Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Stoic and Epicurean Philosophers

_The Stoic and Epicurean Philosophers_ 
NY:  Random House, 1940

Introduction by Whitney Oakes
(xix)  The gods, on the other hand, exist, but they have nothing to do with human affairs for if they did they would be troubled, and a god by his very nature cannot have his blessedness marred by trouble.

(xxi)  The Stoic argued that since the universe was good, there was actually no evil in it.  Morally virtue was proclaimed to be the highest good, and virtue was defined as living χατά φύσiν, according to nature.  Living “according to nature” then means that man must accept everything that takes place as good or “indifferent”;  if he interprets anything as evil he is obviously wrong, and in making such an erroneous judgment, he is not by any means “living according to nature” in the full sense.

Epicurus
(40)  XI.  For most men rest is stagnation and activity madness.

(41)  XXXIV.  It is not so much our friends’ help that helps us as the confidence of their help.

(48)  I am thrilled with pleasure in the body, when I live on bread and water, and I spit upon luxurious pleasures not for their own sake, but because of the inconveniences that follow.

(49)  The man who follows nature and not vain opinions is independent in all things.  For in reference to what is enough for nature every possession is riches, but in reference to unlimited desires even the greatest wealth is (not riches but poverty).

(50)  If God listened to the prayers of men, all men would quickly have perished:  for they are for ever praying for evil against one another.

… That which creates joy insuperable is the complete removal of a great evil.  And this is the nature of good, if one can once grasp it rightly, and then hold by it, and not walk about babbling idly about the good.

…. Thanks be to blessed Nature because she has made what is necessary easy to supply, and what is not easy unnecessary.

(51)  The laws exist for the sake of the wise, not that they may not do wrong, but that they may not suffer it.

Epictetus
(226)  Here you see the result of training as training should be, of the will to get and will to avoid, so disciplined that nothing can hinder or frustrate them.  I must die, must I?  If at once, then I am dying:  if soon, I die now, as it is time for dinner, and afterwards when the time comes I will die.  And die how?  As befits one who gives back what is not his own.

(265)  If you do not find one [pallet] you will sleep on the ground, only do so with a good cheer, snoring the while, and remembering that it is among rich men and kings and emperors that tragedies find room, and that no poor man fills a part in a tragedy except as one of the chorus.  

(362)  What occasion for anger, what occasion for fear concerning things that are not our own, nor of any value?  For the two principles we must have ready at command are there:  that outside the will there is nothing good or evil, and that we must not lead events but follow them.

(395)  You bear God about with you, poor wretch, and know it not.  Do you think I speak of some external god of silver or gold?  No, you bear Him about within you and are unaware that you are  defiling Him with unclean thoughts and foul actions.

(396)   What is yours then?

[Diogenes]  “Power to deal with impressions.  He showed me that I possess this beyond all hindrance and compulsion;  no one can hamper me, no one can compel me to deal with them otherwise than I will.  Who then has authority over me any more?  Has Philip, or Alexander, or Perdiccas, or the Great King?…”

(397)  In like manner you must remind yourself that you love a mortal, and that nothing that you love is your very own;  it is given you for the moment, not for ever nor inseparably, but like a fig or a bunch of grapes at the appointed season of the year, and if you long for it in winter you are a fool.

(404)  Trusting in what?  Not in reputation, not in money, nor office, but in his own might, that is in judgements on things within our power and beyond it.  For it is these alone that make free men, whom nothing can hinder which lift up the neck of those who are in humiliation, and make them look with unwavering eyes upon rich men and upon despots.

(405)  And what is the end of the illness?  Nothing worse than death.  Will you realize once for all that it is not death that is the source of all man’s evils, and of a mean and cowardly spirit, but rather the fear of death?  Against this fear then I would have you discipline yourself;  to this let all your reasonings, your, lectures, and your trainings be directed;  and then you will know that only so do men achieve their freedom.

(407)  How can we call him free when he has not learnt to give up desire and fear?

(413)  You must treat your whole body like a poor ass, with its burden on its back, going with you just so far as it may, and so far as it is given you;  but if the king’s service calls, and a soldier lays hands on it, let it go, do not resist or murmur;  if you do, you will only get a flogging and lose your poor ass all the same.

(420)  Diogenes was free.  How came he by this?  Not because he was of free parents (he was not), but because he was fee himself, had cast away all the weakness that might give slavery a hold on him, and so no one could approach or lay hold on him to enslave him.  Everything he had he was ready to let go, it was loosely attached to him.

(425)  Remember that it is not only desire of office and of wealth that makes men abject and subservent to others, but also desire of peace and leisure and travel and learning.  Regard for any external thing, whatever it be, makes you subservient to another.

(440)  ‘But you will be flung abroad and unburied.'

I shall be, if I and the dead body are one, but if I am not the same as the dead body, state the facts with more discrimination, and do not try to frighten me.  These are things to frighten children and fools.  But if a man has once entered a philosopher’s lecture-room and does not know what his true self is, he deserves to fear and to flatter what he flattered afterwards:  I mean, if he has not yet learnt that he is not flesh or bones or sinews, but the faculty which uses them, and which also governs the impressions and understands them.

(455)  But if I bear in mind, that one man does not harm another, but that it is his own acts which help or harm a man, I achieve this conquest - that I abstain from doing the same as he did, but still my own babbling has put me in the position I am in.

(462)  There are certain persons who indulge their anger gently, and who do all that the most passionate do, but in a quiet passionless way.  Now we must guard against their error as a much worse fault than passionate anger.  For the passionate are soon sated with their revenge, but the colder spirits persist for a long period like men who take a fever lightly.

6533(464)  Those whose bodies are in good condition can endure heat and cold;  so those whose souls are in good condition can bear anger and pain and exultation and other emotions.

