Tuesday 23 March 2021

In Harm's Way.

What It's Not About: The harms suffered by those on the receiving end of Free Speech will always be less than the harms unleashed upon the rest of society by any attempt to suppress it. The experience of suffering is part of the human condition. Nothing throughout history has given rise to more damage, injury and hurt than the attempts by ideologues of all persuasions to create a world in which nobody comes to harm.

WHAT IS “HARM”? On how this word is defined will turn a number of critical political debates. The meaning of Freedom of Expression and the definition of Terrorism are only the most important of these pending societal conversations. “Harm”, and what it is deemed to encompass, may precipitate profound legal and cultural consequences. Define the term too widely and many of the civil liberties we take for granted as citizens of a democratic state may disappear. Clearly, what we’re talking about here is “some pretty serious shit”.

Let’s begin with the generally accepted definition of “harm”. In plain language, to harm someone is to “damage, injure or hurt” them. In a legal context, harm may be inflicted by damaging, injuring or hurting a person’s body, mind, property and/or reputation. Thus, one’s standing in the community can be harmed by slander and defamation. One can also be harmed indirectly by being forced to witness hurt and injury being inflicted upon others. Intention is crucial to the definition of harm. In the absence of clear evidence that the alleged harm was inflicted intentionally, guilt is difficult to establish.

Over the next few months we are likely to see the concept of harm deployed in the name of further limiting Freedom of Expression. Our legal system already prohibits speech that is intended to – and likely to – inflict physical and/or emotional harm on persons on account of their ethnicity.

In the wake of the Christchurch Mosque Shootings, however, pressure has been building for a significant expansion of the legal meaning of harm. In addition to banning speech inciting physical violence and contempt against persons on account of their ethnicity, it is proposed to also ban criticism and/or vilification of the cultural and religious practices and beliefs of individuals, groups and “communities”. In effect the idea that a person’s reputation (and, hence, their well-being) can be harmed by untruthful words, spoken and/or written with malicious intent, is being extended to include entire ethnicities and faith communities.

If successful, this expansion of the definition of harm will make it legally hazardous to criticise too vigorously a religious faith and its adherents. These legal reforms may even extend to banning the expression of ideologies asserting the existence of an ethnic and/or cultural hierarchy in which people of colour are degraded and the “white races” exalted as supreme. Such restrictions would be justified by characterising such speech as a form of defamation: harming not only the collective reputation of the ethnic group under attack, but also inflicting serious emotional damage on the individuals targeted by such speech, and thereby materially damaging their ability to live full and happy lives.

If harm is construed in this way it will become possible for the definition of terrorism to be changed in the manner suggested by both Paul Spoonley and Paul Buchanan on this morning’s edition of RNZ’s Morning Report.

The old definition of terrorism spoke of “actual or threatened violence deployed by individuals or groups in pursuit of a specific political objective, or set of objectives”. But if harm is taken to include emotional as well as physical injury, then violence, too, can be redefined. Taking a leaf out of the family law textbooks, the concept of violence may be stretched to include the “collateral damage” inflicted upon those forced to witness the spectacle of others being hurt.

A terrorist could, thus, be any individual or group which, by seeking political changes based on the suppression of certain ethnic, religious and/or cultural communities, is guilty of inflicting emotional violence on other, supposedly non-targeted, individuals and groups. Merely by giving voice to hateful ideological precepts, it could be argued, these miscreants are applying direct political pressure to the nation’s democratic institutions – and thereby identifying themselves as terrorists.

Both Spoonley and Buchanan seemed keen for the creation of just such a regime. By freezing the assets of citizens designated as terrorists by the Prime Minister, they could be “calmed down” and brought into line. At which point, presumably, their property would be returned to them and, just like the drugged-up dissidents released from Soviet mental asylums in the 1970s, they could re-enter society as model citizens.

