September 2009

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Letters to The Ethical Spectacle

Spectacle Letters Column Guidelines. If you write to me about something you read in the Spectacle, I will assume the letter is for publication. If it is not, please tell me, and I will respect that. If you want the letter published, but without your name attached, I will do so. I will not include your email address unless you ask me to. This is in response to many of you who have expressed concern that spammers are finding your email address here. Flames are an exception. T hey will be published in full, with name and email address. I have actually had people follow up on a published flame by complaining that they thought they were insulting my ancestry privately. Nope, sorry.
Dear Jonathan Wallace.

I was much interested in finding your Auschwitz Alphabet at the Nizkor-site, and at your own, whence I have your e-mail address, and find it very well done....

So, I think your Auschwitz Alphabet is a very good contribution to the documentation about the German concentration camps, and about men's easy inhumanity to men, and I have just four very minor niggles, that I will list because I have a logical mind, and not in criticism of your Alphabet, that is very fine - if I may say so, documentarily speaking, of course - as is:

1. [I have seen] an enlarged photograph of an SS-document that detailed in finicky detail how inmates of concentration-camps were supposed to live on average 3 months as labor slaves, with an average profit per inmate for the Reich, also after removing hair, golden fillings, and the proceeds of soap from their remaining bodily fat, if any, of 1.672 Reichsmark p.p. plus some German pennies. (I may be mistaken about the "72", having seen the picture myself for the last time in the late sixties, but not the rest).

This I always have found a very good summary of the German bureaucratic approach. It must be available somewhere, since it was an enlarged photograph of a page of documentation of S.S.-material.

2. In your final essay - I agree with - you discuss God after Auschwitz and list two options.

In fact, there is at least a third, as defended by the rabbis of the Israeli Shas-party: The six million killed were killed by God's very own mercy for their own sins, incomprehensible as this may seem to our small finite human minds (the Shas rabbi are not afflicted with, presumably, but may say to me, quite rightly, that I a man of small faith, already condemned in the Torah).

As I indicated: I list this because I have a logically capable mind. It seems sick baloney to me, but it is a way of explaining the Shoah, while keeping loving the Lord, and trying to cope with moral and logical contradictions by a kind of doublethink. Incidentally, the whole notion of hell as approved by the Catholics and Protestants

"That the saints may enjoy their beatitude and the grace of God more abundantly they are permitted to see the punishment of the damned in hell."

(St. Thomas, Summa Theologica)

"The sight of hell's torments will exalt the happiness of the saints forever."

(Jonathan Edwards)

sounds logically and indeed morally similar, to my mind, but has the merit of being quite explicit about the underlying sadistic glee.

3. I suppose you know it, and it was first published after you first published the Auschwitz Alphabet, but the following text is very revealing and interesting: The Nuremberg Interviews, by Leon Goldensohn, 1st publ. 2004.

It is revealing and interesting because it documents the stances of the main perpetrators of Nazism (in so far as then in Allied prisons) of Nazism; their manner of defending themselves; and their outlook and personalities.

Anyway... you did a very good thing putting the Auschwitz Alphabet together, for the reason Santayana gave, and as far as documentation and (mostly implied) explanation is concerned it concords very well to what I know about Nazism and the concentration camps, which is considerably more than most.

4. Being a psychologist, among other things: I did not notice the names of either Milgram, Goffman or Kohlberg in your documentation (I may have missed them, though: I read all of your material, but fast). These are three psychologists whose research or experiments does explain a considerable amount of the practices of ordinary men as soon as they find themselves out of their ordinary situation, freed from ordinary constraints, and lauded or simply asked for cruel behavior to others. Goffman has given the best presentation of the sort of role-playing, posturing, and continuous lying or pretending by which ordinary persons behave as social beings.

But as I said: None of these points are in criticism, and I list them only in supplementation, and also do not ask you to include them: I merely list them because they struck me while reading your Auschwitz Alphabet.

Best regards,
Maarten Maartenz.

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Regarding Spielberg's AI (Artificial Intelligence):

I just had to agree with you. I read your article and immediately had to write you. I have such contempt for this movie after having watched it in theaters when it first came out... I walked away saing, I'll never EVER get that 3 1/2 hours back.

I came to terms with it though. I tried to decipher if it was possible that this was a genius work of Speilberg-ian proportions. By my reckoning, it so happens that this movie is a 3 1/2 hour movie about a robot with Borderline Personality Disorder. Examples of which are pretty obvious: the idealization of mommy, the wrath against the image of himself, and numerous other cues. The steadfast proof of the entire film is that even after 2,000 years the object constant is still present (i.e. the teddy bear), and in the end it is the object constant who has to pick up 2,000 years worth of mess that was left by the Borderline. In short, the only redeemable feature of this film is that a single male should consider the film a litmous test. If one needs to determine if he has found the girl of his dreams, he need only invest 3 1/2 hours of his life towards watching this movie with his beloved to be. If she loves this movie, or even more disturbingly, if she identifies with the wretchid character, David - Get OUT!!!! That girl is nuts beyond all repair. Therefore, the single male has spared himself a life of agony with a mere 3 1/2 hour investment. Speilberg: genius or fop. You decide!