It is currently Mon Oct 22, 2018 7:22 am

All times are UTC




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 33 posts ]  Go to page Previous  1, 2
Author Message
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2012 4:15 pm 
Offline
Pleasantly Twisted
User avatar

Joined: Tue Apr 18, 2006 6:35 pm
Posts: 8996
Location: Black Creek Bottoms
Absolutely. Slavery comes to mind. It was regulated in the OT, because it was integral to society. The shift took a couple of thousand years, in that case, and there are still places where it's accepted, though usually other under names.

_________________

Resentment is no excuse for baldface stupidity.
-- Garrison Keillor

Image


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2012 5:34 am 
Offline
chocolate bearer
User avatar

Joined: Sat Dec 03, 2005 6:27 am
Posts: 3351
Location: beachcombing, or hiking, or dragon boating
vison wrote:
axordil wrote:
Funny, I see Auschwitz as evidence that evil is entirely man-made. Badgers didn't build those camps. Werewolves didn't close the doors to the gas chambers. Demons didn't give the orders. Those were people. And some of those people thought what they were doing was Right. Thankfully enough of the rest of the world thought otherwise, or at least cooperated in stopping it for their own reasons.


Yes, I agree with that. And I guess that's what narya was getting at.


Yes. I'm still trying to think up a more concise definition of what I consider to be evil, that is not so loose that I can drive a truck through it.

_________________
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.

~ Albert Camus


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2012 10:59 am 
Offline
Ni Dieu, ni maître
User avatar

Joined: Tue Dec 20, 2005 6:19 pm
Posts: 1795
Location: Home
I am sorry to be very late to the question. In fact for me there are two questions: what is evil? And why do we act in evil ways?

First, of course, when you discuss evil the example of the Shoah (I don't say Holocaust any more) always arises. Having worked a lot on it and read Hannah Arendt on the oridnary evil, maybe some clarifications:

Really convinced Nazis were sure that by killing those millions of Jews they were acting for the ultimate good of society and the world. There is an infamous speech of Himmler, held before a chosen SS public, in which he congratulates those men - those murderers - by saying that they have accomplished one of the most glorious chapters in history, but about which they must not talk. That they have stayed "decent" within that function and deserve the greatest praise. It's a horrible read - but it shows the ideology so openly as hardly any other text. A real Nazi did believe in what he was doing and had no remorse.

Of course, a lot of the actors of the Shoah just acted because of cowardice and/or own comfort, maybe fear. And very many just chose to look away. But the whole machinery of killing is not only possible because of the evil 10.000 who have worked in the camps, but because of the millions who are passive, look away. Where people protested, they actually achieved liberation of jews. The system is built on passivity and the will of the mass to take advantage on the few. Those who look away, who don't act, are evil too, imho. (Thus my belief in collective guilt). And they are in some weird way even more evil, because they don't believe in the ultimate reason behind the deportation and the ghettos. Thy know that something evil is happening, but they don't do anything about it. They act less evil than the camp guardians - but their motivations are worse.

Personally, I have written a lot about the origin and nature of evil and come to the conclusion that often - if not all the time- the conviction of doing good leads to evil. If you feel that your goal - be it religious or ideological - gives you the right to judge others morally inferior and to act according to that - it is a dangerous raod from then. So, somehow, I come to the conclusion that good creates evil. My other example is the inquisition. Certainly, the priests believed in the good of their religious principles - but their acts were evil. My huge mistrust towards religion also originates in that intimate conviction.

But this makes it very hard to define evil and also to find your own moral values according to which you act and judge - and to justifiy them in a coherent way for yourself and others.

I don't know if the discussion here is still in any way active, yet did not want to leave without any comment as the subject haunts me.

_________________
"nolite te bastardes carborundorum".


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2012 4:38 pm 
Offline
Best friends forever
User avatar

Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 10:33 pm
Posts: 11961
Location: Over there.
Thank you for posting that, Nin.

I see your point about "collective guilt", and it's a good point.

But whatever guilt there might have been in that generation, there is none in YOUR generation and I am so sorry that it haunts you.

Yet, it ought to haunt all of us. To be honest, it is a subject I can scarcely bear to think of, which is probably cowardly of me.

