I know he had unusual eyes
Whose powers no orders could determine
Not to mistake the men he saw
As others did, for gods or vermin

(Thomas Gunn, on a German soldier who risked his life to save Jews from deportation to the camps. Cited by Terry Eagleton, in Ideology, Verso, 1991, 2007; p xxii).

What persuades men and women to mistake each other from time to time for gods or vermin is ideology. One can understand well enough how human beings may struggle and murder for good material reasons – reasons connected, for instance, with their physical survival. It is much harder to grasp how they may come to do so in the name of something as apparently abstract as ideas. Yet ideas are what men and women live by, and will occasionally die for – Terry Eagleton, in Ideology

Erich Fromm: As long as one believes that the evil man wears horns, one will not discover an evil man: Erich Fromm, The Anatomy of human destructiveness; p 574

Captain G. M. Gilbert, US Army psychologist, Nuremberg trials, 1945-49:

Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy

Victor Klemperer:

No one can take my German-ness away from me, but my nationalism and patriotism are gone forever

I will bear witness

I am German, and still waiting for the Germans to come back; they have gone to ground somewhere

Munich, The Edge of War: We don’t choose the times we live in; the only choice we have is how we respond

Mobarak Haider: ‘War is a tragedy but a society at war with itself and everything around, with no objective and no remorse is more than a tragedy; it is a total disaster.’ 

Hannah Arendt: In one of the first reflections upon Nazism’s death factories, Hannah Arendt wrote: ‘In their effort to prove that everything is possible, totalitarian regimes have discovered… crimes which man can neither punish nor forgive.’ … she noted the irrevocable rupture that the discovery of these ‘holes of oblivion’ had wrought in history: ‘Modern politics revolves around a question which, strictly speaking, should never enter into politics, the question of all or nothing: of all, that is a human society rich with infinite possibilities; or exactly nothing, that is, the end of mankind.’ When Karl Jaspers rejected the idea of casting Hitlerism in the light of some satanic greatness, she agreed with him, but insisted that what had happened in the camps was not a case of humans killing other humans for human reasons, howsoever horrible. What had occurred said Arendt, was ‘the organized attempt to eradicate the concept of the human being.’ This is the closest we will ever come towards understanding modern exterminism – the whole world was enveloped in it, and we live in its shadow.. The Edge of Oblivion

Leszek Kolakowski: ‘anthropologically, there is an immense difference between a society in which traditional criteria of good and evil remain valid, no matter how often they have been violated, and one in which these criteria have been abrogated and have fallen into oblivion.’ (Modernity on Endless Trial, p 47)

Rabbi J.S. Bloch on Karl Lueger: ‘The criterion which makes the difference between a great man and a popular one consists in the great man’s searching for what is nobly human in the masses, to raise them by its means, whereas a merely popular man looks for what is low and brutal so as to raise himself’ (My Reminiscences, Vienna-Berlin 1923. Cited in Zeev Sternhell; The Intellectual Revolt Against Liberal Democracy, 1875-1945; p 84

Friedrich Nietzsche: The will cannot will backwards… That time does not run backward, that is his wrath; ‘that which was’ is the name of the stone he cannot move. And so he moves stones out of wrath and displeasure, and he wreaks revenge on whatever does not feel wrath and displeasure as he does. Thus the will, the liberator, took to hurting; and on all who can suffer he wreaks revenge for his inability to go backwards. This, indeed this alone, is what revenge is: the will’s ill will against time and its ‘it was.’“Verily, a great folly dwells in our will; and it has become a curse for everything human that this folly has acquired spirit: Thus Spake Zarathustra; p 139-140

NB: Nation-worship is right-wing atheism. Party-absolutism is communist deism. In the first case God is replaced by the Nation, in the second the Communist Party attains God-like status. In both cases ideology functions as a substitute theology. Nationalism a dishonest form of atheism. That many believe in the new deity is not surprising: the success of the new enterprise depends upon the capacity of puppeteers to have puppets. Dilip

Avay Shukla on the Bilkis Bano case: How much further can we sink as a Nation?

The edge of oblivion

Dilip Simeon – The law of killing: A brief history of Indian fascism