A Word for the Crushing of Spirit

Geistmord • noun • (guy-sst-morrd)

Definition: The killing of soul, spirit, intelligence, and mind

Origin: The Sustainable Culture Lab


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My book THE CRIME WITHOUT A NAME will be released on October 12, 2021!

The book has received glowing reviews and Publishers Weekly says that THE CRIME WITHOUT A NAME is one of the top books of Fall 2021.

You can pre-order the book at thecrimewithoutaname.com.


****At the bottom of the newsletter you can learn about upcoming SCL events including my book launch party on October 12!****

The October 12 release of my book The Crime Without a Name is a little over a week away (you can pre-order the book here), so I want to focus this week’s newsletter on a word that is central to the book but yet to be featured in The Word.

Geistmord is a word I coined that speaks to the destruction of the metaphysical aspects of culture. When discussing ethnocide — the destruction of a people’s culture without the physical destruction of the people — it is normal to describe the physical destruction of culture such as cultural items, clothing, and even the language and religion of the ethnocidee

Yet in addition to the physical items that can help define a culture, the people within a culture also share a collective cultural spirit, or Geist. Their spirit is the metaphysical manifestation of their culture, and ethnocide aspires to break the collective spirit of the oppressed.

During American slavery, American ethnociders often spoke of the necessity of “breaking” African people in order to enslave them. The “breaking” that they spoke of was not a physical breaking that could prevent an enslaved person from working, but the “breaking” of an enslaved person’s spirit in order to keep them enslaved. 

Destroying the soul of the oppressed has long been a foundational aspect of American ethnocide, and Geistmord provides us with the language to articulate this tragic cultural norm.

Protecting our Geist

Geist is a word that I have mentioned numerous times in The Word. It is the German word for “ghost,” “spirit” or “soul,” but it also means one’s “mind” and “intelligence.” In German culture, a person’s spirit is not merely the iteration of themselves that may live after our physical body fades away. It is also the unique, unquantifiable aspects of our personality that make us distinctly us.

We all have a mind, intelligence, and Geist that we struggle to explain, but we know it is essential for defining who we are. Without the language to articulate the uniqueness of one’s mind, it will become incredibly easy to view one’s uniqueness as a problem because it strays too far from the pack. The attributes that make you special may be perceived as problematic because you no longer fit in, especially if you do not have the language for articulating to yourself and others the importance of your Geist.

The attributes that can form a part of one’s Geist can be numerous and incredibly random.

When I was younger, I noticed that people, regardless of their age, would listen to what I had to say and believe what I said. Recognizing this fact made me less inclined to lie because I knew people would believe me. Also, if they learned that I was lying they would stop listening to what I had to say.

A good friend of mine’s Geist is that he is great at making friends and has an uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time.

These personal qualities can easily seem insignificant without the word for describing them. These are examples of how we can understand Geist at an individual level, but Geist also exists at a collective level. 

In America’s ethnocidal society with a foundation of Geistmord, the Geist of a people is frequently misinterpreted as a negative stereotype. A non-white people’s culture is often described as problematic, and people are demonized for emboding the spirit of their own culture. The existence of non-white people expressing non-white culture presents an essentialist threat to ethnocidal Americans, which they often suppress with violence. During the transatlantic slave trade, the spirit of African people was forcefully beaten out of them, and nowadays people of color are pressured to denounce their own Geist in order to succeed in America. This is a Faustian bargain.

Due to America’s ethnocidal foundations, the destruction of spirit has always been socially acceptable. The belief is that the destruction of the spirit of the Other will be enriching for the soul destroyers, and the soul destroyers, or ethnociders, have long shaped American society. This destructive status quo is barbaric and cultivates a society that professes the benefit of crushing spirits in order to obtain power or financial gain. It does not cultivate a language for enriching one’s spirit.

This is why “soul” and “spirit” are hardly spoken about in relation to real world circumstances in America, and people are encouraged to pursue soul-sucking and soul-crushing professions in pursuit of wealth. Linguistically, Americans are encouraged to live lives devoid of soul, pursue professions that crush our spirit, and hope for a soulful death.

We have a society consumed with Geistmord and we must counter it by protecting and cherishing our Geist.

Geistmord Today

When you look at America today, it is impossible to not see Geistmord. Yet at the same time, you also see countless people striving to preserve their Geist and rebel from our soulless status quo. SCL hopes that our language can help people strengthen, enrich, and sustain their soul.

A common example of Geistmord is America’s growing epidemic of professional burnout. For far too long American jobs have been so mentally debilitating due to long work hours, excessive stress, and a lack of rest that these jobs can psychologically break people. Americans receive money in exchange for the crushing of their own soul, and for a very long time our society encouraged this exchange.

Prior to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, burnout had been a growing problem in America, but the pandemic only exacerbated our troubling norm. The added strain of COVID-19 compounded by relatively little governmental support became too stressful for countless Americans. In response, many Americans have chosen to restructure their lives by leaving toxic jobs and placing a greater emphasis on mental health.

Burnout is one example of the impact of Geistmord upon Americans who want to protect their Geist, but American Geistmord also consists of the Americans who want to profit off of the destruction of Geist.

An implementer of Geistmord will specialize in soulless, hollow language as they aspire to obtain power and wealth at the expense of others. They are hypocrites who strategically use their hypocrisy and doublespeak to obtain wealth and power.

The Republican Party are specialists at Geistmord. They demand bipartisanship when they are not in power, and then disregard bipartisanship when they are in power. They pass legislation that makes it harder for people of color to vote, yet say that they want to protect the integrity of our elections. When terrorists attack the Capitol building, they describe them as patriots or peaceful protestors, yet when Americans protest against the unlawful killing of people of color by law enforcement they label them as terrorists. They nominate Supreme Court Justices who obfuscate their true beliefs, so that they can make unpopular, oppressive opinions once they obtain a lifetime appointment to the court. They tell their supporters that COVID-19 is a hoax, as they themselves get vaccinated.

The examples of their hypocrisy are limitless, but we must recognize that their soulless, hollow, hypocritical language is not an anomaly. They are speaking the soul-crushing language of American Geistmord.

Today in America, a sense of fatalism is starting to grow as Republicans and some Democrats fail to provide Americans with the social safety net, infrastructure developments, and voting rights protections that our society desperately needs. This fatalism is emerging because a soul-crushing society can make you feel helpless. Crushing a people’s soul makes it harder for them to rebel.

To rebel against American Geistmord we must steadfastly defend and enrich our collective and individual Geist.


Upcoming Events!

Book Launch and book signing event at Eaton House

Date: On Tuesday, October 12.

Time: Doors open at 6:30pm

Where: Eaton House, 1203 K Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20005

Price: Free, and you can also give a donation to SCL

RSVP: Here is the Eventbrite link for the event.

Note: As of right now, the event will not be live streamed, but we are working on that. I will let all of you know if we are able to live stream the event so that our non-DC audience can attend.

Online Discussion at the New York Public Library about The Crime Without a Name

The Crime Without a Name: Barrett Holmes Pitner with Lewis R. Gordon

Date and Time: Thursday, October 21, 2021, 7 - 8 PM

End times are approximate. Events may end early or late.

Location: Online & the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

Price: Free

RSVP: Here is the registration link.

You can pre-order my book here.


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