Friday, May 23, 2008

The heart of darkness

If you're so inclined, it is possible to live in a brand-new condo built just a few meters from the walls and barbed wire of the Dachau Concentration Camp. ... Dachau is huge. It would take about an hour just to walk around all of the grounds. Approximately 30,000 prisoners (1,173 of them German) were living there upon liberation in 1945. The site is thoroughly reminiscent of a huge public high school, assuming your public school had an original Arbeit Macht Frei gate, a gas chamber (never used), or a Krematorium..

The medieval town of Dachau is now a suburb of Munich and the S-Bahn will whisk you there in a few minutes. I went straight from the Munich airport. At 170 kph, my Turkish cab driver simply followed the signs to Stuttgart and then turned off at the Dachau exit. As we approached the town of Dachau, there were signs directing us to the camp (a huge McDonald's sign is also a good landmark).

The camp seems to be open from 9-5 every day except Mondays.

-- Philip Greenspun.

Some amateur video of the camp taken by someone else.

And some words -- just words -- spoken at a French beach nearly a quarter of a century ago. The deeds had come forty years before.

Here in Normandy the rescue began. Here the Allies stood and fought against tyranny in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.

The air is soft, but 40 years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June, 1944, 225 Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs. ... The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers--the edge of the cliffs shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting, only 90 could still bear arms.

Behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there.

These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent.

The drama is easy to follow. The hard thing to accept is that both the crime and the rescue were acts in the same play. Anyone who reads Niall Ferguson's The War of the World, the chronicle of the Long War; the First and Second World Wars -- which were essentially one conflict within Western Civilization -- can glut himself on the origins of the crime. Auden observed that:

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:

But how do we account for the redemption? Do we calculate the actions of the boys of Pointe du Hoc in the same coin of sadism and cruelty that were the wages of the SS guards at Dachau? Surely they were both the same human flesh. And yet they they were different in some invisible way. And if Auden believes that we live in an endless cycle of revenge, "I and the public know what all schoolchildren learn, those to whom evil is done do evil in return," then the springs of sacrifice and charity that keep evil in check and maintain the world on its axis stand as the greatest unsolved mystery of all. My thoughts on reading Ferguson's War of the World were why did it stop?

It is the occasional flower -- the existence of the anomaly -- that stands between the mind and the theory that world is as evil as it seems. At Pointe du Hoc, and even within Dachau itself there were hints that something else was at work. Just a glimpse; a mere glimmer. The only light unto our times.




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49 Comments:

Blogger Teresita said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/23/2008 06:39:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Good connection of the topic to Auden.

From the same poem:

"Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

"Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism¹s face
And the international wrong."

I don't think any of my kids has ever read Auden in high school or college. That says something, I guess.

If readers haven't read "The Shield of Achilles," proceed immediately to Go, collect poem. It's a great commentary on the modern condition of acquiescence to violence. The volume "About the House" perhaps provides some semblance of a response, ten years later.

5/23/2008 07:28:00 AM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

And how did Hephaestus fashion Achilles' shield? In the Iliad's Book 18 we learn that civilization is defended by many things. And its principle walls are religion, commerce, learning, laughter, justice and love. Only at the last does hard bronze come into the reckoning.

On that shield Hephaestus next set a soft and fallow field,
fertile spacious farmland, which had been ploughed three times. ...

Then he pictured on the shield a king's landed estate,
where harvesters were reaping corn, using sharp sickles.
Armfuls of corn were falling on the ground in rows,
one after the other. Binders were tying them up
in sheaves with twisted straw. Three binders stood there.
Behind the reapers, boys were gathering the crop,
bringing it to sheaf-binders, keeping them occupied.
Among them stood the king, a sceptre in his hand,
there by the stubble, saying nothing, but with pleasure
in his heart. Some distance off, under an oak tree,
heralds were setting up a feast, dressing a huge ox
which they'd just killed. Women were sprinkling white barley
on the meat in large amounts for the workers' meal.

Next, Hephaestus placed on that shield a vineyard,
full of grapes made of splendid gold. ...
Young girls and carefree lads with wicker baskets
were carrying off a crop as sweet as honey.
In the middle of them all, a boy with a clear-toned lyre
played pleasant music, singing the Song of Linos,
in his delicate fine voice. His comrades kept time,
beating the ground behind him, singing and dancing.

Then he set on the shield a herd of straight-horned cattle,
with cows crafted out of gold and tin. They were lowing
as they hurried out from farm to pasture land,
beside a rippling river lined with waving reeds.
The herdsmen walking by the cattle, four of them,
were also made of gold. Nine swift-footed dogs
ran on behind. But there, at the front of the herd,
two fearful lions had seized a bellowing bull.
They were dragging him off, as he roared aloud.
The dogs and young men were chasing after them.
The lions, after ripping open the great ox's hide,
were gorging on its entrails, on its black blood,
as herdsmen kept trying in vain to chase them off,
setting their swift dogs on them. But, fearing the lions,
the dogs kept turning back before they nipped them,
and stood there barking, close by but out of reach. ...

Next on that shield, the celebrated lame god made
an elaborately crafted dancing floor, like the one
Daedalus created long ago in spacious Cnossus,
for Ariadne with the lovely hair. On that floor,
young men and women whose bride price would require
many cattle were dancing, holding onto one another
by the wrists. The girls wore fine linen dresses,
the men lightly rubbed with oil wore woven tunics.
...

On that shield, Hephaestus then depicted Ocean,
the mighty river, flowing all around the outer edge.

When he'd created that great and sturdy shield,
he fashioned body armour brighter than blazing fire,
a heavy helmet shaped to fit Achilles' temples,
beautiful and finely worked, with a gold crest on top.
Then he made him leg guards of finely hammered tin.


The Shield of Achilles is nine tenths culture and one part force. Within the circle of the shield even boys may oppose ravening lions. Not just the Hero bears the burden.

The greatest danger that moral relativism poses is that it disarms us of our greatest defense. Our belief; our culture; our ideals. The intangibles that made the Boys of Pointe du Hoc different from the guards at Dachau. They say there is no right or wrong; that all cultures are equal. But then the hero would be disarmed, save for his slender greaves of tin.

5/23/2008 07:49:00 AM  
Blogger Asher Abrams said...

A FLOWER GROWS ON A WAR-SCARRED GROUND
(Munda Point)

On this island Mars still plays his hand.
The beach is quiet now; he has moved inland.
Beneath the sun, men toil;
Digging, clearing, piling soil on soil.
Between them and the sea - a fringe of sand.

On this fringe of sand Mars left his seal.
Here, craters deep abound: imprints of his heel
In some the sea has crept;
Others remain empty - all except
For flowers, growing there with quiet zeal.

A flower grows on a war-scarred ground
Amid man's shattered tools of war strewn around.
Amid war's after-gloom
It flourishes, hanging bloom on bloom.
How strange a home this zinnia has found!
It is not alone here on the beach;
Yonder springs - oh, if it could only reach! -
Another common flower,
Dainty, fragile, holding yet some power
To draw its strength from the reluctant beach.

Zinnia and petunia, hand in hand
In Mother's garden casually appearing
Now in this almost flowerless land
Become at once exotic, rare, endearing.
- anonymous American soldier in the Pacific


http://pacificmemories.blogspot.com/

5/23/2008 07:57:00 AM  
Blogger RattlerGator said...

Keep it up, Wretchard. Stay strong; this is why I love your blog:

The greatest danger that moral relativism poses is that it disarms us of our greatest defense.

It has to be said. Over and over, and then again. The unseriousness of these times cannot last.

5/23/2008 08:15:00 AM  
Blogger exhelodrvr1 said...

"Our belief; our culture; our ideals. The intangibles that made the Boys of Pointe du Hoc different from the guards at Dachau. They say there is no right or wrong; that all cultures are equal."

