Personal Responsibility Under Dictatorship
We are also responsible for our obedience
wir sind auch für unseren gehorsam verantwortlich
Quotes from Hannah Arendt 1964 essay
I want to comment on the rather furious controversy
touched off by my book Eichmann in Jerusalem
Better to suffer than do wrong even when doing wrong is the law
Who am I to judge? actually means We’re all alike, equally bad, and those who try, or pretend that they try, to remain halfway decent are either saints or hypocrites, and in either case should leave us alone.
how deep-seated the fear of passing judgment, of naming names, and of fixing blame-especially, alas, upon people in power and high position, dead or alive-must be
In brief, what disturbed us was the behavior not of our enemies but of our friends, who had done nothing to bring this situation about. They were not responsible for the Nazis, they were only impressed by the Nazi success and unable to pit their own judgment against the verdict of History, as they read it.
There is no such thing as collective guilt or collective innocence; guilt and innocence make sense only if applied to individuals.
The cog-theory. When we describe a political system how it works, the relations between the various branches of government, how the huge bureaucratic machineries function of which the channels of command are part, and how the civilian and the military and the police forces are interconnected, to mention only outstanding characteristics-it is inevitable that we speak of all persons used by the system in terms of cogs and wheels that keep the administration running. Each cog, that is, each person, must be expendable without changing the system, an assumption underlying all bureaucracies, all civil services, and all functions properly speaking. This viewpoint is the viewpoint of political science… Here it is indeed true what all the defendants in the postwar trials said to excuse themselves: if I had not done it, somebody else could and would have.
In the Third Reich, (except Hitler) everybody else from high to low who had anything to do with public affairs was in fact a cog, whether he knew it or not. Does this mean that nobody else could be held personally responsible?
“Not I but the system did it in which I was a cog,” the court immediately raises the next question: “And why, if you please, did you become a cog or continue to be a cog under such circumstances?”
the fact that systems transform men into cogs, and totalitarian systems more totally than others, was on trial.
Totalitarian society, as distinguished from totalitarian government, is indeed monolithic; all public manifestations, cultural, artistic, or learned, and all organizations, welfare and social services, even sports and entertainment, are “coordinated.”
only those who withdrew from public life altogether, who refused political responsibility of any sort, could avoid becoming implicated in crimes, that is, could avoid legal and moral responsibility… We who appear guilty today are in fact those who stayed on the job in order to prevent worse things from happening; … it is argued, it
was more “responsible” to stay on the job no matter under what
conditions or with what consequences.
In their moral justification, the argument of the lesser evil has played a prominent role. If you are confronted with two evils, thus the argument runs, it is your duty to opt for the lesser one, whereas it is irresponsible to refuse to choose altogether…. the weakness of the argument has always been that those who choose the lesser evil forget very quickly that they chose. evil
the act of state is permitted to go unpunished because of extraordinary circumstances, where survival as such is threatened.
I must here remind you that the personal or moral issue, as distinct from legal accountability, hardly arises with those who were convinced adherents of the regime:
“Personal Responsibility.” This term must be understood in contrast to political responsibility which every government assumes for the deeds and misdeeds of its predecessor and every nation for the deeds and misdeeds of the past.
*** New order - New dogma - New moral values ***
people, regardless of party affiliation and direct implication, believed in the “new order” for no other reason than that was the way things were… It was as though morality, at the very moment of its total collapse within an old and highly civilized nation, stood revealed in the original meaning of the word, as a set of mores, of customs and manners, which could be exchanged for another set
the nonparticipants, called irresponsible by the majority, were the only ones who dared judge by themselves, and they were capable of doing so not because they disposed of a better system of values or because the old standards of right and wrong were still firmly planted in their mind and conscience.
