Dignity for the exploited, the hounded, the paperless, the Other

Month: October, 2016

Germany: foreigners, violence, sex and compassion

The notion that beautiful, humane, free Germany is being depredated by barbarians, whether from the region of Bautzen, north Africa, Syria, or elsewhere, depresses. 

The seemingly quotidian news of random acts of physical and sexual violence, and the spontaneous response of readers, is non-trivial.

There seems to be a pattern. The perpetrator often turns out to be of ‘southern appearance’, then is called ‘a foreigner’, and finally turns out to be a ‘refugee’. Probably statistically irrelevant — but our political decisions and cultural shifts are not always driven by statistical data and logic, or with cognizance of the empirical evidence that all peoples are capable of violence.

Indeed, in a recent interview, a serial burglar revealed his annoyance at the refugees automatically getting a better deal than him, although he had been in Germany for twenty years — if even poorly-educated foreigners can hold resentment, one can imagine that it is no unique phenomenon. Of course, I also am acquainted with college-educated foreigners who grumble about the dangers of the unwashed entering ‘their’ boulevards.

Recently, one lady who claimed to have first-hand experience dealing with male refugees said that there was enormous, widespread sexual repression. Many of them had, apparently, never masturbated.

Apart from instruction in the local language, and basic ideas of freedom, equality, privacy, dignity and community, perhaps also sexual education is needed. Perhaps, along with gratis housing, food, and education, one also needs to provide sexual counseling, and how to access a brothel.

And if the basic values of the West, won at a cost of many bloody centuries, and now responsible for so much well-being, conflict with those of the newcomer, they should be given space to reflect and make a choice, to stay or to relocate to another part of the world more suited to them, or to question their own weltanschauung, or to explore ways in which the two can meet.

In any case, rejection of Western values is not limited to scruffy looking refugees — one sees it in the rallies of the Neo Nazis, and in the marginalized sub-cultures which can barely speak the language.

And then there are the so-called expats. Leaving aside the mysterious criteria that differentiates expats, migrants, invaders, and occupiers, there are also well-to-do foreigners, many of whom are largely ignorant of German language and culture. Some of them despise other foreigners. Some of them openly mock Germans, yet insist on staying on. This is a commonly observed trait with many expats. I have heard a foreigner, an Indian, in Switzerland openly call for a nuclear holocaust against a certain people, and seen another, a German, who refuses to speak the German language with dark-skinned people (and presumably with Slavs and Jews). These two people work in the heart of the Swiss economy, and are, superficially anyway, integrated. In truth, their views of the world belong to the mid-1930s.
At least the Germans have not lost their sense of humor. Following the stabbing of a youth in Hamburg, a reader’s one-word question was answered by another reader, also with a single word.

Reader 1: Skin-color?

Reader 2: Yes.

Of course, this being Germany where one wishes to be clear, and where Ophelia’s father is not especially well-regarded, Reader 2 added, ‘the suspect is bound to have a skin-color’. But perhaps I am unjust, and it was compassion for the slow. The same compassion that has seen thousands of the wretched being accepted into German society.

The ruin value of the Nazis — Guarding against intellectual dishonesty

Thesis: To be for or against Hitler in 2016 is anachronistic. Our taste must compel us to evaluate ideas and actions, independent of the vanities and predilection for snoring of the individual. This is not precisely a new idea —
l’homme ne rien, l’œuvre tout, thus Gustav Flaubert wrote to Lucile Dupin in 1875, impressing both Nietzsche and the author of Sherlock Holmes [the man is of no account, his work is everything].

Yet, one frequently sees the principle abused. Two such examples of intellectual dishonesty are shown here.


The first exhibit is from India, with an enumeration of factoids about Hitler, written mostly in Hindi. The author is evidently a critic of Hitler. Even though the assertions presented are largely accurate, the reader unfamiliar with India would be astonished by a couple of things. 

One, no reference is made to the robbery, the humiliation, the ostracizing, to the machinery of death of the Nazis. Perhaps because the Holocaust is a bare blip in the Indian consciousness, with quite possibly the majority utterly ignorant of it. Thus, we have a situation where Hitler is brought to our attention, and chastised, but the ignorance of a major crime against humanity is perpetuated.

Secondly, the author claims that Hitler used to believe ‘those of a certain religion’ to be enemies of the country. The author does not use the word Jew — and as the Hindi word ‘dharma’ is the closest in the language to English ‘religion’, one loses the aspect that it was more than a religion that was under attack in the declining years of the Weimar Republic: getting oneself baptized as a Christian did not make a Jew immune to secret policemen, for instance. Again, the upshot is that, although no falsehood has been uttered, the wholesale persecution of large chunks of the European population is made a little less deadly.