Interesting "take" on all cultures being equal: One of my uncles was killed in Normandy, about a week after D-Day; CO of a heavy weapons platoon. (1st and 2nd Lts in the infantry had about a 90% casualty rate in that period.) He grew up speaking German - his mom and all his grandparents came from Germany in the late 1800's, and settled in a very "German-heavy" community in North Dakota. So he was just a generation removed from potentially being in the SS. What was the difference? The culture!

5/23/2008 08:53:00 AM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

"The Boys of Pointe du Hoc" --Ronald Reagan's speech at Normandy was broadcast on the evening news that day, and that phrase -- just blew me away. Did it again just now, reading the post. Thanks.

5/23/2008 09:56:00 AM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

Pope Benedict XVI --is it too soon to call him Defender of the Faith? --in his words returns again and again to that phrase 'moral relativism'. He seems to be directing us --RC and otherwise alike --toward facing our Nemesis.

It makes one wonder, in this thread wondering how the Army Rangers and the Dachau SS so wholly diverged, where did this ''moral relativism'' come from -- what exists, or existed, as the other side of THAT coin?

5/23/2008 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger joe buz said...

My dad was in Company K of 325thGIR, 82nd Airborne Div. and turned 18 years of age while helping push the Germans all the way back to Berlin. During the occupation of Berlin he was part of the vaunted Honor Guard company that impressed even Gen. Patton. Yes, those men had some spirit and pride in their mission as well as their Nation!

5/23/2008 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

So he was just a generation removed from potentially being in the SS. What was the difference? The culture!

Do we think that Muslims born in America will give in to the "culture" and turn their backs on the hatred they have been bred into?

They haven't in England, France, or Germany -- so if they *do* in America, why would that be?

Personally, I don't think they will. I think they'll need to be expelled and banned from being Real Americans, ever, the whole herd of them.

5/23/2008 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger Benj said...

I missed the Reagan's speech - but a friend of mine wrote a pretty amazing appreciation of the more recent D-Day Anniv celebrations...Here's an excerpt...

To a sufficiently cold and severe moral imagination, Verdun can be merely a monument to cruelty and error and folly – sacrifice alone does not gild slaughter – but Omaha Beach is not, and cannot be. The combination of necessary means and urgent ends defeats any effort to mute the significance of what happened there, and even fairly cranky Europeans seemed to know it. And the moments of real imaginative or physical proximity to what happened sixty years ago were eerily potent.

After the ceremony, the crowd ebbing back to the buses, we bumped into a lively, sturdy octogenarian accompanied by two gigantic and affable middle-aged sons, the older guy a veteran of the 16th Infantry, one of the two regiments that first landed on Omaha Beach. He was Ed Jeskey, a Polish-American retired auto worker with a sense of humor: “it’s an Irish name.” When queried, he announced that he’d been in F Co – which if my memory serves, took 91% casualties – and he’d hit the beach in the first wave: “nothing in front of me except a fish, pal!” Bumping into him and his sons a couple of days later, you learned a bit more. Within a very few minutes, Jeskey was the only survivor of his platoon. He was skeptical about films of men running up the beach to attack the German fortifications – he thought it had taken him ten hours to crawl ten yards – and proud of the fact that to the best of his knowledge, sick with swallowed seawater, amid omnipresent shelling and machinegun fire, he’d been the first American to take a shit in France. It was a cheerfully self-mocking and in part anti-heroic story, yet according to Jeskey’s sons, when he saw current members of the First Infantry Division at the cemetery, he pumped his fist and shouted “Big Red One!” And they pumped their fists too, and shouted back: “Big Red One! Wahoo!” Maybe pumping your fist, grinning and shouting is mere theatricality. Or maybe that’s the real part, and joking about how frightened you were is the theatre.

Jeskey seemed impervious to what the French commentariat had taken to calling the paradox of June 6th. It wasn’t always entirely clear what they meant by this, but the paradox seemed to result from a collision of the lingering (sometimes grudging, sometimes palpably sincere) French enthusiasm for being liberated with the broad French loathing of the American and British attempt to extend what was described as a similar favor to the Iraqis. The French commentariat insisted that these efforts had nothing whatever in common, and that the two Americas – Bush’s and Roosevelt’s – had nothing in common, either. That same week, Le Monde ran a headline speculating on the date for the construction of an American Gulag, and one striking proposal sought to deny Bush access to France on the 60th anniversary: Bush led an America that “does not chase out an occupier, but occupies, does not crush oppressors, but oppresses, does not chase out an invader, but invades, does not crush fascism, but nurtures its ‘Islamist’ form.” To most Anglo-American eyes this list of antitheses, while disturbing, was imperfectly persuasive: the Americans and British had crushed one form of Iraqi fascism at the risk of abetting another, they had removed an Iraqi oppressor while at least a few of them had resorted to some shameful oppressive tactics themselves, etc. But these smaller paradoxes did not aggregate to a vast and paralyzing paradox of June 6th. The Anglo-American mind may be less supple than the Gallic journalistic mind tends to be – these paradoxes were troubling, rather than dispositive, and they were less airily entertaining to the reader than they’d probably been to the writer – but after fuller consideration, they did not seem irresolvable. Speculation about an imminent American gulag suggested an imperfect familiarity with Mogadan, Vorkuta and Kolyma.

And the paradox of June 6th lost some of its tension in the face of the trouble various European opponents of the Iraq war had in getting their story straight. Up the beach at Arromanches, Schroeder was insisting that Germany, too, had been liberated on D Day. None of the vets on my tour remembered the Germans welcoming this liberation with any great enthusiasm: a number of them still carried scars, and a few shrapnel, which they thought testimony to the imperfect German appreciation for their efforts. In 1944 and ‘45, the Germans had resisted their liberation much more strenuously than the Iraqis had in 2003, and if thousands of Iraqis were trying to blow up their liberators a year on, and mutilate their corpses, this may have been because the liberators didn’t have any French troops with them: back in ‘45, the French had replied to terror aimed at their occupation force with extremely effective mass reprisals. A darker thought intruded – maybe it was because the British and Americans had taken fewer pains to spare German civilian lives in the process of liberation, and those civilian deaths may have finally soured the Germans on war. When truly aroused, the Americans and British practiced terror wholesale: retail terror as a resistance tactic may not have seemed a very promising approach in 1945. In any case, Schroeder seemed to think that Germans could be liberated despite their striking lack of cooperation in the process, although he did not seem to have worked out that this was a dangerously suggestive argument, one capable of extension from the Rhine to the Euphrates.

And as it happened, not all the civilian dead had been German: many thousands of French civilians had died in the course of the Normandy invasion and the subsequent fighting. Perhaps this was some part of what the French meant by the paradox of June 6th. But while the reporters made a few attempts to imply that those civilian deaths dissolved any moral credit that might otherwise have attended the US and British destruction of a tyranny, this move did not seem to catch on. Most of the French seemed to understand that freeing France was worth civilian casualties. They were at least as confident that freeing Iraq from Saddam wasn’t. Maybe that was because the French and Germans had grown more tender-hearted over sixty years (although the Algerians, the Tutsi and the Bosnian Muslims, inter alia, might have doubted this interpretation). Or maybe they just cared less about other people’s liberty than they did about their own. A most ingenious paradox, that French paradox of June 6th, but it resisted easy unpacking."

Back to Now & Memorial Day & the issue of Moral relativism. IThe fact that I missed Reagan's tribute is probably a sign of a certain failure of imagination - I wasn't all that alive to that Moment - and that's on me (and my leftish kind?) But - guess who's been doing some educating of a younger gen (of left-leaners) on that front. Obama regularly invokes and connects the struggle of the Jesskeys in Europe with the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement...On this front I thought Clubbers might be interested in the Ron "Explaining Hitler" Rosenbaum's recent piece re conservatives mockery of "liberal Guilt" - note his ref to the right's "moral relativism"...

