Naphta Politics

The idea of communism is practically incoherent in the absence of a global authoritarian state. It appears that Pope Francis agrees:

Pope Francis will this week call for changes in lifestyles and energy consumption to avert the “unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem” before the end of this century, according to a leaked draft of a papal encyclical. In a document released by an Italian magazine on Monday, the pontiff will warn that failure to act would have “grave consequences for all of us”.

Francis also called for a new global political authority tasked with “tackling … the reduction of pollution and the development of poor countries and regions”. His appeal echoed that of his predecessor, pope Benedict XVI, who in a 2009 encyclical proposed a kind of super-UN to deal with the world’s economic problems and injustices.

According to the lengthy draft, which was obtained and published by L’Espresso magazine, the Argentinean pope will align himself with the environmental movement and its objectives. While accepting that there may be some natural causes of global warming, the pope will also state that climate change is mostly a man-made problem.

(for more on Leo Naphta — among the most prophetic characters in world literary history — the best recommendation is to read the book.)

2 thoughts on “Naphta Politics

  1. Yea, the dialogues between Ludovico Settembrini and Naphta were always quite interesting.

    Of course one of Castorp’s two main mentors throughout the novel, he stands for the ideals of Western civilization, the Renaissance, and Enlightenment — in short, reason, individual liberty, humanism, and progress. Though Mann’s sympathies lie with him rather than with his opponent Naphta, he also shows that Settembrini fails. He fails because he embraces his ideals too fervently and loses sight of reality in the process. Typical of many libertarians, he condemns every conceivable manifestation of the metaphysical, not realizing that his own boundless idealism for the cause of humanity has metaphysical origins. He condemns the church for its symbology, hierarchial structure, and rule of obedience, ignoring the fact that it is precisely these features which distinguish the Masonic order of which he is a member. He also refuses to accept humanity’s sensual component, which also has a function in the realization of his humanistic dreams. He insists on seeing humanity as pure rationality.

    While Naphta is characterized in terms of his intellectual adversary Settembrini. Naphta’s intellectual prowess matches that of the Italian, but his cast of mind is essentially irrational. Whereas in Settembrini’s view death is but the absence of life, Naphta insists that death controls a realm of its own; independent of life, death is engaged in perennial battle against it. His dualism is therefore the basis of his glorification of disease, suffering, and death. His love of extremes and contempt for all forms of compromise make him defend the Inquisition and the authoritarian aspects of Catholicism and communism.

    As the antithetical element to Settembrini’s rationality, Naphta replaces Clavdia Chauchat after Walpurgis Night. He takes over as the chief contestant for Castorp’s soul on the side of irrationality.

    He is of Jewish-Polish background and the product of Spanish Jesuit schooling. This is as significant as Settembrini’s Italian descent. “Spain. That country too lay remote from the humanist mean,” Castorp muses upon hearing of Clavdia’s plan to travel to Spain, “though on the side of austerity rather than softness. There death was present in the guise of form, not dissolution — black, refined, sanguinary, Inquisition, stiff ruff, Loyola; he wondered what Frau Chauchat would say to Spain. Perhaps a combination of the two extremes would bring her closer to the humane mean.” But then comes the seamy side of that coin: “Yet something pretty awful might come to pass if the East went to Spain.” Naphta, then, is characterized as even more dangerous than Clavdia Chauchat because he is the result of “Eastern” irrationality and the sterile Spanish overemphasis on rigid form.

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