Chapter 6                       Dance With The Devil         By Gunther Schwab                   Written in 1963.



who made up for the deficiencies of his appearance by excessive courtesy.

He made a lower bow to the guests than he did to his master.

"My number is 167," he began, with a gentle, deprecatory air.

"You can see from this how little importance they attach to me and my job.

That's the way of it in our business.

The more important your job, the lower your number.

All the same I hope to be able to prove to you and to my high lord and master, that my department —"


"Don't jaw so much but get cracking," the Devil interrupted.

It was obvious that he hadn't very much sympathy for the Noise Fiend.

The little fellow gave a sideways glance at the visitors, and made a gesture as though to say,

'Well, there you are, you see.' The Devil drummed on the table.

"Come along, come along. We haven't too much time."

The Noise Fiend was the very soul of courtesy.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he said, "you have either learnt already,

or you soon will learn that we know of many ways of poisoning man and his surroundings.

For all that, it is I who add the most essential poison, which multiplies the effectiveness

of all the others, namely, rush."

The Boss turned about with a bored expression, crossed his legs and looked out of the window.

"The spark of life leaps between the two poles of timeless rest and resolute action.

Without rest there is no strength, with­out time there is no life."


"I've no liking for these philosophizing devils," muttered the Boss.

Woomp warmed to his task. "I have destroyed mankind," he said. "I told them time is money.

They believed me, and since then they sell their life to the highest bidder.

I've robbed them of time and of their humanity.

I've planted unrest in their heart.

I've preached to them – and my subordinates are continually doing the same

– that speed is a modern, progressive value, a criterion of the modern pseudo-personality

and of social worth.


"Actually, however, speed is something that goes contrary to the nature of man

and is really deleterious to him. It prevents him from acquainting himself with the simplest forms

of truth and from fulfilling the most elementary demands of life.

It robs him of time for reflection about himself and the world,

of time for creative rest and creative work – in a word, of time to be a human being, of time for life.

I have made man speed-sick —"

"What proofs can you show that you have done it?"

But Woomp was obviously in no hurry to give the required explanation.


"Every age," he said, "has its models, its idols, its tyrants.

The dominant image of the day impresses itself upon man.

There were times when people aped the Romans, in con­versation,

in talk, in dress and in their general way of life, times when they aped the French or the Americans.

This shows the tendency of man to copy those who at any particular time wield the power.

We see here a subconscious atavistic tendency in human nature towards assimilation.

What we observe is an effort to modify the severity of the ruling power by cultivating a likeness to it.


Actually, of course, this is tantamount to sacrificing our own individuality and assuming

that of another, which, in effect, means that we subject ourselves to that other."

"How long are you going to go on boring me?" the Devil asked angrily.

"I'm coming to the point," said Woomp. "Today the machine is master of the world of man.

Its characteristics are noise and rush.

The machine, embodying as it does the most essential form of contemporary power,

impresses its character on human life and man endeavours to copy his tyrant

so that the latter may show him favour.

"Machines must go on working in order to show a profit.


The uninterrupted nature of production implies uninterrupted con­sumption

– and here I must express thanks to my colleague in the Department of Living Standards.

He has helped me very considerably to spread this nerve-destroying rush.

He fills men's ears with his Gospel and they hurry to earn all the money they can

so as to be able to spend it on things that are actually quite useless."

"Look," said the Devil, with intense irritation. "I'm perfectly well aware of all this.

Can't you get on with it?"

Woomp drew a deep breath.

"So, with one thing and another, haste and speed have become ends in themselves.

Man is busy for nothing and about nothing; he's always in a hurry but he creates nothing.

He rushes around and yet remains in one place, like a squirrel in a revolving cage.


"Haste, combined with physical movement wouldn't be too bad, but man makes haste today

without moving at all and this restlessness in rest, this motionlessness of the body combined

with hurry in the mind, is my invention, Boss – a devilish invention.

It destroys nerves and muscles together; it eats up strength. I'm proud of it. Men rush

their thinking and speaking, their eating and sleeping, at desks and at machines.

In their free time, they rush off to pleasure, to the life of shadows,

and it never dawns on them that they are losing true life altogether,

because they have lost the possession of time.

