We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

House of Terror

In one of the most beautiful avenues of Budapest, Andrássy Road, is a museum dedicated to the two 20th century horrors, Nazism and Communism. House of Terror (Terror Háza) does not differentiate between the two toxic ideologies. After all, they are the same thing with different packaging – one in black, the other in red. That they hate and fought each other is not evidence to the contrary, merely evidence of territorial in-fighting.

In winter of 1944, when the Hungarian Nazis came to power, hundreds of people were tortured in the basement of the house in 60 Andrássy street. In 1945 Hungary was occupied by the Soviet Army. One of the first tasks of the Hungarian communists arriving with the Soviet tanks was to take possession of the location. The building was occupied by their secret police, the PRO, which was later renamed ÁVO, subsequently ÁVH (names for political police). The entire country came to dread the terrorist organisation. The ÁVH officers serving at 60 Andrássy Road were the masters of life and death. Detainees were horribly tortured or killed. The walls of the cellars beneath the buildings were broken down and transformed into a prison.

After the end of communism in Hungary, 60 Andrássy Road has become a shrine, the effigy of terror and the victims’ memorial. At least in Hungary they recognised that the ‘past must be acknowledged’. The exhibition is a visual feast, both in the artefacts displayed and in the symbolism of their arrangement. The rooms have themes and objects in them are meant to create an atmosphere as well as communicate facts. Alas, the visual beauty conjures an image of a retro nightmare – distant and unreal it masks the brutality and dull reality of communist terror.

House of Terror

There is an exquisitely designed hall dedicated to Soviet forced-labour and slave camps. There are reminiscences, photographs and the display cases contain relics, the original paraphernalia used by the people detained by the Soviets and taken to gulags. And yet, it does not squeeze your heart and make you sick to your stomach. The muted light and the droning voice of the audio guide fail to convey the tragedy. By trying to describe the suffering of many thousands, they miss the opportunity to make us feel the suffering of one, to put ourselves in their place, imagine our lives being arbitrarily and brutally torn apart. And to remember that this did not happen in some kind of parallel universe, that this is history next door.

I wanted to know the people whose meagre possessions I was looking at in the display cases. Their names, stories, family, circumstances, fates. I believe that the best and only way to understand Communism and Nazism is through the lives of individuals who were affected by it not through a historical methodology or chronological exposition.

And so we need to be told about their neighbours reporting and spying on them, children betraying parents, we need to hear the tales of endurance, mercy and resistance that no historical narrative can capture. We document history in such impersonal terms and yet there is nothing more powerful then actions of a man. We look for overarching explanations but historical causality without human beings and their behaviour leaves the patterns of history indistinct, lacking in colour and texture. Everyday life is as important to understanding of what happens as are historical milestones. It might help people realise how little it takes for the society to find itself in a grasp of a toxic ideology and how gradual the decline can be, how unnoticed the erosion of freedom, dignity and moral strength.

If I had the time and resources, I would gather the human details about communism, not just the historical facts, and create a place where others can ‘re-live’ the individual tales. I would try to explain what it took to survive and resist. I would address the connection between totalitarianism and bureaucracy – why is it that an already unhinged and all powerful regime is so obsessed with record-taking, papers and stamps, correct documentation…? I would point at the need inherent in any totalitarian ideology for an external enemy, and by extension its internal allies. I would expose the mundane and ridiculous reasons for which people were sent to prison, torture and death. I would throw light on the ‘little helpers’ without whom no authoritarian regime can succeed – the nosy neighbour, ambitious boss, jealous colleague, petty family member… and at the ‘silent majority’ who by ‘minding their business’ and ‘just getting on with their lives’ lend credence to the ravings of the power-mad ruling class. I would examine propaganda, not through the posters, broadcasts and mass demonstrations but through the eyes of children growing up under the barrage of idiotic but effective brainwashing.

And finally, I would bring up the horrors of arrest, detention, interrogations, beatings and torture, imprisonment and executions, hiding in history’s basement and cellars. Both the victims and the interrogators. Who were the people who carried out the daily atrocities? What and how did they believe? Where are they now? Did they go back home to their families at the end of the day, having broken a few more bodies and spirits? Did they do this out of fear? Or were they merely sadists gravitating to the communism sanctioned violence towards their fellow human beings? I would name them and publicly decry their deeds, spell out their participation. The Nazis got that treatment but when will such judgement be upon the Communists? Why is the hammer and sickle not abhorred the same way the swastika is? After all, it has brought evil to many more people…

Failing that, here are the pictures from the House of Terror in Budapest. The museum is an excellent reminder of what happened in just one dreaded house. And to think that there were many more.

House of Terror

The photos were taken despite the ban on photography in the museum. I did play along and kept my camera away until I came across a quote that sums up the deranged mindset of a communist ideologue. I wanted to make a note of it to look it up later and the fastest way was taking a photo. After the first furtive but successful attempt, it was impossible to resist taking more pictures.

Here is the quote* that goes to the heart of implementation of communism – and any other totalitarian ideology. It eradicated any notion of individual responsibility and therefore freedom, autonomy, rights and justice. And that is the essence of terror.

We do not look for evidence, we do not attempt to uncover acts or agitation against the Soviets. The first question we ask is: where are you from, how were you raised, what was your profession? These questions determine the fate of the defendant. This is the essence of the red terror. – M.J. Lacisz, Chief of ÁVO, the Hungarian political police.

