Operating via hatred is commonly understood and accepted as detrimental to one's own mental health. Modern culture finally caught up to the addiction and cancer caused by drawing energy and purpose from this primal emotion that even hate-based subcultures like Neo-Nazis make arguments that they act out of balance and brotherhood, rather than simply a seething hatred anymore. However, back in Europe's transformative early decades--due to the severity of the economic consequences of World War I, war crimes in general, and the development of Fascism and Nazism--vengeance, vindication and hatred were turned toward. Granted, it probably wasn't a conscious choice, however it was a choice nonetheless to hunt and destroy war criminals. I understand these responses and am careful not to moralize from within a vacuum, however no matter how good it feels to wage vengeance--as Orwell points out--the act of allowing yourself to be influenced by hatred, poisons yourself to the point of making the original vengeance possibly not worth it. At that point, what wrong is being righted?
Hatred, although a mindset, thrives on being exercised, transferred, or manifested. Hatred that lays within the mind is like champagne within a vigorously shaken bottle. It has one purpose at that point; to be released. Impulsively hunting war criminals down after WWII was an almost automatic response, "but it could well happen that all the truly guilty people will escape in the end, simply because public opinion has been sickened beforehand by hypocritical trails and cold-blooded executions." (p. 576) That's a wrench if I've ever read one. Does it even make sense though? Since habits become easier upon repetition, wouldn't you think that hunting down and executing war criminals would become easier after awhile? Possibly, but that only applies to the people actually doing the hunting and executing. The masses will simply be informed that the powers-that-be which represent them did the hunting and executing, and after while, it's reasonable to think that masses--who are unpracticed and unfamiliar with this type of justice (read: warfare)--would turn back to something more comfortable, something within their established habit paradigm.
Orwell gets as close as possible to articulating this, without stating it outright. So there are multiple issues: 1) How hatred poisons the self, and 2) The strategical bellyflop created when war criminals are immediately hunted down, precipitating a "justice-exhaustion" which allows the big fish to swim away. That's quite a significant repercussion. If you spend so much time chasing after the small fish, what resources do you have to catch the big fish, anyway? This is--from a tactical standpoint--one of Orwell's main premises. I can't say I disagree with him. Both mental and physical resources are expensive mid-war and post-war, and it'd be prudent to step back and think of how we want to budget them. No one's saying, "Don't be mad at or demand justice against war criminals, or Fascists, or Nazis," but the argument is more so, "Knowing what we know about human atrocity, how can we implement justice in a way that it won't hurt us in the process, or damage our future?"
I realize that the definition of "us" is and always will be a hot topic. Isn't a feeling of what make us us one of the main tenets of collective identity? If we can't even agree on our us-ness, then we really don't have much of a shot at implementing justice in an intelligent, balanced, and future-oriented way. On page 577: "The Germans in this country, mostly refugees, have not been well treated, but they have not been meanly persecuted as they were last time. In the last war [WWI] it would have been very unsafe, for instance, to speak German in a London street. Wretched little German bakers and hairdressers had their shops sacked by the mob. German music fell out of favour, even the breed of dachshunds almost disappeared because no one wanted to have a "German dog."" Although German refugee treatment improved from WWI to WWII, the refugees were still not treated as an us. Why weren't they viewed as enemies of the Third Reich, the same political and moral stance as the Allied Forces? The way we define our us-ness determines our tolerance, understanding and empathy. Since hatred is so reactive and incendiary, it cannot be the basis of a balanced and intelligent form of justice, because it's so self-affirmative and self-prophetic. Justice will still be bloody at times, however, and as Orwell says on page 577, "Hatred is an impossible basis for policy, and curiously enough it can lead to over-softness as well as to over-toughness."
We want not to lose the forest in the trees.
"All these vindictive day-dreams, like those of 1914-18, will simply make it harder to have a realistic post-war policy. If you think now in terms of "making Germany pay," you will quite likely find yourself praising Hitler in 1950. Results are what matters, and one of the results we want from this war is to be quite sure that Germany will not make war again. Whether this is best achieved by ruthlessness or generosity I an not certain: but I am quite certain that either of these will be more difficult if we allow ourselves to be influenced by hatred." (p. 578)
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