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Author Topic: Personal responsibility  (Read 1998 times)

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Offline BeorningTopic starter

Personal responsibility
« on: May 02, 2016, 01:00:46 PM »
Recently, I've read about this trial:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36168688
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/29/auschwitz-guard-reinhold-hanning-holocaust-trial

It made me think about how far does personal responsibility go and whether there is a point when you can't blame or prosecute people for their actions that they do as part of a larger organization?

I mean, there's no dispute that the Nazi genocide was something absolutely horrific. The thing is, that guy on trial? If I understand correctly, he was just a pawn - an ordinary guy that joined the SS to fight in a war, then got sent to the Auschwitz camp. He didn't have any leadership role in what was happening there - and it might really be a case that he has always regretted ending up at that place. Meanwhile, he's being charged as an accessory to mass murder... but can it really be said that he's guilty?

My point is, it's not like he had any choice, right? Again, he didn't volunteer to work at this camp, he was assigned there. There's no proof he had any initiative in any specific murders. And, if I understand the workings of the Nazi system, he couldn't really quit from this job. And he couldn't do anything to stop the mass murders - if he protested, he'd get killed himself. So, can a man really be prosecuted for having ended up in such a situation?

Also, I can't help thinking of how we might behave a bit similarly in our ordinary lives. How we end up doing various things as, say, part of our jobs - things we're not proud of, but that we do nevertheless because of having to make a living. For example, last year, I've been working at the call centre of a major TV provider. Part of my job was informing people of the service's rules - and some of these rules were quite... skeevy. Heck, one of the more experienced employees has once said to me ouright that the rules set by the provider would be blown away in court as illegal, if any customer actually bothered to sue. And still... I did that job. I kept taking calls and telling the angry customers that "sorry, sir / madame, these are the rules, you have to abide them". Even though I knew that my employer was actually *screwing* these customers and they were right to be angry. So... were I responsible for these people being cheated on? Was I an accessory to that?

I'm also reminded of one article I recently read about how, supposedly, awful the new generation of corporate employees is. The example used there was a situation from one bank's telephone sales department where, one day, a young employee just threw the phone away and said: "I can't sell such bad product to people, it's a swindle". Personally, I'd say that it was a *great* thing to do - meanwhile, the article seemed to suggest that such behaviour is immature and unprofessional.

So... it seems that being professional actually means stricly following orders and not thinking whether your job is moral or not. The exactly same thing that made Auschwitz possible. So, how come that one guy from Auschwitz is being prosecuted? He behaved as most of the ordinary people would behave in such a situation: he followed orders and didn't try to be a hero. It seems to me that our whole society is built on such behaviour...

I don't know, any thoughts?

Offline Anteros

Re: Personal responsibility
« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2016, 02:32:09 PM »
It is a very complex subject.
I personally believe that unless a choice is forced upon us by someone else, then we are responsible for it. Thing is, when can we say a choice is forced on us? Under treat of violence, certainly, but are there other cases? Is the threat of being fired valid? the threat of being demoted, or dishonored, or that of merely not getting a something we wanted? What if being dishonored is sure to lead to my being harmed?

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Re: Personal responsibility
« Reply #2 on: May 02, 2016, 02:39:28 PM »
It is a very complex subject.
I personally believe that unless a choice is forced upon us by someone else, then we are responsible for it. Thing is, when can we say a choice is forced on us? Under treat of violence, certainly, but are there other cases? Is the threat of being fired valid? the threat of being demoted, or dishonored, or that of merely not getting a something we wanted? What if being dishonored is sure to lead to my being harmed?

I agree, if the guy had spoken out he would have been labeled a 'Jew Lover' and probably end up in the same camp.

But at the same time you know horrible atrocities against humanity are occurring right before your eyes and you just stand around.

Offline Far eyes

Re: Personal responsibility
« Reply #3 on: May 02, 2016, 04:17:36 PM »
I personally believe that unless a choice is forced upon us

Explain forced, living in a country having your country be at war maybe feeling a moderate amount of patriotism, ending up in a horrible situation being on the low rank of a military structure? I can tell you from experience nobody asks your ass shit if you are Soldier Dirt Mc dugout the 84375. I do not know the guy, its in a lot of ways not the point. The point is that structurally and by the virtue of limited choices you are being "Forced" because the choice of leaving that is so far out of the norm of your existence that while it technically exists it might as well fucking not. How meany peaple do you think worked in Guantanamo and went "Dude this is fucked up" and then shut up and did there job because its easier to get trough the day if you squint a little pretend you did not here half of it and then just go home and forget. Or maybe you say something to your higher up and he tells you to "Just keep your head down kid" what then?   

