Monday, September 18, 2006

Live Evil

According to a recent speech by George W, "Underestimating the words of evil and ambitious men is a terrible mistake....Bin Laden and his terrorist allies have made their intentions as clear as Lenin and Hitler before them."

I can't shake these words - and maybe it is just my ignorance, as I am far from conversant in many of the ideas and ideologies of of history. However, this doesn't seem right to me.

Despite personal opinions on Iraq, Afghanistan or the US position on the Israeli/Palestinian situation, it is hard to argue with an association of Osama bin Laden and terrorism - which makes the tie to evil far from tenuous to say the least. Having the blood of 3000 US citizens and untold numbers of other nationalities on your hands pretty much makes this a moot point.

And who but the "Christ child for the hopelessly naive" could argue against the assertion that Adolph Hitler is as close to a pure embodiment of evil as is possible to find in history - this may be a socio-cultural judgment to some degree, as I am aware that some cultures are less versed in the sins of the Third Reich than they are in the sins of the oppressors that their nations have suffered under directly.

Yet the third stymies me - and I would love to be educated on the matter if I am only showing my ignorance here. Karl Marx was an economic philosopher who espoused a theory of class struggle that underpinned a complex social and political ethos that included as one of its key tenets the idea of an oppressed people rising up and throwing off the chains of their oppressors.

From the French revolution to the American revolution to every struggle for liberation and freedom by any group that has felt oppressed, there have been thinkers and writers that have captured the feelings and ideas of the people and expressed them in a codified state via essays, poems, editorials, songs or even novels. Many of these writings have gone on to be the documents that are identified as the purest distillations of the wishes of the people.

In the case of the Soviet Union, the writings of Karl Marx formed a framework for the political and social struggle spearheaded by Vladimir Lenin. This struggle ultimately led to the Russian revolution, and the toppling of Tsarist Russia in the name of creating a socialist system in which the working man contributed what he was able and was rewarded with what he needed - a system in which there was an equitable distribution of wealth.

However, we all know that things did not work out quite as nicely as this sounds. We know that the theories of socialism that informed the birth of the communist state in the Soviet Union - as we know it by the virtue of hindsight - were warped and twisted almost beyond recognition by Stalin, and ended up being the instruments of oppression of those same working classes Lenin proposed to emancipate.

The fact that communist Russia ended up a totalitarian state of repression, however, does not seem to me to me to be a reason to impugn Vladimir Lenin as evil and a man of hatred - judge Stalin as evil for using the ideas of Lenin for nefarious ends.

Bush's comments strike me as the "victor" in the struggle between capitalism and communism choosing to make blanket statements that ignore the subtleties of the true situation.

Was Lenin in favor of a revolution again the established order? Yes. So were the Americans who set out to gain independence from the British crown. If Lenin was advocating the overthrow of a corrupt or repugnant government, he cannot be judged as evil if the state that arose from the ashes betrayed his vision.

Remember, Lenin was not arguing that the democracy that Bush trumpets was evil, he was merely stating that the contemporary system of governance in Russia was untenable and that it had to be replaced. He posited his ideas for a new system.

He is not, however, responsible for those who came after him and twisted his legacy for nefarious purposes. He is far from a prophet of evil - and far from a Hitler or a bin Laden.


Emanuel said...

It was a Bush blunder. I'm pretty sure he meant to say 'Stalin.' He has also been known to confuse Romanians with the citizens of Rome.

There's something weird about the way you use Christchild. The Christchild as He's presented to us entered the world intensely aware of the reality that surrounded Him. He doesn't work as a borrowed figurehead for people who can't engage the world. Though some such people flock to His denominations claiming, He draws infinitely more titans.

Yuri... said...


The more I think about it, the more I believe that Bush did mean to discuss Lenin in his speech.

The thesis of his argument is that we have to be wary of the words spoken and written by the ideologues that developed the ideas that serve as precursors to acts of evil. This is his doctrine of preemptive military action in its essence.

In the service of this argument he posits Lenin as the man who spawned the evil to come via his rhetoric (which I dispute in my post).

The tie is not so tenuous, as I also argue, for Hitler (as the ideologue that can bear responsibility for both the ideas and the resulting evil) and for bin Laden (as a prophet of the evil that Al Qaeda is perpetrating).

I continue to believe that this is slander on Lenin when in fact it should be a multiple choice question asking "Which of the following three does not belong?"

BTW, "Christ child for the hopelessly naive" was a phrase I heard once years and years ago to describe the most naive person imaginable - a veritable king of the naive.

It is not meant to be a comment on Christ, Christianity or religion in a positive or negative sense...