They sit motionless in their cars and race through the land.

The travel mania, which only counts miles, drives them all over the earth

– an earth which has lost its true character for them, even as they have lost their own.

They no longer know what is happening on even a relatively small section of their homeland,

but are ready to rush in their thousands to distant places.


What are they looking for? Rest, recreation, reflection,

a deepening of their knowledge and experience?

Not a bit of it!

They travel so as to be able to say they've been to a certain place.

The new jet planes travel all round the earth, keeping pace with the sun.

Today, you can get from Munich to New York in six hours."

"Well, why shouldn't you?" said Groot.

"In my opinion this is genuine progress, and a wonderful saving of time."

"A saving of time ! For what? To give you the opportunity to hurry some more,

to do more business and destroy the world more speedily than before,

to bring about the ultimate catas­trophe at an even earlier date?

Splendid !


But is time really being gained?

Hasn't time rather been shrunk? In the final analysis, since time and life

are really interchangeable terms, isn't it life that has been shrunk?

Rather, hasn't life actually been lost? Take care, sir, the Devil never gives you anything for nothing."

"Go on, Woomp."

"Unrest has been the means whereby I've devalued human life.

I've liquidated man's leisure. Man no longer has time for himself, or for friendship or love;

no time for his family, no time, even, for his own children.

He has no time for art or knowledge, no time for the quiet enjoyment of a book.

Thus I've made of no account all the wisdom of man that lies stored in millions of volumes

in the libraries of the world. Nobody cares about it now.

"Man has no time for inward recollection and so can no longer drink from the fountains

of his own strength. He no longer knows anything of the creative pause,

for rest – the mother of strength – has become a stranger to him.

That's why man can no longer bring forth a single compelling thought,

or a single deed that's truly great. Rush has made him stupid and rush has made him evil."


Woomp paused fora moment, and it was the Devil who spoke.

"You know, Woomp," he said, "I think you're doing rather a good job.

I believe that I've under-estimated your department,

but do let's have something a bit more concrete, will you?"

But Woomp had carefully prepared what he had to say and was going to develop

the argument in his own way. "Just as we an't think of the movement of a machine

without a noise, so rush is the source of noise in the world of man.

Both have the same effects.

Even as I destroyed leisure,

so I also murdered silence and silence is the origin of all good things.


I've given inan the intoxicating poison of noise and man has swallowed it 311d developed the craving.

Noise destroys the mind; it paralyses thought, and is the enemy of truth.

Noise dries up the heart and empties the brain. Noise means the emptying of man."

The Boss was angry again. "Theories, theories ! " he cried.

But Woomp was obstinate, and went on: "And even noise is infectious.

Noise breeds noise.

The more noise a man makes, the more noise others must make in order to hear themselves

speak and so preserve their so-called egos. Anyone who has become a noise drunkard

can no longer live without it. Noise drowns strength, goodness and love."


"Oh, do let's have something concrete !

"Look at the television screen."

"What's this?"

"A living brain, powerfully magnified. It belongs to one, Antonio Feschi, a greengrocer in Rome,

via Dante Aligheri 36. The patient is lying on the operating table, a part of his skull has been removed,

the hand which you see reaching into the picture from the side is that of Dr. Alcide Mosso,

the chief surgeon of the Clinic—"

"A tumour?" asked Rolande. She was bending forward, eager h) see every detail.

"A tumour ! Watch what happens now."

In this moment there was heard the sound of a church bell striking in one of the churches of Rome.

Immediately a wave of blood flooded the brain; it happened again and yet again.

Six times the bell in the belfry sounded, and six times the brain was flooded,

following the rhythm of the bell.

The operation continued.

The clock had stopped striking, the waves of blood had ceased to flow.

All was quiet.


Suddenly the wave of blood returned, though rather weaker than before.

"What was that?" asked Harding.

"Dr. Mosso cleared his throat. Signor Feschi's brain reacted immediately,

even though he was under an anaesthetic." Woomp switched off.

"Why did you show us that?" asked the Boss.

"To prove that every sound produces a change in the rhythm of the blood circulation."