Its easy to sit there with noting going on and go "oh yah fuck that guy nobody was forcing him" but tell you this were you ever mean to anybody just because your friends were? Did you ever say anything that later on looking at it you kind of really feel like you should not have but you said or did it anyway because it was the thing everybody was doing. I think we all did at some point, usually its a little thing noting dramatic stupid shit life moves on you feel crappy about it in a few years or the next day when you had time to reflect. 
« Last Edit: May 02, 2016, 04:19:28 PM by Far eyes »

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Re: Personal responsibility
« Reply #4 on: May 02, 2016, 04:26:06 PM »
Explain forced, living in a country having your country be at war maybe feeling a moderate amount of patriotism, ending up in a horrible situation being on the low rank of a military structure? I can tell you from experience nobody asks your ass shit if you are Soldier Dirt Mc dugout the 84375. I do not know the guy, its in a lot of ways not the point. The point is that structurally and by the virtue of limited choices you are being "Forced" because the choice of leaving that is so far out of the norm of your existence that while it technically exists it might as well fucking not. How meany peaple do you think worked in Guantanamo and went "Dude this is fucked up" and then shut up and did there job because its easier to get trough the day if you squint a little pretend you did not here half of it and then just go home and forget. Or maybe you say something to your higher up and he tells you to "Just keep your head down kid" what then?   

Its easy to sit there with noting going on and go "oh yah fuck that guy nobody was forcing him" but tell you this were you ever mean to anybody just because your friends were? Did you ever say anything that later on looking at it you kind of really feel like you should not have but you said or did it anyway because it was the thing everybody was doing. I think we all did at some point, usually its a little thing noting dramatic stupid shit life moves on you feel crappy about it in a few years or the next day when you had time to reflect.

But at the same time, this was the Auschwitz camp you know? There really isn't much that can be properly compared to it, it is literally the Holocaust. It is the standard by which many other atrocities and collaborators tend to be judged by.

Offline Far eyes

Re: Personal responsibility
« Reply #5 on: May 02, 2016, 04:29:43 PM »
I am not saying it is not, and that there were not.

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Re: Personal responsibility
« Reply #6 on: May 02, 2016, 04:32:29 PM »
I am not saying it is not, and that there were not.

I hate these gray areas the world gets stuck in, its so much easier when the world could easily be divided into Good and Bad. @_@ Makes me feel bad for everyone.

Offline BeorningTopic starter

Re: Personal responsibility
« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2016, 04:39:55 PM »
I agree, if the guy had spoken out he would have been labeled a 'Jew Lover' and probably end up in the same camp.

On the other hand, we don't really know that. History shows that there were people, like Johanna Langefeld, a chief of female SS guards at Ravensbrueck camp, who managed to stick their heads out and actually help some of the people in these places (Langefeld was actually remembered so positively by her former prisoners that they secretly arranged for her escape from Polish prison to save her from the possible death penalty). So, maybe that guy could've done something. Or, maybe, he could've at least transfered out of the place. I don't know how this system exactly worked...

Offline Far eyes

Re: Personal responsibility
« Reply #8 on: May 02, 2016, 04:44:59 PM »
To make clear i am really not arguing if he was right or wrong, and yes it was a fucked up and horrible part of history in a particularly horrible place. In some ways all those things make any objective feelings even more difficult as LB put it "this was the Auschwitz camp you know?" i am just not sure what a low ranking soldier could do besides jump the fens and go run off into the woods and then probably get shot as a defector.

 

Offline Anteros

Re: Personal responsibility
« Reply #9 on: May 02, 2016, 05:07:21 PM »
Explain forced, living in a country having your country be at war maybe feeling a moderate amount of patriotism, ending up in a horrible situation being on the low rank of a military structure? I can tell you from experience nobody asks your ass shit if you are Soldier Dirt Mc dugout the 84375.
As I said earlier, that's where things get complicated, although for soldiers and especially soldiers in dictatures, saying "no" usually has dire consequences, which I'd see as being forced.