Critics of Obama supporters who use the phrase "guilty liberal" or "liberal guilt" in a condescending, above-it-all manner suggest there's something weak about feeling guilt; they paint a trivializing, Woody Allen caricature of it.

Actually, I think it requires a kind of strength, not weakness, to face the ugly truths of history and to react to them in an honest way. "Liberal guilt" isn't a reason one must automatically support a black candidate, but that doesn't mean that liberal guilt—better defined as an awareness of the need to contend with, and overcome, a racist past—shouldn't be a factor in politics.

Of course, it's not enough just to feel guilty or to act on guilt alone. But guilt can often spur us to deal with the enduring consequences of the injustices of the past and force us not to pretend there are none.

It's especially surprising to hear "guilt" being disparaged by conservatives, since they present themselves as moralists; they are quick to decry liberals for seeking to abolish guilt over various practices conservatives deem immoral. But was slavery not immoral? For those conservatives who make a fetish of "values": Was not the century of institutionalized racism and segregation that followed the end of slavery a perpetuation of "flawed values" that the nation should feel an enduring guilt over? For those conservatives who are forever speaking of the way they value history and memory more than liberals: Should we abolish the history and memory of slavery and racism just because they're no longer legally institutionalized?

Do we abolish its memories and its effects? Do we abolish the very consciousness of the past and pretend we have a clear conscience? Pretend that on the question of racism, there is no problem anymore? America is impeccably virtuous? This sounds more like Jacobin "Year Zero" thinking than true conservatism.

What I don't understand is why there doesn't seem to be any conservative guilt over racism. Contemporary conservatives could learn from their revered godfather William F. Buckley Jr., who, early in his career at the National Review, wrote a pro-Jim Crow lead editorial—little remembered in liberal and other encomia to the man—titled "Why the South Must Prevail," in which he argued that segregation should persist even by illegal means because "the White community … for the time being … is the advanced race."

A valuable essay on this question by William Hogeland in the May/June issue of the Boston Review reminds us that even Buckley felt guilt—if not precisely "liberal guilt"—about this editorial, guilt that he expressed in a 2004 Time interview. "Have you taken any positions you now regret?" Time asked him. "Yes. I once believed we could evolve our way up from Jim Crow. I was wrong: federal intervention was necessary." Why can't conservative wiseguys (especially at the National Review) stop sneering at liberals long enough to learn from the admirable guilty wisdom of their sainted leader?

Shouldn't conservatives feel guilty about slavery and racism and the consequences thereof, or must they disdain such feelings, however moral, because they are associated with liberals? Do they choose their moral priorities because of their popularity among others? That doesn't seem like a conservative way of thinking about moral values. It sounds like a form of relativism. It's the kind of thinking that treats values as a brand identity. Guilt over racism is not part of the conservative brand identity. The more shame if that be the case.

Critics of Obama supporters who use the phrase "guilty liberal" or "liberal guilt" in a condescending, above-it-all manner suggest there's something weak about feeling guilt; they paint a trivializing, Woody Allen caricature of it.

Actually, I think it requires a kind of strength, not weakness, to face the ugly truths of history and to react to them in an honest way. "Liberal guilt" isn't a reason one must automatically support a black candidate, but that doesn't mean that liberal guilt—better defined as an awareness of the need to contend with, and overcome, a racist past—shouldn't be a factor in politics.

Of course, it's not enough just to feel guilty or to act on guilt alone. But guilt can often spur us to deal with the enduring consequences of the injustices of the past and force us not to pretend there are none.

It's especially surprising to hear "guilt" being disparaged by conservatives, since they present themselves as moralists; they are quick to decry liberals for seeking to abolish guilt over various practices conservatives deem immoral. But was slavery not immoral? For those conservatives who make a fetish of "values": Was not the century of institutionalized racism and segregation that followed the end of slavery a perpetuation of "flawed values" that the nation should feel an enduring guilt over? For those conservatives who are forever speaking of the way they value history and memory more than liberals: Should we abolish the history and memory of slavery and racism just because they're no longer legally institutionalized?

Do we abolish its memories and its effects? Do we abolish the very consciousness of the past and pretend we have a clear conscience? Pretend that on the question of racism, there is no problem anymore? America is impeccably virtuous? This sounds more like Jacobin "Year Zero" thinking than true conservatism.

What I don't understand is why there doesn't seem to be any conservative guilt over racism. Contemporary conservatives could learn from their revered godfather William F. Buckley Jr., who, early in his career at the National Review, wrote a pro-Jim Crow lead editorial—little remembered in liberal and other encomia to the man—titled "Why the South Must Prevail," in which he argued that segregation should persist even by illegal means because "the White community … for the time being … is the advanced race."

A valuable essay on this question by William Hogeland in the May/June issue of the Boston Review reminds us that even Buckley felt guilt—if not precisely "liberal guilt"—about this editorial, guilt that he expressed in a 2004 Time interview. "Have you taken any positions you now regret?" Time asked him. "Yes. I once believed we could evolve our way up from Jim Crow. I was wrong: federal intervention was necessary." Why can't conservative wiseguys (especially at the National Review) stop sneering at liberals long enough to learn from the admirable guilty wisdom of their sainted leader?

Shouldn't conservatives feel guilty about slavery and racism and the consequences thereof, or must they disdain such feelings, however moral, because they are associated with liberals? Do they choose their moral priorities because of their popularity among others? That doesn't seem like a conservative way of thinking about moral values. It sounds like a form of relativism. It's the kind of thinking that treats values as a brand identity. Guilt over racism is not part of the conservative brand identity. The more shame if that be the case.

5/23/2008 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...

Dachau is notable as the first German concentration camp, opening in 1933. It held mostly political prisoners of various kinds: communists, Christian clergy, intellectuals, politicians, royalty and of course Jews. The camp served as a model for all the later concentration and death camps that the Germans built.

Curiously, in Nov 1938 at the time of the Kristallnacht the Germans rounded up Jews from throughout Germany and sent them to Dachau. Many of these Jews were later released after agreeing to leave Germany. This was before the war began and before the Germans had settled on their final solution.

Regarding the endless cycle of revenge the Dachau Massacre is an interesting event. Apparently after the camp was liberated by the Americans a number of SS guards were shot after or while surrendering. Also, some of the surviving prisoners were allowed or encouraged to attack and kill some of the guards.

While it's possible to imagine a future world where nothing like this could happen and where all people have their civil and human rights and countries don't need to war on each other to settle their differences it's not possible to imagine such a thing any time soon.

5/23/2008 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Geez, Benj -- couldn't you just list a link that says "for long-winded sermon, go this way", and save a tree?

5/23/2008 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger bobal said...

I agree with Nahncee. I knew a muzzie in my little town, for years. Ran the Greyhound Bus station, among other things. Everybody treated him well. The students at the U of Idaho elected his daughter student body President one year. He was always pleasant to me. At the time of the first Iraq war, he said to me. "I hate America, and always have."
This guy voted Republican, I used to talk to him on election eve sometimes, at election central, watching the returns. Daughter student body President. "I hate America, always have." Which I'll always remember. He's gone to allah now.

5/23/2008 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

The Wiki on the ''Dachau Massacre" several times refers to a shooting or shootings in and around boxcars. The wiki doesn't say what I've read elsewhere, that the boxcars had not been cleaned up since they had recently delivered victims, and contained civilian corpses lying in filth. The US troops who encountered this sight were likely ''temporarily insane''.

5/23/2008 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger Teresita said...

