“Minima Moralia” by Theodor W. Adorno – II


Human beings look at you. – The outrage over atrocities decreases, the more that the ones affected are unlike normal readers, the more brunette, “dirty”, dago-like. This says just as much about the atrocity as about the observers. Perhaps the social schematism of perception in anti-Semites is so altered, that they cannot even see Jews as human beings. The ceaselessly recurrent expression that savages, blacks, Japanese resemble animals, or something like apes, already contains the key to the pogrom. The possibility of this latter is contained in the moment that a mortally wounded animal looks at a human being in the eye. The defiance with which they push away this gaze – “it’s after all only an animal” – is repeated irresistibly in atrocities to human beings, in which the perpetrators must constantly reconfirm this “only an animal”, because they never entirely believed it even with animals. The concept of human beings in repressive society is the parody of the notion that human beings were created in the image of God. The mechanism of “pathic projection” functions in such a manner that the power-brokers perceive only their own mirror image as human beings, instead of reflecting back what is human as precisely what is different. Murder is thus the attempt to displace, again and again, the madness of such false perception into reason, through greater madness: what is not seen as a human being and yet is a human being, is turned into a thing, so that it can no longer rebut the manic gaze through any sort of impulse.


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