*Credit for the translation goes to Zoltán Módly. The Hungarian version: “Nem keresünk bizonyítékokat, tanúkat, nem akarunk szovjetellenes tetteket vagy agitációt leleplezni. Az elsŠ‘ kérdés, ami minket érdekel: honnan származol, milyen volt a neveltetésed, mi volt a foglalkozásod? Ezek a kérdések döntenek a vádlott sorsáról. Ez a vörös terror lényege.”

36 comments to House of Terror

  • I caught Michael Palin’s visit on BBC 2 the other week, as part of his tour of ‘New Europe’. Chilling.

  • Pa Annoyed

    Try quoting from The Gulag Archipelago. The chapter on the children I found quite… effective.

    Having read it, I found I was interested to know what happened to Zoya Leshcheva afterwards – I did try a few desultory internet searches but no luck. You would have thought she’d be more famous now.

  • Tuck

    Nazism and Communism: From the victims’ perspective, there is no difference.

  • Thanks for posting this and the photos. It looks much more real than Prague’s “Museum of Communism”.

  • Here is a review of the book “The gulag testimonial” which is touching by doing just what you recommend: it tells the tales of actual people, with names and stories.

  • veryretired

    Any number of people tried repeatedly to warn the world about the truths of these ideologies, and the horrors which the states which tried to put them into practice became, but there were too many enablers and apologists continuously fogging, blurring, and rationalizing for the realities to be seen for what they were.

    Much the same pattern is being followed amongst the chattering classes and international tranzi elites today.

    There was a recent post about the bizarre spectacle of Mugabe and Khadaffy and Imatuxedo from Iran ranting and raving, to great applause, at a world food conference replete with endless cocktail parties and sumptuous dinners.

    Such grotesque moral inversions are sadly all too common around a confused and conflicted globe.

    I believe we are approaching a moment in history when basic contradictions between what is said and what is done will have to be reconciled.

    I’m not talking armageddon or any such millenial nonsense, but that the tensions between the irrational and the surviving rationalities in our developing world culture cannot continue indefinitely without some form of resolution.

    As Lincoln said so presciently, a house divided against itself cannot stand. The world will either move much more toward the rational, representative, individually respecting forms of social and political culture, or we will fall back into even older, more irrational forms of repression and conflict, based on racial and religious fanatacisms stripped of all the ideological window dressing that disguised much of their hysterical malevolence earlier in the modern age.

    An ancient enemy confronts us—absolutist theology which justifies anything and everything it does by proclaiming its alignment with instructions directly from god.

    The rationalist Enlightenment, and its emphasis on individual rights and the earthly derivation of political and cultural authority, has already confronted the religious and secular authoritarians and totalitarians of the 19th and 20th centuries, and, though wounded severely in many, many ways, still exerts enormous influence in modern society.

    The 21st century now presents a foe both new and ancient. Whether the west can generate the intellectual and moral courage to overcome these new challenges will be seen in our childrens’ and grandchildrens’ lifetimes.

    As the song says, “Teach your children well…” They will face challenges every bit as ferocious and deadly as the nazis and bolsheviks and maoists on their worst days.

    Only free, confidently independent men and women will be able to endure such a confrontation and prevail.

  • Slartibartfarst

    Two things really rather surprised me about this post:
    (a) The very interesting post, with its thoughtful points on The House of Terror (for which, thankyou Adriana Lukas), and
    (b) The comment by “veryretired”.

    My eyebrows nearly climbed off my forehead when I read (b), because, as a result of probing this exact point:
    An ancient enemy confronts us—absolutist theology which justifies anything and everything it does by proclaiming its alignment with instructions directly from god.

    - in a separate post on this site, I had all but given up on the supposed “Samizdata thinkers“:

    A blog for people with a critically rational individualist perspective. We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous… lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

    To be honest, I had not, until this point seen much evidence that there was indeed anything “on the mind of the Samizdata people” – if mind there was.

    Are you able to develop this comment of yours further, veryretired?

    For example, if it is true – as you state – that:

    Only free, confidently independent men and women will be able to endure such a confrontation and prevail.

    - then, exactly how do you consider that they will be able to prevail, given:

    (i) that this “ancient enemy” (and I presume that you intended by this to mean to include the “Islamic enlightenment” – but please correct me if I am wrong) has persisted undefeated for approx. 1,400 years – largely because it is perceived to be founded on “the word of Allah”?

    (ii) that the “rationalist Enlightenment” is an approx. 400 year old infant by comparison, and potentially still at risk of being blown away by the winds of time, because it is fragile and already (as you state) “wounded severely in many, many ways“? It is largely founded on ephemeral thought and ideologies from an irrational human species, where its proponents cannot agree amongst themselves – to the extent that they will even go to war and kill others who refuse to share the same man-made thought and ideologies.

    The main question is then, in short: Given these substantive limitations and constraints, in what ways could (ii) overcome what would appear to be – from a historical perspective at least – the vastly greater and persistent power of (i)?

    On a side issue, it is written that “Allah knows all“, but could the same be said of you – or any of us – in this case, I wonder – and if it could, then what would that make us? Who are we to deign to debate the “word of Allah”?