Buddy Larsen: It makes one wonder, in this thread wondering how the Army Rangers and the Dachau SS so wholly diverged, where did this ''moral relativism'' come from -- what exists, or existed, as the other side of THAT coin?

The other side of the moral relativism coin is the morality of the bible, which consists of timeless moral absolutes given to us straight from God. You know, like it's okay to kill your slave as long as he takes more than 24 hours to die:

Exodus 21:20-21 And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.

Not to mention polygamy and genocide and capital punishment for gay people and working on Saturday and for preaching anything other than Judaism:

Deut 13:6-10 If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.

And don't forget the ever-popular breach of absolute morality, having sex with a woman on her period:

Lev 20:18 And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness, and shall uncover her nakedness; he hath discovered her fountain, and she hath uncovered the fountain of her blood: and both of them shall be cut off from among their people.

You're either with God or you're with the terrorists.

5/23/2008 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger David Joslin said...

Thank you Richard. Yasher koach.

David Joslin

5/23/2008 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

Benj, I am enjoying your post immensely but there is one thing I would like to point out before I forget. "Liberal Guilt," by and large, has nothing to do with anything liberals have done. They feel guilt for what they allege others have done. They feel guilty about the defects of Capitalism, real or imagined. They don't feel guilty about the defects of Socialism. Liberals started the war in Vietnam and then bugged out when it could have been won. Do they feel guilty about the mass slaughters that resulted? Silly question. They don't feel the guilt because they are to blame. So they shift the blame and move on.

How many "apology tours" do we get that are, in the end, liberals patting themselves on the back for being so high minded?

The trick is this: you pitch the guilt trip, fix the blame on "the system" or on your great grandparents and then claim only your ilk can fix "the problem." You offer clever slogans which pass for a solution. And everyone who is not with the slogan is the problem.

Sorry, Sen. Obama fits the mold. Liberals take a Tort lawyers approach to History: they are not interested in what actually happened; they are interested in building a case and collecting their 40 percent of the proceeds (in most cases more, and in the form of both money and power).

5/23/2008 02:14:00 PM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...

Buddy,

On the main wikipedia page on Dachau that I linked there is a photo of corpses in a rail car from Dachau.

In the mini-series 'Band of Brothers' the soldiers liberate a concentration camp at the end of the war. Several of the soldiers go to see the camp commander at his home on a hillside outside of town. They shoot him.

I have a hard time imagining what the US soldiers thought when they entered those camps viewing the living corpses and the SS who were responsible. Obviously simply killing those SS guards was letting them off easily. There is no justice in this world for what they did. I don't think our soldiers were temporarily insane.

5/23/2008 02:21:00 PM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

Actually, Benj, you present a good example of "Liberal Guilt." William F. Buckley felt guilt about an idea he had once put forth. Liberals also feel guilt about him putting that idea forth.

Of course it is the Democratic Party that brought us Jim Crow laws to begin with. How do they handle that item? Well, they quickly point out that Republican Barry Goldwater and conservative William F. Buckley opposed Federal intervention to overturn those laws. Where as Democrat Robert Byrd of West Virginia eventually saw the light, we think. Has anyone asked him lately?

And it was Democrats who led the filibusters of Civil Rights legislation. It has been a couple generations now, so maybe they'll start feeling guilty about it.

I don't mean to paint all liberals with one brush. But the ones who dwell in D.C. and seek power are, by and large, as described.

5/23/2008 02:40:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

At the time of the first Iraq war, he said to me. "I hate America, and always have."

Bobal, I don't think it's unusual for the newly-arrived immigrant to hate America. I think a lot of them -- and not just Arabs -- never outgrow their heritage and the culture shock of landing here.

The one I would be interested in following up on is the daughter. Is she wearing a hijab? Has she been married off to a stranger? Does she allow herself to be made pregnant, barefoot and in the kitchen? And if she *has* become Americanized, how close is she to being another statistic in an honor killing?

5/23/2008 03:42:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

And don't forget the ever-popular breach of absolute morality, having sex with a woman on her period:

Lev 20:18 And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness, and shall uncover her nakedness; he hath discovered her fountain, and she hath uncovered the fountain of her blood: and both of them shall be cut off from among their people.

You're either with God or you're with the terrorists
/////////////
Men the world over are uneasy about women's menstruation. No other mammal in the animal kingdom does it.

What's with that?

People generally mis underestimate the pure venality and meanness of women. They don't think that it runs at least as strong as it does in men. It is pure and natural as falling rain for women to believe that menstruation is a kind of cleansing purging sacrifice that men can only attain to through violence and blood letting of battle. In women's economy, women menstruate and men shed each other's blood.

Think the ancient sacrificial system had something to do with men's attempt to immitate women's periods?

Jesus put an end to the ancient sacrificial system because his sacrifice was sufficient because God himself offered himself as an atonement for the sins of men.

No man is capable of being a sufficient sacrifice.

The 3rd century great arian heresy that was singled handedly resurrected by Issac Newton in the late 18th century stripped Jesus of the his divinity. He became a merely human sacrifice. Trouble is a human sacrifice is no better than a bull, pig, goat or chicken.

Even though the theology changed the reality of human nature remained.

5/23/2008 03:47:00 PM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

I have had several friends calling themselves liberal who in a single conversation have castigated ME for (a) suggesting that the present population of Germany is in any way responsible for the atrocities of the NAZI party, and (b) for failing to accept that I as a caucasian citizen of the U.S. am responsible for Amerikkka's past racism and slavery.

Of course, their castigation of me ignored the fact that (a) I have never held the present German people responsible for Hitler and his supporters, and (b) I am troubled (if not sufficiently guilt-ridden to satisfy them) by America's past inequities.

Over decades I have observed that The LEFT is most successful in recruiting young people by the following logic:

1) Any reasonable and good person wants ONLY good for the most people.
2) Liberalism is a political philosophy based on wanting to do the most good for the most people possible.
3) Therefor, any reasonable and good person will want to BE a Liberal.
4) As a logical extension of these first self-evident statements, anyone who opposes the ideas or actions of Liberals cannot be a good person.

This logic leads with glacial inevitability to:

5) Therefor, any idea or action by anyone who opposes Liberalism is evil.

And

6) Anyone who disagrees with Me (a Liberal) is EVIL.

- - - - - - - - -

This is at once the seduction and continuing reinforcement of the smugly gitness that characterizes so many Liberals.

If somehow they come across either a decent education, or sufficiently compelling evidence of the precariousness of such circular reasoning, they may yet emerge into the light of wisdom, which I allow does not automatically equate to conservatism.

But they mean well.

5/23/2008 04:14:00 PM  
Blogger RDS said...

hdgreene made my point for me!

But yeah, the odd thing about "liberal guilt" is what liberals do and do not feel *responsible* for. And they're even inconsistent about playing the ancestor game: don't I get brownie points for having had two great-grandfathers VOLUNTEER for the 4th Pennsylvania Cavalry to free the slaves?

Rather, even though I had nothing to do with slavery, because of the color of my skin I'm supposed to be tarnished with guilt?

Who's the real racist here?

But feeling personal guilt for, say, the wages of communism or recreational drug consumption? What's that?

Feeling guilt for the past evils of the United States? Why not outweighed by the pride in all the good it has accomplished?

The real point is a passive-aggressive way to seize a cheap feeling or moral superiority by creating collective "guilt" for something they know in their hearts they really don't have to feel sorry for because they had no hand in it -- and can point their commanding finger at others while shielding themselves from rebuttal because they claim the guilt mantle for themselves as well.

And they tend to claim it's the church that controls people through guilt!

5/23/2008 04:22:00 PM  
Blogger RDS said...

As a Catholic, I never understood how anyone could think harsh passages from the Old Testament was any kind of indictment of the Bible or religion.

