They all have an admirable time of it when they receive zealous homage. Just observe the nation that is defended by devoted patriots. The patriots fall in bloody battle or in the fight with hunger and want; what does the nation care for that? By the manure of their corpses the nation comes to “its bloom”! The individuals have died “for the great cause of the nation,” and the nation sends some words of thanks after them and — has the profit of it. I call that a paying kind of egoism.
The commonalty is the heir of the privileged classes. In fact, the rights of the barons, which were taken from them as “usurpations,” only passed over to the commonalty. For the commonalty was now called the “nation.” “Into the hands of the nation” all prerogatives were given back. Thereby they ceased to be “prerogatives”:[Vorrechte] they became “rights.”[Rechte] From this time on the nation demands tithes, compulsory services; it has inherited the lord’s court, the rights of vert and venison, the — serfs. The night of August 4 was the death-night of privileges or “prerogatives” (cities, communes, boards of magistrates, were also privileged, furnished with prerogatives and seigniorial rights), and ended with the new morning of “right,” the “rights of the State,” the “rights of the nation.”
In the Revolution it was not the individual who acted so as to affect the world’s history, but a people; the nation, the sovereign nation, wanted to effect everything. A fancied I, an idea, e.g. the nation is, appears acting; the individuals contribute themselves as tools of this idea, and act as “citizens.”
Now the Nationals are exerting themselves to set up the abstract, lifeless unity of beehood; but the self-owned are going to fight for the unity willed by their own will, for union. This is the token of all reactionary wishes, that they want to set up something general, abstract, an empty, lifeless concept, in distinction from which the self-owned aspire to relieve the robust, lively particular from the trashy burden of generalities. The reactionaries would be glad to smite a people, a nation, forth from the earth; the self-owned have before their eyes only themselves. In essentials the two efforts that are just now the order of the day — to wit, the restoration of provincial rights and of the old tribal divisions (Franks, Bavarians, Lusatia, etc.), and the restoration of the entire nationality — coincide in one. But the Germans will come into unison, i.e. unite themselves, only when they knock over their beehood as well as all the beehives; in other words, when they are more than — Germans: only then can they form a “German Union.” They must not want to turn back into their nationality, into the womb, in order to be born again, but let every one turn in to himself. How ridiculously sentimental when one German grasps another’s hand and presses it with sacred awe because “he too is a German!” With that he is something great! But this will certainly still be thought touching as long as people are enthusiastic for “brotherliness,” i.e. as long as they have a “family disposition”. From the superstition of “piety,” from “brotherliness” or “childlikeness” or however else the soft-hearted piety-phrases run — from the family spirit — the Nationals, who want to have a great family of Germans, cannot liberate themselves.
Ridiculous is he who, while fellows of his tribe, family, nation, rank high, is — nothing but “puffed up” over the merit of his fellows; but blinded too is he who wants only to be “man.” Neither of them puts his worth in exclusiveness, but in connectedness, or in the “tie” that conjoins him with others, in the ties of blood, of nationality, of humanity.