Print

Print


Whilst your proposition I'm sure is a factor, Tom, I can't really agree that it's the economic practicalities that drive the morality.
 
It's true that former senior and middle-management Nazis couldn't feasibly be barred from running postwar Germany (hence the rather pragmatic 'de-Nazification' programme), just as former DDR state enterprise managers couldn't feasibly be excluded from running things there following reunification.
 
It's true, too, that a big part of the justification for the European Union is to bind its members ever-closer economically and politically, and thus mitigate the possibility of further wars in Europe.
 
But I can't really see how any of this necessarily has driven any big changes in that which is and isn't morally acceptable. Rather, I think the Holocaust stands as a shameful aberration of morality, collectively, just as slavery and apartheid do, too. 
 
Feasibility inevitably tempers morality, but the above spectacular evils surely can't simply be explained-away by economic forces - sure it's far, far more complicated than that.  
 
On 14 May 2012 12:03, Tom Gray <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
It is true that the front line troops who had seen the death camps were, as a result, not overly concerned with the plight of hundreds of thousands of German POWs in internment camps. However as rear echelon units came up to administer Germany, the attitude changed. There was the idealistic impulse but there was also the practical question of how to administer the German economy and to feed and clothe the tens of millions of people who lived there along with the millions who were fled there from the Russians. There was an initial impulse to exclude all NAZIs from the administration and business but the reality was that this could not be done and at the same time have a functioning German economy. Couple that with the pervasive antisemitism among the educated classes and we have the comments about the "dregs of the eastern ghettos".

It appears to me that it is not the experience of the holocaust and other mass murders that have eliminated anti-Semitism. Think of the reaction, at the time that they were occurring, of the educated Western political classes to Cambodia and Rwanda. There was indifference to the reports of mass murder. It was the experience of the devastation of WW2 and the fact that great power war was now futile as a matter of policy that provided he impetus for the open trading global economy that we have today. Domination and exploitation by war are no longer possible so we must learn to live together so that we can trade and be secure and affluent. The morality follows from this.  Discussions of the antisemitism prevalent in Eliot's time and our virtue because of the lack of it in our's should take this into account.


From: Peter Montgomery <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Monday, May 14, 2012 12:46:45 AM
Subject: Re: Eliot as a man of his time


The discovery that anti-semitism, however much a barely meant social posture,
could in fact lead to the unspeakable results of the holocaust must have had a persuasive effect.
 
Peter
----- Original Message -----
From: [log in to unmask]" href="mailto:[log in to unmask]" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Tom Gray
To: [log in to unmask]" href="mailto:[log in to unmask]" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">[log in to unmask]
Sent: Sunday, May 13, 2012 1:07 PM
Subject: Eliot as a man of his time

In reference to the anti-Semitism found in Eliot's writing, I have been doing some reading to satisfy a personal question about how Germany transformed itself from the NAZI state of WW2 to the open democracy of today. the history of the denazification period is very revealing about the genteel anti-Semitism that was prevalent at the time. There was an almost schizophrenic attitude. In the same person, there could be an idealism that demanded the eradication of the NAZIs but this could be a coupled with a sympathy for the educated NAZIs that they were dealing with and the accused NAZIs that they were dealing with and the accusation of what one British official called 'the dregs of the eastern ghettos'. Within one person there could be an idealistic need to eradicate NAZI hate coupled with an aversion to the Jewish culture. Eliot was a man of his time.
 
The remarkable thing about all of this is that the NAZI Germany of WW2 transformed itself into the open democracy of today in which, as one example, anti-Semitic attitudes are socially unacceptable. Similarly in my home country Canada, anti-Semitism was openly practiced in that period. How has society transformed itself in such a short period of time. From my reading on the history of the denazification effort, I gather that economic superiority of the open society make sit better suited to fulfilling the basic human needs of security and affluence then a closed authoritarian one. In my reading about the denazification period, I have seen a quotation for the 'The Threepenny Opera' by Berthold Brecht which reads "Erst kommt du Fressen, dann commt die Moral" or "First comes the eating and then the morality". The experience of the Weimar Republic conformed a preference in the German public for an authoritarian leader who could get things done and thereby fulfill their basic needs for security and affluence. The experience of the devastation of WW2 and the futility of great power war in an era of nuclear weapons similarly fuels the desire for the open society and its associated moral beliefs.
So the question about Eliot's anti-Semtism appears to me not to be a question about Eliot but a question about the nature of humanity. What is the real basis for the ideals that we espouse. Remember Rwanda happed in the 1990s with Bosnia just before. Sudan happened just a little while later. Cambodia happened in the 1970s.