Music, Closed Societies and Football
Hans Keller’s book is a passionate defence of individualism in an age when its existence is becoming ever rarer. A prefatory chapter, ‘Thinkers of the World, Disunite!’, expounds Keller’s individualist credo. ‘Vienna, 1938’, originally a radio talk, gives his riveting and terrifying account of how he escaped from Nazi Vienna in 1938. Two further chapters, on communist Prague and trends in contemporary psychoanalysis, expose the dangers of collectivism. The longest section of the book, on music, concentrates on the threat of dehumanisation at the centre of the author’s own intellectual and emotional life. The finale, on football, suggests that in the relatively simply world of sport, the degeneration of individualism can be observed without difficulty.
‘Our age has given up the will to win’, writes Keller, ‘and our dreams centre on not losing – which, we feel, can best be done collectively: safety (in numbers) first. But unless we regain the power to think and feel for ourselves, in all intellectual and emotional situations, and unless we show total respect for that power in other people, and total contempt for all attempts at conversion, we’re going to lose anyhow – transitively: we shall lose the dignity of being human, a loss which is never noticed when it happens. It is this threatening loss my book is about…’