To a great many New Zealanders the redefinition of “harm” and “terrorism” in the manner described above will be greeted with dismay and suspicion. Extending the state’s legal powers in the ways suggested would weaken quite significantly the rights guaranteed to New Zealanders by the Bill of Rights Act 1990. Where once there had been general agreement on what could and couldn’t be said in relation to one’s fellow citizens, changes of this nature will open up deep rifts in New Zealand society. Such measures will be widely interpreted as an attempt to police people’s thoughts and beliefs by criminalising opinions with which the authors of the legislation disagree.

Far from calming people down and persuading them to come into line with the official view, laws seen as protecting specific ethnicities and cultures by limiting what other ethnicities and cultures are permitted to publicly endorse will undoubtedly embitter and inflame a dangerously large number of those so constrained. Convinced that they are being unjustly criminalised on account of their beliefs, a hard core of the targeted group will embrace the very hate-filled terrorist tactics such laws are intended to control and punish.

Buchanan would categorise such behaviour as evidence of the Right’s lack of consciousness of the consequences of their ideological convictions and utterances. He would argue that, since the taking of offence is justifiable only among those who have been offended, it is up to them – and them alone – to determine what is, and is not, offensive. That only those harmed can define what is harmful. Or, to put it more plainly, the right-wing assholes on the receiving end of these new definitions of harm and violence will just have to suck it up.

The glaring fault in this reasoning is that in attempting to rectify the Right’s lack of consciousness of the political consequences of its actions, the Left will have opened itself up to exactly the same charge – and the political consequences of its failure to be mindful of the future will be no less serious.

The only viable way out of this conundrum is to inculcate in both the Left and the Right the notion that the harms suffered by those on the receiving end of Free Speech will always be less than the harms unleashed upon the rest of society by any attempt to suppress it. The experience of suffering is part of the human condition. Nothing throughout history has given rise to more damage, injury and hurt than the attempts by ideologues of all persuasions to create a world in which nobody comes to harm.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 23 March 2021.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

I asked this question of Kiwi Dave a little while ago and got a careful and considered answer although I disagreed with it. Perhaps the rest of you could try?
There is a pamphlet circulating around Auckland mainly I believe trying to convince people not to get vaccinated. If someone takes this seriously, catches a disease such as measles, mumps or Covid and either dies or becomes profoundly deaf, or even sterile in the case of mumps, would you define this as harm? Would you allow these people to keep producing their pamphlets which propagate actual lies? Or are the "injuries" just collateral damage?
Here's another one. Some eejit in the US a fundagelical pastor obviously, has offered to "bail out" protesters at abortion clinics. If someone then goes on bombs an abortion clinic, and kills someone is that harm? Is the pastor just engaging in his freedom of speech?
What about the guy who spread the ridiculous nonsense about Hillary Clinton running a paedophile ring out the basement of a restaurant with no basement. Some guy walked in there and fired a shot because he wanted to rescue the kids. If he killed someone, would that be harm or just a minor consequence of someone's freedom of speech?

Barry said...

Just imagine the mental health problems that will come out of this.
We have an almost uncontrollable growth in mental health problems among young people - who have all been educated to believe that words do hurt you. The current level of outrage will become a tsunami of terror and horror.
We need a war of the type like the Eastern front during WW2.
(I tell my grand children that this is only true of you let words hurt you. After all you can simply ignore them, you can regard them as coming from some undesirable awful person. I also tell them that if they go onto social media they will be told - sooner or later - that they have something wrong. So if you dont like that then dont go on social media or at least control access.)

greywarbler said...

I think it is fair that we should be able to raise awareness of something. But to deliberately spread misinformation, doubt and fear, and incite violence where people are already agitated and concerned is bad for society. If people are publishing and spreading misinformation there needs to be a control against this. That makes sense. The person may then publish in a national newspaper the concise concerns that are held so they have been aired before the public, also the sources relied on for that information, and the place or institution from where that information has been sourced stating the historical or scientific grounds and profession or experience the source draws on. But the dissemination must stop after that.