(466)  You are a little soul, carrying a corpse, as Epictetus used to say.  - M Aurelius

…The rarest pleasures give most delight.

(467)  No one is free that is not his own master.

(468)  Of all existing things some are in our power, and others are not in out power.  In our power are thought, impulse, will to get and will to avoid, and, in a word, everything which is our own doing.  Things not in our power include the body, property, reputation, office, and, in a word, everything which is not our doing.  Things in our power are by nature free, unhidered, untrammelled;  things not in our power are weak, servile, subject to hindrance, dependent on others.

(469)  To accuse others for one’s own misfortunes is a sign of want of education;  to accuse oneself shows that one’s education has begun;  to accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one’s education is complete.

(470)  Never say anything, ‘I lost it,’ but say, ‘I gave it back.’  Has your child died?  It was given back.  Has your wife died?  She was given back.  Has your estate been taken from you?  Was not this also given back?  But you say, ‘He who took it from me is wicked.’  What does it matter to you through whom the Giver asked it back?  As long as He gives it you, take care of it, but not as your own;  treat it as passers-by treat an inn.

The Manual of Epictetus
(473)  Keep before your eyes from day to day death and exile and all things that seem terrible, but death most of all, and then you will never set your thoughts on what is low and will never desire anything beyond measure.

(480 - 481)  Everything has two handles, one by which you can carry it, the other by which you cannot.  If your brother wrongs you, do not take it by that handle, the handle of his wrong, for you cannot carry it by that, but rather by the other handle - that he is a brother, brought up with you, and then you will take it by the handle that you can carry by.

(481)  It is illogical to reason thus, ‘I am richer than you, therefore I am superior to you,’ ‘I am more eloquent than you, therefore I am superior to you.’  It is more logical to reason, ‘I am richer than you, therefore my property is superior to yours,’I am more eloquent than you, therefore my speech is superior to yours.’  You are something more than property or speech.

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
(500-501)  Of human life the time is a point and the substance is in a flux, and the perception dull, and the composition of the whole body subject to putrefaction, and the soul a whirl, and fortune hard to divine, and fame a thing devoid of judgment.

(509)  The universe is transformation:  life is opinion.

(511)  Everything which is in any way beautiful is beautiful in itself, and terminates in itself, not have praise as part of itself.  Neither worse then nor better is a thing made by being praised.

(513)  Everything is only for a day, both that which remembers and that which is remembered.

(514)  Constantly regard the universe as one living being, having one substance and one soul;  and observe how all things have reference to one perception, the perception of this one living being;  and how all things act with one movement;  and how all things are the co-operating causes of all things which exist;  observe too the continuous spinning of the thread and the contexture of the web.

(523)  The intelligence of the universe is social.  Accordingly it has made the inferior things for the sake of the superior, and it has fitted the superior to one another.  Thou seest how it has subordinated, co-ordinated and assigned to everything its proper portion, and has brought together into concord with one another the things which are the best.

(524)  But to have good repute amidst such a world as this is an empty thing.

(526)  The best way of avenging thyself is not to become like the wrong doer.

(530)  Short is life.  There is only one fruit of this terrene life, a pious disposition and social acts.

(535)  What is badness?  It is that which thou hast often seen.  And on the occasion of everything which happens keep this in mind, that it is that which thou hast often seen. Everywhere up and down thou wilt find the same things, with which the old histories are filled, those of the middle ages and those of our own day;  with which cities and houses are filled now.  There is nothing new;  all things are both familiar and short-lived.

(536)  All things are implicated with one another, and the bond is holy;  and there is hardly anything unconnected with any other thing.

(537)  Near is thy forgetfulness of all things;  and near the forgetfulness of thee by all.

(543)  The gods who are immortal are not vexed because during so long a time they must tolerate continually men such as they are and so many of them bad;  and besides this, they also take care of them in all ways.  But thou, who art destined to end so soon, art thou wearied of enduring the bad, and this too when thou art one of them?
NB:  men are not gods

(549)  In the next place remember that neither the future nor the past pains thee, but only the present.  But this is reduced to a very little, if thou only circumscribest it, and chidest thy mind, if it is unable to hold out against even this.

… Was it not in the order of destiny that these persons too should first become old women and old men and the die?  What then would those do after these were dead?  All this is foul smell and blood in a bag.

(554)  This, then, is consistent with the character of a reflecting man, to be neither careless nor impatient nor contemputous with respect to death, but to wait for it as one of the operations of nature.

(556)  All things are the same, familiar in experience, and ephemeral in time, and worthless in the matter.  Everything now is just as it was in the time of those whom we have buried.

(557)  As thou thyself art a component part of a social system, so let every act of thine be a component part of social life.  Whatever act of thine then has no reference either immediately or remotely to a social end, this tears asunder thy life, and does not allow it to be one, and it is of the nature of a mutiny, just as when in a popular assembly a man acting by himself stands apart from the general agreement.

(571)  Have I done something for the general interest?  Well then I have had my reward.  Let this always be present to thy mind, and never stop doing such good.

(574)  How unsound and insincere is he who says, I have determined to deal with thee in a fair way.  - What art thou doing, man?  There is no occasion to give this notice.  It will soon show itself by acts.  The voice ought to be plainly written on the forehead.  Such as a man’s  character is, he immediately shows it in his eyes, just as he who is beloved forthwith trades everything in the eyes of lovers.  The man who is honest and good ought to be exactly like a man who smells strong, so that the bystander as soon as he comes near him must smell whether he choose or not.  But the affectation of simplicity is like a crooked stick.  Nothing is more disgraceful than a wolfish friendship (false friendship).  Avoid this most of all.  The good and simple and benevolent show all these things in the eyes, and there is no mistaking.  

(582)  Consider that everything is opinion, and opinion is in thy power.  Take away then, when thou choosest, thy opinion, and like a mariner, who has doubled the promontory, thou wilt find calm, everything stable, and a waveless bay.

