Category Archives: Culture

Six Billion Eichmanns

Not long ago I blogged about the gathering clouds of a holocaust of Muslims, especially in Europe: “A future Holocaust of Muslims? Letter to BBC’s ‘Any Questions’”  (11-Feb-06 1:56pm):

The Western reaction to the brouhaha about those idiotic Danish cartoons has been […] [about[ flaunting the “superiority” of Western culture […] making no distinction between millions and millions of peaceful Muslims and a handful of violent protesters

[…] “superior Western Culture” (especially European) cannot deal with the concept of properly respecting, or even letting exist an “alien” minority in their midst. Look at what happened to indigenous Americans in the North and the South, to the Aborigines in Australia. Think what happened to the Jews. […]

With the security services busily imprisoning people for the crime of “wrong religion” (or “wrong beard”, or even “wrong hydrogen peroxide”), the forecast remains uncertainly pessimistic.

This sounds preposterous: I have been told that Western civilisation has come a long way from the 1930s, that Law is definitely the Rule now, that human rights are enshrined in too many bills and constitutions.

Maybe. Would our forefathers have believed that they were going to become genocidal? Who could have thought about Auschwitz in the Germany of Bertold Brecht and Karl Valentin? Who was expecting the Sarajevo of the 1984 Winter Olympics become a territory of war and massacres barely 8 (eight) years later?

Of course, we are better than out ancestors. Of course we can learn from their experience. Too bad that’s exactly what they would have said of themselves.

Of course we are better than Germans in the 1930s-1940s, or Jugoslavians in 1992, or Rwandans in 1994. Too bad the very act of pretending that we are better than anybody else, is fundamentally anti-Christian, hence a betrayal of whatever good has been produced by “Western Civilisation”

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In truth, we have been killing our own citizens too many a century to seriously believe things are different this time around. What then can help us prevent any reversion to our old thirst for killing friends and foes?

(1) Acknowledging that things are not well: and that they are not well, with us as individuals.

No need to believe my words: here is what David Cesarani writes about the ordinary nature of evil (“Becoming Eichmann: Rethinking the Life, Crimes, and Trial of a ‘Desk Murderer’”, Capo Press; reviewed by Barry Gewen on the New York Times, May 12, 2006 in “A portrait of Eichmann as an ordinary man”)

Under the right circumstances, normal people will commit mass murder, [Cesarani] says, and the circumstances of our age – with its racism, ethnic cleansing, suicide bombers and genocidal killings – are ominous. “Eichmann appears more and more like a man of our time,” are his concluding words. “Everyman as génocidaire.”

It is important to note that Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi war criminal tried and hanged in Israel in 1961, was no rabid anti-semite

In Austria, Eichmann had Jewish friends, was employed by Jews […], had Jewish relatives by marriage. […] it wasn’t anti- Semitism that led Eichmann into the party. […] The turning point came after 1941, when forced emigration gave way to genocide. Under the pressure of his new duties, Eichmann changed.

(2) Keeping in mind that idealistic political goals are the more likely to ruin us, the more wonderful they look on paper (and in mind)

A poignant example is provided by French philosopher BHL (from an interview by Jan Tunku Varadarajan of the Wall Street Journal, Jan 23, 2006):

When the Hegel of modern times will write this history, he will say that the real crucial event was Cambodia…Because till Cambodia all the revolutionaries in the world believed that revolution had failed because it didn’t go far enough, because it wasn’t radical enough…The first revolution in history to be really radical…And what we discover, all of us? Instead of paradise, revolution gives absolute hell.

Tellingly, it took years for the Cambodian crimes to be fully recognised by leftist parties, just as the enormous numbers of dead Chinese peasants during the Great Leap Forward at the end of the 1950s did not impede cultured “progressive” intellectuals from supporting Chairman Mao to his death and beyond

(3) Refusing and repudiating any talk of us-vs-them, and all forms of political propaganda capitalizing on division and even the slightest hint of hate

Here again BHL in the same interview:

We are engaged in a war against terrorism, but the war is a political one, not a religious one, not a civilization one…It is suicide to say that this is a civilization war, because if it is such, it is an endless war, bloc against bloc. If you say “political” you make a bet on the outcome

