Why do I need courage, you ask? Because some topics go so much against the current power structure, that you can get ostracized, killed, deported… and only when one is clear and willing to take on those punishments, that one will be willing to open their mouths.
I watched a Netflix movie yesterday, Hannah Arendt, a German-American political theorist and thinker. Her claim to fame or infamy was her book or report on the Jerusalem trial of Adolph Eichmann in the 1960’s.
She went from hardly known philosophy teacher to a well known and well hated person, who refused to toe the party line about pretty much everything… The most painful of that hatred came from her own kind, the Jews.
For me, the most important thing that she said wasn’t what she said in her report, but what she said in answer to a student’s question. The student asked: “Why are the crimes against Jews crimes against humanity? Aren’t they just crimes against Jews?
Hannah Arendt answers: Jews are humans, and they were treated as things… as not human beings, that is the crime.
On the first level, if you look at it, this statement makes sense, and you can maybe even tolerate it. Then if you want to extrapolate from it, you take other groups that are mistreated, and you say, proudly, those are then crimes against humanity as well.
What I realized at the n-th extrapolation is this:
When society, your family your church, your school treats you as a number that strengthens the political power of your “tribe”, where what they teach you is not how to tell right from wrong, but where what they teach you is what is the going tree of knowledge, then they commit a crime against you as a human being, whose inalienable right is to make your own decisions based on your own thinking.
When they don’t teach you to think, only to follow the herd, when they don’t teach you to think, only to think about what you are taught, you don’t do your own thinking, because thinking about is mechanical, it is a mind think, whereas THINKING is a higher function of the brain, done in the prefrontal cortex… Most people do a total of 3 minutes of prefrontal cortex thinking in their lives… and their lives shows it.
A week or so ago I watched a documentary on the uniquely Israeli type of community, called kibbutz.
It was founded by Zionist youth from Eastern Europe, mainly Russia, and later from the United States.
The kibbutz was a communistic commune, it weakened the family structures, by eating all meals in the community dining hall, by having the children spend their time in children houses with trained leaders and staff.
When I lived in Israel, I visited kibbutzim (the plural of kibbutz) and spent a lot of time wondering if I could live in one of them. I decided against it: I felt too individualistic, I didn’t think I would have room to be me in a commune.
But the children, 99% of them, grew up feeling nurtured, well, well adjusted, never having missed love, never having felt that they were wrong, never blaming themselves… not like children who grow up in families stressed by everyday life.
The other interesting thing is that the people who grew up in kibbutzim had a capacity for independent thinking.
Of course, the 1% was miserable… the documentary hears them as well.
The kibbutz movement died and then is in revival… except the families raise their children on their own… and Israel is, today, as rotten and rotted as any other western country.
Adolph Eichmann claimed that he was part of a machine, and he did his job well. He didn’t question what the purpose of the machine was, he didn’t question anything. He did his job well, without any thought whether it was right or wrong, whether the purpose of the machine was evil or good.
Hannah Arendt says that he was unable to think, that he didn’t think. And she calls that the banality of evil.
Adolph Eichmann was an ordinary man, grew up like everyone else, like you and your neighbors. He was told where to look as to what to do, he was told that doing his job well is good.
Until humanity reclaims its right to thinking, a Holocaust is happening every day… whether it is people’s spirit is killed or their body: not much of a difference.
Humans are reduced to things in both cases.