The Roman Philosopher Lucius Anneaus Seneca (4 BCE-65 CE) was perhaps the first to note the universal trend that growth is slow but ruin is rapid. I call this tendency the "Seneca Effect."
Showing posts with label concentration camps. Cthulhu. Show all posts
Showing posts with label concentration camps. Cthulhu. Show all posts

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Are the Evil Gods Returning? Or is Evil is Inside us?


Benito Mussolini in 1922: is this the face of evil? Maybe, but Mussolini was not worshiping evil deities, he was not eating babies, he was not making human sacrifices. He wasn't even indulging in bouts of satanic laughter, as evil characters are supposed to do. There was nothing behind the mask. Mussolini was just a victim of his own propaganda.  

As a devoted reader of H.P. Lovecraft's stories, I have always found the idea of evil deities fascinating. The existence of supernatural entities that somehow control people's minds could explain a lot of things that otherwise would seem impossible to understand. But Lovecraft's horror stories are so over the top that they are not really scary. His evil Gods are comic book characters, clumsy creatures haunting dark and desolate places. Not even the mighty Cthulhu and his minions ever directly intervened in human political decisions. 

Yet, sometimes you have the sensation that something truly evil is moving in the world. Naomi Wolf expressed the idea most clearly in a recent post of hers.   

I could not explain the way the Western world simply switched from being based at least overtly on values of human rights and decency, to values of death, exclusion and hatred, overnight, en masse — without reference to some metaphysical evil that goes above and beyond fallible, blundering human agency. ...

What we have lived through since 2020 is so sophisticated, so massive, so evil, and executed in such inhumane unison, that it cannot be accounted for without venturing into metaphysics. Something else, something metaphysical, must have done that. And I speak as a devoted rationalist.

Lately, I've been thinking along similar lines. I even argued that worshiping the evil deity Baphomet could be a good idea for really nasty people who want to dominate the world. Overall, though, I think it is not the right explanation. No matter how inexplicable the rise of evil can look, it is still something that comes from inside us, not from the outside. Evil is us, eventually.

The recent release of the "Lockdown Files" in Britain supports this idea. These files contain the messages sent and received by Matt Hancock, the British Secretary of State for Health and Social Care during the lockdown period in Britain. In these messages, Hancock doesn't sound evil. He just writes as if he cared only about himself and his personal prestige. He wanted to "own the exit," and he didn't care about the British people, whom he evidently considered a band of morons. We were mistreated by dumb bureaucrats, not by the minions of evil deities.

Now, I have a stated policy that I call the "Grokking Strategy" that consists in listening to everyone and trusting no one. So, I am perfectly willing to consider the hypothesis that the Hancock files are a psyop designed to divert the public's attention away from the hidden forces that governed the reaction to the pandemic. On the whole, though, I think these files are genuine. They make sense, and they also match other examples of the same kind. For instance, we recently saw similar leaks of messages sent and received by the Italian equivalent of Hancock, Mr. Roberto Speranza, Minister of Health of the Italian government during the lockdown period. We can't swear on the authenticity of these leaked messages, but they fit with the personality of Mr. Speranza. Like Hancock, he was clearly trying to "own the exit." In late 2020, he published an autobiographical book designed to show how he had been valiantly fighting the virus and eventually had succeeded in squashing it. The book was quietly removed from the market when it turned out that the pandemic was not over. Now a printed copy is a rare collector's item.

Speranza and Hancock are just examples of the attitude of many people who reach the top. They are psychopaths, caring only about themselves, unable to feel anything for other people. They have zero or nearly zero empathy. Hannah Arendt describes this attitude for Adolf Eichmann, the German war criminal executed in 1962. 

What he said was always the same, expressed in the same words. The longer one listened to him, the more obvious it became that his inability to speak was closely connected with an inability to think, namely, to think from the standpoint of somebody else. No communication was possible with him, not because he lied but because he was surrounded by the most reliable of all safeguards against the words and the presence of others, and hence against reality as such.”

We find another example of this attitude with Benito Mussolini, who ruled Italy from 1922 to 1943, and part of it up to 1945. For him, we have the equivalent of the leaked messages by Hancock and Speranza in the diary kept by his son-in-law, Galeazzo Ciano, who acted as foreign minister up to 1943. In a post of mine I described how the diary tells us of a man who had lost all contact with reality. Mussolini had no friends, just lackeys. He wasn't listening to anyone; he was giving orders. He was not asking questions; he had all the answers. He was not learning from his mistakes; they were always someone else's fault. Worst of all, he had no respect for the life of the people he was supposed to rule. Just as an example, during a cold wave in winter, he was rejoicing because "the weak die, and the race becomes stronger." In 1943, Mussolini ordered the execution of his son-in-law. He didn't care even about the members of his own family. 

Was Mussolini pursuing an evil plan of his own creation? No, he never had structured ideas or plans. You may have some hints of his thoughts from his 1911 novel: "The Lover of the Cardinal." About it. I wrote:

.... I was curious about the possibility of gathering some hints about Mussolini's personality. Maybe his dreams, his goals as a young man, his ideals, this kind of things. But there is nothing like that in the novel. The author comes out of it as shallow as his characters. Which I think is what Mussolini probably was. A shallow character, of modest culture, with no real ideals, and with just a few ideas, but confused. 

