Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Gradients of Evil

Further evidence to myself that I am not a moral relativist on reading Menachem Begin. The gradient of evil between Stalinist prison camps and Nazi extermination camps has got me thinking about what I think is more evil than what. A lot of people consider child molestation as worse than even cold blooded murder, and certainly, I was one to think that if you look at the raw numbers of deaths and suffering between Stalin and Hitler, one might even think Stalinist crimes against humanity to be worse. This book said little about the nazi crimes, but his experience of the soviet system clarified that the morality of the abuse, or rather the lack thereof, is linked to the intent of the abuser. Whether a crime is merely bad or heinous is about what is happening in the mind of the criminal.

Hitler and his leadership group had decided on mass murder, and that at no military, economic or moral justification, or even gain.

Stalin, on the other hand, had in mind disposable convict labor. Genocide was not what he was trying to achieve, even if his tactics to extend an empire involved mass torture and essentially working prisoners to their deaths.

To extend this to compare the morality of suicide terrorism against territorial containment, the intent with suicide terrorism is to kill - often innocent and random civilians. Territorial containment can cause considerable destitution and strikes to enforce it can cause more deaths than the terrorism it is aiming to contain, but the intent indicates a much lesser evil.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Begin Reading

Menachem Begin's White Nights. Have read this book now and found it an easy read as it is non fiction and broadly intellectual. I don't really have much to say in regards to Zionism or antisemitism, but the morality of the prison camps of The USSR compared to those of the Nazis was an interesting take. I have come to the view that whether it be talking about the "humane" treatment of prisoners or animals, it is the cold-blooded killing of them which is has primacy in the moral debate. Towards the end of the book, Begin compares the Siberian prison camps to the Nazi death camps, and surmises that even though arguably the Stalinist camps resulted in a similar scale of deaths, which were slow, painful and tortuous in comparison to the nazi extermination camps. The longer internment, and the usage of labour allowed a window of hope that one can make a difference.

To compare it with the morality or otherwise of humane butchering of cattle - The humanity is for the benefit of the humans and our sensitivities. When cattle perceive that they are going to be harmed, their hope of escape keeps them going. Is it any more cruel if the animal is fighting for its freedom right until the last minute?