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July 12, 2011           

GW: On humanity and humaneness

  • Power, which is the only effective moral principle, means just one thing: The possibility to cause another pain.
  • Freedom is what one must choose for oneself every second - there is nobody in heaven or on earth who can help you with this.
  • I do not believe human beings are evil, or that human beings are good - I believe that human beings are partially evil and partially good. Which side will grow and get cultivated, depends on ourselves.
  • Authoritarian human beings only prosper, they feel themselves safe and happy, when they have subordinated themselves in a system in which there are folks above them, and folks below them - when they get kicked from above, and themselves can kick those below
    -- Jens Bjørneboe


I am busy inserting Wikipedia links in my edition of Hazlitt's Table-Talk, that I wrote about yesterday, but have not done yet, although I do note that there are some striking similarities in my own definitions in my Philosophical Dictionary, and the generally longer definitions in Wikipedia.

In fact, I don't mind, and there is a possibility it is coincidence in each and every case, but I do want to insist I was there first, in the sense that (1) I wrote my Philosophical Dictionary to give my own definitions (2) from the top of my head, that is, without consulting books, indeed because my plan was to do it first from the top of my head, and later, if I could, with the help of books and the internet.

As to inserting the links in Hazlitt's essays: I think it much improves their readability and educational value, in general; because Hazlitt refers to many authors and ideas and things worth knowing better; and also because he refers to quite a few persons and ideas that were well-known to the educated people of his time, but are no longer well-known now.

But as I said: I am still busy with it, and will say so in Nederlog when I finished. As is, I have mostly done the first four, and like to remark in passing that the internet makes the search for knowledge of born scholarly types like I am a lot easier and more fruitful.

Now for the subject of today, which are some quotes of passages from about four pages of Simon Sebag Montefiore's "Stalin - The Court of the Red Tsar", that I mentioned some days ago in Is history good for you? (with links to very interesting videos about Stalin and others), and reviewed in Dutch in 2009 in Stalin in boekvorm.

This is part of the series GW and ties in well with the last one On power, freedom, good and evil, and bureaucracy as it happens, for there was no design, although I did intend to quote this with reference to Is history good for you?:

On 2 July 1937, the Politburo ordered local Secretaries to arrest and shoot 'the most hostile anti-Soviet elements' who were to be sentencedby troikas, three-man tribunals that usually included the local Party Secretary, Procurator and NKVD-chief.

The aim was 'to finish off once and for all' all Enemies and those impossible to educate in socialism, so as to accelerate the erasing of class barrriers and therefore the bringing of paradise to the masses.
On 30 July, Yezhov and his deputy Mikhail Frinovsky proposed Order No. 00447 to the Politburo: that between 5 and 15 August, the regions were to receive quotas for two categories: Category One - to be shot. Category Two - to be deported. They suggested that 72,950 should be shot and 259,450 arrested, though they missed some regions. The regions could submit further lists. The families of these people should be deported too. The Politburo confirmed this order the next day.

Soon this 'meat-grinder' achieved such a momentum, as the witch hunt approached its peak and the local jealousies and ambitions spurred it on, that more and more were fed into the machine. The quotas were soon fulfilled by the regions, who therefore asked for bigger numbers, so between 28 August and 15 December, the Politburo agreed to the shooting of another 22,500 and then another 48,000. In this, the Terror differed most from Hitler's crimes which systematically destroyed a limited target: Jews and Gypsies. Here, on the contrary, death was sometimes random: the long-forgotten comment, the flirtation with an opposition, envy of another man's job, wife or house, vengeance or just plain coincidence brought the death and torture of entire families. This did not matter: 'Better too far than not far enough,' Yezhov told his men as the original arrest quota ballooned to 767,397 arrests and 386,798 executions, families destroyed, children orphaned, under Order No. 00447.
Yezhov, clearly taking his cue from the [top of the Politburo - MM], actually specified that 'if during the operation, an extra thousand people will be shot, that is not such a big deal.' Since Stalin and Yezhov constantly upped the quotas, an extra thousand here and there was inevitable but the point was that they deliberately destroyed an entire 'caste'. And, like Hitler's Holocaust, this was a colossal feat of arrangement. Yezhov even specified what bushes should be planted to cover mass graves.
Stalin was the mastermind but he was far from alone. Indeed, it is neither accurate nor helpful to blame the Terror on one man because systematic murder started soon after Lenin took power in 1917 and never stopped until Stalin's death.
The responsibility lies with the hundreds of thousands of officials who ordered, or perpetrated, the murders. Stalin and the magnates enthusiastically, recklessly, almost joyfully, killed, and they usually killed many more than they were asked to kill.
Simon Sebag Montefiore's
     "Stalin - The Court of the Red Tsar" from pp. 233-236

Of course, my reason to quote it, apart from trying to make you interested in the book and the history, is mainly in the end:

It is a fallacy to believe or say the many horrors of history were the work of one or a few monsters: These could and did rule only because they found many similar monsters, often intellectually and morally quite ordinary men and women, apart from opportunity and circumstance, to do their dirty work for them, usually with moral pride and willingness.

Here, to round off the thought, is Christopher Browning:

I fear we live in a world in which war and racism are ubiquitous, in which the powers of government mobilization and legitimization are powerful and increasing, in which a sense of personal responsibility is increasingly attenuated by specialization and bureaucratization, and in which peer-group exerts tremendous pressures on behavior and sets moral norms. In such a world, I fear, modern governments that wish to commit mass murder will seldom fail in their efforts for being unable to induce "ordinary men" to become their "willing executioners."
   -- Christopher Browning,
         Ordinary men, p. 222-3

For some more background, see my Politics - Introductory texts, in my Philosophical Dictionary, and also note that Etienne de la Boétie, the friend of Montaigne, saw and formulated it all very clearly in the 16th Century:

It is not the troops on horseback, it is not the companies afoot, it is not arms that defend the tyrant. This does not seem credible on first thought, but it is nevertheless true that there are only four or five who maintain the dictator, four or five who keep the country in bondage to him. Five or six have always had access to his ear, and have either gone to him of their own accord, or else have been summoned by him, to be accomplices in his cruelties, companions in his pleasures, panders to his lusts, and sharers in his plunders. These six manage their chief so successfully that he comes to be held accountable not only for his own misdeeds but even for theirs. The six have six hundred who profit under them, and with the six hundred they do what they have accomplished with their tyrant. The six hundred maintain under them six thousand, whom they promote in rank, upon whom they confer the government of provinces or the direction of finances, in order that they may serve as instruments of avarice and cruelty, executing orders at the proper time and working such havoc all around that they could not last except under the shadow of the six hundred, nor be exempt from law and punishment except through their influence.

The consequence of all this is fatal indeed. And whoever is pleased to unwind the skein will observe that not the six thousand but a hundred thousand, and even millions, cling to the tyrant by this cord to which they are tied.
Etienne de la Boétie,
    The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude [1576]


P.S. Corrections, if any are necessary, have to be made later.

As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):

1.  Anthony Komaroff Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS (pdf)
3.  Hillary Johnson The Why
4.  Consensus of M.D.s Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf)
5.   Eleanor Stein Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)
6.  William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
7.  Paul Lutus

Is Psychology a Science?

8.  Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
 Maarten Maartensz
ME in Amsterdam - surviving in Amsterdam with ME (Dutch)
 Maarten Maartensz Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Short descriptions of the above:                

1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understands ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:

7. A space- and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
8. Malcolm Hooper puts things together status 2010.
9. I tell my story of surviving (so far) in Amsterdam with ME.
10. The directory on my site about ME.

See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources
The last has many files, all on my site to keep them accessible.

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