    I really would appreciate veryretired’s thinking on the main question, and I apologise in advance if this comment stirs up those other great Samizdata minds – the “redneck intellectuals”, as someone appropriately referred to them in another post.

  • Saboonsong

    If the subject of veryretired’s comment is Islam, then there is a very interesting comment on the BBC website in the “Have your say” on the question, “Should UK adopt aspects of Sharia Law?” This was a propos of the Archbishop of Canterbury defending his remarks on Sharia law (Feb. 2008).

    So-called “Western” law, secular government, democracy and “freedoms” are relatively new things in the history of Man, and could well be blown away by the winds of time and change. Sharia law is old, has withstood the test of time and may be the remaining constant to hold changed British and other Western societies together in the future.
    With the law comes the Islamic religion. These two things could unify society in a way which other legal systems and religions have been unable to do.

    It makes you think.

  • Veryretired,

    The problem is that in order to defeat ideologies, there needs to be an awareness and understanding of the alternatives. The situation today, where an ideologically driven state (I say state, not government) controls both speech and education to the extent that is happening in the West, imposes severe impediments in our ability to deal with future challenges.

    An inability to openly discuss either the nature of the threat, or of possible responses to it, creates significant problems when trying to deal with it.

  • Britt

    I’m going to speak from an American perspective, because that’s what I know best.

    I’m much more pessimistic myself. Liberalism (classical, of course) has been on the defensive for the majority of the 20th century. The 20s are the only decade that can truly said to be one of prosperity and limited government. The slow decay of Metternich’s Europe with the Balkan Wars and WWI consumed the the old order and unleashed Communism on the world. The 30s saw FDR adopting economic policies that were identical to Mussolinis, and organizing American civil society along military lines for the purpose of fighting the Depression his meddling created. All over the world leading intellectuals argued that liberalism was dead, and that an organic and totalitarian state was the way of the future. Obviously, WWII and the Cold War were even darker times for liberty. The Right in the United States, forced to confront the threat of Communism, was unable to dismantle FDR’s socialism entirely, and so the skeleton remained for LBJ to build on and root into the bedrock of America. A lot of people thought that Reagan’s policies and Clinton’s comparative moderate stance meant that socialism was finally discredited as a major force in American politics. They were wrong. They forget that Bill Clinton the 60s radical was forced to be moderate by a hostile Congress, contrary to his true wishes. I won’t even discuss George W. “When somebody hurts government has got to move” Bush, because it leaves a foul taste in my mouth. More worrisome still is how his moving the party left has greatly diminished what was the most powerful and well funded (albeit flawed, sometimes greatly) voice for individual liberty in the world. Correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding of European politics is that the welfare state is a sort of accepted fact, and that the major political parties simply argue over the details. The Republican Party used to at least try to hold back the growth of government. Now, they don’t even bother. 3.2 trillion dollar budgets. The specter of an Obama presidency is even more frightening. He promises to spend trillions more on all kinds of government expanding programs, including copying the odious and failed socialist health care model.

    So yeah, I’m not optimistic. In fact, at this point I think the tide is turning away from liberty and back toward the State.

  • veryretired

    It is late here, and I have to be up early in the morning, so please forgive some shorthand sketches instead of fully developed thoughts.

    I am referring to the irrational forces in the world, not just any particular segment. There are true believers in many areas ready and willing to remake society and humanity in the image of their beliefs, spiritual or materialist.

    There is no difference between the deep ecologist who envisions a population of a few hundred million living in tune with gaeia, as he or she interprets that harmony, and the islamicist who believes anyone who disagrees with the koran should be killed.

    There are always fanatics in touch with some hidden truth or another, burning with the desire to mold and direct human affairs.

    One of the major battles within early christianity was between those who believed the gospel was accessible, as opposed to the gnostics, who believed only a chosen few had the “hidden knowledge” necessary to achieve salvation.

    That conflict has been recapitulated numerous times in history, and certainly within these last few centuries.

    The main contention of classical liberal thought is that ordinary men and women can understand and direct their own lives, and, if they delegate certain powers to a central authority, they do not surrender those rights and powers indefinitely, but only conditionally, and they may retract that delegation as they see fit.

    Such a conception of social and political powers is anathema to those who “know better”, the articulate intellectuals so ably described by Shannon Love in several essays at Chicagoboyz.

    The mystics of muscle and the mystics of spirit are much more than 1400 years old. They are as old as mankind itself—a vampiric mindset which can only exist by draining the creative energy of the rational, productive members of human society.

    I am not pessimistic. The questioning and self-critical angst that always seems to pervade western thought is not a weakness, but a major strength. A free and independent mind is exactly what the collective of the irrational fears and dreads it is—the most dangerous and deadly foe that tyranny and repression have ever faced.

    The 20th century will be studied for generation after generation, as our descendents struggle to understand such profligate slaughter carried out by such confident evil, and yet still defeated, repeatedly, by decadent capitalists and boring, middle class shopkeepers and farmers.

    While free men and women breathe, tyranny trembles.

    It is freedom, messy, chaotic, argumentative, which contains the steel of rational strength, and is congruent with a reality only rational minds can comprehend.

    It is tyranny, fraudulent, dishonest, homogenous by repression and terror, which is fragile and brittle, adrift in a universe whose laws operate without regard to the chants and dreams of the mystics, and subject to a reality which comes crashing down whenever the lunacy gets too far adrift.

