2363. Big Government: Our Worst Threat


A friend tipped me to watch the DVD “Hannah Arendt.” Wow! Not easy to follow the story, but what an ending.

Already a highly respected author, she covers the Adolph Eichmann trial in Israel. Her articles and book blame Jewish leaders for helping the Nazis and she appears to excuse Eichmann. She loses all public credibility, many and some close friends, and is also blamed for betraying her Jewish heritage. As public criticism explodes in her face, she refuses to defend herself. In the end, she does explain, and I learned the following.

The functional spirit of totalitarianism is based on the assumption that certain people are superfluous (her term). Evil arises out of the bureaucrat’s mindset fertilized, watered, and ripened by a totalitarian hierarchy that adds both legitimacy and pressure that accumulate and compound downward. She describes Eichmann as an ordinary, bureaucratic source of evil who brought crimes against humanity.

Absolved of personal responsibility by the promise that “the devil made me do it” via orders from above, the ones who do evil things eventually think of themselves not as a person but a functionary. The pressures at first singe and then pardon their conscience of any sense of accountability. They are innocent to their way of thinking, and it enables their sense of responsibility to more closely coincide with the totalitarian mindset about superfluous people.

Having several times been a bureaucrat in state and federal government (Navy HQ) and business, I’ve both felt myself and seen people shift under high-pressure conditions from dedication to do what’s right to what’s not right but ordered. It’s easy to do, need of job security adds its own pressure, and everyone sooner or later finds it very difficult to resist as the pressure builds and compounds from above. IOW, it doesn’t take all that much in a huge hierarchical structure for evil to be generated, emerge, and spread within the organization under the guise of doing good for the hierarchy.

It’s a pretty good flick about a brilliant and courageous lady. There’s a lesson to be learned by all of us as our government grows immensely and elections approach.

Happy New Year to y’all.

20 Comments

Filed under Culture & Politics, Dear daughter, Sociology 101

20 responses to “2363. Big Government: Our Worst Threat

  1. Sharon

    Excellent write-up. Clear explanation of the “why” of elected officials dashing the hopes we may have had for their good leadership: along with job pressures, the view of self as “a functionary, rather than person seeking to do what is right.” I’m guessing that thuggery and personal threats also enter in. Thank you for helping to keep our vision wider, along with prod to personal sense of responsibility.

  2. Eric

    Another good read on this phenomenon is Erich Fromm’s 1941 work, ‘Escape from Freedom’. He was part of team of psychiatrists working with the Allies to understand the totalitarian mindset. Later, he followed up with a theory of the ‘Bureaucratic Character’. It has some good insights, though heavily Freudian in his approach.

    Sir Eric,

    I’ll look into Fromm.

    A new favorite of mine is The Imperial Cruise by James Bradley. I’d like your opinion about this. The author doesn’t claim but indirectly suggests that Aryanism is the taproot of Progressivism. The connection is intriguing, because the underlying ideology is historically similar. Your thoughts if you get a chance to read it.

    Guy

    • Eric

      Sir Guy:
      I haven’t read Bradley, but there are others who’ve noticed the similarities. As early as 1944, FDR’s Vice-President Henry Wallace said:
      “The really dangerous American Fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American Fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a Fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public, but how to use the media into deceiving the public into giving the Fascist and his group more money or more power.
      “They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every Liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand freedom but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective, toward which all their deceit is directed, is to capture political power so that, using the power of the State and the power of the Market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.”

      Modern Progressives share basically the same ultimate goal as the Third Reich—to destroy Western Civilization and replace it with their own Anti-Civilization. The Progs are students of History too—I would imagine that tactics and policies employed by the Nazis are admired by them and modified to American circumstances.

      Sir Eric.
      Thank you very much. A nice contribution.
      I would never have credited Henry Wallace with that kind of thought. History paints him as the ardent left-winger. But that’s how the Progressives assassinate the character of their opponents, and they wrote the history of the 20th Century.
      Guy

      • Cinnamon

        Hannah Arendt identified both Stalinism and Fascism as different expressions of a single system called totalitarianism. Progressivism (a euphemism for Stalinism) with its totalitarian, Fascist tactics has infiltrated by stealth into every aspect of Western society. Both Stalinism and Nazism are forms of emperor worship (turning the state into God), which is violation of the first commandment.