When it comes to attacking religions or ethnic communities, it becomes harassment or threatening and anyone found doing so should have to attend a special course studying world movements of faith or culture, and what is the history of the person's own declared culture.
Then they need to undertake a course in anger management, self-restraint, self-understanding and skills building. By that time the cost of a year's imprisonment would have been spent on the offender, plus the cost of the special facility that the few getting this treatment would be held in. The saving would possibly be - one child murder, one adult murder, three bashings on the street, five people requiring small injury treatment and counselling, and two trashed rented homes.

I think that reducing the acceptance of free speech, and using the term 'bounded speech' where you are expected to follow the old Golden Rule, speak as you would wish to be spoken to, would be the first approach. The second would be mediation, followed by some role play with each speaking freely to the other under police-type supervision, in a private room, followed by a warning. Then, depending on severity of the action, the learning process. Then more severe considerations.

I'm not keen to have shitheads say whatever they like to me and call it free speech, so put up and shut up. And I don't believe in fines, punitive lock-ups etc. are the way to handle this lack of concern for others, on both sides in contention. And part of the answer to this type of behaviour is to include everyone in community, and remind people of what that means and to be grateful for what the community does for everyone. We take so much for granted, I notice the lack of courtesy and consideration for others when driving for instance. Causes and effects as GS puts it would be part of learning about community, and how to co-operate most of the time, it should be taught at primary school, carried on to secondary, and start at pre-school. No you can't snatch that toy, yes you can have it next after a little while etc.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Guerilla Surgeon:

Your questions expose the enormous problems associated with expanding the definition of harm beyond the straightforward meaning of "Injure, Damage, Hurt". Even the concept of defamation owes more to aristocratic notions of honour than it does to the direct experience of physical harm.

The assassin of John Lennon, Mark Chapman, told the authorities he was inspired by the character Holden Caulfield in J.D. Salinger's novel "Catcher in the Rye". Presumably you wouldn't ban all novels as a precautionary measure against disturbed individuals feeling impelled to commit murder by "messages" contained in their pages?

Surely, the better option, when confronted with anti-vaxxer material, is to restate the truth - not censor the lie.

There is an authoritarian tone about some of your more recent comments, GS, that, frankly, I find disturbing.

Oh, and in case you think I'm being unduly harsh on you, while letting right-wingers off more lightly, allow me to reassure you that your most vociferous critics never make it on to Bowalley Road's commentary threads. As they are clearly in breach of the Bowalley Road-Rules, I do not hesitate to delete them.

The Barron said...

New Zealand law already has definition of hazard under the Health and Safety in the Workplace legislation - hazard is defined as “includes a person's behaviour where that behaviour has the potential to cause death, injury, or illness to a person (whether or not that behaviour results from physical or mental fatigue, drugs, alcohol, traumatic shock, or another temporary condition that affects a person's behaviour) ... “A hazard is any source of potential damage, harm or adverse health effects on something or someone.”... a potential source of harm to a worker.
Within the workplace, you have protection against adverse behaviour including that which is aimed at denigration based on any of the areas covered by the Human Rights Act or other unreasonable areas. This legislation has performed well and reasonably uncontroversial.
If you have the rights to safety against such behaviour as hazard in the workplace, there would seem problems if you do not receive equal and proportional protection in the public or private space.
Within the workplace you have the right to not be subjected to, or exposed to, bigotry. I am not sure which space you should be exposed to bigotry. Broadcasting standards should protect against hazardous prejudice through the airwaves imposing on the private space. The Human Rights Act gives protection against adverse treatment on discriminatory grounds, Employment Law has legal resolution options, universities and schools fall under the HSWA and must provide a safe place for all.
NZ has already legislated that a person's behaviour can be hazardous to the health and safety of others. Unions, NGOs and Government have put this legislation together with reasonable agreement by both major parties over the definition of hazard.
Harm has occurred through prejudicial behaviour, harm is being caused by the same hazardous behaviour, and I do not think we should fail do our best as a nation to ensure the protections already in NZ law are not enforced and extended to all areas effecting New Zeaalnder's lives.

