Monday, August 08, 2005

The Revenge of Conscience

[W]hy do things get worse so fast? It would be well to know, in case the process can be arrested.

The usual explanation is that conscience is weakened by neglect. Once a wrong is done, the next wrong comes more easily. On this view conscience is mainly a restraint, a resistance, a passive barrier. It does not so much drive us on as hold us back, and when persistently attacked, the restraining wall gets thinner and thinner and finally disappears. Often this explanation is combined with another:
conscience comes from culture; it is built up in us from outside. In this view the heart is malleable. ‘We do not clearly know what is right and wrong, and when our teachers change the lessons, our consciences change their contents. What once we deemed wrong, we deem right; what once we deemed right, we deem wrong.

There is something to these explanations, but neither can account for the sheer dynamism of wickedness—for the fact that we are not gently wafted into the abyss but violently propel ourselves into it. Nor, as I will show, can either one account for the peculiar quality of our present moral confusion.

I suggest a different explanation. Conscience is not a passive barrier but an active force; though it can hold us back, it can also drive us on. Moreover, conscience comes not from without but from within: though culture can trim the fringes, the core cannot be changed. The reason things get worse so fast must somehow lie not in the weakness of conscience but in its strength, not in its shapelessness but in its shape.
(The Revenge of Conscience: Politics and the Fall of Man
By J. Budziszewski :21-22)

Conscience and Hitler:
Over and over again [Hitler] showed that he was bothered by conscience and felt the need of dulling its demands:
Only when the time comes when the race is no longer overshadowed by the consciousness of its own guilt then will it find internal peace.

Conscience is a Jewish invention. It is a blemish like circumcision....

I am freeing men from. . . the dirty and degrading modification of a chimera called conscience and morality.

We must distrust the intelligence and the conscience.

We must be ruthless . . . we must regain our clear conscience as to ruthlessness.. .. Only thus shall we purge our people.

(Adolf Hitler's Guilt Feelings: A Problem in History and Psychology
By R. G. L. Waite
Journal of Interdisciplinary History,
Vol. 1, No. 2. (Winter, 1971), pp. 229-230)

The man who seeks to separate the conscience from consciousness is about to tell you the way in which he wants to subvert right and wrong.

Or he may seem to work to kill his Self to be rid of self-evident truths that are evident in the Self:
Hitler also sought to lessen his feelings of guilt through self-punishment—hence his abstentious habits and the masochism of his perversion. [...]And time and again he promised to commit suicide, the ultimate masochistic dissolution. Among the many childish games he played was a form of substitute suicide. Hitler disliked tying his own necktie and ordered his valet to do it for him. He would hold his breath during the process and count slowly to ten. If Linge could finish the knot before Hitler had finished counting, the Führer was greatly relieved.
(Ib. :237-238)

Throughout his career, Hitler seldom contemplated a line of action without thinking of defeat. The disjunctives which characterized his thought almost invariably included the possibility of failure and of suicide. Typically, in the midst of the Beer Hall Putsch, he turned to Gustav von Kahr, Lossow, and Hans von Seisser and said, “You must be victorious with me or die with me. If things go wrong, I have four bullets in my pistol: three for my fellow workers if they desert me, the last bullet is for me.” He contemplated failure and suicide on many other occasions: while hiding at the Hanfstaengl summer home in 1923; upon his arrival in 1924 at Landsberg; in 1931 after the suicide of his niece, “Geli” Raubal; in 1932 if he were not appointed chancellor; in 1936 if the occupation of the Rhineland failed; and on many other occasions.
(Ib. :241)

There are some who might turn away from dealing with the sexual perversions typical to evil because of its utter depravity. Yet it would seem that this is not the time to do so, as people want to begin to normalize perversions now. There is no avoiding it. Besides that many a tyrant illustrates the pattern of evil manifest in sexual perversion, from Nero to the sons of Saddam, which seems to indicate its importance.

E.g., in this instance:
Hitler also seems to have felt guilty about incestuous desires. His relations with both his mother and his niece were very close indeed, and the word incest was often on his mind. Whether or not he actually acted out his incestuous feelings is not very important psychologically. As Freud showed us long ago, fantasies can be as psychically formative as realities.

It is also possible that acute feelings of unworthiness, guilt, and self—loathing were a consequence of a massively masochistic sexual perversion. Hitler gained sexual satisfaction by having a young woman—as much younger than he as his mother was younger than his father—squat over him to urinate or defecate on his head.
(Ib. :234)

There is a parasitic sort of meaning in the perversion of the true version of things which cannot have a meaning/spirit without living off of Life, yet of itself brings Death. E.g.
What does it mean, I asked him, when a man puts the part of himself which represents the generation of life into the cavity of decay and expulsion?Seeing the answer all too well, he refused to reply. Permit me to spell it out. It means 'Life, be swallowed up by death.'

--J. Budziszewski, The Revenge of Conscience

Death often seems to become manifest among those that pervert the creation of Life, examples in this case:
Alois Hitler was twenty-three years older than Klara, whom he called his “niece” when they were married. Adolf Hitler was twenty-eight years older than his niece, “Geli” Raubal, of whom he said, “Geli is the one woman I could ever marry.” He was twenty—three years older than Eva Braun, twenty-seven years older than “Mimi” Reiter, about twenty—four years older than Renée Mueller, and twenty-five years older than Unity Mitford. Miss Mitford probably never had intimate sexual relations with Hitler. All of these young women committed suicide or attempted to do so...
(Emphasis added, Ib. :234)

Or one could look to the example of the link between consciousness and the conscience in the case of prostitutes, as that is slowly being normalized in the American Republic. They are those who hope that their brazen laughter will cover the way that they sell their bodies to sell their souls. Eventually it becomes apparent that they are selling their Life and they begin to seem hardened, dead in the eyes. Then the men who buy or sell the feminine must look for some fresh Life to sell, for don't all flowers wither and die anyway?


NanaOsei Boakye-Ansah said...

wonderful piece.. do you have 'The Revenge of Conscience: Politics and the Fall of Man' by any chance?

mynym said...

Yes. Been a few years since I read it.