Inspired by a post yesterday by thefrollickingmole which read, in part:
Our older nurse liked the conversation, as it brought up issues she had thought about a bit, the younger chap was full “coercion is fine for the greater good”.
I thought I’d put down something that has jumped out at me during this whole, sorry Covid event. Whenever I turn on an electronic device, someone is telling the assembled masses a version of two things:
- Go home, sit down, shut up – it’s the law, or
- Go home, sit down, shut up – it’s unfortunate, but it’s for the greater good.
Combinations and permutations of these two concepts also seem to be acceptable for the virtue enriched.
Let’s address these individually.
“It’s the law!”. I’m too old to know everything, but not too old to remember that Hitler’s ascent was, and still is, referred to as the Legal Revolution. Everything about it was legal, strictly speaking. The laws he enacted were legal, strictly speaking. It might be beneficial for some people to ponder this for a minute.
If they need a little more context:
“That applied also to Reich Justice Minister Gürtner. Once he had seen with his own eyes that Hitler’s will stood behind the liquidation of the mentally sick, and that it was not the work of party underlings operating without authority, he gave up his attempts on legal grounds to block or regulate the killings. To a courageous district judge, Lothar Kreyssig, who had written frank protest letters to him about the crass illegality of the action, and on being shown Hitler’s authorization had exclaimed that even on the basis of positive legal theory wrong could not be turned into right, Gürtner gave a simple reply: ‘If you cannot recognize the will of the Führer as a source of law, as a basis of law, then you cannot remain a judge.’ Kreyssig’s notice of retirement followed soon afterwards.
The exchange between Gürtner and Kreyssig shows how far the acceptance of ‘Führer power’ had undermined the essence of law. The genesis of the ‘euthanasia action’ that Hitler authorized in writing in October 1939 provides, beyond that, a classic example of the way ‘working towards the Führer’ converted an ideological goal into realizable policy.”
– ‘Hitler’, Ian Kershaw, 2009
As for the ‘greater good’, well that little gem has been used by nearly every tyrant in history. Never a truer word has been spoken than:
The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Perhaps I’ll ‘elucidate’ further by means of a couple of passages.
“Reich Doctors’ Leader Wagner pushed forward discussions on how the population should be prepared for such action. Calculations were published on the cost of upkeep of the mentally sick and hereditarily ill, instilling the impression of what could be done for the good of the people with vast resources now being ‘wasted’ on ‘useless’ lives. Cameras were sent into the asylums to produce scenes to horrify the German public and convince them of the need to eliminate those portrayed as the dregs of society for the good of the whole population. The National Socialist Racial and Political Office produced five silent films of this kind between 1935 and 1937.”
– ‘Hitler’, Ian Kershaw, 2009
And just to top it off, how about a bit of Solzhenitsyn:
“We would prefer to say that such people cannot exist, that there aren’t any. It is permissible to portray evildoers in a story for children, so as to keep the picture simple. But when the great world literature of the past–Shakespeare, Schiller, Dickens – inflates and inflates images of evildoers of the blackest shades, it seems somewhat farcical and clumsy to our contemporary perception.
The trouble lies in the way these classic evildoers are pictured. They recognize themselves as evildoers, and they know their souls are black. And they reason: “I cannot live unless I do evil. So I’ll set my father against my brother! I’ll drink the victim’s sufferings until I’m drunk with them!” Iago very precisely identifies his purposes and his motives as being black and born of hate.
But no; that’s not the way it is! To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he’s doing is good, or else that it’s a well-considered act in conformity with natural law. Fortunately, it is in the nature of the human being to seek a justification for his actions.
Macbeth’s self-justifications were feeble – and his conscience devoured him. Yes, even Iago was a little lamb too. The imagination and the spiritual strength of Shakespeare’s evildoers stopped short at a dozen corpses. Because they had no ideology. Ideology – that is what gives evildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination. That is the social theory which helps to make his acts seem good instead of bad in his own and others’ eyes, so that he won’t hear reproaches and curses but will receive praise and honors.”
– ‘The Gulag Archipelago’, Solzhenitsyn, Vol 1, P173/74