Brendan McNeill said...


This is likely the most important article you have written on your blog.

Section 14 of our Bill of Rights states:

Freedom of expression:
Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.

The extremists are not those whose thoughts and opinions we may consider distasteful but rather those like Paul Buchanan and Paul Spoonley who seek to invoke the power of the State to criminalise those people whose opinions they don't like! This government has shown itself incompetent and distasteful on many levels, but should they progress with this foolishness, it would be their their most despicable act yet, second only to legalising abortion on demand.

RedLogix said...

To: Chris Trotter

Thank you, your last para states the heart of the matter more eloquently and completely than I ever could.

I've been engaged in this battle for years over at The Standard with mixed success. As a result I'm more aware of the authoritarian trend on the left than I am with the right, and I do find it disturbing. If anything COVID has only given this impulse more voice and a stronger grip on some minds.

There is no question that in the face of a collective threat like a pandemic, that strong collective responses are required. To this end govts everywhere have acted to impose restrictions that just a year ago would have been thought implausible. Yet some seize on these necessary and temporary actions as an opportunity to normalise their authoritarian thinking.

Personally I'm inclined to think that as modernity has increasingly insulated us from the privations and physical sufferings our ancestors inescapably had to live with, the more weak minded among us are compelled to fill the psychological hole with increasingly fanciful imaginings of oppression.

John Hurley said...

These legal reforms may even extend to banning the expression of ideologies asserting the existence of an ethnic and/or cultural hierarchy in which people of colour are degraded and the “white races” exalted as supreme.
Ha-Joon Chang asks why people in rich countries are richer than those in poor countries

they're high productivity critically depends on the fact that they were born into or at least are migrated to societies with advanced technologies well organized firms good institutions and high-quality physical infrastructure and most of these are things that have been collectively accumulated over time and not something those individuals have
created themselves. Warren Buffett the famous American investor, financial investor once put it beautifully in an interview he said look I'm rich now only because I happen to have been born in the United States and drop me in the middle of Bangladesh I'll be a struggling farmer I'm not very good at farming so I'll be rubbish.

I fell out with a friend who did a BA Hons and "found" there were do difference between populations average IQ. Trevor Philips believes it.

What bothers me are the one sided programs like Q&A where Arthur grimes says that anti-immigration is xenophibia - end of story. Arthur Grimes, Oscar Knightly, Paul Spoonley, Ararama Rata. No attempt to acknowledge any contrary opinion.
The last time Q&A discussed immigration it feathered Shamubeel Eaqub, Spoonley "research shows migrants do well if they bring their parents" and Don Brash. Michael Reddell doesn't work on Sundays. The host brought up family reunification and Winston. Shamubeel showed his true form "oh for F sake".
The immigration factor is now surgically separate from house prices. This is repressive tolerance.

Nick J said...

Red, I was once a regular at The Standard. I ran foul of early wokester cancellation cheerleader QoT. It was my first experience of the phenomenon and to me the defining feature was not the ideas proposed but the authoritarian manner of delivery. I departed because of the realisation that there was no exchange of views, just totalitarian dismissal. Consequently every time I get a whiff of woke tactics the gloves are off.

David George said...

The discussion GS alludes to was the suggestion that antivaxxers should be imprisoned.

GS Quote: "Some people will read this and refuse to be vaccinated and it's quite possible that some will die because of it. Personally I'd have them in jail, or at least if a relative of mine died because of that stupid bloody thing I'd sue them. What would you do?"

My reply:
Recently there was the widely promoted belief in Samoa (prompted by a few deaths of the recently vaccinated - related as it turned out to bad medical hygiene) that vaccines were dangerous. Over sixty kids subsequently died of measles. Perhaps the anti vaxxers should have been thrown in prison, though it seems a bit harsh. Perhaps they were only repeating their genuine concerns and would be have been horrified with the consequences. For better or worse we live in a world where all sorts of opinion, advice and information is available; sorting out the good the bad and the ugly is no easy task and the education system is not placing the emphasis on the practice of critical thinking that it should.

