Welcome to Letters From Quotidia – a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack- that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.
What do Reinhard Heydrich and Rudolf Hoess have in common aside from being among the most loathsome exemplars and promoters of the ‘final solution”; that Nazi euphemism for the genocidal mass murder of at least six million Jews between 1933, when Dachau concentration camp opens, and 1945, when the Allied and Soviet Forces opened the gates of Hell and liberated the survivors of the death camps scattered across the 1000-year Reich? This remains is one of the darkest events in the history of the world although in a post-truth world many assert that no such thing happened. Heydrich was the architect of the final solution and Hoess was the commandant of Auschwitz.
Both cut their teeth, so to speak, as members of the Freikorps- a paramilitary organisation, active in the wake of the first world war, in anti-democratic and anti-socialist agitation and assassination. Much has been written about this group and their activities but I came across a rather unusual approach to the subject matter when I read a review by Paul Robinson, a professor of history at Stanford University, of a book entitled, MALE FANTASIES Volume One: Women, Floods, Bodies, History. By Klaus Theweleit published in West Germany in 1977, which had something to say about the psychopathology of men drawn to the Freikorps.
Robinson’s review, published in The New York Times, June 21, 1987, entitled, The Women They Fear states, Klaus Theweleit’s distinctive contribution is to examine the fantasies of the Freikorps soldiers, under the assumption that their intellectual and emotional predilections would explain their behavior. He does so primarily through a close reading of the autobiographies and novels of a select group of Freikorps members… In particular, he draws our attention to the ideas they entertained about women and sex… His central contention is that the Freikorps soldiers were afraid of women. Indeed, not just afraid, they were deeply hostile to them, and their ultimate goal was to murder them. Women, in their view, came in only two varieties: Red and White. The White woman was the nurse, the mother, the sister. She was distinguished above all else by her sexlessness. The Red woman, on the other hand, was a whore and a Communist. She was a kind of distillation of sexuality, threatening to engulf the male in a whirlpool of bodily and emotional ecstasy…the Republic had to be destroyed because it empowered the lascivious Red woman, while it failed to protect the White woman’s sexual purity. While not entirely convinced by Theweleit’s thesis, Robinson concludes, that in the end he asks us to believe that their hatred of women and fear of sexuality were merely an exaggerated version of what all men feel, or have felt for the past two centuries. And, furthermore, he may have captured a glimpse of our souls. Good Lord, I hope not mine! What about yours?
And what about Rosa?Today, Rosa Luxemburg seems a quaint fictional character. But she was real; murdered in Berlin on 15 January 1919 by members of the Freikorps. With Karl Liebknecht, co-founder with her of the Spartacist League, which was the forerunner of the Communist Party of Germany, Rosa Luxemburg was captured by the Rifle Division of the Cavalry Guards of the Freikorps. Its commander and deputy questioned them under torture and then gave the order to execute them. Luxemburg was knocked down with a rifle butt by a soldier, then shot in the head. Her body was flung into Berlin’s Landwehr Canal. In the nearby Tiergarten, Liebknecht was shot and his body, without a name, brought to a morgue.
While not sharing her revolutionary political beliefs, I like Rosa for having written, Freedom is always the freedom of dissenters. The dogmatists of the GDR, though, omitted this bit of her writings when crafting their working model of that grim state. But back to the murders of Rosa and Carl: notice that the male body, although not identified by name, was brought to the morgue while the female body was thrown into the canal without further ado: there may be something in Theweleit’s thesis, after all. I am in a dark section of the letter and I pray for something made from light to help me conclude this distressing missive.
Sometimes, prayers are answered: In 1932 an American housewife and florist, Mary Elizabeth Frye, was moved by the plight of a young Jewish girl, Margaret Swartzkopf, who was warned not to return to Germany to see her dying mother because of the anti-Semitism of the time. Frye wrote these lines to console the weeping girl who, upon the death of her mother, lamented that she could not stand at the graveside and shed a tear. It was only in the late 1990s, a lifetime later, that Frye’s authorship of the following poem was established: Do not stand at my grave and weep,/I am not there; I do not sleep./I am a thousand winds that blow,/I am the diamond glints on snow,/I am the sun on ripened grain,/I am the gentle autumn rain./When you awaken in the morning’s hush/I am the swift uplifting rush/Of quiet birds in circling flight./I am the soft star-shine at night./Do not stand at my grave and cry,/I am not there; I did not die. Where would we be without our poets; without our poetry? I know my soul would shrivel up and blow away. How, I wonder, do you maintain your core, your soul or whatever term you use to define your quintessential self? [insert song]
Though not a philologist, the narrator links Tolkien’s kingdom of doom, Mordor, and the Celtic Goddess of War, the Morrigan, through an Indo-European root Mor- connoting terror and monstrousness. Letter 105 also traces his subsistence on beer, crisps and ciggies and the role played by women who had pity on him and probably saved him from the worst excesses of his hapless life as a student in a Belfast bedsit.
Credits: All written text, song lyrics and music (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.
Technical Stuff: Microphone- (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter)
Microphone (for many of the songs) Shure SM58
For recording and mixing down 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used
Music accompaniment and composition software– Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2020 as well as- for some 20 of the songs of year 2000 vintage- I used a Blue Mountains, NSW, studio. Approximately 48 Banter folk songs and instrumentals recorded live (“in the round”) with a ThinkPad laptop using the inbuilt mic.