Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Dachau and the problem of "evil"

I've spent a total of like 14 hours in the Copenhagen airport in the last 24 hours with delayed and then cancelled flights, but I wanted to write some quick thoughts about Dachau and evil while I wait for yet another European connecting flight before going home. I'll write more about the trip later.

Dachau is an interesting example of what people would call "evil". Dachau is a city in Bavaria and Dachau the prison and then concentration camp was the first of its kind and often used as a model for the construction of others. It began in the 1930s to house primarily all of the political prisoners that were occurring as Nazism had gained control over the German government and had gotten permission to protect the fatherland by eliminating or isolating potential threats. Interestingly, when they first obtained this permission through what was mostly still a legit democratically elected government, the pretense they gave for the need for such power was to protect their political rivals from the harm that might happen to the political rivals. In other words, they argued that their political rivals were so endangered by the political fury the Nazis themselves had worked so hard to foment via well placed propaganda preying upon the banal fears to which empaths in particular are susceptible. I sort of vaguely remember this being one of the given purposes for the establishment of Jewish ghettos as well -- that they were so hated that they needed to be separated for their own protection.

I went there with my German friend, which was interesting for me not so much because of who she is (sociopathic identifying, although that was also a little hilarious to sort of see the different ways she approached things than a more neurotypical person might), but because of how I reacted to her presence. I still have very low maybe non-existent affective empathy even post therapy, but one thing that I have always done particularly at the height of my manipulative ways is to be very aware of my audience and adjust my conversation and behavior to please. I still do this. I don't think it's bad, it's just being responsive to the context in which you find yourself, and the people around you are also part of that context. What I mean is that because she was German, I thought much more of the German perspective of what it would be like to live in Dachau -- a city that is still thriving but probably for a lot of the world will always be associated with the camp. Or what it might be like to just generally be German, especially a young German and be both so far removed from any connection to these events, but still inextricably entangled in them. And she had some very interesting thoughts about how the connection continues to affect the German sense of their national identity, like maybe they are less likely to be waving German flags in foreign places or making other overt shows of national pride, particularly while abroad.

So I found myself chatting with her about how the Germans have done a good job accepting responsibility for the things that their nation had done. They do and continue to do reparations, they have all of these memorial sites that are well attended and well maintained, and my German friend told me that the vast majority of her history lessons focused on WWII and with this idea of trying not to repeat past mistakes.

I also found myself saying things like despite the sheer magnitude of this particular path of human cruelty, the German example is not so singular. I had just been to Russia and seen a gulag, spoke at length with a local whose grandfather disappeared into a gulag long ago for the smallest of jokes about Stalin, and saw the affect that such a repressive regime still had. I had just spoken with new polish friend about some of the Russian slaughters of polish political prisoners. I also mentioned to new German friend that when I was in Russia and told people that I was visiting gulags that the U.S. has its own gulags -- the private prisons and terrible legal system that imprisons such a large proportion of its population, particularly its traditionally disadvantaged classes of people. I told her about how there has long been a Russian tu quoque response to American complaints about Russian civil rights violations -- "And you are lynching Negroes".

It was so easy to come up with examples of evil, not just of other nations both historical and contemporary, but personal examples and examples of very common brands of human cruelty -- the failure of common people to understand their fellows as being dynamic and capable of redemption, no matter what past misdeeds, the modern day stoning of public shaming done mostly via social media, the tribalism that has led to polarization and justification for violence and other "ends justify the minds" reasoning among such a broad swath of the population to a level I wouldn't have thought possible ten years ago.


The Germans have done a good job acknowledging the problem of evil, the fact that they as a nation fell susceptible to it generations ago, and trying to learn what this means for not just their own humanity and the dual good/bad that we all share, but for what it means when people do "bad" things to them. Do we judge as hypocrites? Do we falsely set ourselves up as being  beyond reproach?

Evil is not just banal, as Hannah Arendt famously argued, it is ubiquitous and we participate in it in ways small and big every day. When we can do as good of a job as the Germans do about acknowledging this and trying to learn from it and do better, I think the world would be such a better place.

Pictured, gate with the famous motto and lie that work will make free, crematorium, room marked showers that leads to a functioning gas chamber (although apparently never used), and "shower" head designed to dispense zylkon b for the efficient murder of people that were considered by their murders to themselves be "evil" and as such worth of such treatment.

Ok, my plane is boarding! Please forgive any typos or convoluted writing.

19 comments:

  1. So, if you were to kill as many fucks in a high school as possible for under 1500 dollars, what would YOU do. Get creative here guys, now I know there is many a rifle to get gotten for under 500 dollars, and it would be well within rrality to wreak sheer awe-inspiring death around that way, but give me ideas OUTSIDE the fuccin box here dudes. Give me something legitimate. Something to do Superior mo'fuckin damage here guys. And I swear, to you, by way of your suggestion, you will be, a goddamn legend. Indirectly, but no matter of small pride.
    Oh and by the way, its going to happen, so don't you goddamn mutherfuccing try to pull some ideotard bullshite on my ass.
    Think. The mother fucking goddamn fame here guys.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You do realize you came to the wrong place for that kind of help, right? We're capable, but that doesn't mean we're unlawful or without moral values.