On the contrary, all our experiences tell us that it was precisely the members of respectable society, who had not been touched by the intellectual and moral upheaval in the early stages of the Nazi period, who were the first to yield. They simply exchanged one system of values against another. We now know that moral norms and standards can be changed overnight, and that all that then will be left is the mere habit of holding fast to something
Every organization demands obedience to superiors as well as obedience to the laws of the land. Obedience is a political virtue of the first order, and without it no body politic could survive. Unrestricted freedom of conscience exists nowhere, for it would spell the doom of every organized community. All this sounds so plausible that it takes some effort to detect the fallacy. Its plausibility rests on the truth that “all governments,” in the words of Madison, even the most autocratic ones, even tyrannies, “rest on consent,” and the fallacy lies in the equation of consent with obedience. An adult consents where a child obeys;
we have only for a moment to imagine what would happen to any of these forms of government if enough people would act “irresponsibly” and refuse support, even without active resistance and rebellion, to see how effective a weapon this could be. It is in fact one of the many variations of nonviolent action and resistance.
Hence the question addressed to those who participated and
obeyed orders should never be, “Why did you obey?” but “Why
did you support?”
Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil is a 1963 book by political thinker Hannah Arendt. Arendt, a Jew who fled Germany during Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, reported on the trial of Adolf Eichmann, one of the major organizers of the Holocaust, for The New Yorker
Από αυτά παίρνουμε όλοι μαθήματα του τι σημαίνει να είσαι ένα αναπληρώσιμο γρανάζι του συστήματος και να υπακούς τυφλά εντολές και νόμους….
Συχνά είχα την συζήτηση με στενό συγγενικό μου πρόσωπο γιατί έπρεπε να επιλέξει ξανά να ψηφίσει το ίδιο κόμμα και η απάντηση ήταν: “γιατί έτσι είχα αναπαυμένη την συνείδησή μου ότι επέλεξα το λιγότερο κακό για την πατρίδα μου….”
Όλοι όσοι στηρίζουν, υποστηρίζουν αυτό το σάπιο, κρυφό απολυταρχικό σύστημα των παγκοσμιοποιητών που έχουν εγκαθιδρύσει στον τόπο μας έδω και μια δεκαετία τουλάχιστον να ξανασκεφτούν τι κάνουν και με ποιο άλλο τρόπο μπορούν να σταματήσουν να το στηρίζουν και να είναι αναπληρώσιμα γρανάζια….. ας αναλάβουν τις προσωπικές τους ευθύνες έναντι της δικής μας ιστορίας των Ρωμιών.
Ας δούνε επίσης αυτοί που κατηγορούν όλους εμάς που δεν συμμετέχουμε στο σύστημα ως ανεύθυνους, ποιοι ήταν αυτοί που ενέδωσαν πρώτοι στο απολυταρχικό καθεστώς του Ράιχ. Τα ευηπόληπτα μέλη της υψηλής κοινωνίας που απλά αντικατέστησαν (πρόδωσαν) τις παλαιές ηθικές αξίες για τις καινούργιες που τους προσέφερε η νέα τάξη πραγμάτων. Γιατί πίστευαν ότι απλά έτσι θα μπορούσαν να συνεχίζουν να ζούνε ανενόχλητοι…
Η πρόσφατη τραγική ιστορία του τόπου μας απέδειξε ότι το πείραμα που εφάρμοσαν εδώ στην Ελλάδα με την κατάργηση της Εθνικής μας κυριαρχίας το 2010 και προσφάτως με την κατάργηση των ατομικών δικαιωμάτων και του συντάγματος με πρόσχημα την προστασία του κοινωνικού συνόλου οδηγεί με μαθηματική ακρίβεια στην αναβίωση ενός απολυταρχικού καθεστώτος με τις γνωστές συνέπειες….
Οι παγκοσμιοποιητές δεν ζητούν ποτέ την συγκατάθεσή μας για όσα εφαρμόζουν, γιατί δεν μας θεωρούν ενήλικες αλλά παιδιά που δεν μπορούν να κρίνουν και απαιτούν να υπακούσουν σε όσα τους λένε οι ψυχικά άρρωστοι, ανώμαλοι, γονείς τους.