on cockroach sandwiches, Brussels sprouts, and the nature of good and evil

Warning: unfunniness ahead.

apparently. so it has been said. allegedly. reportedly.

So I saw this on the Book of Faces the other day. And..yeah. I’m not convinced. Politics isn’t evil just cos somebody used it to do evil stuff. Word.

You see, while I admired the way that big ole WOB (white on black, dontcha know) (I didn’t know until I read a book about tabloid newspapers) can really grab your attention, I simultaneously made a face at my computer screen like a person who has just discovered a cockroach in their Pret A Manger sandwich*, and the cockroach is glaring at them.

[*Pret have probably never sold cockroach sandwiches. I just mentioned them because they were the first sandwich-sellers who came to mind. I patronised one of their excellent establishments on Saturday, and enjoyed my sandwich and coffee immensely. I met exactly zero cockroaches.]

Back to Hitler. I have two things to say about the quote above:

thing the first Hitler was a baddie. He was also a political genius (read: extremely popular). This shows that the argument ‘But everyone likes him!’ is totally fallacious. Just because everyone you know likes a bonkers shouty Jew-killer doesn’t mean you should too, or that what he’s doing is right. But I don’t think it means that politics = evil.

thing the second Rupert Murdoch is demonstrably a baddie (although so far hasn’t set up any gas ovens to kill people, as far as I know). He is  also a media genius (read: makes extremely popular newspapers). Does this mean that newspapers = evil?

Politics itself is neutral – neither good nor bad. It’s just a thing, by itself, waiting to have values and such imposed on it. Politics, saith the Wikipedia, is ‘the way we choose government officials and make decisions about public policy’. It also describes it as ‘the art or science of running governmental or state affairs’. That is not something, in and of itself, which can be good or evil. And the same goes for newspapers.

What Hitler did was *pause while I try to come up with a pithy synonym for the phrase ‘unspeakably evil’* ..yeah, well, you know what I mean. And he used politics to do it. He also used typefaces, and the power of speech, and some frankly terrifying facial hair.

Is Bruce Forsyth inherently evil?

At the most, what Hitler’s political genius says about politics is that it can be used for evil purposes. But so can words. So can books. So can hamsters, or Brussels sprouts, or Bruce Forsyth, or the London Underground, or your aunty’s knitting, or indeed almost anything. These things can all, however, also be used for good. (Except possibly the sprouts.) 

So shall we all stop claiming that things are baaaaad just cos the person who’s using or doing them is baaaaaaaaaad? That would be another helpful step along the road to world peace and happiness and tea and toast all round. Thanking you kindly.

Important disclaimer: I don’t know much about Wilhelm Reich or the kinds of things he said, so it’s just possible that the quote above makes more sense in context. What I do know, however, is that he had excellent hair:

the hair, the HAIRThis proves nothing. Hair is neutral too.

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11 Comments

Filed under things i've seen

11 responses to “on cockroach sandwiches, Brussels sprouts, and the nature of good and evil

  1. You’re spot on regarding evil and politics. Just because one usually leads to the other, doesn’t make it inherently the same. There’s also visual proof that Hitler was a crack-hand at the banjo – does this, by extension make the banjo evil? http://img.izismile.com/img/img2/20090728/hitler_11.gif (anyone who’s seen Deliverance may now be shouting ‘do you even need that question answered?’)

    But don’t mock the cockroach sandwich too soon. It’s high in protein, if low on self-esteem.

  2. well, the banjo might be evil anyway. but not because Hitler happened to be good at playing a merry tune upon its blighted strings.

    i don’t think i’ve seen deliverance. but here in london, england, it’s an excellent food delivery service..and that’s the first thing i thought of.

    i typed ‘cockroach sandwich’ into their search box, but apparently ‘your search yielded no results’. i guess it’ll take a while to catch on.

  3. I can’t think of a single positive contribution Brussels sprouts have offered.

    And that is quite some hair!

  4. I’ll agree with Herr Reich here. Power attracts power-hungry, corrupt, unethical individuals. The political system we have today permits their rise instead of weeding them out.
    If one is poor in numbers, he won’t cut it in accounting. If he is bad at research or writing he won’t make it in academia. But, if he’s an unscrupulous sociopath, with an ego the size of the Solar system, there’s no mechanism to stop him from waltzing all the way to the top. Is there?
    I think the case of Hitler proves Mr. Reich’s point (and mine).

    • Interesting point! But I think the distinction here is where you said ‘the political system we have today’. Said political system is not the same as politics itself, which is (to quote the Wikipedia definition in my post) ‘the art or science of running governmental or state affairs’.

      You’re right that the current political system is certainly not designed to deter the power-hungry. But Reich didn’t say ‘The fact that Hitler was a political genius unmasks the nature of our political system [or: the political system which enabled him to do what he did] as no other fact can.’ That I would have been able to agree with.

      He was talking about politics in general, regardless of which particular system is used; and that’s what I take issue with.

  5. I see your point. Still, politics (in general) attract the power-mad as few (or indeed no) other sectors of human endeavor do. It would take a very special political system to stop them from reaching the very top. Do you know of any throughout human history?
    See my point? It’s not just the political system, it’s politics that attracts the bad, the mad and the ugly and keeps them there, scrambling and clawing for power. Political systems are but efforts to regulate this scramble for the benefit of one or another social group.

    • True..but how could we organise the world any other way? We will always need some way of running a country, and that path will always attract power-crazed mentalists. I don’t see a way around that..

      Some political systems are worse than others, it’s true; but it’s also true that ‘Democracy is the worst system of government apart from all the others’ – as Winston Churchill apparently said.

  6. Good question…
    Good quote too. Didn’t know it – definitely a keeper. Thanx.

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