Tuesday, May 23, 2006

does innocence invite its own murder, part 3

Time to address authentic innocence, since in my earlier posts I talked about inauthentic innocence. The definition of authentic innocence, again: When authentic, the sense of awe and wonder that accompanies childlike perceptions (think of artists who see the world anew). When inauthentic, a deliberate blinding of the self to one’s complicity with evil, or pseudoinnocence.

“Los,” “Links 234,” and “Der Meister” can all be placed within a spectrum of demonstrations of authentic innocence. “Los” is a validation of cultural innocence, “Links 234” is a validation of political innocence, and “Der Meister” is a curious thing…a restarting of historical consciousness via the reestablishment of terms of innocence (see caveat below).

These three songs trumpet the inauthenticity of others. One cannot help but think of the infamous treatment of the band after performing “Bück dich” in Massachusetts to see an immediate subtext to “Los”:

Sie waren sprachlos
So sehr schockiert
Und sehr ratlos
Was war passiert

But instead of responding with denials or claims of misinterpretation, which is what the psuedoinnocent would do, the narrator asserts the independence and strength of the group, ironically through the term “los.” This term in some really old dictionaries is defined not merely as lack or absence, but also as freedom, even looseness. Moral outrage such as that expressed by the outsiders stems from an oversized sense of one’s importance. It causes its own rigidity; the inauthentic self is constricted by the mores it seeks to impose on others, and is at the same time both outraged and gratified that its “moral leadership” is being ignored. Because it’s being ignored, the inauthentic self can continue to rage and issue demands. This is self-indulgence, not governance, and the counter to it is detachment:

Wir waren namenlos
Wir haben einen Namen
Waren wortlos
Die Worte kamen
Etwas sanglos
Sind wir immer noch
Dafür nicht klanglos
Das hört man doch
Wir sind nicht fehlerlos
Nur etwas haltlos
Ihr werdet lautlos
Uns nie los
Wir waren los

This independence and strength as expressed by the narrator stems from self-knowledge. No self-inflation or disguises here; instead, honesty, even bluntness, lets the group leave the shocked community behind, no doubt licking their moral wounds.

This same directness is characteristic of “Links 234” (which, let me state as a research bias, is one of my favorite songs). I’ve mentioned in earlier posts the way that the lyrics rework conventional metaphors for talking about the human heart, so I won’t recapitulate those comments here. This song is clearly a statement of authentic cultural innocence, especially once one takes into account the accusations leveled at the band early on. The key stanza concerning authentic innocence is the final version of the chorus and its added lines:

Sie wollen mein Herz am rechten Fleck
doch seh ich dann nach unten weg
da schlägt es in der linken Brust
der Neider hat es schlecht gewusst

The need to speak in ambiguous terms is characteristic of the pseudoinnocent and his denials of responsibility. He creates a cloud of philosophical ambiguity around himself so that others will not notice that he is as much a part of the “system” as anyone else. Because his vision of the world is clouded by this ambiguity, he cannot correctly perceive the motives of others. He buys his freedom with his own isolation, and indeed, probably cannot distinguish between the two. The narrator of the song, however, can see through the ambiguity and can recognize the distortion in his perceptions.

“Der Meister” is a bit of a risk in this topic, largely because I know little about its background and development. (This is not to say that I know much of anything re: the other songs, either.) However, it does fit in nicely, so here goes.

If “Los” is about cultural innocence and “Links 234” about political innocence, then “Der Meister” conjures images of renewed power borne in the wake of a revised, more authentic historical sense:

Die Wahrheit ist wie ein Gewitter
es kommt zu dir du kannst es hören
es kund zu tun ist ach so bitter
es kommt zu dir um zu zerstören

And who will be destroyed by this? Those who feel malice and envy, prime characteristics of the pseudoinnocent. Violence, warfare, strife are unnecessary. Even though the imagery in the song leans in that direction, it is the truth (die Wahrheit) that cannot be withstood by those who deal in the manipulation of circumstances. The truth forces new beginnings through a sense of dramatic historical change, and the destruction it brings does not permit the pouring of old wine into new bottles. No wonder, then, that the pseudoinnocent experiences the truth as ruin (“Es kommt zu euch als das Verderben”).

Who knew that something as simple as innocence could be so complex?

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