Arguments of what makes a "good" person have spun back and forth for quite a long time, and date back to Socrates' famous discourse on the steps of the Agora. It's a simple concept but has complex implications in reality due in part to its abstract nature. There is no "good" I can hold in my hand. I find myself asking whether--since we're still doggedly debating its definition in modern day--if we're applying it in the appropriate milieus. In other words, are we asking the right questions?
The endless human accounts, pictures of medical experiments, personal diaries, and scarred landscapes all give evidence of the existence of the Holocaust. Believe it or not, there are still Holocaust deniers like English historian David Irving who use rhetorical arguments to either reduce the death count and produce arguments that Hitler wasn't the initiator or figurehead, yet was ignorant to the killings because "nameless criminals" performed them, not members of his regime. Irving even claims that the Allies precipitated WWII and are thus responsible for the subsequent brutalities. (Other historians have checked his journalistic work and found rampant omissions and embellishments, so it's not like he's an insightful individual working against the masses.)
The Nazi apologists thus imply that the Nazis were or could have been "good people." Before I delve into this matter, I'd like to change the language. The term "good" is a moral descriptor, however it's limited in its ability to describe. This word on its own tells us nothing due to its subjective simplicity, a simplicity which thus welcomes relativism and more of these dogged debates. It's nebulous, vague and ambiguous. The term "good" (or its opposite, "bad") must thus be bolstered by other clauses to explain what the hell is actually meant by the person using the term. However, since it entails subjectivity, that explanation rarely happens, and we're left with a partial meaning because it's a rarity for anyone nowadays to define the term they use in the middle of a conversation. I'm left with involving the word "ethical," rather than the word "good," because ethical has a much more precise meaning and thus, more acutely identifiable implications.
Were Hitler and company ethical people? I think this question would buck David Irving, because ethics involves the evaluation and alignment of terms and standards which you interact with others. So a strong ethical paradigm is one that holds oneself to the same standards as they hold others to, and weak ethics are those which entitle the self to different standards than others, or choose select others to be granted special standards to increase personal gain. Objectivity is key in a strong ethical paradigm because it welcomes evidence through a myriad of arguments, and allows the self to be proven wrong. (Proving the self wrong is a requirement for a balanced, informed ethical paradigm, according to Kristhoffer.) Since an objective point of view entails evaluating our standards of thought and behavior, it reveals what we value in the first place. Thus, it can work from the outside-in as much as the inside-out: From the outside-in approach, we observe our own thoughts and behaviors with others, which reveals what our values and motives are, no matter what we subjectively perceive them to be. In terms of the inside-out approach, we can actively change our thoughts and behaviors at any point in our lives through changing our internal values and priorities. It's a win-win scenario, however, only if ethics and morality are focused on instead of simple and subjective concepts like "good."
Hitler and company had positive elements in their personal lives. He had Ava Braun and a dog he loved dearly, and numerous accounts of Nazi soldiers having loving, nurturing family lives at home have been produced. It's chilling to hear the Nazis had birthday parties, etc.--just like the Jews before they were imprisoned--when they got "out of work" slaughtering the prisoners. However, these personal positives are simply self-absorbed affairs because the Nazis didn't grant the Jews, Gypsies, or intellectuals the same freedoms. Thus, their ethical structure was duplicitous. The Nazis claimed the Jews were inhuman, the Gypsies were exploitative (they'll "gyp" you!), and the intellectuals had loud, annoying mouths. Thus, arguing to reduce the number of Holocaust deaths, or attributing them to Himmler instead of Hitler, or saying Hitler was unaware of the deaths because he was too busy fighting the Allies, are invalid because they still advocate the same destructive, duplicitous ethical structure existent in the current recorded understanding of the motives of the Holocaust. The arguments made by the Nazi apologists legitimize the Nazis' ethical duplicity, and thus don't expose the inner workings of the massacre. Instead, why not ask, "How did ethics become so poisoned that not only were millions killed, but so many subsequent arguments and analyses become discrepant?" This will bring the darkness of the duplicitous ethical paradigm into the light.
In many countries, Holocaust denial is a crime punishable by imprisonment. Do you think that law was created from the start? No; Nazi apologists instigated waves of duress through death count reduction, responsibility transference, and even the lack of existence of death camps, making the law a necessity to allow the human race to regain some fucking dignity. So after our fellow man, woman and child were slaughtered for years, with all the evidence indicating such, the poison of duplicitous ethics allowed some people--albeit a small percentage--to avoid the evidence presented. We willingly lost the forest in the trees.
Strong ethics involve a search for what we could possibly be missing. Not why we're flawed; that's a human-centric religious argument. The existence of some positive aspects in Hitler and company's personal lives have no bearing on their chosen ethical madness. That's a large part of the Holocaust, isn't it? A system of ethics that granted some people rights and entitlements and others a lack thereof due to a speculative lower moral and specie quality. Once one accepts this basal premise, then killing, raping, torturing, and dehumanizing at any rate is made much easier. But since the Nazis weren't concerned with ethical symmetry, the reward of potentially regaining national identity lost in WWI was too seductive for many to pass up. This was a recipe for ethical madness. This madness was actually more insanity, because the stock response by the Nazis, when asked why they did it, was they "didn't physically kill anybody." Or that they "didn't know what what happening because they just did this one simple action." Or they "talked peacefully and calmly to the prisoners as they worked." Really? So it's just a coincidence that the same people who didn't subscribe to the Nazi premises of ethical insanity were the ones who could see them so clearly?
It serves to note that historian David Irving is indeed a proponent of Nazi ideology.
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