    As the gospel says, “Be not afraid”. Not because some supernatural force will come to save you from yourself, but because reality, and the universe it contains, belongs to the free and independent rational mind, which is the only instrumentality capable of understanding it.

    As I said earlier, (way too much earlier for something that was supposed to be shorthand), teach your children well. The future belongs to those with the courage, and understanding, to live life fully, as free and independent beings.

    The irrational have abandoned reality, preferring a world of ghosts and daydreams. To paraphrase Napoleon, there it lays in the gutter. Pick it up.

  • NOWAY

    For slartibartfarst and saboonsong and any other of you a/holes with the same mind – if anyone brings that poison fascist islamic religion or its stinking sharai law onto my turf and tries to shove it down my throat I aint gonna waste time thinking about it or shoving it back up their rear and it’ll be “Ice ice baby” quickern you can blink. Check before you wreck.

  • Slartibartfarst

    Does anyone else here think that Brit is doing drugs? I can’t make head nor tail of that post.

  • Slartibartfarst

    Oops, I forgot to say: Thankyou veryretired, but I don’t think you answered the main question. No-one has been able to answer it so far, so, no matter.

    Oh,and to you NOWAY, thankyou too for your comment.

  • Britt,

    I suspect you are both right and wrong.

    The state control; structures are being put in place, but others are being left open. We are seeing in Canada right now, that the control has been put in place but people are nontheless able to object. The creep in Canada will be halted, for a while at least, as it will every where else once the temperature goes up.

    As an FYI – heating up a frog does not result in a dead frog. Apply sufficient heat and the frog gets to know exactly what is happening, and does something about it.

  • Slartibartfarst

    Ah, I understand now. I think countingcats has it right – Brit is schizophrenic.
    Sorry Brit, I did not appreciate that.

  • Saboonsong,
    That might make one think. Islam doesn’t. It’s blind obedience to myriad tedious, sometimes nutty rules.

    Slarti,
    Islam has persisted for 1400 years. I do seem to recall it being defeated many times though, which is one of the reasons why it is languishing in an intellectual, technological, moral and economic cradle these days occasionally spitting it’s dummy out.

    And if the revelations of the prophet constitute an “enlightenment” then I’m not sure you know the meaning of that word.

    Oh, and can you please try and write in paragraphs rather than in something resembling a legal document. Perhaps that is why no one has answered your question? They can’t quite figure out exactly what you’re asking.

    I suspect you’re fishing for someone to concede that Islam has some kind of superiority due to it’s antiquity? Well, I don’t buy even that. Western civilization goes back to the Greeks and Romans. Hell, it goes right back to the Ionians. We had our Dark Age and have slowly built back up and exceeded our classical ancestors.

    Islam’s Dark Age started with the destruction of the Caliphate by the Mongols in the C13th (arguably the rot set in before) and doesn’t appear to be over.

    If, in the C21st, whipping rape victims who weren’t properly hijabed, hanging homosexuals, threatening cartoonists, carrying out suicide attacks, beheading journalists, murdering apostates and trying to execute teachers over the name of a Teddy Bear represents an “enlightenment” then I’m happy to stay in the dark with Descartes, Newton, Locke, Paine, Voltaire, Smith & co.

    This is the Wikipedia page on “Enlightenment”. Islam belongs under “Religion” which is not the same thing.

  • Nick, I think the reason no one answered his question is that they did not want to feed the troll.

  • I know. Sunfish sort of (and he shall remain innocent – it was my fault) gave me the idea. I know.

  • Nick,

    Wot Alisa said.

    I think you know me well enough by now to know that when the ‘I’ topic comes up I jump straight in. However, Adriana posts too little in my opinion, and when Slarti and his mate tried to derail her thread back to the same old tedious topic I chose not to take the bait.

    My feeling was that we do Adriana the courtesy of sticking to the matter she has raised. After all, I believe that the inroads of Islam are just one aspect of the overarching matter of a politicised and ideologised society. The obsession with race and multiculturalism, and the intolerance of any viewpoint that departs from the officially declared requirement of ‘tolerance’ is the open highway down which the the enemy travels.

    My feeling is that the national curriculum needs to be abolished, the schools to be set free, and the universities detached from state control. Eliminate politicisation and political control of education. That is the first goal.
    Let parents decide even what children are taught, via multiple competing curriculum bodies; let parents choose schools on the basis of what version of history, maths and French are taught. Sure Slarti and his mates will then set up madrassas, where kids come out knowing nothing bar how to recite a worthless book in a language they don’t understand, but parents who care for their children will choose schools teaching imparting worthwhile knowledge and setting worthwhile exams.
    The cure for ideologies is to let a thousand flowers bloom. And yes, I do understand the irony of using that particular quote.

  • Midwesterner

    Actually, ignoring the troll, Slurtifartburst, I hope Cats is right but Britt’s comment sure sounded spot on to me. My only source of optimism is that we may elect Obama, triggering a major case of political food poisoning causing them to vomit out the entire pork and power pack we have masquerading as a constitutional government. But like I said, that is in my optimistic moments.

  • I’m back to Budapest for a few days next month, and I shall try and visit this museum. Thanks for the pointer Adriana.