To what end is all this, asks the foreign reader? It is made clear by the first, the very first remark: that Hitler did not marry. Why should this matter, one might ask, but then one recalls that the present Indian Prime Minister has not ever married either. Each one of the statements made about Hitler could be applied to Mr Modi, and the author of this adolescent exercise writes at the end, ‘should the reader find the above statements to apply to anyone apart from Hitler, then credit is due to the reader’s imagination’.

Now, the list does not contain the fact that Hitler was a vegetarian, or that he kept away from alcohol. This is probably because millions of Indians, especially Hindus, avoid meat, and for many the consumption of alcohol has negative connotations.

There are some other inanities: Hitler really liked getting dressed up. So, quite possibly, does the girl who played in the Harry Potter movies.

Hitler lied to gain control of the government, reveals the author. This might even be true of all politicians, so we wonder why Hitler is singled out. The street fights instigated and fought by his band of thugs do not here find mention.

This puerile product, alas, distracts from the real allegations of fascism in India.

For example, the insistence upon blood as a critical aspect of national identity finds resonance with both Hitler and Modi, as the following resource suggests:

The atmosphere of intolerance and rabid hatred in pre-war Nazi Germany is comparable to contemporary India, as also depicted in these two resources; one is about how rumor of cow slaughter led to a lynching, while the other is about how the same rumor led to a public whipping (there is even a video):

The refusal to be a narrow-minded nationalist is met with violence, in the worst case, and ostracizing, in the best case, then and now, as suggested by:

There are other similarities too: homosexuality is a crime, in democratic India as in Nazi Germany, but our author does not think it necessary to bring that up. Perhaps because he or she finds homosexuality disturbing, or does not believe that sexual freedom is an important thing.

Both had / have capital punishment — the author does not seem to mind. One cannot allow oneself to be soft-hearted when dealing with evil-doers, no?

Both had people openly writing ‘I love Hitler’ on Facebook, as the following image shows (the screenshot is from India; a similar picture from Nazi Germany could not be found in time for publication, but the essential proposition is not seriously contested):

In both places, ‘Mein Kampf’, is a bestseller. The difference is that, in India, it is sold in translation.
Germany’s ‘Lügenpresse’ (lying media) is echoed in India’s ‘presstitute’ (evidently a portmanteau from ‘press’ and ‘prostitute’, with the prudish idea that being a prostitute is somehow dishonorable). Both mean the same thing: media which continually disagrees with my point of view.

There are differences, of course: racism is not endorsed in the statute book in India. However, anyone who imagines this to imply that racism is not a fundamental part of Indian society is, alas, mistaken.

This schoolboy Hitler critique is a disservice to the cause of human dignity and individual freedom, even though it purports to be in their name. It is dedicated to ‘the struggle carried out by all anti-Hitler forces’.

Another example of such intellectual dishonesty is from the other side of the world, one where few can claim to not have heard about the Holocaust, or about using fallacies to sneakily led the reader to a false conclusion.

The difference is that the target is not Mr Modi, but the American presidential candidate, Mr Trump.

The headline suggests that the ‘Nazi who originated Donald Trump Jr.’ Skittles analogy was hanged at Nuremberg’.

The assertion that the idea of certain elements being deadly for society was originated by this specific person in the twentieth century, prima facie, sounds incredible, given that demagogues throughout history have militated against the Other.

However, even the internal evidence does not support the headline, for the text goes on to say, ‘The concept dates back to at least 1938 and a children’s book called…..’.

Suddenly, the claim in the headline of ‘origination’ has been watered down to ‘at least 1938’, i.e. the Nazi author of the book at least had the same idea, even if he did not originate it. 

Indeed, it appears to be an inept attempt to justify using a sensationalist headline with emotional terms: “Nazi”, “Nuremberg”, “hanged”. The parallel is tenuous, and we are forced to conclude that the author’s claim of definitely establishing the origin of a certain xenophobic idea to a person and a publication is made only to be able to publish a picture of three influential Nazis, and capitalize on the shock value of that connection. This kind of illegitimate reasoning is, ironically, what the Nazis, and even in the quoted example of the toadstools, were reasonably good at.

This sort of shoddy argument in a war against those who offend taste or human dignity is a disservice to the cause.

One can well imagine that those who do not appreciate being assaulted by such infantile tricks might vote for Mr Trump out of sheer bloody-mindedness. Even if that does not happen, the notion that the end justifies the means is deserving of critical debate.

As we know, one ‘Bohemian private’ used it to deadly effect.

The cult of oily men


It must be universally acknowledged that the pressing crises of our times are directly linked to preceding ages. These ages were moulded by great men and women, the avatars of Gods, and we encounter them today as statues on our boulevards, neon signs at airports, and visages on currency notes. This is no theoretical excursion into history, for the ages of the world overlap. It is time to scrutinize these great ones, and to end the one-sidedness that seems to pervade any popular narration of their lives.

The two-question test of oiliness

1. Did the great man personally, or through active membership of a power structure, ordain, justify or profit from the oppression, exploitation, torture or murder of human beings?

