Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Short History of Bad Ideas (I): The Victims

Do we truly know the nature of the ideas we believe in? Do we know their pedigree? And what will ensue once implemented? Does it matter if what we tacitly condone or passionately advocate is true, or a figment of wishful thinking? Are the ideals we strive for really what we want? Or do we simply further them because they sound good and the mere intention suggests we have 'ethics' on our side? Does the vocal advocacy of such ideals absolve us from further acting in the real world? And do our good intentions remove the guild if our image of earthly paradise turns out to be a dystopia instead? And do we stand by them nevertheless, and blame their operators, or someone else?

One book helps clarify some of those questions. It is a must read for anyone with an interest in the workings of our world and the terrifying ideals that got us where we are today. “Lenin, Stalin and Hitler” by Robert Gellately, suitably subtitled “The Age of Social Catastrophe” charts the tragic course of history in the first half of the last century (Vintage Books/Random House, August 2008). Gellately is Professor of History at Florida State University and author of earlier books on National Socialism, among others “Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany.” From the Introduction:

“Only weeks after the Russian Revolution the Bolsheviks created secret police forces far more brutal than any that had existed under the tsar [sic]. The Nazis followed suit and were no sooner in power than they instituted the dreaded Gestapo. Under both regimes millions of people were incarcerated in concentration camps where they were tortured and frequently worked to death.”

Clever propaganda set in motion after WWII by the Soviets made Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist Party the essence of evil, a comparative process in which they themselves came out far better than deserved, while in fact hence one, Lenin and Stalin had set the standard of brutality in waging a relentless class extermination war on their own people that lasted from 1917, until at least Stalin's death in 1953. The Gulags for political prisoners were dismantled only after the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In what has become a frequent meme in Leftist theory, Stalin's perversion and mismanagement was to carry the can for the political crimes, the willful cruelty and the mass atrocities, while the theory and its main intellectual fathers, Marx and Lenin, came out unblemished: a lofty ideal so badly served by some of its leaders. Some maintain it to this day.

Kant's ethics of good intentions (deontology) did the rest for absolving Socialism and its related isms as ideologies, not tainted with evil, but ligitimate systems of governance. Under the blanket cover of Pragmatism the U.N. and other transnational entities now actively help broker it into power, for instance recently in the Himalaya Mountains nation of Nepal. Thanks to moral relativism President Reagan's Evil Empire has no heir-apparent.

Taking advantage of cheap vacation packages on the subtropical island dystopia of the Castro Brothers is no longer shameful opportunism. Shunning bargain price items made in the People's Hive of Vietnam no longer deemed a sign of moral backbone. The People's Republic of China - its human rights violating regime provided with legitimacy in the process - was awarded the hosting of the prestigious Olympic Games (not to mention trade deals): the Tibetans and their advocacy groups aside, no one batters as much as an eyelid.

In other words, while Rightist collectivism is forever tainted by history, Leftist collectivism came away smelling of roses. De-nazification gave way to mere lustrations, international treaties to protect dissidents made way for communistic apologists reinventing themselves as “the party of liberty”. From moral absolutes, to Realpolitik, to amoral Pragmatism within the course of sixty years.

British Independent Television News recently aired a documentary compiled just after WWII by the renowned suspense film director, Alfred Hitchcock. The work was withheld by the post war government because it was deemed to gruesome to be shown: it is gruesome. The eyeless poison dwarf of Tehran should be tortured with it - Clockwork Orange style - as some reverse aversion therapy against victim envy!

The end of the documentary comes as a shock. The narrative concludes as follows:

“Unless the world learns the lesson these pictures teach, night will fall.
But by God's Grace we will live, will learn.”

Perhaps the biggest drama is yet to come, because we didn't internalize in essence what made these horrors possible: not moral absolutism, but moral relativism; not hard facts, but the subjective denial of them; not reason, but contempt for it; not man as an individual, but his coining in groups; not the defense of the good, but the appeasment of evil: more of it might still be in store; that the millions of victims, and the last generation's defenders of freedom will have died in vain, is a horrible realization on US Memorial Day!

Read here how opinion and the freedom to vent it, are confused with denial of reality - whether the Holocaust happened is apparently a matter of personal taste! Where are the calls for land marks and memorial days, to be held in honor of the Victims of Collectivism, all 110 million of them? 

Where's the outrage over today's human sacrifices taking place in the Dar-al-Islam, Cuba and Kathmandu, to name but a few crisis spots? Thrown under the bus of Pragmatism in the name of the false idealism no one thinks worth fighting for, beyond gratuitously taking the streets to protest those governments that take freedom seriously.

Watching the blank faces of the villagers in complete denial of the pits of hell that were erected just outside their chocolate box villages, the SS men and women as they are confronted with the mass graves and the wretches that survived their evil works, one cannot help wondering, what made these people condone and commit these horrendous acts? Wasn't Germany supposed to be the most educated, most cultured and most sophisticated country in Europe?

The answer is, it was the ideas in their heads that made them do it. This is how vulnerable man is: stray from reality one inattentive moment and the descent into Hades ensues.

In the upcoming posts we will pursue the matter further. Here's Alfred Hitchcock's other “Psycho” (with a word of caution for those reluctant to face facts).


- "Triumph of the Will", a propaganda film directed by German artist and photographer, Leni Riefenstahl featuring the 1934 Nazi rally at Nurnberg.

- To be continued to Part II: "Blueprint for Paradise"

- Filed on Articles in "The Dystopia of Paradise" -


JD said...

The tide is turning. Collectivism's failures are more apparent with the passing of each day. JD.

James Higham said...

Kant's ethics of good intentions (deontology) did the rest for absolving Socialism and its related isms as ideologies, not tainted with evil, but ligitimate systems of governance.

Wish I'd checked here before running my anti-positivism post.

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