  • My only source of optimism is that we may elect Obama, triggering a major case of political food poisoning causing them to vomit out the entire pork and power pack

    Well, Carter led to Regan.

  • It wasn’t just Carter, you must go all the way back to at least FDR. And then it was Reagan, and that’s it. He was followed by Bush-read-my-lips-I, and all the rest. I’m with Paul on this.

  • Sunfish

    Just so everyone’s clear: I am not NOWAY. I know full well that he used a colloquialism in addressing one troll that I used the last time this troll popped up, but we’re not the same person and probably not related either. Even if I do like you already, NOWAY.

    Cats said:

    The cure for ideologies is to let a thousand flowers bloom. And yes, I do understand the irony of using that particular quote.

    The only problem is, when the flowers bloom, some nutbar (usually a mass-murdering pedophile, it appears) is waiting nearby with a lawnmower. And the good guys are accidentally self-immolating while trying to deal with the string trimmer.

    I haven’t been to this particular museum, or to Hungary at all. But one of the things that fascinates me is how things like this…okay, I’ll just call it ‘evil’ because that particular shoe fits this particular foot pretty well…can happen and the so-called “ordinary” people either rationalize it away or claim to have no idea that it happened. At least, they have no idea until they themselves get deported east of the Urals without a winter coat if they’re not burned at the stake for some damn thing or another.

    I mean, let’s say you have a neighbor. Until one night, when you hear screaming from his house. You look out the window and see him and his family dragged to a bus or a van. And you never see them again, never see them mentioned in the newspapers, you don’t see their names on the docket when you go to the courthouse to renew your vehicle sticker (or whatever the European equivalent)…how the hell can someone claim not to see that?

    Mid,
    If Hillary Clinton had been able to shut up, then 1994 might not have happened. That’s why I’m optimistic: Michele Obama seems to be the same combination of vociferous and downright nasty.

  • Paul Marks

    To Slartibartfast the troll (in violation of the rule about feeding trolls).

    Brit’s comment made a lot of sense – especially what he said about that wild spending “compassionate” nonentity George Walker Bush.

    And what he said about the Clintons – what good there was due to Congress (before the Republican Congress lost what principles it had), but President Clinton did manage to slip through some statism – such as SCHIP, a tiny program at the time but (like all entitlement programs) it has grown like cancer.

  • Slartibartfarst

    Ahem. I had better ‘fess up, but I shall not make any apologies just yet.

    But first, staying on the topic: The subject post is The House of Terror (by Adriana Lukas).
    That little piece of Hell on earth was an evil construct. Created by Man, it was allowed to continue to the detriment of Man, largely by Man’s ability to emulate the so-called three wise monkeys – “Hear No Evil, See No Evil, and Speak No Evil”. Turn a blind eye. Modern history shows this “blindness” being repeated in various ways, arguably one of the most despicable being appeasement.

    How else could the German Nazis be allowed the time to commit genocide of an estimated 6 million Jews? How was it that other nations did not stop the Nazis for three years from systematically rounding up the Jews, herding them like cattle into trains, and taking them to huge, purpose-built factories where not only were they enslaved, starved and then killed, but also their gold tooth fillings were scavenged for profit, their body fats were rendered into soap and their ashes used to make roads? How else could the Russian Communists get away with an arguably even larger scale of wholesale torture and murder huge numbers of people that we can only guess at today? How did the Pol Pot regime manage, during 1976 to 1979 to be allowed to murder an estimated 750,000 to 1.7 million people (up to approximately 26% of the population at that time)?

    Our inheritance is from our forefathers – we all have this blood on our hands. History repeats. We did it. We were responsible. We are and we will be responsible for doing it again. You only need to look, for example, at what we have seen in our lifetimes recently – in Yugoslavia (Serbs and Croats), and what is happening in Darfur right now.

    All this evil flows from your and my (not someone else’s) proclivity to enact fascism based on man-made political and/or religious ideology. For all I know, this may be what is known as “original sin”. You and I are the latent – or maybe already active – fascists.
    __________________________________________________

    Still on topic: The comment by “veryretired” was:

    “An ancient enemy confronts us—absolutist theology which justifies anything and everything it does by proclaiming its alignment with instructions directly from god.”

    Maybe veryretired did not feel entirely at liberty to call it what it was, but I would suggest that there is currently only one religious ideology that properly fits his/her description – Islamism. It has two foundation stones – the Koran, and Sharia law. Together, they make a near-perfect self-sustaining and self-perpetuating system. Economics is one better scheme that I can think of, but that is a set of theories to explain how things might work in practice, whereas Islamic ideology is a set of rules that dictate exactly how things will work in practice, or else. You cannot reason with an Islamist – he knows he is absolutely right. He has been taught what to think and how to think, and, instead of a hypothetical economic Law of Supply and Demand, he has the absolute and infallible word/law as laid down by Allah. Can’t argue with that – and anyway, if you do you will be executed, so it’s best to keep quiet. Before anyone says “But what about moderate Muslims?”, I should stress that there can be no such thing if you are a true believer in Islam. It’s just another oxymoron. Allah’s word does not allow for any half-measures – it is infallible, don’t forget. This is why Atatürk likened Islamism to a “cancer” in Turkish society. Don’t let that stop you turning a blind eye to it though, and deluding yourself by wishfully thinking that there are Islamic moderates who will somehow make the others see sense. Allah has commanded that the Islamic religion must be dominant in any society in which it finds itself, and so be it – by force or guile.