Yet, a whole nation followed this man into doing whatever he thought was to be done. Let's skip the many disastrous strategic mistakes he made, and let's just focus on one that was pure evil: the persecution of the Italian Jews. It started in the mid-1930s, and it was a crescendo of harassment and mistreatment. The "racial laws" were enacted in 1938, and the Jews saw themselves fired from their jobs, forbidden to work, and, in many cases, forced to exile. Jews could not be administrators or doorkeepers of houses inhabited by Aryans, dealers in valuables, photographers, sellers of books, children's items, playing cards, and stationery. Jews were also forbidden to be licensed as amateur fishermen, to publish mortuary announcements, to include their names in telephone directories, to own and sell radios, and to join sports or recreational societies. They were forbidden to play chess in chess clubs. Even the Italian "Science" was compact in condemning Jews as an inferior race based on what was presented as a certain and undisputable set of data. See in the image the front cover of a 1938 Italian magazine: it is self-explanatory ("La difesa della razza" means "the defense of the race").

Now, picture yourself in Italy in the 1930s. Why this avalanche of hate against a group of Italian citizens? Many of them had fought for Italy during the Great War, and many were intellectuals, professionals, industrialists, and active elements of the Italian economy. They were indistinguishable from the "normal" Italians, except for their religious beliefs, But even that was not the point, because even those Jews who had converted to Christianity were targeted by the racial laws. You were just subjected to a wave of hate against Jews that pervaded the media of the time: mainly radio and the press.

Who exactly was masterminding this campaign? Obviously, it was created and controlled by members of the Fascist party or by government officials (the two things had mostly merged into a single entity in the 1930s). And, of course, once the story started, there were people or groups of people who directly benefitted from the persecution. Non-Jews took over the positions left free by Jews. For instance, university professors seem to have been more than happy to see their Jewish colleagues fired. At least, no non-Jewish professors protested against the mistreatment of their Jewish colleagues. Others profited from the confiscation of Jews' goods and property. Then, the military industry had everything to gain from a wave of hate that was clearly leading to war. But the surprising point is how the hate percolated through all sectors of society when most Italians had nothing to gain from the persecution. Mussolini himself had no obvious interest in taking an anti-semitic stance. He had taken over the Italian Government in 1922 without the need to demonize Jews, and in 1938 he was safe and secure in his position after the success of the Ethiopian campaign (*). I would surmise that he was a victim of his own propaganda.

Wouldn't you think that some evil deities were at work in causing this disaster? But the Italian Fascists were not the minions of an evil cult. And we don't have evidence that Mussolini himself was a puppet of supernatural entities or of human lobbies. The British secret services may have pushed him to make some of his many strategic mistakes, but there is no evidence that they had a role in the anti-semitic campaign. Evil didn't originate from Mussolini, nor from evil deities behind him. It was generated by ordinary people, just like you and me, who fell into the trap of propaganda. It is easy: you know that the road to Hell is smooth and easy. 

I think there the persecution of Jews in Italy is one of the best examples in history of the phenomenon that Mattias Desmet calls "Mass Formation." It was a self-reinforcing phenomenon: the Italian press started telling people that Jews were evil, people were believing what they were told, and that led the press to step up their accusations, convincing people even more.  And that went on, unchecked: a spiral of evil growing on itself. Soon, nobody, not even the Catholic Church, dared to say a word to defend their fellow Italian citizens so unfairly discriminated against. All the self-reinforcing phenomena tend to grow rapidly, even exponentially. And that was what happened with the anti-semitic campaign in Italy. It grew to the point when concentration camps started being built for the Jews, then these camps became extermination camps. Fortunately, the whole thing crashed with the defeat of Italy in WWII before it could reach the level of the parallel German extermination program. It was a perfect example of a Seneca Cliff -- even evil is subjected to slow growth and fast collapse. 

During the past three years, the whole world has been walking along a dangerous and slippery road toward Hell. In Italy, the Covid policies didn't arrive at the creation of concentration camps, but we got very close to that. They were actually created in Australia. Then, miraculously, something happened that defused the whole thing. Now the story seems to be over, and most people just want to forget about that, just like Italians want to forget the mistreatment that their grandparents and great-grandparents inflicted on Jews. But the elements that created these waves of hate are all in place, and we are all subjected to being affected by a propaganda campaign designed to demonize someone. Who will be the next victims?

(*) I have an idea about what could have been going on in Mussolini's head. It goes like this. First, there is no evidence that Mussolini had anti-semitic ideas for most of his political career. He never wrote anything about Jews, and even in his 1911 novel, the Cardinal's lover, there is no trace of anti-semitism. Mussolini even had a Jewish mistress, Margherita Sarfatti (1880-1961), an intellectual, artist, and writer, from when they met in Milano in 1911. But, in 1933, Mussolini took a younger woman as mistress, unceremoniously dumping the older Sarfatti. From then on, Mussolini started to encourage anti-semitism, becoming a rabid anti-semite himself. Was the whole idea of persecuting the Jews a result of Mussolini's personal dislike of his former Jewish lover? Who can say? If a butterfly can start a hurricane by flapping its wings, some of the mass murders of WWII might have started from a bedroom quarrel. But we will never know.