(583)  Constantly bring to thy recollection those who have complained greatly about anything, those who have been most conspicious by the greatest fame or misfortunes or enmities or fortunes of any kind:  then think where are they all now?  Smoke and ash and a tale, or not even a tale.

…. for the pride which is proud of its want of pride is the most intolerable of all.

(584)  There is one soul, though it is distributed among infinite natures and individual circumscriptions (or individuals).  There is one intelligent soul, though it seems to be divided.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Unto This Last was one book that MK Gandhi felt influenced by more than most others.  So much so that he translated it into Gujarati (and a Gandhi scholar has re-translated that book from Gujarati back into English).  After reading about Gandhian economics and thinking about it for years, I finally sat down to read Ruskin's work.  I can see why Gandhi thought so highly of it.


Unto This Last, The Political Economy of Art, Essays on Political Economy by John Ruskin
Everyman’s Library
London:  Dent, 1968
NY:  Dutton, 1968

Political Economy of Art
(4-5)  In the simplest and clearest definition of it, economy, whether public or private, means the wise management of labour;  and it means this mainly in three senses;  namely, first, applying your labour rationally;  secondly, preserving its produce carefully;  lastly, distributing its produce seasonably.

(12-13)  The value of the horse consists simply in the fact of your being able to put a bridle on him.  The value of the man consists precisely in the same thing.  If you can bridle him, or which is better, if he can bridle himself, he will be a valuable creature directly.  Otherwise, in a commercial point of view, his value is either nothing, or accidental only.

(17)  For it is only the young who can receive much reward from men’s praise;  the old, when they are great, get too far beyond and above you to care what you think of them.  ...But now, their pleasure is in memory, and their ambition is in heaven.

(63)  For remember always that the price of a picture by a living artist, never represents, never can represent, the quantity of labour or value in it.  Its price represents, for the most part, the degree of desire which the rich people of the country have to possess it.

(73)  There is not a chapter in all the book we profess to believe, specially and directly written for England than the second of Habakkuk, and I never in all my life heard one of its practical texts preached from.

(86 -87)  So that the real fact of the matter is, that people will take alms delightedly, consisting of a carriage and footmen, because those do not look like alms to the people in the street;  but they will not take alms consisting only of bread and water and coals, because everybody would understand what those meant.

(89)  For the arrangement of the laws of a nation so as to procure the greatest advantages to itself, and leave the smallest advantages to other nations, is not a part of the science of political economy, but merely a broad application of the science of fraud.

(106)   There are three weighty matters of the law - justice, mercy, and truth;  and of these the Teacher puts truth last, because that cannot be known but by a course of acts of justice and love.  But men put, in all their efforts, truth first, because they mean by it their own opinions;  and thus, while the world has many people who would suffer martyrdom in the cause of what they call truth, it has few who will suffer even a little inconvenience, in that of justice and mercy.

Unto This Last
(134-135)  What is really desired, under the name of riches, is essentially, power over men;  in its simplest sense, the power of obtaining for our own advantage the labour of servant, tradesman, and artist;  in wider sense, authority of directing large masses of the nation to various ends (good, trivial or hurtful, according to the mind of the rich person).  And this power of wealth of course is greater or less in direct proportion to the poverty of the men over whom it is exercised, and in inverse proportion to the number of persons who are as rich as ourselves, and who are ready to give the same price for an article of which the supply is limited.  If the musician is poor, he will sing for small party, as long as there is only one person who can pay him;  but if there be two or three, he will sing for the one who offers him most.  And thus the power of the riches of the patron (always imperfect and doubtful, as we shall see presently, even when most authoritative) depends first on the poverty of the artist, and then on the limitation of the number of equally wealthy persons, who also want seats at the concert.  So that, as above stated, the art of becoming “rich,” in the common sense, is not absolutely nor finally the art of accumulating much money for ourselves, but also of contriving that our neighours shall have less.  In accurate terms, it is “the art of establishing the maximum inequality in our own favor.”

(142)  So far as I know, there is not in history record of anything so disgraceful to the human intellect as the modern idea that the commercial text, “Buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest,” represents, or under any circumstances could represent, an available principle of national economy.  Buy in the cheapest market?  - yes;  but what made your market cheap?  Charcoal may be cheap among your roof timbers after a fire, and bricks may be cheap in your streets after an earthquake;  but fire and earthquake may not therefore be national benefits.  Sell in the dearest?  - yes, truly;  but what made your market dear?  You sold your bread well to-day;  was it to a dying man who gave his last coin for it, and will never need bread more, or to a rich man who to-morrow will buy your farm over your head;  or to a soldier on his way to pillage the bank in which you have put your fortune?

None of these things you can know.  One thing only you can know, namely, whether this dealing of ours is a just and faithful one, which is all you need concern yourself about respecting it;  sure thus to have done your own part in bringing about ultimately int he world a state of things which will not issue in pillage or in death

(168)  Valor, from valere, to be well, or strong;  - strong, in life (if a man), or valiant;  strong, for life (if a thing), or valuable.  To be “valuable,” therefore, is to “avail towards life.”  A truly valuable or availing thing is that which leads to life with its whole strength.  In proportion as it does not lead to life, or as its strength is broken, it is less valuable;  in proportion as it leads away from life, it is unvaluable or malignant.

(169)  “To be wealthy,” says Mr [John Stuart] Mill, is “to have a large stock of useful articles.”

I accept this definition.  Only let us perfectly understand it.  My opponents often lament my not giving them enough logic:  I fear I must at present use a little more than they will like;  but this business of Political Economy is no light one, and we must allow no loose terms in it.

