Grades, Degrees and Principles

It surely is in some respect a no-go-area for reflection, relating the brutal banality of evil of a man facing

15 criminal charges, including war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes against the Jewish people.

… – and still it is a field of reflection that has to be entered, not aiming on mocking anybody or anything as it is suggested as part of the debate on “little Eichmanns”, supposedly denying the sincerity and the difference of war crimes, as argued by Henri Clemens (Clemens Heni, November 2, 2008: Secondary Anti-Semitism: From Hard-Core to Soft-Core Denial of the Shoah). Such position may easily be seen as denial of the banality of evil, waiting until it is too late  ….  

We have to remember Martin Niemoeller’s words:

  • First they came for the Jews
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a Jew.
    Then they came for the Communists
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a Communist.
    Then they came for the trade unionists
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a trade unionist.
    Then they came for me
    and there was no one left
    to speak out for me.

****

It is the time of the year again, students worrying about their future, teachers eager to support them finding their way …, and going it. It is about writing academic references that are nowadays increasingly administratively defined ….. It is the time of the year again …  institutions – schools of different kind, employers, training centre, parties and NGOs …. well, and if needed hospitals for the burned-out, welfare offices for the drop-outs, prisons for the forced-outs and whoever else comes to mind being waiting …, opening their doors to help everybody finding a place in this democracy of which

it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time

T&C apply – and when it comes to terms & conditions, one of the decisive questions, easily forgotten, is: Who is, who is the actual actor? Or is it a What-Actor?

It had been frequently mentioned on these pages that in the academic world – as in so many other worlds – it is administrative systems, paralysing people who then paralyse people … – does the law of six degrees of separation also apply here? Will the fifth who has to be paralysed, end in a coma; the sixth immediately going down into the grave, even if physically still alive?

Preparing a presentation I gave some time ago in Ostrava, Neil Postman’s book on Amusing ourselves to Death came to my mind, shifting the at the time frequent attention from Orwell toward Huxley, his excelling grasp of the tantalising effect of totalising amusement, entertainment …

Part of this is the increasing fragmentation – each little act needing a rule, every two rules in need of another rule by which the two are linked, brought together, of course being in need of another rule that keeps them together …., an exponentially growing rule-you-machine, rolling out a net in which also responsibility gets lost, simply not felt …, but not felt because the brain is forced into the Procrustean bed of a surveillance state, lurking around every corner:

Torturing a prisoner on the rack, Middle Ages. A 19th-century representation of a medieval torture device in use, from World of Wonders, published by Cassell and Co, (London, 1894). (Photo by Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images)

(https:// cotyreh.com/2018/02/28/tyranny-reason-academias-procrustean-bed/)

  • Every wee commodity not only claiming to be an entire world but loudly demanding – Thou shalt have no other commodities before me.
  • Every little rule not only claiming to be an entire world but loudly stating – Thou shalt have no other rules before me.
  • Every little act not only claiming to be an entire world but loudly enforcing – Thou shalt think about no other act before me.  …

… NO EXCUSE – NO EXCUSE – NO EXCUSE – NO EXCUSE …

The consequences you have to bear, equally singular as every single commodity, rule and act. No, the consequences ARE NOT singular, they are paralysing, comatising, engraving as bringing-into-the-grave …

This points on the underlying problem – the methodological segmentation of actor, referential space, action seen as relevant and time:

If the public is only me – not in terms of individualisation but in terms of relevance: an earthquake, fire as also the beauty of a sunrise, and the relevance of my action are equally only me, my maintenance and security, safety, comfort …., enjoyment, career, arousal or anything relevant as matter of satisfaction when facing the need of emergency management, protecting against drowning in the tsunami of threats from nature, including emotions.

