A few months ago I received a couple of comments on this blog that I wanted to respond to. It was part of what has been brewing in my silence. I felt one comment, on my ideas about the universe in a nutshell, was dismissive. I would like to take an opportunity to discuss some points in no particular order. Moreover, these points drive home some of the basic questions about humanity I wrestle with.
What do I do with the notion that there is ‘evil’ in the world? People like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, who, for no reason other than their warped world-view, caused the death of millions, massive suffering, and were generally not nice people. Or other people who today I am told, hate me because of my freedom and my lack of adherence to their radical religious views, and who would kill me if they could. So I ask myself, “Is it possible to breed out hate”? Is hate an innate emotion? Would it occur in a vacuum? Hate stems from fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of competition, fear of death. I believe fear is an innate human emotion. “Fight or flight” and the adrenaline that flows from it is one of the traits that kept our species alive. However, the difference between fear and hate… I think hate is a taught trait, but a trait that has been taught to the human race for a very very long time. When generation upon generation, insofar as oral legend or written records can attest, have ‘hated’ another group, is it possible to un-teach that lesson? I’m not sure it is, at least not while each side is generally still engaging in the actions that cause the fear to turn to hatred in the first place. Yes, both sides. Rarely is a conflict one-sided.
We are all products of our environment. Let’s look at Hitler. Why? Because he is the one I know the most about, having studied the Third Reich. Hitler, in his youth, wanted to be an artist. He applied for art school in Vienna and got rejected. And how different would human history be if Hitler had been able to pursue his passion for painting? Would he have become the evil murdering madman we all know him as? While the Nazi party was formed in the early 20’s, the movement began to loose steam by mid-decade. As Germany was living some of the Roaring Twenties and was gaining economic security, the Nazi’s message of who to blame for the struggle fell on deaf ears. It wasn’t until the Stock Market crash of 1929 which resulted in Germany’s economy completely collapsing that the Nazi message took off like a hot air balloon, catapulting Hitler to power. So here are two events that if they had, or had not happened, may have changed the course of history. There is one other point I want to make, and then I’m done talking about Hitler. If Hitler had just been some lunatic, digging through trash cans and muttering to himself about the ‘damn Jews’ and reveling in his evilness, would the holocaust have been his end result? No. He had legions of people under him to carry out his commands. He left much of the administrative duties and some of the decision making up to others in leadership. There were many people, including those citizens who went along with the status quo, working of their own free will supporting the policies. One last thing to think about, if the world had not put so many reparations on Germany after WWI, especially when it was the Austrian Empire that had started the war, maybe the country never would have the economic hardships that lead to the rise of such radical ideas.
And just as a general note, the winners write the history books, and those books never mention how many people they killed, or it’s usually just mentioned anecdotally. How convenient.
On a different note, a comment was made regarding the idea that everything cannot be made locally. I would like to say a few things and I will try to keep them short. I did not say EVERYTHING, I said anything that could, and I think a lot could, even cars and refrigerators. It is more a mater of logistics rather than of ability. Once upon a time everything that a community needed was produced locally. But then the big box stores that could mass import goods for less came to town, and instead of going to the mom and pop who have been providing goods on a local level, we go with cheapness and convenience. Slowly the local factories and production slows as jobs are moved overseas, to employ people who work for pennies on our dollar. Eventually those crafts and skills are lost and we forget that we were capable in the first place.
One final comment, I do have peace in my life. But instead of thanking the military and police force I give the thanks to a loving family, a supportive husband, and my own self-esteem.