(171)  Hence, it follows, that is a thing is to be useful, it must be not only of an availing nature, but in availing hands.  Or, in accurate terms, usefulness is value in the hands of the valiant;  so that this science of wealth being, as we have just seen, when regarded as the science of Accumulation, accumulative of capacity as well as of material, - when regarded as the Science of Distribution, is distribution not absolute, but discriminate;  not of every thing to every man, but of the right thing to the right man.  A difficult science, dependent on more than arithmetic.
NB:  Marx - needs/abilities

(175)  The general law, then, respecting just or economical exchange, is simply this:  -There must be advantage on both sides (or if only advantage on one, at least no disadvantage on the other) to the persons exchanging;  and just payment for his time, intelligence, and labour, to any intermediate person, effecting the transaction (commonly called a merchant):  and whatever advantage there is on either side, and whatever pay is given to the intermediate person, should be thoroughly known to all concerned. 
NB:  perfect knowledge and Economic Man

(176)  Three-fourths of the demands existing in the world are romantic;  founded on visions, idealisms, hopes, and affections;  and the regulation of the purse is, in its essence, regulation of the imagination and the heart.  Hence, the right discussion of the nature of price is a very high metaphysical and psychical problem;  sometimes to be solved only in a passionate manner, as by David in his counting the price of the water of the well by the gate of Bethlehem;  but its first conditions are the following:  - The price of anything is the quantity of labour given by the person desiring it, in order to obtain possession of it.  This price depends on four variable quantities.  A.  The quantity of wish the purchaser has for the thing;  opposed to ∂, the quantity of wish the seller has to keep it.  B.  The quantity of labour the purchaser can afford, to obtain the thing;  opposed to ß, the qunatity of labour the seller can afford, to keep it.  These quantities are operative only in excess, i.e. the quantity of wish (A) means the quantity of wish for the thing, above wish for other things;  and the quantity of work (B) means the quantity which can be spared to get the thing from the quantity needed to get other things.

(179)  So far from this being so [economists speaking of no good in consumption], consumption absolute is the end, crown, and perfection of production;  and wise consumption is a far more difficult art than wise production.  Twenty people can gain money for one who can use it;  and the vital question, for individual and for nation, is, never “how much do they make?” but “to what purpose do they spend?”

(184)  It is the very awful form of the operation of wealth in Europe that it is entirely capitalists’ wealth whch supports unjust wars.

(185)  THERE IS NO WEALTH BUT LIFE.  Life, including all its powers of love, of joy, and of admiration.  That country is the richest which nourishes the greatest number of noble and happy human beings;  that man is richest who, having perfected the functions of his own life to the utmost, has also the widest helpful influence, both personal, and by means of his possessions, over the lives of others.

(190)  As the art of life is learned, it will be found at last that all lovely things are also necessary…

(191)  Note, finally, that all effectual advancement towards this true felicity of the human race must be by individual, not public effort.

… We need examples of people who, leaving Heaven to decide whether they are to rise in the world, decide for themselves that they will be happy in it, and have resolved to seek - not greater wealth, but simpler pleasure;  not higher fortune, but deeper felicity;  making the first of possessions, self-possession;  and honouring themselves in the harmless pride and calm pursuits of peace.

… Of which lowly peace it is written that “justice and peace have kissed each other;”  and that the fruit of justice is “sown in peace of them that make peace;”  not “peace-makers” in the common understanding - reconcilers of quarrels;  (though that function also follows on the greater one;)  but peace-Creators;  Givers of Calm.  Which you cannot give, unless you first gain;  nor is this gain one which will assuredly on any course of business, commonly so called.

Essays on Political Economy
(198)  For no economist would admit national economy to be legitimate which proposed to itself only the building of a pyramid of gold.  He would declare the gold to be wasted, were it to remain in the monumental form, and would say it ought to be employed….  The golden pyramid may perhaps be providently built, perhaps improvidently;  but, at all events, the wisdom or folly of the accumulation can only be determined by our having first clearly stated the aim of all economy, namely, the extension of life….

It has just been stated that the object of political economy is the continuance not only of life, but of healthy and happy life.

(199)  We must therefore yet farther define the aim of political economy to be “The multiplication of human life at the highest standard."
NB:  not quantity but quality as the "standard of living"

(203)  Wealth consists of things in themselves valuable;  Money, of documentary claims to the possession of such things, and Riches is a relative term, expressing the magnitude of the possessions of one person or society as compared with those of other persons or societies.

The study of Wealth is a province of natural science:  - it deals with the essential properties of things.
NB:  ecological economics

The study of Money is as province of commercial science:  - it deals with conditions of engagement and exchange.

The study of Riches is a province of moral science:  - it deals with the due relations of men to each other in regard of material possessions;  and with the just laws of their association for purposes of labor.

(278)  A republic means, properly, a polity in which the state, with its all, is at every man’s service, and every man, with his all, at the state’s service - (people are apt to lose sight of the last condition), but its government may nevertheless be oligarchic (consular, or decemviral, for instance), or monarchic (dictatorial).  But a democracy means a state in which the government rests directly with the majority of the citizens.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Healing Wound: Experiences and Reflections on Germany, 1938 - 2001 by Gitta Sereny

The Healing Wound:  Experiences and Reflections on Germany, 1938 - 2001 by Gitta Sereny
NY:  WW Norton, 2001
ISBN 0-393-04428-9

Introduction
(xvii)  The fact that the Russians, who lost 50 million people to Stalin, Hitler, and the war, feel both bitter and puzzled by the West’s almost exclusive concentration upon the Nazis’ genocide of the Jews is not surpising.

…Many people, myself included, have come to feel that the particularism accepted by the Western world over the past fifty-five years, in so entirely identifying HItler and national socialism with the genocide of the Jews, virtually ignoring the millions Hitler murdered elsewhere and concentrating the historic and emotional memory of that period so exclusively on that one aspect of it (including the appropriation of the - capitalized - word “Holocaust”), is both historically incorrect and psychologically unwise.

