank slate is a cornerstone of leftism in general. In his book, The Blank Slate, Pinker identifies the three legs of the contemporary ideological stool:

    • the blank slate
    • the noble savage
    • deus ex machina

    The Left is scared to death of biology because it threatens to undermine their social/political edifice. Ironically, over in communist China, they don’t give a fig about the Western kind of political correctness. They even have a term of derision for Western leftists: baizuo. (h/t the Derb)

    7+

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  8. Thanks for this. I am appropriating baizuo. Too bad if the left objects. This pins them like butterflies on display boards. Wonderful word – like a pictogram it says so much with so little.

    4+

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  9. I saw the movie while we were in Saxony (former East Germany).  Viking Cruises has this great policy of having movies available in the staterooms which relate to the country you’re visiting.

    The next night, some lovely native ladies whose lives had spanned the fall of the Wall spoke to the passengers.   One  said her father,  after the liberation,  had asked to see any files the Soviets had on him, and to his amazement they produced a thick tome full of information provided by a neighbor.

    I asked her if things woulda been much different during that period if Hitler had won the war.  (Meaning the Gestapo was doing the same thing.).

    You coulda heard a pin drop.  Germany seems to be the only place in the world where you can’t throw Hitler’s name around.

    5+

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