How Freaks of National Security Ideology Become Terrorists and Violators of Human Rights

The goal of Ferdinnand Rieche life is to build and improve security zones
Security zone 1 – Rieche himself
Security zone 2 – His flat
Security zone 3 – His job (at present he is a detective superintendant)
Security zone 4 – Police work in its entirety
Security zone 5 – Everything in its entirety

“Strongman Ferdinand”

Alexander Kluge with the poster of the film

Let’s look at this amorphous, cotton-like face and a lazy gaze suddenly awakened into alertness. This is hero of Kluge‘ film, Ferdinand, a universal totalitarian type of man whose call is to keep people under surveillance, be ready to trap, arrest, interrogate, torture and force them to confess their criminal intentions

Profit-makers in 70s-80s still took care of their employees; today they try to reduce salaries and benefits even for their most loyal guards and servants.

Ferdinand, like every man, needs the soft warmth of a feminine body nearby, but being without any imagination free from social success, career and work (all the resources of his being are invested in suspicion towards those who may want to subvert his government and endanger his country), he is free from love/empty of love with its autonomy from the subject’s will. Love for Kluge’s Ferdinand and his American reincarnations today, is like the free market (another phenomenon strongmen and rich men are truly afraid even more than love) – in both cases they have to share power with others. In love not less than in free market economy you have to learn how, at least to a certain degree, to tolerate otherness of others and the world. This shot represents what personal relationship is for Ferdinand – no love, no eroticism, no dedication, no personal contact or an interest in the personality of the partner – just a little disorder under the blanket.

Obsessed with “terrorists” Ferdinand sees the world as a deep dark forest where dangerous enemies of all sorts hide with bombs and missiles under branches and bushes. Is Ferdinand mentally sick? – Of course, but this kind of sickness is so widespread that this normalizes it in the eyes of culture. Almost everybody is prone to obsessive suspiciousness if humanistic education didn’t cross ones path. The totalitarization of the American democracy today is a result of the collapse of humanistic education, a situation that transforms wealthy Americans into rich-men Ferdinands and more and more poor into jingoistic strongmen by psychology.

It is not surprising that Ferdinand himself ends up as a terrorist. To prove that his country is not protected enough against the enemies, Ferdinand carries out a calculated terrorist attack to force more funding for the security apparatus. The very possibility of the existence of an anti-terrorist terrorist as a type that Kluge describes in the film can teach us today a lot about the contradictions of 9/11 and the long history of collaboration between US conservative segments of government and Muslim terrorists.

Thirty five years passed since Kluge’s film (based on his own short story “Bolshevik of the Capital”) was released. The strategy of socio-political power since has changed – direct control over the population (by a dominant ideology and a covert and overt police force) now is “privatized”. Instead of politico-ideological theocracy of the traditional totalitarian systems the leaders of the country became its owners – a click of private money-schemers and profit-makers. Of course, they continue to use the army, police and secret service for their private purpose (naming it “public interest“ and “national security”), but their ideology of an unlimited self-enrichment by any price is not a totalitarian (omnipresent), it has just usurped the state apparatus for their private advantage. Strongmen Ferdinands are transformed into rich-men Ferdinands who are capable of using a formally democratically elected government for their private goals through lobbying/funding concrete politicians and influencing how to apply the results of technological research. So, the strength of strongmen (as carriers of power/control over people) is perpetuated and even enhanced through the power of money as a source and means of socio-political decision-making.

Here lies the importance of Kluge’s film today when direct power is more and more determined not so much by ideological but by the financial interests, when strongmen’s goal is not just to promote a certain ideology (like Communist or Nazi) but to provide an unlimited opportunity to the 1% percent of the population for making super-profits at the expense of the rest population. Rich-men Ferdinands need surplus-money by the same reason “strongmen” need direct power – to be beyond the danger of having to share power with demos, to be able to keep people under surplus-control. The essence of power as it’s described in Kluge‘s film and today’s financially enhanced power is the same – it is the “sacred” principle of power vs. the “idealistic” principle of democracy (democratic relations between people). Today, while (antidemocratic) hierarchy of power – wealthy on the top, the strongmen right under/around them, the army and police force even lower and larger, and the rest of the population on the bottom, is even more stable than it was back in the seventies – profit itself became power/control, its very entelechy. The very call for power and for money is identical – money-power is an updated, improved and less vulnerable to resistance form of power. The psychology of the guarding dogs and the servile servants is identical no matter if they serve totalitarian or financial leaders.

“Strongman Ferdinand” is a detailed and an exact depiction of the psychology of a right-wing functionary, a person who has only one goal in life – to control and subdue other people in order to serve his masters as effectively as possible. He is afraid that people’s otherness (their dissimilarity from him): their resistance to become completely transparent, known and predictable can be used by them as a cover for their terrorist activity to undermine his “security zones”. Serious culture (cultivating individualism and independent thinking) and democracy (cultivating individual freedom) become for Ferdinand nothing but swamps breeding anarchic monsters, psychological and cultural mutants.

Ferdinand’s bizarre destiny is to shift from being an anti-terrorist to becoming a terrorist himself, more exactly, to blur the very distinction between anti-terrorism and terrorism. The new, advanced anti-terrorist activity includes terrorist activity as a part of itself! Kluge’s film predicts how Bush-Junior administration from being anti-terrorism oriented became a bigger terrorist than the terrorists themselves. The logic of this transformation (which shocked many Americans and made many more confused and turned to a fanatical and blind defense of the administration just because it is “a part of us”, is understood by Kluge’s film with a prophetic power. The semantic mess of 9/11- “the absence of communication” between different anti-terrorist agencies that allowed the disaster happen, strange inaction of our leadership on the very day of the attack and many unexplained details of this nightmarish event, – was as if predicted by Kluge depicting how Ferdinand becomes a terrorist attacker to prove the point that his country (West Germany) needs a much stronger security surveillance against terrorism.

Kluge knows that to make a truthful film about a person who is occupied only with one thing – power over others, a person without any other interests in life, you cannot use the usual stimulating attention, involving and hypnotizing effects to attract and fixate the viewers/consumers. He made this film with stylized asceticism to emphasize the deadly boredom of Ferdinand Rieche’s universe, his emotional poverty and pathological limitations of his imagination. In personal relations he is practically autistic; the absence of any eroticism makes him, in order to satisfy his sexual needs, to resort to persistent manipulation of women. His world is drastically reduced, as is the world of fundamentalist believers obsessed with their theocratic idols, money schemers obsessed with profit, and conservatives in general obsessed with power over others. Ferdinand’s everyday maniacal hard work makes him completely unable to experience beauty of the world, mystical feeling of being one with creation or disinterested intellectual curiosity. His cultural horizon is identical with his job description as his love with reflexes of erection and ejaculation.

Strongman Ferdinand combines psychological features of right-wing dogmatists and Soviet functionaries of communist doctrine. Kluge makes the point that people with an underdeveloped humanity and intelligence were the majority in Soviet Union and in Nazi Germany and are the majority among conservatives (Republican supporters) in US today, that totalitarianism is a function of cultural illiteracy.

Alexander Kluge

Posted on Jan 2 2015 –   “Strongman Ferdinand” (1977) by Alexander Kluge  by Acting-Out Politics