I no longer have personal opinions about political issues. For decades I spewed forth my personal opinion on matters political and otherwise, mostly guided by some dogma or by some ideology that I adhered to and believed in, even though in the majority of instances I had no practical experience, no direct knowledge, of the matters I opined about. This was arrogant, hubriatic, profane, egotistical; although far from uncommon with those involved in politics or who adhered to or believed in some political ideology or religious dogma.
Now, with the benefit of pathei-mathos, I both understand and feel the need for a personal humility; a humility that perhaps should predispose us toward reticence in words private, public, spoken and written; of the need to admit we do not know when we do not know: that is, when we do not have personal and years long and practical knowledge and experience about some-thing. Of the need for the dignity of silence even if we have such a personal experience; for we are fallible mortals; and our views, our opinions, are fallible, and are or should be subject to revision, to the effects of pathei-mathos.
To consider just one of the thousands of examples that I might adduce from my past four-decade long hubris: I would so often ‘sound-off’ about the modern State of Israel, adhering as I did to nazi ideology, or to my own ‘revisionist’ version of that ideology, or – later on – to a harsh, extremist (1) modern interpretation of Islam. Thus I would refer not to Israel but to ‘the Zionist-entity’ (that occupies Filistine), echoing the propaganda of the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah. Yet such ignorant propagandistic diatribes (for that is what they were) were not based on any personal knowledge of Israel. For I had never been there; never lived there for months or years; never talked to those living there of their experiences, their hopes, their feelings. Never socialized, one human being to another, with Israelis. Thus I had no knowledge of how and why that modern State came into existence; no personal understanding born from a direct, empathic, personal, encounter with those who had experienced the horrors of the Shoah or who could recount ancestral stories of the ignoble persecution suffered decades before in places such as Russia. No knowledge of, no feeling, for that often unspoken desire of such a persecuted people to never again be persecuted, discriminated against, hated, subjugated, and killed, by hate-filled fanatics, extremists, and bigots. Instead, all I had was a prejudice, an intolerance, a fanaticism, and – yes – an impersonal hatred based on some ideology; a prejudice, an ideology, a fanaticism, an extremism, that led me – as Hitler and his German National-Socialists had done – to inhumanly discriminate against, and to shamefully demonize, all Jews.
Thus did I (using the euphemism Zionists/Zionist for Jews/Jewish) write words such as “So it was that after these scheming Zionist manipulators […] created the shameless, ignoble, lie of the holocaust to manipulate the minds of our fellow Aryans and turn them against us. So it was that these manipulators socially-engineered a tyrannical System to domesticate, tame and control Aryans.” (The National-Socialist, issue 7, 107yf) Here there is vitriol – expressed by terms such as ‘scheming’, ‘hateful manipulators’; and also an echo of Mein Kampf, where the ‘evil Jews/zionists’ are simplistically contrasted with ‘noble, good, Aryans’, a theme which, together with an obsession with ‘our Zionist enemy’, shamefully dominated my neo-nazi writings.
Given the benefit of pathei-mathos – and especially of my knowing of my past hubris – I now decline to offer an opinion, publicly and privately, about anything political, or about ‘current affairs’ in general. Instead, I prefer silence; or, if pressed, refer to our fallibility and shared humanity; to the numinosity of personal love; of the need for tolerance, compassion, empathy, and humility. For I really do not have any definite answers for anyone, not even myself. All I have now is a particular, a very personal and a very fallible, weltanschauung, born from grief and perplexity – and born from those my tears of a remembering of not only my own past but of the pasts of those who suffered, who were hated, who were discriminated against, who were oppressed, who were inhumanly treated, and who were killed – millennia upon millennia – because of people such as the intolerant, unempathic, uncompassionate, person I was for so many decades.
There are no excuses; only perhaps a very personal learning for one person of the kind which, for generation upon generation, has been the essence of that culture of pathei-mathos which not only has given us the gift of hope but which has indeed, and slowly, gently, person-to-person, made our world a better place. (2)
Footnotes (Post Scriptum)
(1) As mentioned in other writings, by extreme is meant to be harsh, so that an extremist is a person who tends toward harshness, or who is harsh, or who supports/incites harshness, in pursuit of some objective, usually of a political or a religious nature. Here, harsh is: rough, severe, a tendency to be unfeeling, unempathic.
Hence extremism is considered to be: (a) the result of such harshness, and (b) the principles, the causes, the characteristics, that promote, incite, or describe the harsh action of extremists. In addition, a fanatic is considered to be someone with a surfeit of zeal or whose enthusiasm for some objective, or for some cause, is intemperate.
