Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Banality of Sounding Smart

In The Banality of Evil, I referred to a post by Norman Geras that lays out the learned appraisal of the people who participated in the crimes against humanity of Holocaust. I agreed with him in disagreeing with this appraisal.

Let us try to get our minds around this teaching: the perpetrators did these abnormal things but were not abnormal; they did these sadistic things but were not sadistic; they did these brutal things but were not brutal; they murdered people by the thousands just for being the wrong kind but had no murderous nature; they did these fiendish and monstrous things but were not evil monsters.

Geras ended by saying essentially the same thing:

To participate in the mass murder and the torture of other human beings is, ethically, not normal but monstrous. What better definition of an abnormally cruel person than that he or she presided over or participated in abnormal cruelties?

We get basically the same line from many experts on narcissists. They do unconscionable things but have a conscience. They do cruel things brutally but are not cruel and brutal. They attack whenever there would be no witnesses but are not malicious.

In short, the learned interpretation flies in the face of the plainest facts.

Not long ago, I read about a British psychologist sounding off over a parent who had tortured and murdered his own children. According to him, all of society was to blame and British parents in general are no better than this person and blah, blah, blah on social ills and, before you know it, he has morally equated an unkind word to your child now and then with torturing and murdering your child.

People are so used to getting this stuff from psychologists that almost no one thought anything of it. They just swallowed this nonsense.

But I say that when you go that far to deny that some people are just plain bad - so far that you come full circle into making EVERYONE ELSE equally bad, you should be seeing a psychologist instead of practicing psychology.

Why do experts do this? Why do they always seem to come up with some explanation that defies the obvious? An anonymous comment on that post shed some light on this tactic:

Wanted to point everyone to Joan Acocella's piece on poet Kahlil Gibran of "The Prophet" fame in the 1/7 'NYer Mag.' Of his seminal work, the article notes: "At times, [the narrator's] vagueness is such that you can't figure out what he means. If you look closely, though, you will see that much of the time he is saying something specific; namely, that everything is everything else. Freedom is slavery; waking is dreaming; belief is doubt; joy is pain; death is life. So, whatever you're dong, you needn't worry, because you're also doing the opposite. Such paradoxes, which Gibran had used for years to keep [his female patroness] out of bed, now became his favorite literary device. They appeal not only by ther seeming correction of conventional wisdom but also by their hypnotic power, their negation of rational processes."

Right, just call everything whatever it most ain’t. That sounds so cool, you know, enabling you pass off blather as eloquence by just calling anything its opposite in abstract terms. People will then think you're insightful. They won't know what the hell you're talking about, but they'll be sure it's insightful ;-)

Here's a graphic example, via The London Telegraph: Shark pictures show amazing killing display.



What does an "expert" make of it?

Mr Fellows added: “When children see a shark eat a seal they feel sorry for the seal, but it’s like a lion catching a zebra - it’s a natural phenomenon. …It is just one of those moments that makes you appreciate a beautiful creation.

How does one make "a beautiful creation" out of a horrifying act of destruction? Getting thing EXACTLY BACKWARDS is no accident! (Unless that expert's brain is crammed into his skull upside down and backwards.)

Sympathy for the seal is a natural phenomenon too, you unnatural idiot. Why does your mind twist that sympathy into denying that the shark's act is natural?

And it isn't a "phenomenon." It's voluntary behavior on the part of that shark.

Those children are being human, and their humanity is showing in their humaneness. Why do you imply that only children feel that sympathy? thus implying that it is childish to feel that sympathy for the victim? Newsflash, normal adults naturally feel the same sympathy.

You are the one there is something wrong with. You have an empathy deficit, sir. You feel nothing for the victim.

But what should we expect from the expert who lures those sharks to the baby seals in order to get rich on these photographs?

These experts aren't killing baby seals, by TRAPPING them, for profit, are they?

No wonder the unfeeling brutes twist feeling sorry for the victim into some kind of sin against the shark.

And your idea of “beauty,” sir, is downright bizarre. You obviously can't tell the difference between beauty and horror or raw power.

In other words, it's always the same old banal trick of calling a thing whatever it most ain't. Watch for it. We get a load of it all the time from experts. The ones we can trust are the ones who don't do that.

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3 Comments:

At 10:44 PM, Anonymous Barbara said...

Another fantastic post. How do you do it Kathy?

My late N- mother? I called her Mrs. Malaprop. She was so concerned about sounding intelligent (she was smart) she'd use big or interesting sounding words in the wrong manner. It made her look like an a&&.

When I was little she wouldn't allow my sibling & I to use the word "fart." We had to say "flatulated." When I got older I found out THERE IS NO SUCH WORD. Stupid me I tried to tell her that!
What happened? N-rage.

Typical.

 
At 1:45 PM, Blogger sonicido said...

I think the reason that the obvious often gets denied, is because, lack of understanding and discernment comes from one or both of two things:
1) It has to have happened to them (those doubting) and their life must be altered because of the Narcissist;(it doesn't matter if it happened to someone close to them-it has to happen to THEM or they will learn nothing).
2) They are one themselves

As Niels Bohr said, "Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it." http://library.thinkquest.org/3487/qp.html

So it is also true of, Malignant Narcissists.

"Anyone who is not shocked by malignant narcissism, has not understood it." Sadly, some of us learned to understand it through experience. However, I have met a few people who fully understand it, through education. It is possible to understand a disease, or a scientific fact, without having had it come into your life.

That is why this blog, and all the other means of education on the subject, is so important!

 
At 9:59 AM, Anonymous Barbara said...

They appeal not only by ther seeming correction of conventional wisdom but also by their hypnotic power, their negation of rational processes."

People will then think you're insightful. They won't know what the hell you're talking about, but they'll be sure it's insightful ;-)

You have an empathy deficit, sir. You feel nothing for the victim.

In other words, it's always the same old banal trick of calling a thing whatever it most ain't.


PERFECTLY SAID, Kathy.

It's COGNITIVE DISSONANCE - the biggest tool in the N's seduction & power-over belt.

 

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