Beginnings
(4)  March 1938, when Hitler invaded Austria:  While I waited for Elfie in the dark, deserted park, I heard for the first time a sound that was to echo around Vienna for weeks:  the rhythmic chant of many voices shouting words I had never heard before:  “Deutschland erwache! Juda Verrecke!” - Germany awake!  Jewry perish!

Stolen Children [Children stolen from their parents to be raised in Germany]
(28) “Extermination by work,” it was called, and it applied not only to children or Jews, but to countless slave workers.  “If 10,000 Russian women die of exhaustion in digging an anti-tank ditch, this is of no interest to me except to the extent to which the ditch is readied for Germany,” said Heinrich Himmler on 4 October 1943 in Posen.  “We Germans, who are the only people in the world who have a correct attitude towards animals, also have a correct attitude toward these animal human beings."

(45)  (If, although of the right colouring and build, they [child prisoners] were found to be physically unfit or racially “tainted,” they would end up in what to all intents and purposes was a children’s concentration camp in Lodz (renamed Litzmanstaft), about which little documentation exists except some harrowing photographs, but where it is said most of them died.)

Generation Without a Past
(71)  If - soon - the German youth cannot find dignity, they will look for pride.  Dignity grows and lives in freedom.  Pride can arise out of oppression.  An enormous and belated effort of courage is required of the adults of West Germany:  they must free their children, against themselves.

(76)  “The high SS officers who headed the sections of the [Einsatzkommando] 1005 were almost all originaly trained in the euthanasia program,” he [Kurt Tegge] said.  “that was in the very beginning - in 1938-9.  We know now how it worked:  they would be ordered to kill all patients in certain institutions and hospitals for the insane, incurably ill or severely retarded.  They would be told that ‘this is a difficult job, but, for the sake of Germany, and the patients themselves, it has to be done.’  If it turned out that they were sickened by this assignment - and many were - they would be asked on another occasion to try again, and then once more.  But the third time, they had either overcome their objections and revulsion and would then be considered capable of ‘hard’ assignments - or else they had shown themselves incapable of this sort of work and were transferred to other duties.  It is certain that this was quite deliberately used as the training ground for the SS.  It was considered that if these men turned out to be capable of killing sick German children and old people, they’d be capable of anything.  We’ve had numerous euthanasia trials in West Germany and there are more to come."
NB:  I wonder if a generation of constant international warfare has done that in the USA and other countries in the "developed" world.

(81-82)  Again and again, all over Germany, the point was made to me that the German people on the whole had never accepted, hardly knew, that genocide was perpetrated on other people beside the Jews.  The Jews too tend towards this misinterpretation of events.  “They killed 6 million Jews - we know, “ says Herr Rückerl.  “But they also killed 5 million Russian civilians, 2 million Poles - including a large part of their finest intelligentsia - and a million other people:  gypsies, German free-thinkers, and German insane or incurably sick… 8 million of what they chose to call 'inferior stock.’  But these dreadful numbers - 14 million - they are not even the point, it’s the basic insanity of categorizing humanity that matters.  How can we make our people understand?  And unless they understand this at least, how can we have any hope for the future?"

Colloquy with a Conscience
(88)  When, sometime in 1968, I realized that this [how people could have carried out genocidal orders] was the reason for my frustration, I decided to try to find one perpetrator if possible less primitive and with at least a semblance of moral awareness, who, if approached not as a monster but as a human being, might be able to explain his own catastrophic moral failure.

(89)  I went to Düsseldorf the next day and , as Spiess thought, found {Franz Paul] Stangl [commandant of the Sobibór and Treblinka extermination campsnotes on Sereny's book on Stangl at http://hubeventsnotes.blogspot.com/2016/12/into-that-darkness-from-mercy-killing.html] more complex, more open, serious and even sad than any of the others I had observed;  the only man with such a horrific record who appeared to manifest a semblance of a conscience.

(90)  Ruth-Alice von Bismarck published the correspondence between her sister, Maria von Wedemeyer and her fiancé Deitrich Bonhoeffer, Loveletters from Cell 92 (HarperCollins, 1994)

(92)  I think my reason for doing the things I do, is and always has been quite simply - or perhaps not so simply - a need, a drive to know.  The price one pays (and, selfishly, expects the people one loves to pay) for giving in to this inner need, in shock, in tension and in a very particular kind of fatigue, can be high.

(94)  Wiesenthal meets RFK:  He [RFK] was a great man,  He said, “There is no statute of limiitations on a moral obligation.'  And he let the Brazilians know that America would not be pleased if there was any delay in the agreement to Stangl’s extradition.  His intervention at that time affected the subsequent attitude of all South American governments:  they found out where America stood.”

(95)  Prison staff in West Germany are well trained (the courses include 200 hours of lectures in psychology).

(96)  The need to “accommodate” himself to a situation appears to have followed Franz Stangl from the cradle.

(102)  Stangl:  “By then I had heard that I had originally been on a list of officials to be shot after the Anschluss [because of his finding and reporting a Nazi arms cache in 1934].

“I hate….  I hate the Germans,” he suddenly said with passion, “for what they pulled me into.  I should have killed myself in 1938.”  There was nothing maudlin about the way this was said:  he was merely stating a fact.  “That’s when it started for me.  I must acknowledge my guilt.”

(105)  Sereny:  What made you agree to go [to the euthanasia group]?

Stangl:  Several times during this talk he mentioned - sort of by the way - that he had heard I wasn’t altogether happy in Linz.  And then, he said, there was a disciplinary action pending against me.  That would, of course, be suspended if I accepted a transfer.  He said I could also choose either to go to an institute in Saxonia, or one in Austria.  But that, if I chose to refuse the assignment, no doubt my present chief in Linz - Prohaska - would find something else for me to do.”