In the terms of the philosophy/way of pathei-mathos, an extremist is someone who commits the error of hubris; and error which enantiodromia – following from πάθει μάθος – can sometimes correct or forestall. The genesis of extremism – be such extremism personal, or described as political or religious – is when the separation-of-otherness is used as a means of personal and collective identity and pride, with some ‘others’ – or ‘the others’ – assigned to a category considered less worthy than the category we assign ourselves and ‘our kind/type’ to.
(2) As someone once said, “The biggest thing you can do is just be kind to another human being. It can come down to eye contact, or a smile. It doesn’t have to be a huge monumental act.” The words are those of Keshia Thomas, an African-American, whose act of kindness in 1966, when she was aged 18, saved someone from the violent actions of an angry mob.
In respect of the culture of pathei-mathos, the following quotation is from Religion, Empathy, and Pathei-Mathos (Good and Evil – The Perspective of Pathei-Mathos)
The pathei-mathos of individuals over thousands of years, often described in literature, poetry, memoirs, aural stories, and often expressed via non-verbal mediums such as music and Art, has resulted in an accumulation of insights; what we might with some justification describe as a culture, which, while often redolent of the spiritual, is not religious. That is, not doctrinal, not codified, not organized, and not presenting or manifesting a theology. A culture that is supra-national, containing as it does, among many other treasures, the observations of Lao Tzu, Siddhartha Gautama, Ovid, and Mohandas K. Gandhi; the thoughts of Aeschylus, Sappho, and Sophocles; the writings of Marcus Aurelius and Jane Austen; the allegory, the mysterium, of Jesus of Nazareth; and, importantly, the experiences – written, recorded, and aural – of those who over the centuries have endured suffering, conflict, disaster, tragedy, and war, and who were forever changed by the experience.
As often in respect of a culture, as with a religion or a spiritual Way of Life, individuals may favour some insights over others, and may and probably will differ over how certain insights should be understood or interpreted. As for me, I find in this vast cultural treasure three important things.
First, an understanding of the impermanence of temporal things; of how abstract ideations – given some practical form and maintained via striving human beings – over decades and centuries always by their nature wreck havoc and cause or contribute to suffering often despite the decent intentions of those who brought them into being and maintain or maintained them; and of how all such forms, in the perspective of millennia, ‘hath but a short time to live’.
Second, that even the modern State with its liberal democracy and its jurisprudence and its benefits and positive change, is not only impermanent but also, for some, a cause of suffering, of havoc, and that the benefits and the positive change do not necessarily offset such suffering, such havoc, as are caused, as have been caused, and as may continue to be caused; and that it is for each one of us to decide how to, or whether to, engage with such an impermanent form, by and for example following the moral advice given some two millennia ago – Ἀπόδοτε οὖν τὰ Καίσαρος Καίσαρι καὶ τὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ τῷ Θεῷ – and/or by perhaps trying to improve those societies, “in tolerant ways which do not cause conflict or involve the harshness, the violence, the hatred, of extremism.”
Third, that there is in this culture of pathei-mathos a particular ethos: the tone of harmony, ἁρμονίη; of a natural balance, or rather of how certain human actions are hubris – ὕβρις – and not only disrupt this needful harmony but also cause or contribute to suffering. Of the importance, and perhaps the primacy, of human love; of how Eris is the child of Polemos and Hubris, and of how a lovelorn Polemos follows Hubris around, never requited. Of how the truths of religions and spiritual ways are, in their genesis, basically simple, always numinous, and most probably the same: guides to living in such a way that we can rediscover the natural balance, appreciate the numinous, and avoid hubris.
All of which lead to an understanding of (i) how good and bad are not ‘out there’ and cannot be manifest or assumed to be manifest in some form, by some ideation, or in ‘them’ (the others), without causing or contributing to or being the genesis of suffering, but instead are within us as individuals, a part of our nature, our character, our φύσις, and often divergently expressed; and (ii) of how, in my view at least, personal honour and not a codified law, not a jurisprudence, is the best, the most excellent, way to define and manifest this ‘good’, with honour understood, as in my philosophy of pathei-mathos, as an instinct for and an adherence to what is fair, dignified, and valourous. An honourable person is thus someone of manners, fairness, reasoned judgement, and valour; with honour being a means to live, to behave, in order to avoid committing the folly, the error, of ὕβρις; in order try and avoid causing suffering, and in order to rediscover, to acquire, ἁρμονίη, that natural balance that presences the numinous (sans denotatum and sans dogma) and thus reveals what is important about life and about being human.
For, in effect, the truths concerning honour and dishonour, and of our propensity for both honour and dishonour, are the essence of what we can learn from the supra-national, the living, and the thousands of years old, human culture of pathei-mathos.