"Surely only in this particular case?" said Groot.

"No. You've seen how the brain reacts to single noises,

and you can now well imagine how it reacts to permanent noise,

or to increases of noise beyond a certain point."


Groot raised his eyebrows as though to show how little he was impressed.

"Noise belongs to civilization, as a shadow is a part of light. People must get used to it."

"There's no such thing as getting used to it.

Every third inhabitant of a civilized country suffers from noise-sickness,

though he doesn't know it."

Groot gave a superior smile.

"That may be true of over­sensitive people, or people who are already half-invalids.

I get along very well with noise. Without the music of a great city I can't work or even go to sleep.

When I go into the country, the silence irritates me."

Now it was Woomp's turn to smile. "If a drug addict said that the poison of the drugs did him no harm,

because he couldn't do without it, would you be prepared to admit that the addict wasn't an addict

and the poison wasn't a poison?"


"If a man doesn't hear a noise, then that noise can do him no harm."

"My agents have instructions to spread this utterly mistaken view among men,

so that they may make even more noise than they're making already and may,

in fact, devote themselves wholly to noise.

People think they've got used to noise, but they are ignorant of the hidden harm that it is doing them."

The Boss turned to Woomp. "What actual pathological symptoms should be attributed

to the effects of noise?"

"Feelings of numbness, nervous excitability, impaired sense of balance,

vascular and heart diseases, anaemia, hyperanaemia of the skin, of the brain,

neuroses, stomach ulcers, and disturb­ances of the digestive tract."

Groot was unconvinced. "What influence," he said, "can noise possibly have on the digestion?"


"It has been definitely proved that under the influence of noise the activity of the stomach walls

is diminished, as is the peristaltic action of the bowels."

"Go on," said the Devil.

"Waves of sound pass through the ears and through the bones of the skull to the outer brain,

and produce headaches, over-sensitivity, sleeplessness and conditions of fear,

tiredness and primarily dullness, with complete lack of interest in any­thing."

The Boss nodded; he was obviously well pleased. "A condi­tion of the human soul which

is of great value to us for the attainment of our ends."

Rolande turned to Woomp. "The symptoms you have men­tioned are very similar

to those of what we call the 'Manager Disease'."

"Yes," answered the Devil, "and a number of my Depart­ment Heads have been responsible

for bringing this disease into existence and spreading it far and wide."

But Woomp, who was in full flood, was not to be diverted.


"Noise," he said, "is one of the most terrible and torturing punishments to which

I have condemned mankind. It excites a physical and mental state of alarm which arises

and maintains itself even in sleep. The final consequences of persistent noise area weakening

of the power of resistance, complete unfitness for work and a lowering of intelligence."

"Very useful in my battle against the mind," said the Devil.

"Nor can the political and sociological importance of noise be underestimated.

Noise destroys individuality. It extinguishes human personality.

It helps in the development of the mass mind, of collective thinking, of dictatorship.

He who needs slaves must make noise in music. Music like my own."


The Devil nodded. "I like your music very well, Woomp."

"Believe me, I've worked at my job. To give you just one little instance,

it was I who invented the unceasing racket of our many-storeyed living machines

and I cannot praise too highly the architectural incompetence and lust for profit

which has resulted in these sound-transmitting walls and floors.

Then I've done my best to intensify traffic so that the hellish symphony of street noises

may grow louder with every year. In ten years this volume of noise has doubled,

with increasing damage to health. The unbroken surfaces of modem buildings make

them into excellent sounding boards, especially when – thanks to our architects

– they are made of cement and glass."

"What about thunder?" asked Harding, "that's a noise that nature makes every day."

Woomp nodded. "Admittedly, but thunder is a short sound. It's the lasting noises

of similar intensity that go beyond the endurable limit.


Very strong noise can kill.

Take the noise of aircraft. It can upset the nerves of cattle,

produce premature births and a reduction in the milk supply.

I've every hope that through increasing air traffic,

it will be possible to make the hell of modern noise even more agonizing than it is at present."

The Devil smiled. "It seems to me he's a stout fellow, this Woomp. I'll have to promote him."