Please note I am using my name now, not Kiwidave. Same shit, different bucket!

David George said...

There is a widespread, and probably justified, expectation that this anti-speech proposal will not be applied evenly. Potential for resentment to flourish for that reason alone? Yes Chris.

The religious and cultural practices of the Gloriavale and Destiny church seem to come in for a right old bollocking from the MSM. Would that criticism run foul of the new laws? Would their complaints be treated the same as, say, equally harsh criticism of Islamic beliefs and practices? Are we seriously prepared to just stand by and watch the principle of equality before the law to be trashed?

Allow it "Just this once" and, like the "just the one drink" for the recovering alcoholic, literally everything falls apart. Look the hell out!

AB said...

"Nothing throughout history has given rise to more damage, injury and hurt than the attempts by ideologues of all persuasions to create a world in which nobody comes to harm"

"Nobody"? I think this a preposterous statement - and you have been lured into using it by its orotund grandiosity. How were Stalin's purges and the Holocaust motivated by a desire that nobody comes to harm?

Chris Trotter said...

To: AB.

Clearly, AB, you are not familiar with the terms "untermenschen" or "non-persons".

The distinctive feature of totalitarian thinking is its willingness to exclude whole categories of people from the definition of a human-being. Jew or Kulak, it makes little difference. You are either an enemy of the race, or an enemy of the people, and must, therefore, cease to exist.

When there is nobody left to injure, damage or hurt them, everybody remaining will be happy and prosperous.

And nobody will come to harm.

The Redbaiter said...

Funny how the old New Zealander Mr Trotter and The Redbaiter post similar opinions on this issue. Once Professor Spoonley and his colleague Mr Buchanan are ensconced in their new NZ Stasi offices, they'll be confused as to which of us is the worst white supremacist and which one should be first arrested and dragged off for re-education.

On the matter of "harm", so much of this is being done in NZ universities with Critical Race Theorists pushing a staggering degree of hate against white European NZers as colonisers, invaders and land thieves. Surely, if there is any existing definition of hate speech, the lectures on this subject would qualify, and they're doing immeasurable and long lasting harm to our social cohesion and New Zealanders of non-Maori descent.

David George said...

Yes Chris, though the Utopian impulse is motivated in many, however unrealistically, by compassion perhaps the revolutionary upheaval gives the worst their opportunity for power with terrible consequences. Or perhaps the motives aren't so pure after all.
The Nazi and communist "experiments" of the 20th century were certainly examples of dehumanisation, of "othering".

From the new foreword to the 50tyh anniversary edition of The Gulag Archipelago

"It is necessary to think when you read such a thing, to meditate long and hard on the message. It is necessary to recognize, for example, that the writer believed that it would be better to execute ten thousand potentially innocent individuals than to allow one poisonous member of the oppressor class to remain free. It is equally necessary to pose the question: "Who, precisely, belonged to that hypothetical entity, 'the bourgeoisie'?" It is not as if the boundaries of such a category are self-evident, there for the mere perceiving. They must be drawn. But where, exactly? And, more importantly, by whom-or by what? If it's hate inscribing the lines, instead of love, they will inevitably be drawn so that the lowest, meanest, most cruel and useless of the conceptual geographers will be justified in manifesting the greatest possible evil, and producing the greatest possible misery."

"It was Solzhenitsyn who carefully documented the price paid in suffering for the dreadful communist experiment and who distilled from that suffering the wisdom we must all heed so that such catastrophe does not visit us again. Perhaps we could take from his writing the ­humility that would allow us to understand that our mere good ­intentions are not sufficient to make us good men and women. Perhaps we could come to understand that such intentions are ­instead all too often the consequence of our unpardonable historical ignorance, our utter wilful blindness and our voracious hidden appetite for vengeance, terror and destruction. Perhaps we could come to remember and to learn from the intolerable trials endured by all those who passed through the fiery chambers of the Marxist collectivist ideology. Perhaps we could derive from that remembering and learning the wisdom necessary to take personal responsibility for the suffering and malevolence that still so terribly and unforgivably characterises the world. We have been provided with the means to transform ourselves in due humility by the literary and moral genius of this great Russian author. We should all pray most devoutly to whatever deity guides us implicitly or ­explicitly for the desire and the will to learn from what we have been offered. May God himself eternally fail to forgive us if in the painstakingly revealed aftermath of such bloodshed, torture and anguish we remain stiff-necked, incautious, and unchanged."