        I came across an interesting quote today from 19 c. political theorist William H. Lecky (who was apparently a freethinker i.e. a non-believer):

        “The world is governed by its ideals, and seldom or never has there been one which has exercised a more salutary influence than the medieval conception of the Virgin. For the first time woman was elevated to her right position, and the sanctity of weakness was recognized, as well as the sanctity of sorrow. No longer the slave or toy of man, no longer associated only with ideas of degradation and of sensuality, woman rose, in the person of the Virgin Mother, into a new sphere, and became the object of reverential homage, of which antiquity had no conception…. A new type of character was called into being; a new kind of admiration was fostered. Into a harsh and ignorant and benighted age this ideal type infused a conception of gentleness and purity, unknown to the proudest civilization of the past. In the pages of living tenderness, which many a monkish writer has left in honor of his celestial patron; in the millions who, in many lands and many ages, have sought to mould their character into her image; in those holy maidens who for love of Mary have separated themselves from all the glories and pleasures of the world, to seek in fastings and vigils and humble charity to render themselves worthy of her benediction; in the new sense of honor, in the chivalrous respect, in the softening of manners, in the refinement of tastes displayed in all the walks of society; in these and in many other ways we detect its influence. All that was best in Europe clustered around it, and it is the origin of many of the purest elements of our civilization.”

        Your Highness Cinnamon,
        Thanks for a great contribution.
        Guy

        • Meow Meow

          Beautiful post, Cinnamon!

          For all the problems of the Catholic Church, and there are many, this reverent acknowledgement of the feminine soul at its gentlest in the form of the Virgin Mary is the unique and inspiring reason why many who might not otherwise still walk the Catholic path yet continue on….

          • Cinnamon

            Happy New Year, Meow Meow!

            There is a famous exchange between one of Napoleon’s generals and the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Ercole Consalvi. The general, frustrated at the resistance he was getting from the cardinal, burst out, “Your Eminence, are you not aware that the Emperor has the power to destroy the Catholic Church?” to which Cardinal Consalvi replied, “Mon général, we, the Catholic clergy, have done our best to destroy the Church for the last 1,800 years. We have not succeeded, and neither will you.”

            .

        • Eric

          Miss Cinnamon:
          I liked Lecky’s works, another I read from the mid 20th Century was R.G. Collingwood. His ideas on Civilization were similar. Could you imagine the outcry if someone in Academia said this in an article about Christianity’s influence in society:
          “No good is really common which is the good of one group against another; but such a competitive good symbolizes something beyond itself, namely a harmonious life of an organic whole which includes all reality. Such a perfect whole may be an unattained and unattainable ideal; at the level of mere custom it must be; yet it is an ideal, and our social institutions have value just so far as they point to it, as our religious symbols have value insofar as they embody forth a reality as yet unattainable by plain thinking.
          “Because of this symbolic value of custom, the popular revolt against customs, the commonplace cry that one ought to ignore them and live one’s own life, is mere silliness. The people who utter this cry argue that because custom is only a collective caprice, they see no reason why on its account they should surrender their own individual caprice. From the ethics of custom, they want to regress to the ethics of play. This is a backwards step, identical at bottom to those people who want to make up a religion for themselves by just choosing what they choose to believe. It is a movement away from sanity and towards idiocy.”

      • Eric

        The Progs engage in a lot of historical revisionism. Our culture has shifted so far to the Left that mid-20th Century Liberals would be Moderates today. Progressives are really closer to 1930s Communists and Anarchists than to ‘New Deal’ Democrats.

      • Cinnamon

        Eric and Sir Guy,

        A book that came to my attention recently is “The Devil’s Pleasure Palace” by Michael Walsh.

        Your Highness Cinnamon,
        Thanks, its now on order.
        Guy

        • A.GuyMaligned

          Your Highness Cinnamon,
          I’m about 80% through The Devil’s Pleasure Palace. It’s too tough for me in the operatic history connections; I lack exposure to that artistic scene. Otherwise, it’s good and enjoyable. Thank you.
          Guy

          • Cinnamon

            Sir Guy,
            Thanks for the update and glad to hear you are enjoying the book. For what it’s worth, most of the highbrow cultural stuff in it would go over my head, too. From what I have heard, however, the social analysis in it is quite penetrating. It is on my list although I don’t know when I will get time to read it.