….  After all I already knew since 13 March that it was simpler to be dead in Germany than anywhere else.

(108)  “‘Just look at him [16 year old looking like 5 year old candidate for euthanasia],’ she [the nun] went on.  ‘No good to himself or anyone else.  How could they refuse to deliver him from this miserable life?’  This really shook me, “ said Stangl.  “Here was a  Catholic nun, a mother superior, _and_ a priest.  And they thought it was right.  Who was I then to doubt what was being done?”

The exact number of those killed has never been established, but varies between 60,000 and 80,000.  But after many Germans publicly protested agaiinst the killing of German and Austrian patients, on 23 August 1941 ( by which time approximately 50,000 had been killed), Hitler ordered the Aktion stopped.

(112)  He [Globocnik] said that any Jews who didn’t work properly here would be “eliminated.”  “If any of you don’t like that,” he said to us, “you can leave.  But under the earth,” he added in his heavy wit, “not over it.”

NB:  murderers make murderers by threatening murder

(117)  When I got out of the car on the Sortierungsplatz I stepped knee-deep into money:  I didn’t know which ways to turn, where to go.  I waded in paper notes, currency, precious stones, jewelry and clothes.  They were everywhere, strewn all over the square.  The smell was indescribable:  the hundreds, no, the thousands of bodies everywhere, putrefying, decomposing.  Across the square in the woods, just a few hunded yards away on the other side of the barbed-wire fence, there were tents and open fires with groups of Ukrainian guards and girls - whores from Warsaw I found out later - weaving, drunk, dancing, singing, playing music….

(125)  Sereny:  Could you not have changed that?  In your position could you not have stopped the nakedness, the whips, the horror of the cattle pens?
Stangl:  No, no, no.  This was the system.  Wirth had invented it.  It worked.  And because it worked, it was irreversible.

(127)  Stangl:  Blau was the one [Jewish inmate] I talked to most:  him and his wife.  No, I don’t know what he was.  Business, I think.  I’d made him the cook in the lower camp.  He knew I’d help wherever I could.  There was one day when he knocked at the door of my office about mid-morning and stood at attention and asked permission to speak to me.  He looked very worried.  I said, ‘Of course Blau, come on in.  What’s your problem?’ (Was haben Sie denn auf dem Herzen?)  He said it was his eighty-year-old father.  He’d arrived on that morning’s transport.  Was there anything I could do?  I said, ‘Really Blau, you must understand, its impossible.  A man of eighty…’  He said quickly that yes, he understood, of course.  But could he ask me for permission to take his father to the Lazarett [where the old and sick were shot] rather than the gas chambers?  And could he take his father first to the kitchen and give him a meal?  I said, ‘You go and do what you think best, Blau.  Officially I don’t know anything, but unofficially you can tell the Kapo I said it was all right.’  In the afternoon, When I came back to my office, he was waiting for me. He had tears in his eyes.  He stood at attention and said, 'Herr Hauptsturmführer, I want to thank you.  I gave my father a meal.  And I’ve just taken him to the Lazarett - it’s all over.  Thank you very much.’  I said, ‘Well, Blau, there’s no need to thank me, but of course if you _want_ to thank me you may.’

Serena:  What happened to Blau and his wife?

That same vagueness. ‘I don’t know.'

(128)  Stangl:  "Even I only learned to understand the full extent of what had been done and _how_ all the secrecy had been managed, much later, by listening to the testimony at my trial.  Believe me, I was horrified, astounded by many things I heard then.  It was… it gave me quite a different perspective.”

(128-129)  Sereny:  Yours was a very special position.  There can’t have been more than a dozen men like you in all of the Third Reich.  Don’t you think if you had found that extraordinary courage, it would have had an effect on the people who served under you?

Stangl:  He shook his head.  “If I had sacrificed myself,” he said slowly.  “If i had made public what I felt and had died… it would have made no difference.  Not an iota.  It would all have gone on just the same, as if it and I had never happened.”

(129)  Sereny:  What did you think at the time was the reason for the exterminations?
Stanley:  His answer came at once:  “They wanted the Jews’ money.”
                                        
Serena:  What is the difference to you between hate - and contempt, which results in considering people as cargo?

Stangl:  It has nothing to do with hate.  They were so weak;  they allowed everything to happen - to be done to them.  They were people with whom there was no common ground, no possibility of communication - that is how contempt is born.  I could never understand how they could just give in as they did.

NB:  We allow these things to happen.  Or don't.
from Sebastian Haffner's Defying Hitler, notes at https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2005/10/12/156233/-
"'And you see no difficulty with your new party membership because of these things? [Köpenick's week of bloodshed (German "Köpenicker Blutwoche") nearly a week of arrests, torture and killings by the SA between 21 and 26 June 1933 (thanks Wikipedia)] ' I remarked at last.
"Immediately he became defensive and his face took on a bold Mussolini expression.  'No, not at all,' he declared.  'Do you feel pity for these people?  The man who shot first the day before yesterday knew that it would cost him his life, of course.  It would have been bad form not to hang him.  Incidentally, he has my respect.  As for the others - shame on them.  Why didn't they put up a fight?  They were all longtime Social Democrats and members of the Eiserne Front [non-Communist leftist semimilitary group].  Why should they be lying in their beds in their nightshirts?  They should have defended themselves and died decently.  But they're a limp lot.  I have no sympathy for them.'"
(130)  Stangl:  But then I heard that there was a bishop Hulgar at the Vatican who was helping Catholic SS officers, so I went to Rome.  (Stangl had the name wrong:  Dr Alois Hudal, the bishop in question, was rector of Rome’s Pontifical Teutonic College;  he died in 1963.)

Sereny:  Was there someone who helped Protestant SS officers too?