While bronze-age Jewish law is historically interesting, I have no idea what it has to do with me or my religion. I surely don't feel guilty or uncomfortable about it, just as I don't feel guilty about the Inquisition.

I don't see where Jesus says the path to my salvation is in following those laws. No priest in my upbringing suggested so either. Just interesting history.

Which is different, as far as I can gather, however, from the commandments of mohammed and allah with respect to the koran.

5/23/2008 04:32:00 PM  
Blogger RDS said...

Speaking of the Rangers at Pointe du Hoc, there has been an attempt at pointing out its ultimate futility (the targeted guns weren't in the bunkers) as an indictment of heroism and war itself -- it's all a waste and fighting war is a ridiculous catch-22 so better not to bother.

Of course I find anti-war "literature" to be detrimental to the survival of free society, as it saps the will to resist. Rather, I believe "if you wish for peace, prepare for war."

War is bad? Duh! Being enslaved is worse.

Here I review important differences in the account of the Rangers at Point du Hoc between Cornelius Ryan's book and movie "The Longest Day" which paints the effort as a waste, and that of Stephen Ambrose which has many more important details.

The issue is still apparently confused and controversial, but here is an excerpt:

Ambrose also indicates the rangers discovered the guns after 30 minutes of patrolling, by 0900, and not after a leisurely 2 hours, as Ryan implies; it was 2 hours after the initial landing, not after the discovery of the empty bunkers.

Ambrose concludes this section with the scathing rebuttal, directed apparently at Ryan:

"Later, writers commented that it had all been a waste, since the guns had been withdrawn from the fortified area around Pointe-du-Hoc. That is wrong. Those guns were in working condition before Sergeant Lomell got to them. They had an abundance of ammunition. They were in range (they could lob their huge shells 25,000 meters) of the biggest targets in the world, the 5,000-plus ships in the Channel and the thousands of troops and equipment on Utah and Omaha beaches."

5/23/2008 04:45:00 PM  
Blogger bobal said...

As we approached the town of Dachau, there were signs directing us to the camp (a huge McDonald's sign is also a good landmark).

The winner is--Ronald McDonald. What a world.

5/23/2008 06:52:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

benj:

During the genocide in Rwanda, what did you even attempt to do to stop it? Yes, I’m meaning you personally.

As for myself, I did ask around on campus. I wanted to do something, but I didn’t know what to do. It was if I were a deer frozen on the road with headlights in my eyes. I was aware however dimly of what was happening. And it was horrible. I saw moving pictures broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation of dead corpses falling over a picturesque waterfall that had turned crimson. That scene is not easy to get out of one’s mind. Yet, at the time, it hardly mattered what I thought because nobody else around me seemed interested in doing anything about it. Nobody. No interest whatsoever. This wasn’t even isolationism – it was indifference.

You see, this was at a time when Americans were gun shy about international affairs. This was soon after the debacle of Somalia; Americans had not only washed their hands of Somalia but of the entire continent of Africa. This was at a time when a civil war in Congo was yet to commence and Zairean democrats were pleading for American intervention, intervention that never came and never would come for a continent perceived to be the continent of the damned.

Guilt? Did you even try to stop the genocide in Rwanda? Although I would like to think I could have done more, I have my doubts. But could you? You live in New York and the headquarters of the United Nations is nearby. News media from throughout the world have offices in New York. Surely you could have protested. Surely you could have shown your concern.

Do you really think any candidate for president will do anything more than wring his hands about Darfur? If we won’t face down genocidists in Iraq, how can one believe we will face down genocidists in Darfur? “Yes we can” indeed. To someone who remembers that waterfall turned crimson, those words ring hollow.

5/23/2008 07:13:00 PM  
Blogger Benj said...

Alexis - You were more conscious than me - I did zip...I'll assume, though, that you're not equating my failures of moral imagination with those of the classical voices of modern American conservatism. The problem Buckley and co. refused to face up too and/or consciously aggravated was/is a little closer to home...right?

One of my culture-heroes is a writer named Charles Keil who tried to keep the rag I write for focused on preventing genocide. For Keil - a key moment was Biafra - When the whole world looked past the slaughter/induced famime of the Ibos, he believes certain Africans began to realize that anything was permitted...And how many genocidal acts have followed on that continent? Here's an excerpt from Keil's account of witnessing the opening stages of "cleansing" of the Ibos - It comes in the midst of a series of journal-style entries defining his (tortured) response to the NATO campaign against Milo (which he supported) -http://www.firstofthemonth.org/archives/2000/01/kosovo_and_the.html

My crew lost this guy over Iraq. He believed Iraq intervention - the go-it-alone nature etc. - would end up underming the case for humanitarian interventions by "a league of democracies" in places like Darfur - I still think Keil was wrong re Iraq, but his argument isn't contemptible...-

Here's one of his passages on Rwanda/Biafra. (Oh yeah - Renata Adler also zeroed in on Biafra as an early moment in Muslim charge - And Bernard Koucener - the 68'er who founded Docs w/o Borders and is currently France's foreign minister was also fully alive to what went down there...)...

We don't even know the names or recognize the faces of the men who masterminded, planned, propagandized, ordered, and executed the most efficient slaughter of innocents ever accomplished. Who wants to know? I don't. I went and got the names of the Hutu evil geniuses and then promptly forgot them. Long names. Funny names. Too many syllables. Always faceless. Fascinating.

Since there are no conclusions to these paragraphs. Fascinations but no findings...I'd like to end by going over my only personal experience of fascism/racism/pogroms circa 1967 over thirty years ago in Nigeria.

My wife Angie and I could see, hear, sense the pogrom coming to Makurdi, the polyglot administrative center of Benue Province, feel the anti-Ibo racism rising, read about unpunished pogroms in other cities. The dozen or so white expatriates working for the provincial government didn't think anything would happen, the Tiv people we were working with denied the possibility, but we felt it was just a matter of time and a trigger. Only the town madman, Gypsy Fullstop -- a.k.a. Lord Rolling Stone, R.G.T. Above (RGT the initials for Royal Government Tyrannical) -- was clearer than we were about the impending massacres, bringing word salads each day filled with truth-telling phrases ('gangs of jealousy' and 'jeopardy, jeopardous'), signing himself 'cruciferous' or more than crucified.

When the day came and elements of a Nigerian army battalion showed up to lead the mob, I thought about going down the hill to the market area and trying to stop it. White people were still respected, distinguished visitors, closest to distant authorities -- it was not a completely crazy thought. But I was afraid. And what happens to my wife and infant daughter if my bluff is called and I'm killed or incarcerated? I stayed home and watched the dust rise over the market from the hilltop. When we went across the Makurdi bridge by car the next day to see what the buzzards were circling over, to count the eviscerated bodies, to smell the most nauseating stench of rotting flesh in the tropics, to at least witness what had been done, we were greeted on the trip back by a Nigerian army officer at the bridge who cheerfully invited us to tea that afternoon and smilingly explained that we could discuss how important it was to rid the world of Ibos, what recent progress had been made in this area and what further progress could be expected. Chilling. The expatriates back at the social club, a few missionaries included, explained to us the next day that while indeed, it had happened, some had been killed, it was 'just the riffraff,' a few of the unemployed and hangers on, no one important. What I learned from this personal experience, and from the inability of Ibos and other 'Eastern Nigerians' to find freedom, dignity, justice, in an independent Biafra over the few years of struggle and starvation that followed, is that: 1)no-one wants to see it coming, to be alert to signs of oncoming fascism and genocidal events, to send out warning signals; 2) few recognize it when it does come -- this is not an exceptional crime, it's 'just cleansing' the riffraff, just how things are 'in Africa' or 'in the Balkans;' 3)the fascists think they are doing themselves and the world a favor 'cleaning' up a problem, and, 5) by and large, the world would rather agree than get over it's fascinating fear of fascism.
To find out what the hell is going on with humans in this whole us/them, class/scapegoating, nationalism-gone-crazy department, and then figure out ways to stop the most appalling numbers of bodies from piling up in the charnel house does not seem to be a high priority for many philosophers, many social scientists, journalists, policy makers, thinking citizens anywhere. I know I'm hanging on to Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem and an old article by Bernard Nietschman, 'The Third World War' from Cultural Survival Quarterly 11(3) for guidance and information...But where is the shelf full of analysis and imaginative suggestions on how to cope with crimes against humanity?