      Delete
    2. You've been reported to law enforcement.

      Delete
    3. I mean, you could take a page from Eric Harris's book with the weaponry, and propane tanks, or you could watch Nicholas Cruz's before and after videos and realize it actually doesn't look that great. Everyone hated him afterwards in the jail so i dunno....I mean, if you're looking for infamy there's gotta be some better stuff. You could like eat people, or crucify someone. That sounds like fun...nailin people to a cross. Bringing back the classics.

      Delete
    4. All sociopaths are hyper-jealous of psychopaths
      -facts losers.

      Delete
  2. What's going on in sociopathworld today? Let's see, there's a school shooter and a snitch

    ReplyDelete
  3. Jeez...no one likes a snitch now, do they.
    Or a school shooter I gather. Though we don't really suffer from that spineless, shit-ass epidemic over here, so guess it's a biased opinion...but is rather cowardly no?
    How's about manning the fuck up, arm yourself to the teeth with like, knuckle dusters and short knives and strut into a predominantly hefty fella area, like a docks, or lumberjackery, or or...or I dunno, a lumberjack docks or some shit?
    Prove your worth if you want to make a name for yourself, nevermind picking off helpless confined children...get into a group of kick ass dudes and go wild with your fists and blades.
    The only name you'll probably make for your badass self will be when your laughed at on the news, hey, if it's infamy you want, you may even manage to get your name synonymously associated with being a fuck tard.
    Like Roy Munson.
    Been bullied at school sweetheart? Excluded by the cool kids? Picked last for your uh, spelling B? Man the fuck up you snivelling woman...go fuck with some capable guys and then come back here...may even earn a crumb of respect.
    Or better still...die.

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  4. Most common people have NOT accepted that things like nazi extermination was done by common people. They think "someone else" did that. They think serial killers & psychopaths did that. A psychopath that had been disturbed or taunted can be dangerous. But not as lethal as ordinary people in extreme situations where peer pressure & fear transform servile do-gooders.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The average Nazi still hates jews. I can't be a Nazi because I'm not Aryan.

      Delete
  5. I always visit this site to read up new articles.
    To be frank, I always got interested in your articles.

    ReplyDelete
  6. does psychopathy typically come with a lack of stimulation and is that's the opposit of anxiety ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Obviously then, I'm not a sociopath because of the anxiety.

      Delete
  7. "and "shower" head designed to dispense zylkon b"

    How did you miss the museum sign in the adjacent room?

    "Flaps where prussic acid poison gas pellets (Zyklon B) could be inserted from the outside"
    http://www.hdbg.de/dachau/pdfs/16/16_01_01.PDF
    http://www.hdbg.de/dachau/dachau_die-ausstellung_02_Abteilung-01.php

    The shower-head method was dropped in the early 1960s, replaced by the *dispensed thru the extraction vents* method. In turn, that method was also dropped, replaced by the present method in 1967.


    Specialists from Britain's chemical warfare facility Porton Down visited the Dachau "gas chamber" in 1946. They couldn't figure out how it was suppose to work despite having Karl Brandt, Hitler top gas man no less, to show them round.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For some reason, my eye scanned "Porton Down" as "Dolly Parton" and now I'm going to forever think that the "B" in Zyklon B mean boobs. Thank you.

      Delete
  8. If for some reason "carpenters" were hard to find or understand, and scientists wanted to understand them, would it then be a good idea for them to do their research in prisons? Would they then be able to give true descriptions of carpenters? If they found that carpenters "are people that steal building material, show little remorse if they hit somebody with a hammer & play cards instead of working without shame", would that then be relevant information..?

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  9. I was in Dachau a couple of years ago. I thought the exhibits were well done. It was strange for me to be in a place where a kind of somber quiet is the expectation. So much of life uses really outward-facing emotional language and cues, but here it was like things were constructed to get you look inward.

    I didn't talk to any of the locals, but I did wonder how the town felt about the fact that the camp was right there.

    I couldn't help but be impressed with the engineering inside. They explained in detail how the walls, the fencing, etc. all worked together to prevent escape, and as they were doing so it struck me how good the camp's security people were with the design. I looked at the tower placement and lines of sight. There was no feasible way to escape. Even if every single person in the camp had moved en masse to charge the walls, the tower guards could have killed them down to the last soul. I'm guessing they made sure to have enough ammunition in the towers to do just that. I would have. To be clear, this was not noted with glee. Just admiration for a job well done, "horrible" though it was.

    If you're in the area, and you've not been to one of these sights though, highly recommended, simply for the difference in visitor expectations that most tourist attractions enforce.

    ReplyDelete

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