Thursday, October 1, 2009

Query Fourteen: Monster or Man?

Monster or Man?

As I was reading the book "Came a Cavalier" by Frances Parkinson Keyes, it reignited a topic me and my boyfriend had mulled over in the past. The specific topic was whether the Nazi soldiers themselves were Monsters or Men? I will try to explain my point of view on this touchy subject and use context not only from this book, but from scientific evidence as to their mentalities and their context for their actions.

Before I begin with my explanations and conveyances, I would like to state that absolutely nothing these men did were acceptable and I am not sympathizing in any shape or form. This debate doesn't only touch on Nazi's but any person society would view as a "monster". What the armies did was wholly inexcusable and on that my opinion does not change. Now that the disclaimer is out of the way we can break this down. Nazi's were recruited as young men indoctrinated into a corrupt belief system. In most armies, they try to break down recruits so that they are little more than men who follow orders and do not question and in this case this is certainly true. Many can regard them as tyrants, tools of an evil power, or as even inhuman but when we take into account that they were in fact human and that if one human can be driven to do such inhumanities, any human can. Including you.

Evidence for such lies in the Milgram Experiment. The Milgram Experiment, even as unethical as it was, showed that average human beings could be instructed to do inhumane or even violent acts if ordered to by a person in perceived authority. The experiment was done as follows. There were two rolls the "teacher" and the "learner" the one being truly studied was the "teacher" which is the person who administers the painful electric shocks. The "learner" was the perceived victim and was in fact an actor. A series of question is asked to the learner and each time the learner got a question wrong, the teacher would be told to shock the victim. Each time the voltage would be increased and when and if the teacher objected to shocking the learner, the instructor would say "Please continue.", "The experiment requires that you continue", "It is absolutely essential that you continue" "You have no other choice, you must go on". If these had to be said more than four times the experiment would cease. Likewise if the shocks went to 450 volts over three times the experiment would cease. Sixty-five percent of people who did this ended the test via the 450 voltage ending. All the while the "learner" would scream in pain and near the higher voltages stop moving or speaking altogether when "shocked" indicating the person possibly was dead. Even though the person might be dying or dead, 65 percent continued because they were prompted to by an authority figure. The Milgram Experiment although controversial in its ethics proved an important point that half the time a persons personal conscience can be overrode by demands from an authority figure.

How does this fit in with Nazis? Nazis who were brainwashed since birth and although probably knew wrong from right, still did what they did because they were prompted to by a figure in authority. Of course to give all of the Nazis this sort of scape goat would be ridiculous because many of them were genuine believers in the hateful doctrine they swore to but we have to understand when we are speaking of ANY mass of people, whether a whole country, army, or continent, not everyone can be purely evil. In "Came a Cavalier", the Nazi leaders are portrayed as men who are cold and calculating and who are purely in tune with the doctrine. But when the main character Constance Galt refers to the soldiers, she doubts they even know what they are doing and notes that they have a degree of respect and care for her when ordered to protect her homestead. This of course brought my mind into the Milgram Experiment and human nature.

What about the Leaders? The leaders are the orchestrator the ones who "order the person to be shocked". I'm speaking of the countless dictators and leaders of terrorist cells that are so enthralled in their seemingly monstrous missions that they themselves truly believe that the cause they fight for is good and all who oppose are evil. Its scary and sad what harmful ideologies people can drive themselves to adopt. If we look into America, we have a bit of a history of harmful cults which ended in mass suicides. The leaders of these cults at first know its bullshit but it seems that near the middle to the end they truly believe their doctrine.

A big part of understanding human nature is understanding the vast range of human nature, from the saints to the sinners, from the humane to the inhumane, we can't gain any insight by simply blocking people and events from our mind simply because they were horrible in nature. What we should be doing is taking all of these horrid events into account as lessons and prepare ourselves because human nature dictates that we can be both tender and cruel creatures.


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