Hannah Arendt wrote about the banality of evil, following and analysing the process against Eichmann in Jerusalem. The massmurderer claimed that he did only what he had been asked, told to do … – rule is rule, act is act, outcome is outcome …. Eichmann’s argument: I had not been responsible, I knew, though only followed the rule … others …

Supposedly he accepted in hindsight 

I am guilty – that is the larger rule for those who accept responsibility beyond the tiny, singular rule 

another Big Bang, ending in another singularity.

It is worth to make a little side remark, looking at the work of Georg Jellinek, who studied form 1867 onwards jurisprudence, arts history, philosophy and history. He emphasised in his work not least that law – and one can thus say also administrative norms are only part of a wider setting. They cannot explain their acceptance and implementation which are a matter of society and people living in it. Or in the present context we may say: law and order is nothing that emerges simply from legally valid acts and individuals executing them orderly, i.e. within the order – the conflict Gustav Radbruch had been investigating in 1946, suggesting that in law it has to be considered that there are possible conflicts between the positive law and the requirement of material justice. Though Radbruch came to the conclusion of the superiority of positive law, he always faced the problematique of falling short where that law would stand in extreme conflict with being unbearable. It should be read as where the consequence in reality means they are not able to give an answer to the needs of reality. And as such they are not sufficient to deal with the contradictions of reality … – realities of bureaucratic and other machines:

On the other hand, when a person is called an “automaton” or a “robot” it is usually a derogatory comment denoting someone who is stiff and awkward in speech or movement; one who lacks imagination, emotion, spontaneity or a sense of humor; a fanatical follower of rules and regulations; a social or political conformist who is easily manipulated due to an inability to think critically and independently. In a recent issue of Perspectives, the news magazine of the American Historical Association, a history teacher objected to a Florida state education bill that asserted the view that Amer- ican history is “factual, not constructed,” by declaring that making students memorize information without teaching them analytic skills was tantamount to turning them into “little robots.”

(Kang, Minsoo, 2011: Sublime Dreams of Living Machines. The Automaton in the European Imagination; Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England: harvard university press 4)

****

It is the time of the year again, students worrying about their future, teachers eager to support them finding their way …, and going it. It is about writing academic references that are nowadays increasingly administratively defined ….

…. paradoxically so many complaining, criticising …., and clicking the link, ticking the box ….. it is the rule – a rule I cannot change …., and isn’t clicking, ticking …. an act of banality …. a wee act, not doing any harm, and if it does do any harm it is actually done by others … Providing the garrote is not using it, is not even telling others to do so …., we may even warn them while handing it over to the tyrant:

Not cruelty is the attribute of tyranny, but the destruction of the public political realm, monopolised by the despot by claiming ‘wisdom’ … or based on thirst for power, i.e. insisting on citizens looking after their private concerns, leaving it to him, the ‘ruler, to take of the public matters’.

(Arendt, Hannah, 1958: Vita Activa oder Vom Tätigen Leben; München/Zuerich: Piper, 1981, new edition: 215; translated from the German edition; with reference to Aristotle: Athenische Verfassung; XV, 5)

****

on administrative issues, simple money issues …  Well the many other things: professional ones or …, well, what is called “private/personal” – and being in the middle of it .., and trying to resist: cosy links, giving in when certain requirements are put forward …, and permanently asking if there is a definitive frontier line where TREASON begins, if and where. Knowing well, that there had been and still is very interesting stuff going on. But the latter makes it somewhat more difficult. Recently I had been reading some “old stuff”, 60s, more 70s and even 80s. So many wise things said – then it had been dealing with other “items” as Postman’s look at TV which could be written today, with wee alterations, now on computers and the WWW.

Who listened and listens?