I might have told this story before and if so, I apologize for repeating it:

Some years ago CBC radio ran a weeklong documentary series about children in war. It was heartbreaking hearing, every day. But one day was worse.

A Jewish woman told of the day she and her mother were seized, and she was thrown into a boxcar going somewhere, she didn't know where. She lost track of her mother. As the train went along, she made her way to the back of the car and leaned on the wall. She told herself her mother was in the car behind, and after a day or so she began to imagine she could hear her mother speaking to her, singing to her.

It was at about this point in the story that I pulled off the road - I was listening in my car. I heard her tell of imagining her mother's voice and, of course, I knew what was coming next. I wanted to turn the radio off but I told myself, "This woman lived it, and I am so cowardly I can't listen?"

The train stopped and they were ordered out. She turned and saw there was no car behind.

Every story from those days is sad. Beyond sad. And we should all know those stories and isn't the idea that if we hear them, we'll make sure it never happens again?

I wish I thought that was true.

I don't believe in Evil as an entity. I think people do evil things. Not all people, not all the time. But enough of us - here and there around the world - to make a person despair that things will ever change.

_________________
Dig deeper.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2012 11:51 pm 
Offline
This is Rome

Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 10:48 pm
Posts: 5954
Location: Concrete Jungle by the Lagoon
vison wrote:
But whatever guilt there might have been in that generation, there is none in YOUR generation and I am so sorry that it haunts you.

Yet, it ought to haunt all of us. To be honest, it is a subject I can scarcely bear to think of, which is probably cowardly of me.


If we subscribe to the idea of collective guilt: there is indeed guilt in Nin's generation, and yours, and mine, and all other living generations of sufficient age. Our time has not been free from genocide - in Darfur and Rwanda, at least, and Western Europe was far too ready to shelter the alleged genocidaires in the years after the Rwandan massacre. Apart from genocide, Americans bear responsibility for the unnecessary suffering and deaths generated by our unwarranted military interventions overseas. And, at a micro level, many of us fail utterly to intervene in our own societies to stop the suffering of innocents. I consider the fact that there are parts of my city (let alone region) that I have never been to - you know, the "dangerous" parts where poverty begets crime. The fact is that innocent children are born into those "dangerous" parts of town where it's not safe to go, with no choice but to live there, be abused there, and often die prematurely there. And middle-class and upper-class citizens more or less react to that reality by trying to wall themselves off from it and ignoring it. They/we know it's occurring, but it's easier to ignore it and lead comfortable, cultured lives.

I have often participated in conversations in which the question is posed: if another Holocaust occurred today, what would we do? Would we be morally courageous, or would we join the passive millions whom Nin describes? The question allows us to distance ourselves comfortably from any responsibility to do anything in the present tense: after all, we live in genocide-free societies, so we can ponder philosophically what we would do if confronted with genocide. I submit that this is ridiculous: we already are the passive millions.

Unless you are fortunate to live in a society that is free of suffering, the answer to the question of what you would do if confronted with the Holocaust is probably found in your personal actions (or inaction) with respect to what's going on in your own society, right now. If you aren't working to abate the abuse and suffering and death that is occurring in your society right now, then what are the odds that you are going to endure much greater risk and personal suffering to help a group to which you don't belong that is targeted for genocide in the future? (For those who are fortunate to live in suffering-free societies, the "World" section of your local newspaper will direct you to the international suffering that requires your attention and intervention.)

I more or less agree with this statement of Nin's, except that I might soften "are evil" to "are guilty of condoning and facilitating evil": Those who look away, who don't act, are evil too, imho. (Thus my belief in collective guilt). But only if we apply that statement to ourselves and to our own failures to act to stop suffering and death ... not only self-righteously and retrospectively to the extreme failings of a previous generation.

_________________
I won't just survive
Oh, you will see me thrive
Can't write my story
I'm beyond the archetype
I won't just conform
No matter how you shake my core
'Cause my roots, they run deep, oh

When, when the fire's at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They're whispering, "You're out of time,"
But still I rise
This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in, think again
Don't be surprised, I will still rise


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2012 1:23 am 
Offline
Best friends forever
User avatar

Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 10:33 pm
Posts: 11961
Location: Over there.
You're hard, nerdanel.

But you're right.

