A Communist Thesis
I recently watched Goodbye Lenin, which is not very good movie, but I was surprised and pleased by its moderatedly positive portrayal of life in the DDR. Without playing down the unpleasant reality of political oppression, it depicts a Communist regime whose self-understanding, at least, was beautiful, and whose citizens’ occasional, halting attempts to live out the Communist virtues in the face of quotidian bureaucratic pettiness rendered even uglier the self-satisfied spiritual shallowness that came over from the West with reunification.
A thesis: During the 20th century the cultural self-understanding of the Communist states was ethical and the cultural self-understanding of the West was aesthetic. In the Warsaw states, at least, young men and women dreamed of a life of virtue and moral grandeur, of moral seriousness and unflinching selflessness, while in the West they dreamed of delights and adventures, of charming young flings and the contentment of children. The Kierkegaardian dichotomy explains, perhaps, why both worlds were so hostile, each in its own way, to true religion.