Jasper said...

What would happen to me .... I watched the Unabomber on Netflix last night. I agreed with everything he said, aside from the killing bit.
His story was riveting, sad and well, it all come true!
The treatment that he received as a young child from the good-doers hospital and then later on being subjected to state-sponsored terrorism investigation techniques as a 16-19-year-old which tipped him over the edged.

What would that make me today with these proposed law changes?

thesorrow&thepity said...

The truth is, when the massacre happened, whilst most of the nation was crying there were those in the Aro Valley set of the red guard zealot hard left who were salivating & popping the champagnes corks. They've wanted to muzzle free speech & thought for a long time

John Hurley said...

Brett Weinstein talks about "surgical censorship" where a 10% is censored "just enough" to censor those who would have been "on the right side of history". That way nothing changes.

You can see that on Q&A.

Tom Hunter said...

As he gets older Buchanan regresses further into his South American Leftist past. I swear he's not far from Guzmán-like thinking nowadays. His hatreds of the Right have become so unhinged I no longer comment on his blog; it's simply become too distasteful.

Chris mentions Mark Chapman, but what about a name already being dropped from history, James T. Hodgkinson. Now I don't accept any argument that Bernie Sanders was responsible in any way for Hodgkinson trying to kill a group of Republican members of Congress while they played baseball. But he was certainly a Bernie Bro and convinced that Bernie's ferocious attacks on the GOP meant that GOP politicians deserved to die. Buchanan's world means that the links between Hodgkinson and Sanders could be argued legally - and they could well win.

I assume that Buchanan would not want that world, but double standards, while being easy to apply in politics and journalism, don't work in the world of law.

sumsuch said...

Interested in your opinion on Labour's housing policy. Though 'really' interested in Bernard Hickey's opinion.

I'm impressed by it. That's all it takes to change my opinion, doing right with muscle. All their previous insults to intelligence are dust, in this major area. Waiting on benefit increases. I'm 7 days away from being on the minimum wage.

greywarbler said...

DG The 'dreadful communist experiment'? Was it actual communism as imagined and hoped and planned for? Or was it totalitarianism? It seems that when one 'ism' weakens sufficiently to be pulled down, another rises to take its place driven by somebody with ambition, determination and ruthlessness. The Cambodian one, the Khmer Rouge - ghastly. But Nazism also ghastly - was against communism.

If we write here to discuss matters, it is best if we don't throw around prejudices and misapprehensions from the past. It just muddies the waters, and we have to cut through so much kerfuffle that the miasma from the next tribulation rises demanding attention elsewhere.

As Kurt Vonnegut says - 'And so it goes.' An irrelevant Vonnegut-style thought, 'Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand.'

greywarbler said...

'The dreadful communist experiment'. We are now going through a neo-liberal experiment. up Economists in bed with Capitalists have produced a deformed child that no-one wants to take responsibility or care for. Reading the lordly findings of Hayek, watching Milton Friedman expound on youtube, following their economic theories, it can be seen that these have been embraced by those seeking profit before all other human considerations. Their brand of economics has produced pliant generations of well-trained guard dogs, keeping the population in ranked order, and who can be brought to heel with a measured amount of doggie 'treats', laced with either placebos or for the elite, hallucinatory drugs.

John Hurley said...

here's the link to Brett Weinstein and surgical censorship

John Hurley said...

There's been a subtle shift between "our country" and "right to migrate"

In the report, Drivers of migrant New Zealanders' experiences of racism, many respondents said racism deeply wounded their sense of self-belief resulting in fear, disengagement in society and loss of culture and identity.