_________________
Dig deeper.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2012 1:49 am 
Offline
This is Rome

Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 10:48 pm
Posts: 5954
Location: Concrete Jungle by the Lagoon
I am hard on myself because I have a job that exposes me vicariously to the extreme suffering that occurs in impoverished sectors of American society. We make much ado in court about everyone's failures (parents, teachers, the police, the juvenile justice system, extended family, the adult justice system, etc.) to intervene constructively to help once-innocent children who have not remained so. But far from this exposure's strengthening my resolve to go work on the underlying issue in real time, to help today's children, I find that it leaves me exhausted and I desire to hide from the problem. I find comfort in the wandering the scenic, upper-class streets of San Francisco's higher-end neighborhoods with their boutique shops and appreciating the views, spending lazy afternoons wine tasting with friends in Napa's vineyards, and hiking amidst the charming redwoods. I crave things that are quiet and peaceful and clean and safe and familiar. I would prefer not to encounter - any more than I already am - the pain, fear, risk, and danger occurring in neighborhoods some of which are only minutes away from any of the aforementioned scenic vistas.

So I am Exhibit A of the "passive millions." When I think about who in our society has the moral standing to condemn the inaction of previous generations in response to genocide, hmm. Maybe folks like these. See also here. These are people who could have escaped their roots in violence-ridden communities, but instead are risking their own lives to try to save others from the violence that had sucked them in, earlier in their lives. Yes, that sounds scary and extreme, and most of us don't want to risk our lives to help others - perhaps especially when those others hail from cultures and neighborhoods and lifestyles to which we don't relate. (And, of course, there are many things that we can do to help these efforts without directly risking our lives, and we also often fail to do those safer things, too.) But isn't that what we're faulting the passive Europeans of the 1930s and 1940s for failing to do? Of course, the scale of the suffering is far different - but I actually think that exonerates us still less: even when confronted with lesser evils we are falling so very short.

_________________
I won't just survive
Oh, you will see me thrive
Can't write my story
I'm beyond the archetype
I won't just conform
No matter how you shake my core
'Cause my roots, they run deep, oh

When, when the fire's at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They're whispering, "You're out of time,"
But still I rise
This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in, think again
Don't be surprised, I will still rise


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2012 3:55 am 
Offline
Throw me a rope.
User avatar

Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 11:13 pm
Posts: 5941
Location: Deep in Oz
nerdanel wrote:
So I am Exhibit A of the "passive millions."


No, you are not. You are not a bystander; you are an upstander, dedicating your career, right now, to doing something about the injustice you see in your own back yard.

And, by the way, that does not mean you should not, or do not deserve, to enjoy "the scenic, upper-class streets of San Francisco's higher-end neighborhoods with their boutique shops and appreciating the views, spending lazy afternoons wine tasting with friends in Napa's vineyards, and hiking amidst the charming redwoods." Quite the contrary.

_________________
Mornings wouldn't suck so badly if they came later in the day.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2012 6:47 am 
Offline
Living in hope
User avatar

Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 12:43 am
Posts: 39536
Location: Sailing the luminiferous aether
nel, you would be exhibit A if you thought yourself completely entitled to the things you treasure with no need to consider those who can't have them. But that is not the case.

With your gifts, you'll do more actual good in your life than most of us will or can. And some of that power came from your privilege.

Nothing should be wasted. You won't waste it.

_________________
“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2012 1:49 pm 
Offline
Pleasantly Twisted
User avatar

Joined: Tue Apr 18, 2006 6:35 pm
Posts: 8996
Location: Black Creek Bottoms
Quote:
Then since the gifts that we have differ according to the grace that was given to each of us: if it is a gift of prophecy, we should prophesy as much as our faith tells us; if it is a gift of practical service, let us devote ourselves to serving; if it is teaching, to teaching; if it is encouraging, to encouraging. When you give, you should give generously from the heart; if you are put in charge, you must be conscientious; if you do works of mercy, let it be because you enjoy doing them. Let love be without any pretence.


The apostle Paul, Romans, Chapter 12.

Not everyone is equipped to work the same way. This isn't just religion, this is good management. Nel, you are doing what you are most suited for, and certainly best trained for, right now. As the years go by, you may discover or grow new gifts, and you can bring them to bear as well.