Offline Nachtmahr

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Re: Personal responsibility
« Reply #10 on: May 03, 2016, 10:58:48 PM »
Quote
A 23-page statement read aloud to Detmold state court by the defence lawyer Johannes Salmen sketched out how a 13-year-old Hanning joined the Hitler Youth on the occasion of Adolf Hitlerís 46th birthday, on 20 April 1935. His stepmother, an impassioned national socialist, later encouraged him to join the SS, the Nazi partyís elite paramilitary organization, rather than the armed forces of the Wehrmacht.

Can there really be any question that this man was clearly indoctrinated?

Sometimes people will do horrible things that the rest of us can't understand purely because they've been taught all their life that what they're doing is the right thing. This guy was basically trained to become a member of the SS from the age of 13.

In my opinion it's pointless to point fingers and blame individuals like him for what happened. If this was any other kind of story, we'd consider him a victim too. If some guy went out and shot someone, and we found out that ever since he was a kid he was beaten and harshly disciplined to the point where lashing out at others became normal in his mind, we'd consider that poor a kid a victim. If someone grows up in a fundamentally religious society and come to accept all sorts of abuse or violations, and they then go out try and further their leaders extremist agenda because it's all that they've ever known, we consider them victims.

I don't think this man is evil. I honestly don't think he even truly realized what he was a part of. He was brainwashed into worshiping a charismatic maniac and his cult of xenophobic madmen intent on conquering the world, spoon-fed propaganda throughout his life until the tide suddenly turned and it was all over, and he had to face the reality of what he'd been taking part in.

There's no question that the Nazi's did a lot of terrible things, but holding people like this man responsible, especially so many years later, just comes across as pointless and cruel to me. He's had to live with the knowledge of what happened at that place all of his life, just like the survivors. If he's truly sorry, then surely a lifetime of knowing what he was a part of and living with the guilt is more than enough of a punishment. If he isn't, would it be anything more than a cruel, symbolic gesture to punish him further?

But to reiterate my original point, I don't think you can hold someone responsible for what they do while under the influence of such immense brainwashing. Even if he believed he was doing the right thing at the time, that would be because believing in the Nazi-cause is all he's ever known, and he's been brought up to never question authority.

It's a very nuanced issue, and there are so many sides to this. It's tempting to just say "Well, he was in the SS, he deserves to be punished!" but it's not really that simple.

Offline Khoraz

Re: Personal responsibility
« Reply #11 on: May 07, 2016, 11:20:30 AM »
I agree with Nachtmahr. I'd bet money that the vast majority of people here would have done the exact same thing in the man's position - if you're born and raised into believing that a certain group of people are responsible for everything that's gone wrong, you're going to hate them. Obviously I'm not saying that it's right- because it isn't - but I don't think you can possibly hold these people accountable.

The people at the top who organised the campaign of manic hatred and all the horror are the real bad ones. Everyday people are just that. Everyday people who could just have easily been you or me (if we were around then).

What 13 year old would argue with his mum? His school? His friends? If everything around you is one way then you'll accept it. It's very easy for us to say "I would never do those horrible things!" but... fact is I think we probably would.

Offline TheGlyphstone

Re: Personal responsibility
« Reply #12 on: May 07, 2016, 12:01:55 PM »
It feels like he's being used as a symbol/scapegoat for his entire generation.

Offline Scribbles

Re: Personal responsibility
« Reply #13 on: May 09, 2016, 04:56:26 AM »
It's odd but if you're part of a corrupt or brutal system, is it so wrong to become another cog in that system rather than risk yourself or your family by trying to turn against the machine?

I've always felt that it's better to try fix things from the top, by punishing those who actually wield some control. The moment you turn it into a witch hunt for everyone beneath them, you're bound to hang a good number of innocents as well. And by innocents, I don't mean the "cowards" who worked under the system, but rather their families, friends, etc.

Offline Far eyes

Re: Personal responsibility
« Reply #14 on: May 09, 2016, 05:23:22 AM »
It's odd but if you're part of a corrupt or brutal system, is it so wrong to become another cog in that system rather than risk yourself or your family by trying to turn against the machine?

I wrote several attempts at a response, some feel to long winded... in the end you sound very young. Its easy to sit here, especially given the "This was ww2 you know" the easiest to identify good against evil we had ever had, at least from a historical viewing.

Now look at your social circle, your friends the people you talk to each day, the social circle you hang out in. Now abandon them, tell tell them they are wrong. 

Offline Scribbles

Re: Personal responsibility
« Reply #15 on: May 09, 2016, 05:33:17 AM »
I wrote several attempts at a response, some feel to long winded... in the end you sound very young. Its easy to sit here, especially given the "This was ww2 you know" the easiest to identify good against evil we had ever had, at least from a historical viewing.

