Pure Evil? Never “pure”.

Posted: 15 May 2017 in Cultural, Understanding Others
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DO supplies

Food being distributed at a DP Camp in Germany

There was always the threat of trouble, fighting, and deaths.  While he was there, there were several lynchings.  My father-in-law was part of the British Army of Occupation in Germany for two years.  On Displaced Persons camp control.  There were thousands of people in these camps, mainly Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Byelo-Russians, Ukrainians.  And a few French.  There was trouble in these camps and the soldiers were to keep order.

There were quite a few ex-SS men, and this led to considerable recrimination, violence and occasional murder.  The ex-SS men were identified where possible, and put in PoW camps for de-Nazification, and later release/or trial.  Some ex-SS were zealots, others had been just opportunists trying to get by during the war years.

Primo Levi
It is the 70th anniversary of Primo Levi’s “If This Is A Man”, the first exposé life and death in Auschwitz.  There was a public reading at The Royal Festival Hall.  It still has something tell to about us today.  But what?

What indeed?  That the Aryan Superman turned out to be a Supermonster?  That there was a special class of “pure” evil, a band truly wicked men?  Not only is that melodramatic, it also lets us all off the hook.  We say to ourselves – we’d never do that short of thing under any circumstances would we?   Really?  Well – there’s plenty of evidence that anyone could, and more often than we like – actually does that sort of thing. Albeit on a smaller scale.

In not that – what then?  If anyone can do such terrible things, then we are all infected by the same virus, the same evil gene s in our DNA.  But must we end up in William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” territory?  Where the nicely behaved, relapse into cruelty and murder – when the varnish of comfort is rubbed off.  Yet this pessimistic view is not true to the lives of most people.

Where to look next?  I believe the old Christian view of humanity serves well.

  • That humanity starts in the image or basic pattern of its divine maker. That there is a divine archetype in our DNA.  It still influences our behaviour, our impulse to care and create, to love and like.
  • However there is a twist, an early assertion of the human ego (a “Triumph of The Will”, eh?) that has become utterly ubiquitous. In Christian language, this is “The Fall”, and the subsequent replication becomes “Sin”.  For many, those phrases carry so much baggage, that the plane cannot take off with them as they are.

By A Graveside
He had been released from prison on license.  He got into my car.  He was a little younger than me.  I drove him to the cemetery, in total silence.  I parked outside and remained in my seat.  He went in.  I was told he would explain if he wanted to.  But I was not to ask.  After 20 minutes or so he returned.  And began to talk.  He told me that he was visiting his brother.  Or rather, his brother’s grave.  He had stabbed his brother to death, in a rage over his brother’s cheating on him with his wife.  The anger.  The anger.  Oh, if he could take it all back.  Two ordinary blokes in a graveyard.  One looked.  The other could no longer… look.

Either class him with the Hitlerian monsters?  And then only the hangman’s noose could serve.  Or class him as an archetype of us all?  And there’s no hope either, for him or us.  But- if the image of The Almighty lies buried within him?  Then there’s hope.  And for all of us who have murdered – murdered the hopes of our spouses, slayed the joy of our children, severed the hands of friendship.

“Pure Evil” – does not exist.  It is always mixed with the DNA of God.

Bill

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