            Your Highness Cinnamon,
            Yes, the social analysis is quite penetrating. Good info for everyone but a tough way to get it.
            Guy

  3. Texan282

    My two cents: Giving labels to something does not help matters and when that label has a negative connotation; it only works for someone else. As it has been said, “People don’t trust organizations, they trust people”. If you can not get them to trust you, confuse them, because there is profit in confusion.

    I have seen labels put on items in my career of choice. Applications that were once called Desktop applications are now call Thick Clients and Web based applications are now Thin Clients. The neutral has now because a positive or a negative. Why is this? I have always have believed that actions speak louder than words. What is the reason for giving a larger government a bad name?

    Let’s review what Smaller Government has given us in the last few decades’. A government with much lower FTE counts, but the work still there to be done. We did not eliminate the organization. Who does this work? Who profits from fewer FTE’s to enforce regulations and laws? Who now has direct access to our government representatives and by-passing their constitutes? Where has the middle class values gone? Why is our military at their lowest levels since WW II? Why can’t we secure our boarders? Why is our divorce rates higher than our marriage rates? Who is profiting from all this chaos and void – business.

    Over and over, business is profiting. Their profit levels go up and up each passing year. They are sitting on billions of dollars outside this country and not investing that money where they are making it. They are they paying less and less taxes and we are paying more. The percentage numbers from the lowest level employee to the top level grows higher every year. I see a repeating theme here, the haves get richer and the have not’s get poor. Who is creating these loop holes that allow them to do all this? – Themselves.

    Everything can be interpreted to have a positive or a negative depending on your point of view, the segment of our culture you come from, or even your gender. We have to evaluate the intent of what is being said and the actions that are being applied. From what I am seeing, the only thing the words are doing, is dividing us and empowering them. I will quote my favorite actor (John Wayne) and the poem “The Hyphen”, “…what he is saying, I am a divided American…” Our leaders should inspire not divide!

    Thanks

    Texan

    • Miss Gina

      I certainly agree that crony capitalism leads toward fascism. However, with ballooning federal debt and payrolls, I’m not sure we’ve achieved smaller government yet, particularly in the appropriate areas.

    • surfercajun

      I am very disappointing in you, Sir Guy that you will not engage this man’s comments. I thought you would enjoyed a different view.

      Your Highness Surfercajun,
      I always regret a pretty woman having to live with “disappointing” in me. I chose not to respond to Sir Texan282. He had a lot to unload, so I let him. An honorable man deserves that.
      Guy

  4. Lady Penny

    Hello Sir Guy et al,

    An interesting movie indeed. Watched it four times already! Appreciate your bringing it to our attention. Completely agree with your observation that the ending of the movie is nothing short of fantastic! Have since acquired two of her books to read and have asked a guy I am superficially interested in if he has perhaps seen the movie or read her book – Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil – since he works in the legal profession and I am curious to know what his legal take would be. To which he replied he has only heard about the movie and book and asked why I was asking. Told him I am wondering if he would be interested in exchanging views on either the book or the movie after he has seen or read either and that perhaps he’s open to such a possibility and curious about the places where particular or general questions may lead him… He never again responded to me after that and this has naturally left me more curious and wondering why. Maybe the reasons are many. Maybe he has a girlfriend, maybe he thought I was coming on to him, maybe what I am asking him is just too much work and he doesn’t see any promise in me to justify all that effort. Maybe, maybe, maybe. From a man’s point of view, what is your take on his non-response response?

    Your Highness Lady Penny,

    Several options may help you figure him out.

    • It means either the subject matter is new to him, holds no interest for him, you hold no interest for him, goes against his political interest or grain, or some or all of the above.

    • You presented it as the story of a great woman and he isn’t interested in stories about female greatness, which should make him not good enough for you.

    • If something that important and relevant is what you’re interested in, how far do you normally go in that direction? It doesn’t sound very feminine. In which case he’s not that interested in you. Cautious about your ability to outsmart him or infringe on his dominance in any agenda you could adopt together.

    Next time you’re in a similar situation, don’t ask if a man would like to discuss something with you. Ask him to explain it to you and proceed innocently. If a pretty woman asks, most men are willing to overlook what may be reluctance or objections. When he explains it, he invests himself in you. That’s the best way to get something started. You are blessed with feminine charm and guile to get your way, so use it in a complimentary manner.