Woomp continued. "I have made men deaf to noise.

Unfor­tunately, human nature still shows its capacity for protecting the organisms.

Sensitivity to hearing has fallen by 15 per cent in the towns and by 5 per cent in the country."

"You count that as protection?" interjected Rolande. "As a positive gain?

I could only look upon growing deafness as a disability —“'

"In a world governed by diabolical principles, concepts change their meaning, mademoiselle.


Your hearing gets worse, and so you think you can make all the more noise.

That's why you think nothing of subjecting man to the terror of building noise,

traffic noise and factory noise and look upon anyone who objects to this as a fool.

It's natural enough. Noise is the char­acteristic mark of barbarism and stupidity,

and if the noise of modern life is indeed a valid measuring rod, both are on the increase."

"Excellent, Woomp."

"Since noise makes people stupid and brutal, those who make a noise never realize

that they're not only doing physical damage to their fellow men, but are actually robbing them,

since they deprive them of the peaceful possession of their property."

"Anything else?"

"There's one consequence of noise that's particularly serious. It upsets the intellectual worker,

who is usually a town resident, and that's why I've gone out of my way to make the towns

particularly noisy places, places where men's spiritual, mental and physical health

is bound to be undermined. Since the towns claim the right to make all the decisions

that really matter, (here's no doubt that it is to the hellish noise of these places

that we can attribute the blunders and stupidities of politics and administration and,

for that matter, of art and science."


"That sounds a bit exaggerated. I'm quite satisfied, but that doesn't mean

that you must get above yourself."

Woomp pretended he had not heard what had been said, and went on.

"Not that I've neglected the country; I've killed silence there, quite effectively.

The country needs rest if it is to remain alive since unnatural noises defile a countryside.

I've done all I could to maximize that defilement. Wherever you get a village in a valley,

you would hear the echo of the traffic right up to the surrounding mountains;

yes, right up to their peak. Tractors, cars, omnibuses, have drowned the peace of the countryside

almost wherever you go. There's hardly a forest which is not made vile by the everlasting

sound of engines. Our forest roads should be open to motor traffic for the benefit

of the tourist industry.


The result is that against the payment of a toll this traffic can now pass along numbers of roads

which had been closed to it."

"The immediate effect," said Sten, "will be an increase of business for the tourist industry

but soon those who are seeking a real holiday and are ready to get along without a car

will migrate to those parts of the country that are still quiet and unspoiled."

"Don't worry! I'll spoil them quickly enough," said Woomp.

"Indeed, I've already largely done so.

I've even liquidated the traditional nocturnal quiet of the sleeping earth.

In the evening, when the tractor-driver wearily steps from his machine,

his relief is already at hand.

He switches on the searchlight and goes on with his ploughing or whatever he's doing till half-way

through the night, or even until dawn.

The earth no longer sleeps.”

Groot looked up.

"A man with a tractor," he said, "gets as much done as ten men with ten pairs of horses.

It's absolutely obvious and absolutely inevitable that the farmer will sooner or later start

working with machines. It's ridiculous to reproach him with this, let alone to forbid him to do it."


"Of course it is, Mr. Groot," said the Boss, "and we're only too anxious to encourage him.

Indeed, it's the mark of the devil all over the world that what he tries to get people

to do is always self-evidently right and necessary, natural, logical, unavoidable and,

above all, economical."

"But why all this fuss about a bit of noise in the countryside?"

said Groot. As usual, his manner was overbearing.

"After all, who hears it?"

The Devil answered him. "I understand why you should ask that.

You're an engineer, a technician, and so nature and the land seem unimportant to you.

But man and the land are one. Remember that. If the soul of the land dies,

the soul of man dies along with it."

"And it is with the death of the soul that we are concerned," Woomp broke in.

"I have bathed it in noise, and in noise it for­gets how to breathe.

Noise violates it, destroying feeling and conscience. Noise is my form of hypnosis,

from which no man can escape. I have enslaved man. I have interfered with the rhythm

that is native to him. I have broken up the very essence of his being.

I have used the uproar of the outer world, to cut him off from the world within,

to cut him off from his humanity and from the only life that is real."



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