    Islam has persisted for 1,400 years and would seem to be ineradicable. It has had several setbacks, but is far from being defeated – quite the reverse, it is in the ascendant. By last count, there are an estimated (my figures may be off) approx. 1.6 billion Muslims or so on the planet, and approx. 1.2 billion Roman Catholics – the latter having been eclipsed for the first time on record, as the most populous religion. Atatürk would be turning in his grave to know that Islamism was now making a comeback in the secular Turkey that he had worked so hard to achieve.

    The question: If it is true – as veryreserved states, that:

    “Only free, confidently independent men and women will be able to endure such a confrontation and prevail.”

    - then, exactly how could this “prevailing” be brought about?
    __________________________________________________

    Off topic, but probably necessary: Confessions:
    1. Mary Jackson was right – she straightaway appreciated that I was being sardonic. I in turn was appreciative of the fact that she considered my analysis of Islam to be “spot on” (though I felt that it could have been improved).

    2. All my life I seem to have fought against stupidity, ignorance and bigotry – whether in myself or in others. If my discourse sometimes seems to read like a legal discussion, it may be because, some 40 years ago I developed a necessarily pedantic method of delivery for my lectures. This was because, when I first started to lecture to bright post-graduate and Ph.D. students on aspects of business principles, accounting theory, and commercial and contract law, I observed that – regardless of how bright they were – these students would often demonstrate poorly developed critical thinking skills. What held them back from cogent thought seemed to be their paradigm or their ego – things which all too often drove their responses. “My view is this…”, “I think that…”, “I agree with Mike…”, “In my opinion…” – and so on. Each time, such a phrase would be the thing that stopped the speaker short of articulating a carefully reasoned piece of thinking, focussing their native intelligence instead on rationalising whatever opinion it was that they had just uttered. Often what they said would sound great – maybe clever, witty, or disparaging – the sort of thing that is appreciated and entertaining in debates. However, as has been pointed out (de Bono et al), possibly the single biggest hold-up to our evolution is “competitive thinking” of the sort that is so praised in debates. What we often lack is the scientific approach – structured, rational, critical thinking which allows us to discover/establish truth.

    3. You can see solid evidence of critical thinking – and some of it is beautiful in its clarity and simplicity – in man-made laws and legal judgements in the Western world. For example, the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, the American Constitution, precedents set by judgements in Contract Case Law, and judgements of the British Privy Council.

    4. In this, our “Age of Enlightenment”, critical thinking was the basis of works of major historical importance that many people nowadays have never even heard of, let alone read – by, for example (a) Descartes, and (b) Thomas Paine.

    (a) Rene Descartes: “Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason, and Seeking Truth in the Sciences”. This work is one of the most influential in history. The famous phrase, “COGITO ERGO SUM” (I think, therefore I am) is a central theme. Descartes’ beliefs on that dual nature of mind and body, and his emphasis on the role of doubt in all inquiry, formed the basis for centuries of science and social thought.

    (b) Thomas Paine: (One of the greatest and formative critical thinkers affecting modern English, French and American political history) “Common Sense” (1776); “The Crisis” (1776-83), “The Rights of Man” 1791-92; and the deist-atheist text, “The Age of Reason” (1794-96).

    5. To get students (or, say, readers of a blog) to start thinking about a problem that needs to be resolved, I would employ a factual, step-by-step approach, and some elementary logic – e.g., If a=3, and a+b=8, solve on b. The solution is b=8-3 (i.e., b=5). The proof is: If a=3, and if b=5, then a+b=8.
    However, this can all seem terribly dry, boring stuff, and when problems revolve around ideas and concepts, people find it hard to remain rational and the ego kicks in, ably supported by preformed thinking habits, cherished preconceptions and beliefs, and usually accompanied by lots of name-calling, labelling, and argumentum ad hominem. To stimulate the thinking, I sometimes – perhaps mischievously – employ the technique of the Devil’s advocate, and throw in things like provocative oxymorons – e.g., in this case “the indisputable and infallible word of Allah”, or “Islamic enlightenment” (the latter being a ludicrous oxymoron in the paradigm of our so-called Age of Enlightenment). This is usually guaranteed to stir things up a quite a bit. Such fun!
    __________________________________________________

  • Slartibartfarst

    Staying on the topic: The subject post is The House of Terror (by Adriana Lukas).
    That little piece of Hell on earth was an evil construct. Created by Man, it was allowed to continue to the detriment of Man, largely by Man’s ability to emulate the so-called three wise monkeys – “Hear No Evil, See No Evil, and Speak No Evil”. Do nothing. Turn a blind eye to what is happening. Go deaf and dumb on the issues. Modern history shows this “blindness” being repeated in various ways, arguably one of the most despicable being appeasement.

    How have Nazism and Communism been allowed to thrive? How else could the German Nazis be allowed the time to commit genocide of an estimated 6 million Jews? How was it that other nations did not stop the Nazis for three years from systematically rounding up the Jews, herding them like cattle into trains, and taking them to huge, purpose-built factories where not only were they enslaved, starved and then killed, but also their gold tooth fillings were scavenged for profit, their body fats were rendered into soap and their ashes used to make roads? How else could the Russian Communists get away with an arguably even larger scale of wholesale torture and murder – of huge numbers of people that we can only guess at today? How did the Pol Pot regime manage, during 1976 to 1979 to be allowed to murder an estimated 750,000 to 1.7 million people (up to approximately 26% of the population at that time)?