5/23/2008 09:12:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

benj:

One interesting aspect of your apparent ideology is that if you lived in the rural Midwest, you may not necessarily align your politics the same way.

In New York, Hillary Clinton is the establishment Democrat. In parts of the rural Midwest, Barack Obama is the establishment Democrat. In New York, slavery is a major historical issue. In the rural Midwest, the sins are different. The history is different. When you talk of problems “a little closer to home”, which home are you talking about, yours or mine?

The Democratic Party in New York has much to answer for in how it behaved during the Civil War. While the Union army was fighting in Pennsylvania, anti-war New Yorkers went on the rampage and murdered every black person they could find. At a time when Booker T. Washington urged Americans to “cast down your bucket where you are”, New York promoted the ideal of America as a “nation of immigrants”, as if nobody important ever lived on this continent before Emma Lazarus.

Conservatism has its flaws. Does it ever have its flaws. Yet, in the rural Midwestern state where I live, it was the Progressives who passed an anti-miscegenation law, not the conservatives. Progressivism is not without its own history of racial injustice. It is often forgotten how the Ku Klux Klan was actually a progressive organization – even a feminist organization by 1920’s standards. It is only regarded as “conservative” because it was also racist. Calling the Ku Klux Klan “conservative” is rather like calling George Wallace and Frank Rizzo “conservatives”. Each of them was a big spending liberal whose basic approach to politics was to tell white working class voters, “Vote White”.

It is easy to romanticize prairie populism. It did some good things. It was also a prairie fire of hate often little different from Nazism and Communism; the villains were different but the story line was disturbingly similar. And sometimes, there weren’t enough Jews around so the “devil of the month” was no longer the Jew, but the Anglo-Saxon. Now, have you ever met anybody in New York who spouted “anti-WASP” hatred?

The problem with progressivism is that once one gets the idea that something is “progress”, morality takes a back seat. Progressivism means that if a dam needs to be built, people who are in the way must be moved, morality be damned. If urban renewal is deemed to be progress, the homes and the gardens of the barrio mean nothing. If there is any problem with conservatism, it is a failure to recognize that property rights are if anything more important to poor people than they are to rich people.

For those who really are poor, few people are as hated and feared as the social worker. That’s because social services will use any pretext to take children away from poor parents, while rich parents get away with some of the most appalling abuse because they can afford good lawyers. Our politicians continue to talk as though poverty were a problem. It isn’t. The problem isn’t the poverty of the poor, but rich people who somehow think their money confers morality, manners, class, and excellence.

5/23/2008 10:42:00 PM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

Benj,

What is the purpose of Guilt? How does guilt announce itself?

I think there is a huge difference between guilt, and the stuff your peddling. Where the fact of guilt is not present the feeling of guilt cannot truly be found, it is a fantasy, an vision of pain meant to entrap and enslave on a whole other level. I can empathize with Buckley's conundrum, on the one hand social evolution should be able to bury the scourge of racism in society. But on the other hand, the factors that create bias could not be changed by laissez-faire tactics alone. The question more fairly asked ought to have been is government intervention the only way to alter the social conditions that condone racial bias.

I think the question was too narrowly framed, and the answers none too easily obtained without federal intervention at some level. My opinion is If Buckley had anything to feel guilty about re his essay, it was that he did not re-frame the question, instead of allowing a re-focus, like the French in your futility post, on the wrong issue.

But in attempting to fathom what motivates such behavior on the part of the French then and Modern American Liberals?
In attempting to find a sensible answer to that question, conservatives fall victim to the charges of being heartless. Perhaps your view of Mr. Buckley needs fine tuning from one of being a self satisfied SOB to being a self challenging SOB.

Buckley's considerable flip flopping on intellectual grounds about the moral and relative virtues of legalizing recreational(?) drug use indicates a man who was not satisfied with an unsatisfactory answer. Guilt generally does not get anything done, but is meant to stop certain activity. Confidence, however does lead to alternate and perhaps more effective action.

5/24/2008 02:36:00 AM  
Blogger Teresita said...

rds: While bronze-age Jewish law is historically interesting, I have no idea what it has to do with me or my religion. I surely don't feel guilty or uncomfortable about it, just as I don't feel guilty about the Inquisition.

Do you realize that if I had been born in Medieval times with my sixth toe that I would have been considered a witch and possibly burned alive for it? The things people used to do to each other in the name of religion (and, in some countries still do...perhaps my parents had it removed for that reason). Today, however, people with six toes, the Hexadactylous (Hex`a*dac"tyl*ous, a. [Gr. ; six + finger: cf. F. hexadactyle.] (Zool.) Having six fingers or toes.) are increasingly tolerated by society. While there are still some increasingly discredited ex-six toes organizations like Hexodus International, recently great strides have been made. Since the ground-breaking episode where the travelling bard Gabrielle of Potidaea revealed her sixth toe to Xena the Warrior Princess, the hexadactylous have been elected to Congress, and some have even been ordained as Methodist ministers.

5/24/2008 02:57:00 AM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

Guilt, and not just feeling guilt, is part and parcel of living in this world. The fact that we live in itself means that we occupy a competitive ecological space, which by definition means that we kill that we may live.

The Jains, realizing this, put a piece of cloth over their mouths to keep from damaging the insects of the air on drawing breath and sweep the path before them with a soft brush in order to avoid trampling on insects when they move. But now we know there are creatures too small to be filtered by cloths; there are insects too small or fragile to be touched by brushes. The Jains may try to escape guilt, but they do not succeed.

And more to the point, they are not free of the crime of refusing to defend themselves against yet more aggressive forms of life. What becomes of pacifism in history is illustrated in the fate of the Jains following the Islamic conquest of northwest India. Where are they now?

An estimate of the number of people killed, based on the Muslim chronicles and demographic calculations, was done by K.S. Lal in his book Growth of Muslim Population in Medieval India, who claimed that between 1000 CE and 1500 CE, the population of Hindus decreased by 80 million. His work has come under criticism by historians such as Simon Digby (School of Oriental and African Studies) and the Marxist historian Irfan Habib for its agenda and lack of accurate data in pre-census times. Lal has responded to these criticisms in later works.

Who shall defend the insects when the defender of insects is himself decapitated? When the soft cloth over his mouth becomes his shroud? Maybe a pacifist can free himself of the feeling of guilt but he doesn't escape guilt itself. Objectively speaking he facilitates the rise of every evil he refuses to oppose; and by omission participates in the crimes of the monsters whose emergence he tolerated, though it step over his grave.

But more fundamentally we all make mistakes in good or bad faith. I will be the last to say that fighting Marcos was evil. And I will be the first to say that fighting him caused evil. People talk about "struggle"; or waging "resistance". These are weasel words for going out and convincing people to fight or fighting itself. And that always breaks eggs.

I like to tell people about how people crowded round an ex-seminarian "hero" of the antiMarcos years expecting to be regaled by deeds of glory. What they heard instead was accounts of what it was like to cut a mans throat -- the man marked for death was an informer to be sure, kind of sort of sure -- while his children pleaded with his executioners to spare his life. Want to be a hero? Step right up.