Many also expressed how racism led to exclusion, colonised thinking and even judgement of their own culture. As a result, migrants have said they had to change how they looked, dressed, spoke, or acted to fit into Eurocentric expectations in New Zealand.

Migrants pointed out that colonisation, fear, ignorance, a need to blame others, white privilege, racial supremacy, and a limited response to racism within the country were among the drivers of racism.

"They're feeling unwelcome, some of them, they feel intimidated" - Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon


and that is why Winston and NZ First was such a failure and scorned for signing the UN migration pact.

UN warns of 'list of shame' over foreign nationals in Syria

The shame is entirely belonging to the foreign nationals who went to fight for Isis.

Golriz exhibits the self-righteous attitude displayed by Yasmin Abdel Magheed on Nine to Noon: "who is anyone to say I shouldn't be able to migrate to a (particular) country!?" Kathryn Ryan agreed.

BTW Red feds & Cow Cockies - now we are seeing post-modernists (Eric Kaufman's definition) and landlords. I always thought they were a significant political force interested in maintaining the status quo.

David George said...

Greywarbler "Was it actual communism'

Yes it was Grey; there is a fundamental fault within the ideology that leads to the sort of disasters that typified the communist experiment. The philosophical and moral justification for envy - resentment - hate - murder?

"It was Solzhenitsyn, however, whose revelations made it positively shameful to defend not just the Soviet state, but the very system of thought that made that state what it was. It was Solzhenitsyn who most crucially made the case that the terrible excesses of Communism could not be conveniently blamed on the corruption of the Soviet leadership, the "cult of personality" surrounding Stalin, or the failure to put the otherwise stellar and admirable utopian principles of Marxism into proper practice. It was Solzhenitsyn who demonstrated that the death of millions and the devastation of many more were, instead, a direct causal consequence of the philosophy (worse, perhaps: the theology) driving the Communist system. The hypothetically egalitarian, universalist doctrines of Karl Marx contained hidden within them sufficient hatred, resentment, envy and denial of individual culpability and responsibility to produce nothing but poison and death when manifested in the world.

For Marx, man was a member of a class, an economic class, a group (that and little mor) and history nothing but the battleground of classes, of groups. His admirers regarded (continue to regard) Marx's doctrine as one of compassion-moral by definition, virtuous by fiat: "consider the working classes, in all their oppression, and work forthrightly to free them." But hate may well be a stronger and more compelling motivator than love. In consequence, it took no time, in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, for solidarity with the common man and the apparently laudable demand for universal equality to manifest its unarticulated and ever-darkening shadow. First came the most brutal indictment of the "class enemy." Then came the ever-expanding definition of that enemy, until every single person in the entirety of the state found him or herself at risk of encapsulation within that insatiable and devouring net. The verdict, delivered to those deemed at fault, by those who elevated themselves to the simultaneously held positions of judge, jury and executioner? The necessity to eradicate the victimizers, the oppressors, in toto, without any consideration whatsoever for reactionary niceties-such as individual innocence.

Let us note, as well: this outcome wasn't the result of the initially pristine Marxist doctrine becoming corrupt over time, but something apparent and present at the very beginning of the Soviet state itself."


David George said...

Well yes grey, there is always the threat that ideologies, of any sort, can become corrupt and evil. Some more than others perhaps. Is the problem the result of the "system" or of our human proclivities; either a political or a moral/psychological problem?

"I believe that the good people do, small though it may appear, has more to do with the good that manifests broadly in the world than people think, and I believe the same about evil. We are each more responsible for the state of the world than we believe, or would feel comfortable believing.