    For answers, look inside yourself. Our inheritance is from our forefathers – we all have this blood on our hands. History repeats. Sometimes we belatedly rose to the challenge – e.g., WWII – and our humanity sparkled. However, where fascism existed, we did it. We were responsible. We are and we will be responsible for doing it again. You only need to look, for example, at what we have allowed in our lifetimes recently – in Yugoslavia (Serbs and Croats), and what is happening in Darfur or Zimbabwe right now. You read the news or watch TV about these things. maybe feeling impotent to help, you fix yourself another coffee. Maybe, deep down, we really just don’t care. Maybe we feel it’s all too big for us to deal with.

    Maybe we are inherently fascist. All this evil flows from your and my (not just someone else’s) inherent proclivity to passively allow the enactment, or to directly enact fascism based on man-made political and/or religious ideology. For all I know, this may be what is known as “original sin” – the destruction of free will. You and I are the latent – or maybe already active – fascists. For example, take a look look at the degrees of intellectual fascism sometimes displayed by members on this site when others display paradigms or opinions that are not agreed with. “Check before you wreck” says it all. A limbic response that is reptilian and without thought.

  • Sunfish

    Slartibartfast:

    However, where fascism existed, we did it. We were responsible. We are and we will be responsible for doing it again…You and I are the latent – or maybe already active – fascists.

    Who’s this ‘we?’ You carrying a mouse around in your pocket or something?

    You can advocate for submission to evil all you want. Note how warm a reception you got the last time you did that. This is not where you’ll find many people who are either likely to submit or likely to deserve the blame because someone else either actively did evil or put on the blinders.

    The whole idea of “Man” as a unitary entity doing anything is crap and nonsense. “Man” is really six billion or so individual people who are all doing different things. Some are invading Poland. Some are following Petain. Some are being put on trains. And some are lacing boots and straightening pins.

    You had the bad luck to go looking for a room full of victims and instead you found a bunch of pin-straighteners. SAOAFR.

  • Slartibartfarst

    Sunfish, with all due respect, I think you may have hold of the wrong end of the stick as regards something I may have written.
    I am sorry if I was not sufficiently clear about something, and I should state that I was categorically not being, and never have been an advocate for submitting to evil.

    My contention in my last post above is that we have already submitted to evil and will continue to do so as long as we continue to practice turning a blind eye to evils such as fascism.

    My concern is that whilst it may currently be harder to turn a blind eye for very long to evils such as Nazism and Communism, because we “understand” their danger and can recognise them from recent egregious historical examples for the evils that they are, other evils that we do not “understand” so well – because we are not so familiar with them from recent historical examples – could pass unnoticed until it is too late. This phenomenon is known as an availability heuristic – a heuristic being a rule-of-thumb. Our rationality is subverted by easily available sensationalist images. We become more acutely aware of dangers from readily available sensationalist images – e.g., such as the dangers of Nazi or Communist pogroms or genocide. Veryretired drew our attention to another evil when he wrote:

    “An ancient enemy confronts us—absolutist theology which justifies anything and everything it does by proclaiming its alignment with instructions directly from god.”

    Maybe veryretired did not feel entirely at liberty to call the “ancient enemy” what it was, but I would suggest that there is currently only one religious ideology that properly fits his/her description – Islamism. It is a fascist ideology, and it has two foundation stones – the Koran, and Sharia law. Together, they can be said to make a near-perfect self-sustaining and self-perpetuating system for implementing a fascist state and destroying human freedom as it is known it in the West. Economics is one better scheme that I can think of, but that is a set of theories to explain how things might work in practice, whereas Islamic ideology is a set of rules that dictate exactly how things will work in practice, or else. You cannot reason with an Islamist – he knows he is absolutely right. He has been taught what to think and how to think, and, instead of a hypothetical economic Law of Supply and Demand, he has the absolute and infallible word/law as laid down by Allah. Can’t argue with that – and anyway, if you do you will be executed, so it’s best to keep quiet. Before anyone says “But what about moderate Muslims?”, I should stress that there can be no such thing if you are a true believer in Islam. It’s just another oxymoron. Allah’s word does not allow for any half-measures – it is infallible, don’t forget. This is why Atatürk likened Islamism to a “cancer” in Turkish society.

    Don’t let that stop you being a wise monkey and turning a blind eye to it though, and deluding yourself by wishfully thinking that there are Islamic moderates who will somehow make the others see sense. Allah has commanded that the Islamic religion must be dominant in any society in which it finds itself, and so be it – by force or guile.

    That is the ancient evil that could slip past you, because of its low availability heuristic. That is the evil that the West does not seem to have a solid defence against – a systemic cancer (per Atatürk) in society. Sun Tzu wrote about the need to “know the enemy”. That still seems like good advice.

    The question is: If it is true – as veryreserved states, that:

    “Only free, confidently independent men and women will be able to endure such a confrontation and prevail.”

    - then, exactly how could this “prevailing” be brought about? Standing around passively and feeling free and confidently independent might not achieve much.

