Why They Kill

Arguably, the extended 20th century which began with WW1 in 1914, has produced more change than the rest of history. Much of that involves our technology. Even the writer recalls reliable horses pulling fickle automobiles, and that when his father called from about 70 miles away, a crowd gathered to witness the wonder. Beyond that, democracy and general welfare have scored. Nevertheless, the record also includes hunger as a terror weapon –China and the Ukraine’s “holodomor” famine come to mind. Furthermore, the real life failure of a good theories, attribute it socialist management, has contributed its bit. Communism’s shortages made a potato a valued good and enhancing persecution, expecting our transfer for liquidation to “Siberia” – are indelible as is the image of my family handcuffed by Nazis.

Our time blabbers about humanism, the good society and virtue to be made into a way of life. At the same time, it has produced systems that, professing to pursue noble ends, have killed on a mass scale. Ergo, the question is “Why do they kill?”

Every society has criminals, however, most potential murderers will remain inactive until a system makes killing “legal”. However, this will not be about deviants. The topic here is the process by which normal persons become killers.

Mass murder begins with an encompassing “good and noble idea.” It is one that goes beyond thesis-like programmatic speculations of intent. That happens once, the founder, or his followers, attribute infallibility to themselves and their concept. To become dangerous, this teaching must deal with all aspects of man and society, and assert truths that are irrefutably final, and only criminally questionable. Thereby postulates become doctrines that masquerade as “science”, therefore demanding total submission to its prophets and whose “true believers” are fanatics.

The findings of genuine science do not fit the described pattern. It is a defining trait of real science that, its rules are true only as long as not proven to be invalid. The claim of infallibility is contrary to science. Nevertheless, fanatical movements like to claim to be “scientific” such as Nazi Rassenlehre (racial science) or “scientific Marxism.” The more science is invoked to prove that “this is the right way and the only way”, the more authoritarian the creed, in reality a “secular religion”, will be.

In the case or purely religion-based tyrannies, a founder, call him a “prophet”, replaces the abused pseudo-science of worldly movements. In time, the founder of such secular movements will be projected into the role of the classical prophets. For that reason, a cult will be created around them –as in the case of Marx, Hitler, Stalin or Mao. The rituals honoring them and their “collected thoughts” will be reminiscent of conventional religion’s practices. Once this stage is reached, the roots of dictatorial systems –whether secular or ecclesiastical- fuse into identical weeds.

Those celebrated as the anointed interpreters of the truth proclaimed to be mankind’s  salvation will, as objects of a cult, become convinced that they are what they are praised to be, namely Gods. (As in the case of the Kim Family.)This makes everything short of adoration appear as blasphemy, a deviation from the saving “party line”, and “refusniks” into agents of the evil enemy to be destroyed.

A system of worldly rule is the likely outgrowth of the possession of indubitable truth. Its assumption also involves a duty to spread the idea by violent means. Note: the conviction that one knows the “truth” need not have dictatorial consequences. This can be so if Deity’s messenger teaches that “my kingdom is not of this world”.

Some systems feel deputized to create a combination of heaven paired with the worldly land of plenty of children’s tales. They quickly discover disturbing, but seemingly removable hindrances blocking the path to the perfect society.

It so happens, that “the ideal” is, per definition, not makeable. At the same time, the “business plan” of those that set out to rescue mankind from it self-made state of misery, proclaims the contrary. It all hinges on creating, in Soviet parlance, a “New Man” that is free from what religion would call the “original sin”.

Those possessed by dogmatic convictions tend to assume that the “errors and deficiencies” –a term from the world of applied Socialism- do not express the inadequacy of their policy. Personal considerations enhance the inclination to make inferior reality fit the contours of perfection. Systems that express absolutes will not know checks and balances. By their logic they produce “prophets” that hold absolute power. Persons that head systems with a “Führer Prinzip”, where “the Party never errs” while the party equals its “Chairman”, will not be persuaded by shortcomings to revise “the Party line”. The logic of total power is that the retreat from infallibility endangers the existence of its source. The same goes for the personnel of the “Apparat” by which total power is implemented.

No matter what the motives to cling to power might be, the longer it is exercised, the more likely is that, in time, the “contradictions” will grow –as are shortages in Venezuela. Contrary to the logic of Marxist notions, Stalin reacted to this by stating that, the closer the classless society, the more intense the “class struggle” must become. This served as the theoretical justification of the Gulag. Consider that system to be the totalitarian expression of the suppression of society by a morally superior elite, deputized by its exclusive understanding of “the logic of history”, to save the deplorable masses from their misery.

The ideology of such rulers demands that their governance be totalitarian. The modern era’s totalitarian dictatorships are about more than forbidding some deeds and requiring compliance in politically relevant public areas, as have traditional tyrannies. The purpose of totalitarian dictatorship’s goals goes far beyond simply forbidding things. Totalitarians know no private sphere and enforce total submission. Oh, not for ever. Only as long as the “New Man” is “forged”.

What happens if the gap between the claimed and pursued ideal –the state of “should be”- diverges from the reality – the condition of “is”? One measure that works initially is to assert what a marching song of the writer’s youth did. Ad nauseam one sang something like “this globe knows no richer and beautiful country than ours -where all feel to be free”. As the “gap” widens, this propaganda of self-delusion will lose whatever credibility it had.

The more so as conceptually induced mismanagement leads to regulation and shortages. These produce added inefficiency followed by corruption as a response. However, since the corrupt hold power, the resort to violence will only repress the victims in the interest of perpetuating the “system”.

Once gap between promise and performance cannot be ignored, an instrument to bridge the distance between the two ends of the “Y” must be applied. The claim will be that, what is not well is to be attributed to the subversive “enemy” – the “chain dogs of the imperialist”, or the “unbelievers”. Since the hiding foe is cunning, “alertness” is needed to expose the scoundrel. Who is he? It can be a class of people –“bourgeois”, Jews, an ethnic group. Beyond that, everyone, and especially those that appear to be innocent, is to be suspected by the vigilantly watchful.

At the end of that train of thought we arrive at the terror perpetrated by saintly devils. Institutionalized fear is an instrument that does not happen as the result of an abuse, or as an accident. The terror of the “vanguard” that yields the “fist of the Party” is a key element of the system and as such essential for its survival.

So then, back to the question, “why do they kill”? The answer is brutally simple: Because their “world-view” permits it, because their failures make it necessary, and because they have to kill to live.

 

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