Without careful attention, culture itself tilts towards corruption. Tyranny grows slowly, and asks us to retreat in tiny steps. But each retreat increases the possibility of the next retreat. Each betrayal of conscience, each act of silence and each rationalisation weakens resistance and increases the probability of the next restrictive move forward. This is particularly the case when those pushing forward delight in the power they have now acquired - and such people are always to be found.
Better to stand forward, awake, when the costs are relatively low - and, perhaps, when the potential rewards have not yet vanished. Better to stand forward before the ability to do so has has been irretrievably compromised"

"If you do not object when the transgressions against your conscience are minor, why presume that you will not fully participate when the transgressions get truly out of hand?"

Jordan Peterson from Beyond Order Rule 5 - Do not do what you hate.

Graham Hill said...

This is an excellent piece. We should all be aware of the Scottish law recently enacted on hate speech:how-the-hate-crime-bill-defies-scottish-tradition.

Paul Hunt of the HRC seems to favour "stirring up." offences as I read him and may well have had this UK trend in mind.

It parallels NZ 's attempt at this and note the last paragraph where public desire is tiny and as in NZ input is small and those in power know best, AKA "The Clerisy." The imposition of legislation without public participation, democratic due process, is a worrying trend.


Anonymous said...

In response to "Anonymous thesorrow&thepity" who said...

"The truth is, when the massacre happened, whilst most of the nation was crying there were those in the Aro Valley set of the red guard zealot hard left who were salivating & popping the champagnes corks. They've wanted to muzzle free speech & thought for a long time"

It's Christmas for them... make that "Xmas" or "happy holidays"...

In addition, I'm told a lot of the funding for the Christchurch Call came in from overseas to organisational units that specialise in behaviour change PR, which were largely set up in order to respond to March 15, and the Covid crisis, a year or two before the massacre and the public health crisis we are now experiencing. American tech billionaires, I am told.

greywarbler said...

there is a fundamental fault within the ideology that leads to the sort of disasters that typified the communist experiment. The philosophical and moral justification for envy - resentment - hate - murder?

Your condemnation rolls out like a well-rehearsed speech, which is specious I think. Our lives and drives are today based on trying to have what the Jones have - call it envy. Social mobility is trying to improve your standard of living towards whatothers have achieved. No-one decries that when the people at the top of the ladder compete to match each other. It's only 'envy and resentment' when it's the lower orders who don't know their station in life. Hate and murder drive revolutions when people are beside themselves with their troubles and unhappiness.

We have protests about things that should be changed, or done differently, without hate or murder, though it may be said these are social-democratic things.
The hate and murder occurs when people are pushed too far under the well-heeled better-off and have been deprived of much right from childhood. Helen Clark tried the Breaking the Cycle program but people like you did not want to help those falling behind and aborted it early on.

David George said...

Thank you for your reply grey.
Hate can be, and is, cultivated out of plain cloth to devastating effect. The campaign by the Nazis against the Jews a case in point. I wouldn't be in too much of a hurry to justify that or any similar manifestation of hate as simply innocent people "pushed too far under the well-heeled better-off"
People are motivated to succeed (and in a multiplicity of fields) by all sorts of impulses. People want financial security and are willing to sacrifice for the future, for old age, for themselves and for their families for example. We're complex beings but outright greed is not that common in my experience.
BTW, it's kind of insulting to have your genuine thoughts dismissed as "specious" and to be referred to as "you people". Be kind.

greywarbler said...

If you make sweeping statements David then you may incur sweeping replies. If you are Jewish or have connections then that history is at the core of our humanity, both good and bad. It is important that some of us try to understand it so that we can try to understand why it happened. We must be careful about doctrines being talked down, such as communism which had different contexts depending on who was leading the movement and where. 'German communists, socialists and trade unionists were among the earliest opponents of the Nazis'. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Holocaust#Death_toll  

David George said...

The Jewish holocaust was just an example of how a grain of envy can be turned into a mountain of hate and murder. The Rwanda massacre/genocide (1990's) and the Armenian genocide (1910's) are other relatively recent examples.
Just to add, I'm not a fan of the idea that this can be pinned on political ideology in general, or that politics is anything much more than a superficial attempt to solve the problems that have plagued humanity from the beginning. Our problems are moral, psychological and spiritual; and so is the answer to them.