Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Evil that Men Do

I'm a historian, of World War Two. It's an immense, mind boggling field of study. A conflict that spanned only seven years, yet encompassed the globe. The mobilisation of nations, land, sea and air forces, plus all of the covert operations of the Allies, Axis and Neutral countries was an incredibly complex affair.
There's no way that one can become a true expert in all areas of the war, so one becomes a specialist. I am a battlefield historian. Infantry, tanks, amphibious landings, small arms, ammunition supplies, artillery: these are the things that interest me most. Covert operations interest me as well, as they support (or work against) the troops.
Of course, any historian of the era must know the larger political situation. It's incredibly important, from my point of view, to understanding exactly how the Axis managed to storm across Europe and Asia, then foot by bitter foot lose the territory to the Allied advance. Politics and economics drove their advance, and also their defeat.

Yet I couldn't also be a historian of that era without being aware of the incredible evil that men do to other men. I believe that's why I don't believe in Hell. I've seen a lot of footage from the Nazi Death Camps, and read too many survivor accounts. Hell isn't an abstract term. Hell exists on earth. Hell is made real wherever man inflicts pain upon another man.

What disturbs me most about the Nazis is not that the Death Camps existed. Mankind has always been incredibly inhumane, cruelty is nothing new. What disturbs me is the absolute, clinical and methodical neatness of it all. The planning that went into it. The Nazis took genocide, and refined it. They made their Zyklon B gas chambers like a production line, humans in, corpses out. They extracted gold teeth, cut hair, stripped clothing, shoes, whatever they could scavenge from the victims. They recorded everything in neat columns, like accountants, and forwarded the numbers up to the Fuhrer and his staff. A clockwork bureaucracy, fueled by gas fumes and death.

What chance would Satan have against this kind of organisation? According to theory, all he could do is torment you if you were a bad person, or maybe sold him your soul.
The Nazi machinery tormented whomever they chose. Jews, Communists, the disabled, political opponents, Gypsies, mentally ill, racially "impure", blacks, children, old people, saints, sinners. No-one was immune.

That's why, to me, the true evil in this world is the evil that exists in Mankind. It's the evil of powerful men, backed by military or police, who do unspeakable things to average people. The evil of "ethnic cleansing", the evil of mob rule. It's the evil of anyone who wishes to impose their world view, or beliefs, upon another person by violent means.

Satan, and Demons, don't frighten me. People do.

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