hindenburg anniversary, evil has priorities, mind body anxiety

LZ 129 Hindenburg

The LZ 129 Hindenburg. Obviously from Life Magazine. While I deeply appreciate their making many of their older photos available to the public, they did not give a date or other details. It appears to be the Hindenburg under construction in its hangar on the shores of Lake Constance in Friedrichshafen. Today in 1937 the airship “Hindenburg” crashed. The Postal Museum has a good on-line exhibit about the Hindenburg and the Titanic here.

I could not do this. It is even difficult to read, but knowing about the thoughts of people who commit evil acts might help find solutions, James Dawes’s interviews with people who committed acts of atrocity were like “a guided tour of hell.”

IDEAS: Both the bombers and the war criminals you interviewed were able to set aside basic moral impulses in order to do what they did. Is that the first step to committing evil?

DAWES: In some ways working with these war criminals was hopeful, because it was clear the more I talked to them that it took a lot of work to make them into who they became. This idea that we are wolves just waiting to be unleashed upon each other just isn’t true. It just doesn’t ring true when you see what people like this have been through. Cultures have to do a lot of work beforehand.

[  ]…IDEAS: Some of the men you spoke to do seem to have had their own ethical guidelines. Even as they are committing atrocities, they have red lines they will not cross, like killing children.

DAWES: That was again both hopeful and despairing. For most of the men I spoke with, it was the story of killing children that was the hardest, the hardest to remember, the hardest to get them to talk about. So that was hopeful, that there did seem to be red lines. What was depressing was that it was the opposite when it came to women. Violence against women would come very quickly.

I can understand in the case of war criminals the following orders rationale, up to a point. Refusal to follow orders in many of those circumstances probably meant signing your own death warrant. Though there must be some point at which enough people can refuse, that it creates a moral epiphany for the worse of the perpetrators. They than have to decide to kill those they consider what the Nazis called Untermensch the subhuman, and murder their friends and comrades as well.

Rear Window, Italian movie poster

Rear Window, Italian movie poster. You might want to be on the look out for an original at garage sales and flea markets, printed on linen, they’re supposed to be worth several thousand dollars.

I Am Not This Body

Besides being squeamish about physicality, I resent how matter lords it over mind. Plato says in one of his dialogues, “Soul is the master, and matter its natural subject.” I agree that it ought to be so, but the facts are opposite. Whenever I get sick or injured, I am dismayed to discover how little control I have of my life. Because someone sneezed a germ too small to see into my bloodstream, my universe shrinks to a pillow and sheets. The mere calcium of my ankle, by breaking inopportunely, can cancel a carefully planned and paid-for vacation. My relation to my body resembles a privy council’s relation to an adolescent king. I am thoughtful and wise and know best what to do, but my capricious body possesses the power and final authority, and I must tiptoe round its whims.

I’ve posted a little in the past about the mind-body connection. I think most people have those moments when they look in the mirror and ask themselves, is that me, the physical me. While it is was interesting to read Mr. Stanley’s writing on the subject, it is something I have not so much worked through philosophically, as much as mentally wore the subject out. It is so tired it doesn’t have the energy to bother me much anymore. Once it a while it gives me a nudge just to let me know it is still there.

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