The evils that men do—and the evils that they merely say…
Today, I encountered a German blog entry by Ulrich Kasparicke (formerly a Social-Democrat MP) that provides an excellent example of how self-proclaimed “good guys” easily become the “bad guys” through the failure to understand that what matters is not what we believe, only rarely what we say, but almost always what we do: The “wrong” opinions are considered so wrong and so dangerous that they should be suppressed or forbidden. In some cases (as in Sweden last year), even saying the wrong thing or being a member of the wrong party can cause physical attacks.
That blog entry takes up some recent statements by Horst Seehoferw (Minister-President of Bavaria and a former German cabinet member), which the author strongly attacks (with more vitriol than factual arguments) and for which he intends to file charges for incitement of popular hatredw (on grounds that, so far, appear flimsy).
Now, I am not going to defend (or attack) Seehofer’s statements—I have not seen them in context and I am not familiar in detail with his opinions. However, I stand by his right of free speech, and I am going to attack some of the statements made in the blog post.
Most notably, Kasparick makes the following statement, in bold and as a separate paragraph:
Nun aber ist nach meiner Auffassung die rote Linie überschritten, die ein Demokrat niemals überschreiten darf.
(Now, in my opinion, is the red line crossed, that a democrat must never cross.)
This statement proves that Kasparick does not understand what democracy implies and that he himself is less than democratic. Democracy is not a “having the right opinion”, “being politically correct”, or any other meaning in which the left so often abuses it. On the contrary, it is a political system, based on the general idea that the people is in charge. A central tenant of (at least the modern Western) democracy is the freedom of speech: Anyone should have the right to express his opinions, bring forth his arguments, and so on. Limitations to this principle should be done with utmost caution. Yet, Kasparick’s claims amount to: Seehofer has the wrong opinion; ergo, the law must silence him.
Ich kann nicht mehr länger zusehen und schweigen. Das Schreiben von Texten genügt nicht mehr.
(I can no longer look and remain silent. The writing of texts is no longer enough.)
I would counter with a Swedish saying for children: Where the brain ends, the fists begin. Instead of countering Seehofer’s statements with actual arguments, instead of pointing to flaws in facts, instead of showing aspects of the issue that Seehofer might have missed, …, Kasparick decides to involve the law. By all means, break your silence, but do so with words— not attempts to force others into silence!
Or take his conclusion:
Ich habe mich mein Leben lang immer wieder intensiv mit der Entstehungsgeschichte des Nationalsozialismus in Deutschland befasst. Ein zentraler Grund, weshalb die Volksverführer an die Macht kamen war der Umstand, dass das Bürgertum geschwiegen hat, als das kommende Unrecht schon zu erkennen war.
Es begann mit den Worten.
Es begann mit den Reden.
Deshalb: wehret den Anfängen! Denn aus den Worten werden Taten…
(I have been concerned [befasst] with the history of the origins of National-Socialism in Germany my whole life. A central reason why the demagogues came to power was that the middle-class remained silent, as the future injustice was already recognizable.
It started with words.
It started with speeches.
Therefore: defend against the beginnings! [German expression similar to “an ounce of prevention”] From words come deeds…
There are at least four things wrong with this:
Firstly, it cannot be concluded that deeds will follow words.
Secondly, the words he attacks are not comparable to what the Nazis said before their deeds.
Thirdly, the central point behind the political success of Hitler was not his words, but the suppression of the words of others.
Fourthly, Kasparick himself is already beyond words and is engaging in an attempt to cure (an alleged) evil by doing a greater evil.