There are so many things going on about critique of using SSCI- or SCOPUS as standard …, and when it comes to the point … , bubbles not only in the economy. Or, of course I have to say this: it is part of the economy: the material basis, the way in which people price and reproduce their daily life, and that is a matter of the economy …

Of course, it my sound like being over the top, but how often do we have to ask questions that are at least in structural terms, in principle, like those we see dealt with in the theatre play Terror, in legal cases as the one Fuller had been writing about under the title Case of the Speluncean Explorers … where is the tipping point that marks the step into the middle of the banality of evil …, and the step where resistance turns into “integration on a higher level” – I could have used this expression as one line of the Ostrava-talk mentioned earlier: there it had been Bansky, apparently protesting, revolting … attempted subversion coming out at the other end as submerging: the stream of the banality: in that case “arts as object of speculation”, in other cases – and they bother me again: letting one student down, because I cannot accept what I think is “terror of administration” against studentship: Warwick (again) writing something as ‘We cannot accept reference letters sent as mail attachment, you have to create an account, log in, …. Well, I wrote, answering:

I am terribly sorry that you submitted yourself under the rule of technological dictatorship – and I am upset that you force other people to do the same – which is …

Read Hannah Arendt  on The Banality of Evil – that is where you will find yourself.

You may accept the letter attached or otherwise I feel sorry for the student for the fact that I cannot do the secretarial service for a university that did not learn from its own history, and is dealing with colleagues in a highly disrespectful and offending way, using outdated procedures.

Upset, sincerely upset

Peter Herrmann

And what happens: an automated reply

Sometimes it may be even better getting this kind of reply than getting another lie, directly and personally stated, with a smile. I wanted to write “credenced with a smile” – thinking there would be something in English like the German Kredenzen: “present, in a more or less celebratory way … “ – there is no such term, but in English we have the term “credence”, of which the dictionary says:

Well, at least for me it is difficult to live with such tension – being aware of it, assuming that people are actually not “bad”, not all people .. , and still: there is the ultimate need to overcome such banality …, before we really end up sliding into it again … – well, you see, I still try to make sense, even trying to gain energy from all this, against the odds, and against the temptation to give in into the ultimate urge of the ultimate paralysis.

It is in this way that the Christmas-hustle and bustle put me off, as every year, like so many celebrations. Bubble-happiness then, perhaps it is the complement of bubble economies that are living in the stream of … bubbles, a huge stream, being fed by a spring of foam.

****

As stated in the beginning

It surely is in some respect a no-go-area for reflection. Eichman and the little bailiffs … – and still it is a field of reflection that has to be entered, unmasking the authoritarian personality ….

And then we arrive at the strangulation of young people, eager to study, though pushed towards pressing a button …. call it gamification of applications, then of studying, then of work – you may get the gamification also without the detour …. – no studies needed, many of the new gods with their temples in Silicon Valley, are drop outs, many even (quasi-) criminals ….

strangulating everybody who … resists the need to go beyond the excitement of 

click 

for like

click 

for excitement – and do not allow any negative feeling, critique, discourse ….

****

Indeed,

Principiis obsta. Sero medicina parata, cum mala per longas convaluere moras.

Wehre den Anfängen! Zu spät wird die Medizin bereitet, wenn die Übel durch langes Zögern erstarkt sind

And indeed, Ovid’s words are relevant … – can’t we see some amorousness when looking at the pedantic errand boys and errand girls , proud and nescient …?

Finally again Martin Niemoeller’s words:

  • First they came for the Jews
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a Jew.
    Then they came for the Communists
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a Communist.
    Then they came for the trade unionists
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a trade unionist.
    Then they came for me
    and there was no one left
    to speak out for me.

Or in the words of C. Wright Mills, written in 1956 in his book on The Power Elite

It is much safer to celebrate civil liberties than to defend them; it is much safer to defend them as a formal right than to use them in a politically effective way. Even those who would most willingly subvert these liberties usually do so in their very name. It is easier still to defend someone else’s right to have used them years ago than to have something yourself to say now and to say it now forcibly. The defense of civil liberties—even of their practice a decade ago—has become the major concern of many liberal and once leftward scholars. All of which is a safe way of diverting intel- lectual effort from the sphere of political reflection and demand.

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