I don't believe in collective guilt, but I do believe in mob psychology and the madness of crowds. It is easier to persuade a million wishy-washy people than change the mind of one person with a strongly held conviction. Of course, this cuts both ways...

_________________

Resentment is no excuse for baldface stupidity.
-- Garrison Keillor

Image


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2012 3:01 pm 
Offline
Hobbit
User avatar

Joined: Wed Mar 15, 2006 7:45 pm
Posts: 5245
Location: Missouri
When I lived in Germany, one of my neighbors and I somehow got into a discussion about Hitler. She was an older woman, and felt betrayed by the whole thing. "We trusted him!" she told me, and was on the verge of getting terribly upset so I dropped the subject.

A terrible sense of betrayal was her overriding feeling about that part of her past, though.

For what that's worth.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2012 6:57 pm 
Offline
Ni Dieu, ni maître
User avatar

Joined: Tue Dec 20, 2005 6:19 pm
Posts: 1795
Location: Home
Nel, I agree with you about the guilt of the actual generation, although I would have chosen an different example, maybe because I live in a country where social problems are not the same and where street violence is an exception. After all, my entire country has less inhabitants than a city like New York.

My example is our lifestyle: we do create misery. And in a way in which we don't see it, we still have slavery. We waste natural ressources daily and pollute the life of future generations.

But all of this is not comparable to a genocide like the Shoah. Nobody tears ours neighbours away to kill them. It is easier to support an evil which you don't see or feel than to hate or to hit actively. And you don't look away like the passive millions. You know what is happening and don't see your world as the perfect world. That is walking with open eyes - and it is the condition which, when someone is actively threatened right next to you, you will stand up.

Now, with age helping, I do feel less guilty. When I was younger, it could happen that I denied being German. I could not look at older persons without wandering: what have you done? Because it was not at all a hypothetic question like in the conversations described, but a very real question. When I was a teenager, every person older than 60 was a potential murderer to me, a coward, someone who looked away. Of course my grand-mothers were. I regarded them as evil - and still loved them. And I clearly felt like having to pay for that inability ot condemn.

My sister went twice to Israel to work in a kibbuz. I studied history. And as a teacher, I think that this is my vocation: to make students able to see the evil happening right next to them. To open their eyes for being priviledged. To stand up if a student in one of my classes is mocked. To read uncomfortable things and to ask uncomfortable questions. Not to close my eyes.

Working actively is much harder. Matthias is doing his share better than me, somehow with his projects in Burkina (at least, I feel it). Until last year, I gave free support lessons for children of poorer families. This year, I have a bad schedule, I can't.

Yet, it is a hard way also not to fall into some kind of masochism. I have not chosen to be born "on the right side".

To come back on the topic of the nature of evil: something that frightens me a lot is that there seems no protection against becoming evil. Many of the SS were academics, men with culture, not brutes. Most of them had a family and children. In Sebrenica, people were killed by lifelong neighbours. What can protect us from becoming eveil? Culture? Awareness? Religion? Philosophy? Sheer luck? Sometimes, it is hard to continue my job without being sure of any result in that regard.

Maria, many Germans of that generation did not want to talk about the Nazi period. Many felt betrayed, because they were told working for some higher cause, for the general good of their people - and they did believe it and close their eyes to the rest. I also honestly believe that many Germans, although they realized that the Jews were away did not imagine that they were all killed. Who can imagine that? And why question what you don't see when what you see is like a paradise?

_________________
"nolite te bastardes carborundorum".


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2012 9:49 pm 
Offline
Pleasantly Twisted
User avatar

Joined: Tue Apr 18, 2006 6:35 pm
Posts: 8996
Location: Black Creek Bottoms
Quote:
something that frightens me a lot is that there seems no protection against becoming evil. Many of the SS were academics, men with culture, not brutes. Most of them had a family and children. In Sebrenica, people were killed by lifelong neighbours. What can protect us from becoming eveil? Culture? Awareness? Religion? Philosophy? Sheer luck? Sometimes, it is hard to continue my job without being sure of any result in that regard.


A hard question to answer, Nin, because one can come up with historical scenarios where any or all of those have failed.

_________________

Resentment is no excuse for baldface stupidity.
-- Garrison Keillor

Image


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 33 posts ]  Go to page Previous  1, 2

All times are UTC


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
cron
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group