    Guy

    • Lady Penny

      In addition, have you perhaps seen or read “The Reader”?

      Your Highness Lady Penny,
      I presume you mean by Schlink. No, I have not. I have so little time for fiction (six non-fiction books now in process or queue). Plus, I saw “coiled eroticism” in the precis and lost interest. Should I reconsider as well-aligned with theme of blog?
      Guy

    • Milena

      Lady Penny, I have observed as well that men tend to be resistant to reading or watching something that I suggested, even when I hand them the DVD and all they have to do is make time to watch it. Perhaps it comes across as controlling. I do feel that a man who is genuinely worthy of your time would be eager to discover what you are all about, and the opportunity to read (or at least leaf through) a book that you declare to be passionate about would actually be a gift to him to achieve that goal.)

      Having said this, I will make the following suggestion (which I don’t know if the author of this blog approves of, but I’ll give it a go! 🙂 )

      Seeing as getting to know what you are really about is a gift that needs to be earned, instead ask him (if he gets in touch with you again) or another man about his favourite books or movies. It’s a great way to get to know him and it can make for some good and mutually fulfilling conversations. I’m currently reading a French novel a man who I respect greatly suggested to me and I’m grateful for the way it has enriched my ideas about the world. I can ask him questions about it and give him a chance to talk about his take on the book. I have the impression it gives him satisfaction to do so and it also increases my respect for him in return. (But I’m not saying you should read his favourite books if it holds no interest for you or if you don’t know him well enough yet. Your time is valuable too).

      In fact, I consider it a good tactic to let a man talk so you can listen carefully. It gives you the power to decide if you can appreciate who he is. I’ve had men lecture me about difficult philosophical subjects where I just nodded and asked some questions, not interrupting or contradicting him, but privately I could tell that the man in question was narrow-minded, disrespectful of people who held different views than him and not as knowledgeable as he pretended to be. I need a man who is superior in knowledge to me so I can genuinely respect him. The only way to find that out is to listen to what he has to say. 🙂 And if he’s lucky, maybe I’ll suggest him a book that’s close to my heart so he has a chance to get to know me better. Maybe. 😉

      Hope this helped!

      Your Highness Milena,

      I say again: Your maturity shines and willingness to learn even brighter.

      You’re right. Women should talk less and listen more. Men want to talk about themselves, and women learn little or nothing about men or screening when they are so nervous they can’t stop chattering or fill the seller rather than buyer role.

      Guy

      • Lady Penny

        Hello Milena,

        Appreciate your sharing your observation and suggestion particularly these two parts:

        “I do feel that a man who is genuinely worthy of your time would be eager to discover what you are all about, and the opportunity to read (or at least leaf through) a book that you declare to be passionate about would actually be a gift to him to achieve that goal.)”; and “Seeing as getting to know what you are really about is a gift that needs to be earned, instead ask him (if he gets in touch with you again) or another man about his favourite books or movies.”

        Now I have received two options from both you and Guy to explore next time – grateful to you both. Can relate to you and share your need of “a man who is superior in knowledge to me so I can genuinely respect him.” Amen on that sista!

    • Lady Penny

      Hello Sir Guy,

      Sincerely appreciate your view and the expressed options to discover him. Intrigued by the 3rd bullet point. Generally interested in intellectual as well as the deep, unconsidered stuff and often seek to learn people’s point of view on these matters. Maybe to expand my small world and learn more and more and more? Guess my questions can go far depending on how comfortable I am with the person, the existence of mutual respect and how big the other person’s knowledgeable base and experiences are on the issue. Particularly curious about the part where you say “if something that important and relevant is what you’re interested in… It doesn’t sound very feminine.” Why do you say my interest does or might not sound very feminine? Explain? Also appreciate your saying “Next time you’re in a similar situation, don’t ask if a man would like to discuss something with you. Ask him to explain it to you…” Giggles! Can already see myself doing that and enjoying it!

      Your Highness Lady Penny,
      “It doesn’t sound very feminine” is meant to say that if you’re involved with deep political interests and he’s not, you don’t seem very feminine to him.
      Guy

      • Lady Penny

        @ Sir Guy,

        Yes, Schlink’s. After watching Hannah Arendt, The Reader popped up in my mind because I noticed similarities. Was asking because was wondering at the time, if you noticed that too. Forgotten that it contains eroticism, which to me was the least interesting part of this movie.

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