2. Did the great man use a position of power to squander public resources, advocate nepotism, deny the right to dissent, deliberately ignore opportunities to improve or defend the public weal, or attack cultural or environmental artifacts, for personal gain?

If the answer to either of these questions is in the affirmative, then the great man might well deserve the ignominy of oiliness.

Why oiliness?

Because such a man shines in false glory, as if covered with a sheath of oil. Because such a man appears invulnerable to the accusations of dastardly acts, akin to a slippery criminal being chased. Because such a man is often hypocritical, mouthing noble virtues, yet mired in the blood of many, another quality conveyed by the adjective ‘oily’. Why men? Only because the present language prefers the male gender to represent all of humanity — also, it so happens that most of these great ones are the opposite of feminine.

The potentially oily ones

Having explained the reason for the label ‘oily’, and defined the criteria for admission to the club, let us look at some of its members. Even a general awareness of the world must suffice to know why some of the greatest among the great ones are to be called oily. 

Some examples that bear debate are (allegations in brackets):

Leopold II (mutilation, murder and exploitation in the Congo), Gandhi (documented racially dismissive against sub-Saharan Africans, role in bloody turmoil of 1947), Napoleon (wars of aggression, murders in Egypt), Stalin (death camps, famine in the Ukraine, arbitrary arrests), Obama (drone war, Guantanamo Bay), Churchill (occupation, Bengal famine, Dresden firebombing, documented racist remarks against Arabs and Indians), Indira Gandhi (attacks against the Indian republic — daddy and son were also prime ministers, declaration of a state of Emergency), Mao (the murder of millions), Kim Jong-Il (dictatorship).

This is not a comprehensive list, neither of perpetrators nor of their crimes, and to it could easily be added revolting generals, captains of churches, controllers of capital, and almost all members of the hereditary nobility, from across the world.

Anachronism as faulty defense

Some insist that we may not judge the men and women of the past through the prism of the present. We may not, indeed cannot, impose our values upon them. 

However, the current exercise is not about attacking them personally, for many of them have left this plane of existence, but to insist upon a critical analysis of their ideas and deeds. We can, and should, question and condemn ideas and acts also from the past. And, most certainly, extend this analysis to the oily ones amongst us.

The symbolic and the structural response

Once we have systematically inspected the oily ones of the past and the present, let us tear down their statues, and use the material to build shelters for the homeless, benches for lovers, and toilets for all. A plaque we shall place there to celebrate those aspects of the oily ones which we would like emulated, for which we are grateful. Surely, we are capable of honoring ideas and acts, without insisting upon raising also the individual to the status of a demi-God?

Much more important than the symbolic reaction is that we erect barriers to a single person possessing a surfeit of power.


We should not, and probably can not, try to remove the human desire to secure superior conditions for the self. We must, however, make the price of this superiority transparent, and ensure that it does not constitute an attack against human dignity and liberty. Nietzsche proclaimed the death of the cult of God. We must strive to end the cult of oily men.

Old men and their love of culture

Somewhere in India, a young lady, distressed by her husband’s behavior, locks herself in the bathroom, pours kerosene over herself, and sets herself afire. The door is broken down — the suicide is unsuccessful.

Two days ago, two male judges of India’s supreme court, had this to say about the female’s attempt at suicide:

 ‘No husband would ever be comfortable with or tolerate such an act by his wife, and if the wife succeeds in committing suicide, then one can imagine how a poor husband would get entangled into the clutches of law which would virtually ruin his sanity, career, peace of mind, and probably his entire life. The mere idea with regard to facing legal consequences would put a husband under tremendous stress. The thought itself is distressing.’

While one must congratulate Mr. and Mr. Justice on their sympathy for the husband, one wonders that they appear to countenance a situation where the law routinely acts improperly and has nothing to do with justice. So bad is the state of affairs that the Supreme Court uses the phrase ‘clutches of law’, and describes the fate of an innocent who falls into it.

Also remarkable is that these judges highlight the ‘legal consequences’ as stress-inducing, but make no reference to the loss of a spouse, to the horrific death of a spouse, to the fact that a spouse was driven to kill herself. It is probably also stressful to get the stench of kerosene and burnt flesh out of the bathroom towels.

The ‘poor husband’ certainly deserves sympathy, but perhaps the wife too — given that she was driven to end her life? The judgment carries no such expression, alas.

What the judgment [1] does carry is an attempt to save Indian culture:

 ‘It is not common practice or desirable culture for a Hindu son in India to get separated from the parents upon getting married, at the instance of his wife’.

This raises some questions. Should a society leave questions of culture to old men? Who is a Hindu? If a Hindu eats beef, or marries outside his or her caste, does he or she automatically cease to be a Hindu? Does there exist an authority which certifies that one is a Hindu? Is ‘common practice’ a good thing, especially in a brutal country where millions live in wretched conditions?

Poor husband, certainly, but also poor wife, and certainly poor society. O India, one day you shall embrace freedom.