The Glass Bees

Certain naive souls even commission them to build churches, though one would not want even a garden pavilion as a gift from them. The churches they got were built in a style suitable only for pillboxes, airplanes, and refrigerators; there they celebrated their religious rites before a congregation that considered penicillin more effective than any sacrifice of the Mass.

I had admired these super-philistines long enough — these servants of forces unknown to them. As long as such admiration lasts, destruction will increase and human standards decrease. A mind that endangers the world cannot create a fly. (95)

These are the sober thoughts of Captain Richard. The reflections of the nostalgic calvaryman in Ernst Jünger’s The Glass Bees are harsh towards the designers of modernity, the genius innovators and charasmatic celebrity CEOs. The book follows his meandering reflections as he prepares for a mysterious job interview with Zapparoni, a high-tech industrialist and master manipulator of the media. At the underside of Zapparoni Works are the military application of technology.

Although it was written in 1957, The Glass Bees speaks to our world of drones and nanotechnology, where consumer tastes are still dominated by the late celebrity of Steve Jobs. Jünger wrote the book after experimenting with LSD with Albert Hofmann in Switzerland, which may help explain his burst of creativity and the strange, paranoid visions Captain Richard has in Zapparoni Works. The book appeared more than a quarter-century after Jünger’s most famous book, Storm of Steel, which is often criticized for glorifying war. (Caveats to this view.)

Philosophy rises to the surface of The Glass Bees, which presents a dichotomy: “If we strive for one, we must sacrifice the other… Technical perfection strives toward the calculable, human perfection toward the incalculable” (155). There is the key here, to seeing Jüngerian “conservatism” as profoundly opposed to totalitarianism.

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