(4) Keeping in check the societies and cultures each one of us belongs to, instead pontificating on what is wrong in other societies and other cultures

If, say, you believe it is your duty to “defend Western Civilization” then it is your duty to understand and put into practice the old saying about motes and beams. Otherwise, you are betraying the deep root of your very cause

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Gewen ends his commentary in hopeful despair, talking about Hanna Arendt, who wrote several reports for The New Yorker at the time of Eichmann’s trial, and a book, “Eichmann in Jerusalem

Arendt’s approach was unyieldingly universalistic. Her analysis of Eichmann was a demand for individual responsibility, an insistence on the need constantly to exercise personal choice, whatever society might dictate. This is a cold ethic, as severe as Kant’s, so difficult it has a quality of the inhuman about it. For who among us can maintain the unceasing moral awareness she calls for?

And yet, we ought to strive at least for that goal.

So please do keep vigilant.

It took just half a decade to get a failed minority party into an organization of thousands getting trained for mass murderers. In the age of the Internet it may take far shorter a time than that

Borders that matter

From "A Muso Duro" (Marco Belpoliti, La Stampa, 20 June 2006 (in italian)):

In truth the geographic divide in the Italian Peninsula is not between the North and the South, but between East and West. The Italian "Boot" is more tilted than it appears in classrooms' maps, and it is possible to travel from North to South on the Adriatic side without crossing any mountain: from Venice to Bari there is no separation clear border, apart from the Po, which it is not a true dividing line between North and South (are Emilia and Romagna regions of the Italian South?). The geographers have explained to us for a long time that the true geographic difference in Italy is that between the Adriatic and the Tyrrhenian sides, even if it is obvious that the cultures follow the "geographic quotas", and the differences between the villages placed East or West of the Appennini are never clear-cut

This is not just a phenomenon of the Appennini

Think of the Alps, where cultures have diffused among the mountains: therefore distributing themselves across the watersheds, instead of considering those like border lines

Mountain chains all over the planet (look at the Caucasus, the Himalayas, the Rocky Mountains), looking to the modern eye like "natural borders", have been demonstrated time and again as lines of union, and not of separation

A "geographic border" with more important social consequences exists, and it is the border between those within easy approach of great ways of communication, and those far away or on the periphery: the wealth of the Po Valley instead of the history of poverty on the surrounding mountains; the powerful economy of the close-to-Europe Italian North, instead of the perennial crisis of the faraway Italian South; and looking at other countries, the opulence of Paris and London instead of the marginalization of their peripheries

What’s wrong with David Irving

Writes Michael Shermer on the May 3rd, 2005 edition of the eSkeptic newsletter (titled “Enigma: The Faustian Bargain of David Irving”)

If you really want to silence David Irving, treat him with silence.

I agree with that, up to a point: because the matter with Irving could be interpreted as an issue of freedom of speech, and as such it deserves clarification.

Should people fighting for such a freedom organize what Christopher Hitchens called a Fair Play for Irving Committee?

Maybe not.

And I disagree with Mr Shermer, who in response to the Austrian authorities decision to imprison Irving, recommended to “let David Irving go” in the March 2nd, 2006 eSkeptic newsletter (“Giving the Devil His Due”)

Again to Shermer:

The enigma emerges from the fact that he is, at one and the same time, brilliant and bellicose, deviously clever and devilishly deceptive—a man who “coulda’ been a contenda” but instead morphed into a pretender…it is a great waste of a great talent. How and why did this happen?

In my opinion, Irving’s self-deception began when he entered the Magic Circle [i.e., the surviving former Hitler confidants]. […] Hitler, he explained, “had attracted a garniture of high-level educated people around him. The secretaries were top-flight secretaries. The adjutants were people who had gone through university or through staff college and had risen through their own abilities to the upper levels of the military service.” These Hitler confidants were well-educated and they spoke highly of their Führer. Who was Irving to argue?

As an example just look at the story Dr. Shermer himself reports at the bottom of that same newsletter “Post Script on Irving & the Eichmann Papers”: in which it is explained how Irving found a way to deny the existence of a direct order by Hitler for the Holocaust in face of a very clear phrase written by Adolf Eichmann in his memoirs: "The Führer has ordered the extermination of the Jews"

Freedom of speech does not mean freedom to deceive