Now look at your social circle, your friends the people you talk to each day, the social circle you hang out in. Now abandon them, tell tell them they are wrong. 

Remember, you're one person. It's easy to say "abandon your friends" but many might not even know what you're doing, and yet they'd still end up suffering by your decision to suddenly fight the system. At best the system might twitch by your act, but your family will suffer, you will suffer, and others you're connected to will suffer.

Offline Aethereal

Re: Personal responsibility
« Reply #16 on: May 09, 2016, 05:39:14 AM »
Its easy to sit here, especially given the "This was ww2 you know" the easiest to identify good against evil we had ever had, at least from a historical viewing.
      It is indeed easy to sit here - much harder to stand your ground if the threat of you and your family being lined up and executed any day is a very real one. I almost wouldn't be here, if it weren't for the fact that the Soviet forces didn't even care to double-check who was eliminated - instead of my father's side of family, the neighbours were killed for my great-grandfather having been a politician during the first republic, before the occupation even began. Things cease to be as clear when you know that not only your own, but also your spouse's and child's brains would be blown out (and potentially your friends', too) as soon as someone concludes you're not obeying.

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Re: Personal responsibility
« Reply #17 on: May 09, 2016, 09:27:40 AM »
      It is indeed easy to sit here - much harder to stand your ground if the threat of you and your family being lined up and executed any day is a very real one. I almost wouldn't be here, if it weren't for the fact that the Soviet forces didn't even care to double-check who was eliminated - instead of my father's side of family, the neighbours were killed for my great-grandfather having been a politician during the first republic, before the occupation even began. Things cease to be as clear when you know that not only your own, but also your spouse's and child's brains would be blown out (and potentially your friends', too) as soon as someone concludes you're not obeying.

Captain America put it the best I feel.



He says it mostly in regards to the U.S. but it applies to all people I feel.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2016, 09:28:48 AM by Lustful Bride »

Offline Khoraz

Re: Personal responsibility
« Reply #18 on: May 09, 2016, 09:49:24 AM »
But Captain America has superhuman abilities, superhero friends, and millions of fans across the world - it's a bit easier for someone like that to stand up and be counted than the average person.

I know that it's just an example, but... it feels like an unfair one

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Re: Personal responsibility
« Reply #19 on: May 09, 2016, 09:58:15 AM »
But Captain America has superhuman abilities, superhero friends, and millions of fans across the world - it's a bit easier for someone like that to stand up and be counted than the average person.

I know that it's just an example, but... it feels like an unfair one

I'm trying to find a better example then.

Im looking for the srtory of the First Computer Hacker, who sabotaged the Reich's old punchcard computers to cover and protect others. He ended up dying in a camp for what he did. But there were many people who were saved from being arrested by the secret police thanks to him.

Offline Khoraz

Re: Personal responsibility
« Reply #20 on: May 09, 2016, 10:00:40 AM »
There were indeed people who did fight - I'm not denying that - but I don't think it's right to put personal responsibility on the thousands of people who didn't.

I think that's the main point of this thread? Asking that question?

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Re: Personal responsibility
« Reply #21 on: May 09, 2016, 10:24:16 AM »
There were indeed people who did fight - I'm not denying that - but I don't think it's right to put personal responsibility on the thousands of people who didn't.

I think that's the main point of this thread? Asking that question?

I don't know, I think weve gotten derailed :/

Offline Far eyes

Re: Personal responsibility
« Reply #22 on: May 09, 2016, 11:32:11 AM »
I think in the end, its a hard shitty choice with no rainbows and cookies at the end. And you have to be really careful, because if you are absolutely sure 101%...   
to quote a favorite author of mine.

Quote
More evil gets done in the name of righteousness than any other way

This is kind off topic, but maybe not.

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Re: Personal responsibility
« Reply #23 on: May 09, 2016, 11:37:03 AM »
Captain America put it the best I feel.



He says it mostly in regards to the U.S. but it applies to all people I feel.

I like this quote greatly and if you don't mind, I'd like to post it in my quotes thread.

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Re: Personal responsibility
« Reply #24 on: May 09, 2016, 11:39:38 AM »
I like this quote greatly and if you don't mind, I'd like to post it in my quotes thread.

Perfectly fine :P I don't own it (Cap and Marvel does) feel free ^3^