Stangl:  Oh yes, he sat in Rome too.  Probst Heinemann.

(132)  Sereny:  “Was God in Treblinka?”
Stangl:  “Yes.  Otherwise how could it have happened?”

Fakes and Hoaxes  The Hitler Diaries
(163)  “Everything went and one day there was nothing left,” he [Richard Glazar, Czech who survived Treblinka and worked packing the valuables the dead had left to Germany] said.  “You can’t imagine what we felt when there was nothing there.  You see, the _things_ were our justification for being alive.  If there were no _things_ to administer, why would they let us stay alive?” he said.  One day towards the end of March, when they had reached the lowest ebb in their morale, Kurt Franz, the deputy commandant, walked into their barracks, a wide grin on his face.  “‘As of tomorrow,” he said, ‘transports will be rolling in again.’  And do you know what we did?” Richard asked.  “We shouted, ‘Hurrah, hurrah.’  It seems impossible now.  Every time I think of it, I die a small death; but it’s the truth.  That is what we did;  that is where we had got to…"

The Great Globocnik Hunt [Odilo Globocnik was in charge of the extermination camps in Poland]
(204)  Incredibly, it turns out that Lore Globocnik was half-Jewish.  She had married Globocnik in October 1944.

Leni
(246)  And Riefenstahl’s unprecedented camerawork there [Triumph of the Will] powerfully demonstrated the principal tenet of the Nazi faith:  that beauty and order _was_ harmony and as such, rather than being an aesthetic inspiration, was a moral imperative.

Kurt Waldheim’s Mental Block
(253)  Had he known about Hitler’s feelling about Jews?  Had he read Mein Kampf?  He smiled - it is extraordinary in Germany and Austria, how people always smile when asked this question.  That old condescension towards “Corporal Hitler, the house-painter” still survives.


(259)  As of October 1943, after the horrible speech by Himmler in Posen, the German gauleiters knew.  And three months later, in January 1944, he made accomplices of the generals by telling _them_.

(260)  “I remember the first mass meeting I went to,” Waldheim told me,  “I heard screams and watched, horrified and afraid, and I said to my brother:  ‘It is hysterical, vulgar, undignified, unnatural - it’ll end badly.’”  No, he was not a Nazi, but had he yet to grasp these were not the right words for what he saw?

The Man Who Said “No”
(262)  “Nothing was going to make me do it [making the nightly selections for the gas chambers],” he [SS pathologist Dr Hans Münch] told Austrian TV.  Even more strikingly, he added:  “I don’t think anyone in the SS was forced to do what they did against their will.”

Albert Speer
(268)  In his letter, Speer wrote that it was “ludicrous” for anyone to claim that the genocide of the Jews could have been anyone’s idea but Hitler’s.  “It shows a profound ignorance of the nature of Hitler’s Germany, in which nothing of any magnitude could conceivably happen, not only without his knowledge, but without his orders.”

Children of the Reich
(288)  Martin Boorman, the son:  “I don’t have to invent or even describe,” he said.  “I just read them bits from Hitler’s speeches, about the teaching of the young.  ‘I want no intellectual education,’ Hitler said.  ‘Knowledge will spoil the young for me.  It is control they must learn;  it is the fear of death they must conquer:  this is what creates true freedom, creativity and maturity for the young…’"

(293)  Dan Bar-On’s Legacy of Silence tells the story of 13 children of Nazi perpetrators

(299)  "When she [Himmler’s mistress, Frau Pothast] opened the door and we flocked in, we didn’t understand at first what the objects in that room were - until she explained, quite scientifically, you know.  Tables, and chairs, made of parts of human bodies.  There was a chair…” Martin’s voice becomes toneless as he describes it;  the people around the table have frozen into stillness, and I feel my body go prickly.  “The seat was a human pelvis, the legs human legs - on human feet.  And then she picked up one of a stack of copies of Mein Kampf - all I could think of was that my father had told me not to bother to read it, as it had been outdated by events.  She showed us the cover, made of human skin, and explained that the Dachau prisoners who produced it used the Rückenhaut - the skin of the back to make it."

(303)  Dirk, whose father was executed:  But they [perpetrators] were incapable of shame or repentance and therefore left us alone with nothing but the heritage of their awful guilt.

The Case of John Demjanjuk
(312)  …the Nazis hung some of the most remarkable resisters in Germany, including Admiral Canaris, chief of the Abwehr, General Oster, his chief of staff, Count von Moltke, founder of the Christian resistance group, the “Kreisau Circle,” and the great theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

(332)  … the memory of how a man walked, a characteristic that is said not to change with age.

A Last Witness to Hitler
(360)  Traudl Junge, one of Hitler’s secretaries:  “His speeches all had these words in them [about the Jews and the Slavs] and I now know that one simply got used to them, didn’t really hear them, blocked them, I suppose, in the sense that otherwise they would… surely… have been unacceptable.  And an instant later, he would be quiet again, professorial with his steel-rimmed glasses.”

(361)  “Kershaw’s biography reminded me how unsystematic everything was, his political and military decisions, his life, really.  Putting together what this book now shows us and what I probably felt in my bones then, but only understand consciously now, the essential thing about Hitler probably was that his mind and his actions were ruled not by knowledge but by emotion.  I had never understood until now how he, who supposedly so loved the Germans, was prepared to sacrifice them so cold-bloodedly at the end.

(362)  “I thought - yes, I did think then - how undignified it [Hitler’s last will] all was.  Just the same phrases, in the same quiet tone and then, at the end of it, those terrible words about the Jews  After all the despair, all the suffering, not one word of sorrow, or compassion.  I remember thinking, he has left us with nothing.  A nothing.  (Ein Nichts.)”