I think I wrote elsewhere that people misunderstand the expression "there are no atheists in foxholes". It doesn't mean that soldiers pray to God for safety, though they do. It means that they pray, each in their own way, to whatever God they recognize, though He have no name, for forgiveness. Because on the battlefield it becomes obvious, as it never does in academia, that we need forgiveness each and every day of our lives.

We are guilty. We don't just feel guilty. But I knew that already from what is called our "faith tradition". We are born condemned in Original Sin. We are fallen. And there is no balm for us upon the earth. If that were all it would be logical to embrace the consequence of guilt and regale ourselves in it. To despair and say, "we are no different from the Nazis." But it is not all.

We are also born to be saved. Born to strive to rid our ourselves of guilt, though we cannot. And here is where faith comes in; here is why there are no "atheists in foxholes". It comes to us that maybe someone will understand; understand that we cannot escape the human condition; understand that all we can do is do our best. And forgive us.

"All that we must decide is what to do with the time that is given us." And as for guilt, I must live with it; and am not worthy to be rid of it, until the time the word will be said and my soul shall be healed.

5/24/2008 03:26:00 AM  
Blogger Teresita said...

W: We are guilty. We don't just feel guilty. But I knew that already from what is called our "faith tradition". We are born condemned in Original Sin. We are fallen. And there is no balm for us upon the earth.

A sin without volition is a slap at morality and an insolent contradiction in terms: that which is outside the possibility of choice is outside the province of morality. If man is evil by birth, he has no will, no power to change it; if he has no will, he can be neither good nor evil; a robot is amoral. To hold, as man's sin, a fact not open to his choice is a mockery of morality. To hold man's nature as his sin is a mockery of nature. To punish him for a crime he committed before he was born is a mockery of justice. To hold him guilty in a matter where no innocence exists is a mockery of reason. To destroy morality, nature, justice and reason by means of a single concept is a feat of evil hardly to be matched."--Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

5/24/2008 06:18:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

A sin without volition is a slap at morality and an insolent contradiction in terms: that which is outside the possibility of choice is outside the province of morality. If man is evil by birth, he has no will, no power to change it; if he has no will, he can be neither good nor evil; a robot is amoral. To hold, as man's sin, a fact not open to his choice is a mockery of morality. To hold man's nature as his sin is a mockery of nature. To punish him for a crime he committed before he was born is a mockery of justice. To hold him guilty in a matter where no innocence exists is a mockery of reason. To destroy morality, nature, justice and reason by means of a single concept is a feat of evil hardly to be matched."--Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
/////////////
Typically with kids you discover that doing bad comes naturally. You have to teach them to do good.

5/24/2008 08:55:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

A sin without volition is a slap at morality and an insolent contradiction in terms:
/////
this is why abortion has enabled the the sodomites to attain such a dominant position in society. On the rules committee of the democratic convention this summer fully one third of the committee members are homosexual.

5/24/2008 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger Katchoo said...

Charles wrote: Typically with kids you discover that doing bad comes naturally. You have to teach them to do good.

This is because we have defined unnatural behavior as good. Kids naturally won't sit still unless you threaten them, because they have much energy. They want to eat candy and spoil their dinner. We teach them to delay their gratification, and this is how they become civilized. But we are deluded if we think natural is bad and civilized is good.

On the rules committee of the democratic convention this summer fully one third of the committee members are homosexual.

And no doubt 15% of them are left-handed, and 30% of them like the color blue. What does any of that have to do with anything?

5/24/2008 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger Promethea said...

Benj . . .

The reason why conservatives reject "liberal guilt" is (1) race mongers a la Al Sharpton/ Jesse Jackson/etc. have been using it for years to extort money and special privileges from the non-guilty. (2) liberals use liberal guilt to enjoy their feel-good illusion that they're caring people. They don't have to do much to prove it. In fact, their liberal guilt often leads them to excuse the most heinous crimes against those they've decided are low on the approved list of victims (i.e. Jewish babies killed by Palestinian terrorists deserved it because they're part of the non-approved group of victims.

You get the picture. Liberal guilt is a self-serving stick to beat other people with.

5/24/2008 11:36:00 AM  
Blogger Promethea said...

OK. I just checked out the video, which once again reminds me of the apt phrase, "the banality of evil."

If Europeans don't get off their high horse, and start DEFENDING ISRAEL against the barbarians who want to destroy it, then I say to them:

You WILL be next.

Yes, I am cursing you. May you get the end you deserve.

5/24/2008 02:14:00 PM  
Blogger Teresita said...

Promethea said, "Yes, I am cursing you. May you get the end you deserve."

"Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not." (Paul to the Romans 12:14)

"Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be." (Epistle of James 3:9-10)

5/24/2008 02:37:00 PM  
Blogger BrianFH said...

Absolutes, whether lib or con, are tools for justification. Once you have firmly established that "they" are on the other side of the line, anything goes -- which is great fun and very satisfying.

5/24/2008 09:50:00 PM  
Blogger Sparks fly said...

The letter of the Law of Moses kills but the Spirit gives life. The Law is good but who can keep it? The Law is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ when we realize how short we fall. God is loving and true and good. All we like sheep have gone astray.

There is a difference between the Living God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob and a terrorist. You blur the line at your peril.

Do not walk as the Gentiles also walk in the futility of the mind.

Save me from my sins Jesus. Thank You.

5/24/2008 09:56:00 PM  
Blogger Benj said...

Alexis - You're right of course re location location location. I saw a young journalist from the Nation mag on the tube yesterday. I've been hating on that mag for 25 years. (You can read my harsh take on it in this back and forth with its publisher- http://www.firstofthemonth.org/archives/2005/07/with_friends_li.html)
But as I heard this young journo speak, I recognized speech rhythms and vocal tics that were awful - and that is word - close to my own. (Reminded me of a line from a Brother-man's grandmother - "that man talk so fast, he must be lying.")

Still, I don't believe I'm entirely at the mercy of received "Eastern" ideas or cultural styles...A Southern Man - the historian Lawrence Goodwyn - has been the single biggest influence on my politics (outside of fam). Since you invoked American populism above - let me take this op to recommend his great history of that movement - "Democratic Promise" (there's an abridged version - "The Populist Moment") Goodwyn is a defender of the pre-Bryant populists - deep critic of "Progressivism" which he sees (as you do) as a largely anti-democratic tendency. Goodwyn set out to recover the, ah, democratic promise of populism from the disdain of New York Intellectuals (chiefly Richard Hofstadter who famously dissed the populists in "The AGe of REform"). Goodwyn's historical research was undeniable when it came out in the mid-70s -it was thrilling to read about the populists' massive education programs, grand cooperatives etc. 30 years on, "Promise" is still the "standard" work on its subject. But Goodwyn's next book went too far for New York Intellectuals (and the Academy in general) - It was a riveting history/celebration of Poland's Solidarnosc, "Breaking the Barrier." THAT one got buried. Long, sad story - but to cut back to the texts - Goodwyn's histories provide historial back-up for those who try to act on radical democratic imperatives. Goodwyn's evidence hints at the possibility of a moral, political economy that breaks with reigning paradigms on both the (collectivist)left and (social Darwinist) right - Can't summarize here - but it's all about popular sovereignty and access to capital...In American terms, I suppose it a sort of Jeffersonianism minus that pesky peculiar institution. But the book on Solidarnosc goes beyond national ideological boundaries. It ends with an amazing "Essay on Authorities" which explains how top-down versions of history have distorted the understanding of every genuine social movement...Forget my politics but do check Goodwyn's stuff. (P.S. HE's even more skeptical of New York City sensibilities than you are!)