  • Slartibartfarst

    All my life I seem to have fought against stupidity, ignorance and bigotry – whether in myself or in others. If my discourse sometimes seems to read like a legal discussion, it may be because, some 40 years ago I developed a necessarily pedantic method of delivery for my lectures. This was because, when I first started to lecture to bright post-graduate and Ph.D. students on aspects of business principles, accounting theory, and commercial and contract law, I observed that – regardless of how bright they were – these students would often demonstrate poorly developed critical thinking skills. What held them back from cogent thought seemed to be their paradigm or their ego – things which all too often drove their responses. “My view is this…”, “I think that…”, “I agree with Mike…”, “In my opinion…” – and so on. Each time, such a phrase would be the thing that stopped the speaker short of articulating a carefully reasoned piece of thinking, focussing their native intelligence instead on rationalising whatever opinion it was that they had just uttered. Often what they said would sound great – maybe clever, witty, or disparaging – the sort of thing that is appreciated and entertaining in debates. However, as has been pointed out (de Bono et al), possibly the single biggest hold-up to our evolution may be “competitive thinking” of the sort that is so praised in debates. What we often lack is the scientific approach – structured, rational, critical thinking which allows us to discover/establish truth.

    To get students (or, say, readers of a blog) to start thinking about a problem that needs to be resolved, I would employ a factual, step-by-step approach, and some elementary logic – e.g., If a=3, and a+b=8, solve on b. The solution is b=8-3 (i.e., b=5). The proof is: If a=3, and if b=5, then a+b=8.

    However, this can all seem terribly dry, boring stuff, and when problems revolve around ideas and concepts, people find it hard to remain rational and the ego kicks in, ably supported by preformed thinking habits, cherished preconceptions and beliefs, and usually accompanied by lots of name-calling, labelling, and argumentum ad hominem. To stimulate the thinking, I sometimes – perhaps mischievously – employ the technique of the Devil’s advocate, and throw in things like provocative oxymorons – e.g., in this case “the indisputable and infallible word of Allah”, or “Islamic enlightenment” (the latter being a ludicrous oxymoron in the paradigm of our so-called Age of Enlightenment). This is usually guaranteed to stir things up a quite a bit. Such fun! However, it is worth it if it moves towards resolution of a knotty problem. Nearly there now.

  • Sunfish

    I’m confused. Last month we were to all submit to Islam because we couldn’t fight them on our terms. This month you’re calling for…hump this, I can’t tell what you’re trying to say. It looks like blogsturbation from here.

    If I give you a kleenex will you not crap in Adriana’s thread next time?

  • Paul Marks

    Adriana’s “House of Terror” is a very good post.

    I should have said that before and I failed to do so.

    I apologize.

  • Slartibartfarst

    Sunfish,
    I am sorry, but I can not be held responsible if you are confused by, or if you misinterpreted what I wrote in any way. I feel sure that I put it all pretty clearly. I have to admit to being disappointed by some of your responses.

  • Adriana, great post. I recently finished correcting the translation of one story, Emil Svec, an anti-commie Christian in Slovakia. After his hard prison time (early 50s), he decided to escape from commie Czechoslovakia. He stole an airplane and flew 100 km over the border to Austria, to finish his medical studies.

    But he was interested in keeping track of news, and was lured into an ambush near the border where StB agents took him to the Two Lions, a similar Slovak terror house. (I know you know…)

    Again imprisoned, he survived, was pardoned.

    How is organized evil perpetuated?
    I loved comic books most of my life, and am happy so many Marvel comics are being made into films. My single favorite line comes from the (OK, not favorite) movie Daredevil:
    Nobody is innocent.

    In a totalitarian state, or a near-future Database state, the fact that nobody is innocent means that everybody “deserves” punishment.

    The evil rulers get allies thru non-justice — work for us and you won’t get the punishment you deserve.

    A guy Emil Svec had known growing up had an Austrian wife, had visited Austria, but had been caught smuggling (women’s scarves and nylons). He had to agree to be an StB informant or else both he and his wife would be punished. He was allowed to enter Austria, befriend Svec, and then betray Svec.

    In the ambush, Svec was shot a couple of times. When they dragged him back over the border, he was treated by a doctor. A guy he had studied medicine with in Bratislava. But one who would not testify in any court on behalf of Svec, claiming: “I am a Communist first, then a doctor.”

    Nobody is innocent.
    As I write this, for the first time I see clearly its relationship to Original Sin.

    This use of guilt by the evil Commies, like the Nazis, seems to increasingly be used today by the Liberal Fascists.
    … but that’s drifting too far OT.

    I can send the whole 11 page documentary transcript, if you’re interested. It’s for a 40 min. movie made by the Slovak Institute of National Memory (where Jan Langos was the head until he was killed in an auto accident a couple years ago.)

  • Enquiring Mind

    This is to Tom Grey – Liberty Dad:
    Intriguing comment there about The House of Terror.
    You repeatedly quoted the Marvel comics’ Daredevil character (as made into a film) saying “Nobody is innocent”, and then said:

    As I write this, for the first time I see clearly its relationship to Original Sin.

    If you can get that from Daredevil, then which Marvel comic would you recommend one to read to discover the existence of God – or not, as the case may be?

    Enquiring minds need to know.