Final Reflections
(363)  But because the poison which we hoped and believed had been eradicated in our own time by the knowledge of the ultimate evil - the gas-chamber murders committed by the Nazis - is in fact still present, not in any one area of discrimination or racism, or in a restricted number of specific rulers or governments, but in all humankind.  I call it “Inner Racism.”

(366)  2001 in the former East Germany:  Startlingly, NPD activists (from the extreme-right National Democratic Party) have succeeded in creating so-called nationally liberated zones:  no-go areas for non-believers, aliens, dark-skinned Germans and anybody else who does not conform to their racist ideology.

(367)  Munich 18 year old high school student who lived in a working-class district:  “They don’t get modern history at all.”  He shrugged.  “So you see, instruction in Nazi history has become a matter of class."

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Bluebeard

_Bluebeard_ by Kurt Vonnegut
NY:  Dell Publishing, 1987
ISBN 0-440-20196-9

Author’s Note:  May I say, too, that much of what I put in this book was inspired by the grotesque prices paid for works of art during the past century.  Tremendous concentrations of paper wealth have made it possible for a few persons or institutions to endow certain sorts of human playfulness with inappropriate and hence distressing seriousness.  I think not only of the mudpies of art, but of children’s games as well - running, jumping, catching, throwing.

Or dancing.

Or singing songs.

(12)  Paul Slazinger says, incidentally, that the human condition can be summed up in just one word, and this is the word:  _Embarrassment_.

(49)  She had figured out that the most pervasive American disease was loneliness, and that even people at the top often suffered from it, and that they could be surprisingly responsive to attractive strangers who were friendly.

(60)  “That’s the secret of how to enjoy writing and how to make yourself meet high standards,” said Mrs. Berman.  “You don’t write for the whole world, and you don’t write for ten people or two.  You write for just one person.”

(66)  I wasn’t like my parents.  I didn’t have any supposedly sacred piece of land or shoals of friends and relatives to leave behind.  Nowhere has the number _zero_ been more of philosophical value than in the United States.

(82)  But let’s forget me for the moment, and focus on the works of Gregory [famous illustrator].  They were truthful about material things, but they lied about time.  He celebrated the moments, anything from a child’s first meeting with a department store Santa Claus to the victory of a gladiator at the Circus Maximus, from the driving of the golden spike which completed a transcontinental railroad to a man’s going on his knees to ask a woman to marry him.  But he lacked the guts or the wisdom, or maybe just the talent, to indicate somehow that time was liquid, that one moment was no more important than any other and that all moments quickly run away.

(132)  About a year later, I got around to asking him [Gregory] what he thought the people of the United States really were, and he said, “Spoiled children, who are begging for a frightening but just Daddy to tell them exactly what to do.”

(165)  “‘Contentedly adrift in the cosmos,’ were you?”  Kitchen [abstract expressionist] said to me.  “That is a perfect description of a non-epiphany, that rarest of moments, when God Almighty lets go of the scruff of your neck and lets you be human for a little while.  How long did the feeling last?”

“Oh - maybe half an hour,” I said.

And he leaned back in his chair and he said with satisfaction:  “And there you are.”

(170-171)  They were West Germans [visitors to his private collection of paintings], as I say, but they could just as easily have been fellow citizens of mine from right down the beach.  And I wonder now if that isn’t a secret ingredient in the attitudes of so many people here, citizens or not:  that this is still a virgin continent, and that everybody else is an Indian who does not appreciate its value, or is at least too weak and ignorant to defend himself?

*     *    *

The darkest secret of this country, I am afraid, is that too many of its citizens imagine that they belong to a much higher civilization somewhere else.  That higher civilization doesn’t have to be another country.  It can be the past instead - the Unites States as it was before it was spoiled by immigrants and the enfranchisement of the blacks.

This state of mind allows too many of us to lie and cheat and steal from the rest of us, to sell us junk and addictive poisons and corrupting entertainments.  What are the rest of us, after all, but sub-hunan aborigines?
NB:  Not just America, Bub

(175)  The real treasure the great universities offered was a lifelong membership in a respected artificial extended family.
NB: see Ben Franklin as Silence Dogood on college education

"I reflected in my Mind on the extream Folly of those Parents, who, blind to their Childrens Dulness, and insensible of the Solidity of their Skulls, because they think their Purses can afford it, will needs send them to the Temple of Learning*, where, for want of a suitable Genius, they learn little more than how to carry themselves handsomely, and enter a Room genteely, (which might as well be acquir’d at a Dancing-School,) and from whence they return, after Abundance of Trouble and Charge, as great Blockheads as ever, only more proud and self-conceited.”

Benjamin Franklin, at age 16 in 1722, writing as Silence Dogood, widowed matron with a college-aged son

* He specifically refers to Harvard College at the end of the essay.

(215)  “The whole point of war is to put women everywhere in that condition... [women who would do anything for food or protection for themselves and the children and the old people, since the young men were dead or gone away]…  It’s always men against women, with the men only pretending to fight among themselves.” [Said by Mrs. Berman}

(273)  “Because,” I said, “the Japanese were as responsible as the Germans for turning Americans into a bunch of bankrupt militaristic fuckups - after we’d done such a good job of being sincere war-haters after the First World War.”
NB:  Forgetting, of course, the constant little wars in Central America, the Caribbean, and other places around the world.

(279)  “I think maybe it’s terribly important the same way a head-on collision is important,” I said.  “There’s undeniable impact.  Something has sure as hell happened.”

(281)  “The whole magical thing about our painting [abstract expressionism], Mrs. Berman, and this was old stuff in music, but it was brand new in painting:  it was pure _essence of human wonder_, and wholly apart from food, from sex, from clothes, from houses, from drugs, from cars, from news, from money, from crime, from punishment, from games, from war, from peace - and surely apart from the universal human impluse among painters and plumbers alike toward inexplicable despair and self-destruction!"