Wade - Did I tell you my little family war story with Mr. B.? - My pop wrote a review of his stuff back around 70 - after giving it up to Buckley for zeroing in on the contradictions and self-deceptions of bourgie liberals (like himself) - pop noted that Buckley had NEVER tried to imagine from within anyone living a life that wasn't peachy. And beyond that - he quoted passages that indicated a high degree of - to borrow your word - heartlessness. In one of those passages Buckley vouched for the "bona fides" of the rulers of Apartheid era South Africa - That passage came from "Quotations from Chairman Bill" - an anthololgy of his more "provocative" lines...Somehow (!) word got out to Buckley that his ugly quote was going to be cited in a less-than-loving piece on his work. His lawyer contacted the mag threatening to sue before my pop's piece was published. The legal claim was that the passage in "Quotations from Chairman Bill" had been taken out of context from its original essay. But Buckley had ok'ed its publication in "Chairman Bill." So he really had no arugment - his effort to quash was all about the gangsta (and it almost succeeded - you can imagine how the mag freaked at the prospect of a suit). Buckley wasn't just wrong about the key issue of the American 20th Century - he was a dishonorable(money) man. PS - don't mean to pile on but when I think of Buckley taking his yacht out beyond the U.S's territorial waters so he wouldn't be breaking the law when he smoked a joint, "self-challenging" is not the epithet that comes to my mind...

A quick thought on Wretch's line -

"I like to tell people about how people crowded round an ex-seminarian "hero" of the antiMarcos years expecting to be regaled by deeds of glory. What they heard instead was accounts of what it was like to cut a mans throat -- the man marked for death was an informer to be sure, kind of sort of sure -- while his children pleaded with his executioners to spare his life. Want to be a hero? Step right up."

Your equation of the hero with the hard man probably wouldn't jump to the mind of a student of American populism, the Civil Rights Movement or Solidarnosc. (Or someone paying attention to what's gone down in Bolivia lately.) These social movements offer less, ah, killing instances of exemplary human struggle. While I recognize Social Movements and "beloved communities" are not exactly your cup of tea, perhaps you'd allow that in these other cases, forward Movement was founded on different (higher?) acts of struggle than throat-cutting. I don't know much about the fight against Marcos, but if the murderous act of your seminarian hero was one of the peak moments of "people-power," maybe we have some clue as to why it ain't all worked out too tough over there even though the Dic is gone...

Which reminds me of a good Hitchens line on Allende - He once credited Allende for not doing what various Marxist-Leninists had counseled for months as everyone could feel the coup coming. Allende's greatest contribution to Chile and history, said Hitchens, was to resist the call for Armed Struggle...

Let's Roll?! Well I might have punked out and I'll always bow down to those who didn't/don't - but somehow I doubt killing is the missing link to human co-evolution.

5/24/2008 10:56:00 PM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/25/2008 12:52:00 AM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

Whoa, Benj.

Never got that up close or personal with Mr. Buckley. However valid your perceptions are, I have only his written words (and the recorded stuff) to go on. All expressions of ideas and indications of a mind attempting to make sense of the stuff of life, including death and taxes. We all have our quirks some of which at first glance seem dishonorable or irrational.

Stepping on the that path the Jains may have created the environment necessary to ensure some species continuance. Were the Jains foolish to feel guilt about the condition of what they could not see, that they caused to suffer and to die that which they could not imagine?

Fire in a forest allows for seeds to open and choking light hogging underbrush to be burnt back.

Unexpressed or suppressed, one moment a good, in the very next instant the cause of guilt. Is it shame? Is it wired into our being? Woven into the synaptic bundles in a way to create angst and awe. I really think this may be the case and, as with other human attributes, each of us hold these to varying degrees and these degrees can be attenuated or enhanced but they cannot be ignored unless, by anomaly, they are not there. There should be balance but is there harmony?

Birth is a life altering process involving (for humanity) great pain and prolonged suffering. Be careful what you wish for!

Would moral relativists merely watch the destruction pile on or lustfully slit your throat, if it averted the firebombs?

And all we can do is our best with what we have and all we can hope for is to find some satisfaction at the natural end of life, so we may go in peace.

5/25/2008 01:08:00 AM  
Blogger Pangloss said...

The wonderful poems that Wretchard and others have dropped into this comment thread prompt a question in me. Is one of the major causes of our civilizational discontent the invention of adolescence? The adolescent years used to be seen as the young adult years. Young adults worked outside the home, beginning their careers. Nowadays, penitentiary-like schools imprison adolescents inside walls where they do not learn anything useful from dumbed down curricula nor are they allowed to begin their life's work. They can only study topics that may or may not have any relation whatsoever to their life's work. What value does this produce? I would argue that it mainly produces adults who despise school and learning, and that the much-vaunted American anti-intellectualism is a direct result not of the American character but of jail-like schools. Could the heroes of Pointe-du-Hoc come out of today's public schools? As Jim Webb has pointed out the Scots-Irish of America, mostly from the South, mostly having been raised hunting and fishing, carry the heaviest part of the load when it comes to the American military. If schools were doing the right thing, or indeed any useful thing, this could not be true.

5/26/2008 08:41:00 AM  
Blogger Benj said...

Wade - Big men have big faults. Buckley's little moment of censoriousness wasn't that egregious - Don't think anyone needed such intimacies to suss the narrowness of his aristo's version of intellectuallity. He started out wrong on race. Ended up wrong on Iraq. In the last case - He recognized - like a few of us - that the case for WMD and direct connection to AQ was being hyped/overblown. And the other reasons - smashing a fascist state, saving the Iraqi people, making the M.E. safe for demos - were all too, well, radical for Sir William...

Here's a link a long piece on the state of American conservatism http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/05/26/080526fa_fact_packer/?yrail

It touches on Buckley's legacy and the issues of "guilt" that I've brought up here. I'm not a fan of the author - he's written a couple of lousy pieces on Iraq - But there are some facts about Nixon's Southern Stategy etc. that most Clubbers might not know. All that reminds of a moment a few weeks back when I was at b-day party for 5 years olds in Harlem. Mostly white folks (The new gentry are pushing into H. - it will take time but pretty soon ONLY rich people will be able to live in Manhattan. But that's another subject.) I was having a chat with a cheery guy - the one adult that all the kids immediately graviated to - He'd lived in Harlem all his life - Asked him about the pizza joint that Sinatra liked in East Harlem - Patsy's - I'd never been - He said it was real good. But he never ate there as a kid. He was black so he couldn't go in that East Harlem Italian neighborhood unless he went with 20 kids... I told him I'd been blogging at a website where a lot of folks thought black people had invented identity politics. He just laughed...

Wretch's readiness to return to (repeatedly) to Original Sin make me wonder if he's ever raised/loved a child. You ever met any pop who goes on about Man/Woman's irredeemably sinful nature? Damn. Kids can drive you crazy but... Reminds me of a line by one of my favorite writers. According to him - Hell is reserved for those who teach four year-olds there's a hell...

Firetruck "Fitna." We got some bent minds in America's favorite faith traditions...

I'll leave with you Zimmy's "It's Not Dark Yet" (Wade - just think about that stiff Buckley listening "Like a Rolling Stone." - "How does it Feel?" Who cares?, would have Buckley's perfectly un-American response.) - Zimmy is usually good for a (provisional) final word - - "I was born here and I'll die here against my will."

5/26/2008 09:32:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Benj,

Thought you'd like to know that the "Nation" has a piss-awful softball team every year in the NYC magazine league. DC Comics is the perennial champ.

Why are we not surprised?

5/27/2008 06:25:00 AM  
Blogger Yashmak said...

[i]It would take about an hour just to walk around all of the grounds.[/i]

Having been to Dachau personally, I can say that this is not true. If you chose to look through the displays in the old administration building, yeah you could take 45 minutes or an hour doing so, and another 15 minutes or so walking around the camp itself. Except for one (or two?) barracks that were rebuilt to show what it was like, and a couple large memorial structures, there's not really that much left to see.

5/27/2008 07:49:00 AM  

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