Passing Bull 242 – The ode of Trump

The Wall Street Journal once commanded respect.  It put out an editorial about the speech of Donald Trump for Independence Day.  The convention is that this is not a time for party politics or division.  The editorial called the speech a ‘familiar Fourth of July ode to liberty…..Contrary to the media reporting, the America Trump described is one of genuine racial equality and diversity…’  He described ‘a left-wing cultural revolution against traditional American values of free speech and political tolerance.’  The fault lies with ‘progressives.’

The speech contained the following.

Let us also send our deepest thanks to our wonderful veterans, law enforcement, first responders and the doctors, nurses and scientists working tirelessly to kill the virus…..

I am here as your President to proclaim, before the country and before the world, this monument will never be desecrated…..

Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children…..

Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities…..

Many of these people have no idea why they are doing this, but some know exactly what they are doing…..

This attack on our liberty, our magnificent liberty, must be stopped, and it will be stopped very quickly…..

We will expose this dangerous movement, protect our nation’s children, end this radical assault, and preserve our beloved American way of life…..

In our schools, our newsrooms, even our corporate boardrooms, there is a new far left fascism that demands absolute allegiance…..

This left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution…..

The violent mayhem we have seen in the streets and cities that are run by liberal Democrats in every case is the predictable result of years of extreme indoctrination and bias in education, journalism, and other cultural institutions……

All of that is rubbish.  But it is also vicious.  The WSJ shows how far the U S has fallen.  Not only have better people not stood up to Trump – they positively encourage him.  And Donald Trump would not know an ode from an owl.

Quite by chance, I was reading Nicholas Nickleby again and came across this passage:

There are some men who, living with the one object of enriching themselves, no matter by what means, and being perfectly conscious of the baseness and rascality of the means which they will use every day towards this end, affect nevertheless—even to themselves—a high tone of moral rectitude, and shake their heads and sigh over the depravity of the world.  Some of the craftiest scoundrels that ever walked this earth, or rather—for walking implies, at least, an erect position and the bearing of a man—that ever crawled and crept through life by its dirtiest and narrowest ways, will gravely jot down in diaries the events of every day, and keep a regular debtor and creditor account with Heaven, which shall always show a floating balance in their own favour.  Whether this is a gratuitous (the only gratuitous) part of the falsehood and trickery of such men’s lives, or whether they really hope to cheat Heaven itself, and lay up treasure in the next world by the same process which has enabled them to lay up treasure in this—not to question how it is, so it is.

Bloopers

Ember quotes the law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, the theorist of intersectionality, marveling at the change: ‘You basically have a moment where every corporation worth its salt is saying something about structural racism and anti-blackness, and that stuff is even outdistancing what candidates in the Democratic Party were actually saying.’

New York Times, 24 June, 2020

What says your theory of intersectionality?

Passing Bull 239 – Evasion

 

The litigation around the attempted takeover of BHP in 1985 was as fierce as I have seen.  I acted for Robert Holmes a Court.  He was the coolest business man I have known – so cool, that you never knew what might happen next.  (Some lawyers wondered if they should seek instructions from the newspapers.)  When asked what he thought of his opposite number, the CEO of BHP, Brian Loton, Holmes a Court said that he was ‘basically honest.’  Imagine a circular playing field.  Within it is another circle.  What happens if you land in the outer area?  What happens with the honesty of Mr Loton if he is outside his ‘basic’ part?

There you see language used to allow what we call ‘wriggle room’.  We can see a similar possibility of doubt about the reach of a denial.  If someone claims I owe him $10, and I believe I am only liable to pay $5, do I acknowledge a debt of $5 or do I simply deny that I owe $10 or any part of that amount?   The rules of our civil procedure seek to encourage candour by seeking to bar evasive denials, but the timidity of lawyers usually leads to a blanket denial.

There is controversy about the behaviour of police in the U S.  They are close to a crisis in looking at how police respond to people of colour.  The President and others have denied that there is ‘systemic racism.’  Do you see the capacity for an evasive denial?  Are you denying that there is any racism or are you saying that any such racism is not ‘systemic’?

The problem is worse here because both the terms ‘racism’ and ‘systemic’ are so slippery.  ‘Racism’ here probably means something like – because white police officers think that black people are inferior to white people, they treat black people with less respect for their civil rights than they treat white people.  But if that is alleged against white police officers at large, then it does look like such attitudes come from the ‘system’ of the police.  How then could any such ‘racism’ be anything other than ‘systemic’?

With so much of what passes for public discourse now, you do wonder if people get slippery by design or habit.  Good grief, might the problem be systemic?

Bloopers

‘Looting leads to shooting, and that’s why a man was shot and killed in Minneapolis on Wednesday night – or look at what just happened in Louisville with 7 people shot. I don’t want this to happen, and that’s what the expression put out last night means,’ Trump said.

The president added, ‘It was spoken as a fact, not as a statement.’

The Guardian, 30 May 2020.

In particular, you know what also makes a major contribution to the quality of life? Not dying.

New York Times, 30 May, 2020

Passing Bull 238 – Abstractions – again

 

There was such a thing as the Declaration of Independence.  It was a lengthy written statement signed by many people.  There was no such thing as the French Revolution.  Rather that is the name – or label or category or description – applied to a series of events in France over a period of time, for the duration of which there is no agreement, as a result of which the whole structure of government in France was destroyed with violence and differently put back together again – and again, and again.

On 14 July 1789, the bourgeoisie of Paris did nothing that we can relate.  The most we can say is that some citizens who may or may not have answered that description – and there is no agreement on the criteria by which that term may be applied – engaged in a riot that led to the fall of the Bastille – an event that many take to symbolise the series of events to which we apply the label of the French Revolution.

Similarly, there is no such thing as socialism, fascism, or capitalism –or liberalism, conservatism, or progressivism.  Each of those words stands for a name, label, category or description for some kinds of social, political or economic aspiration or behaviour.  And the criteria, such as they are, for the first three boxes are far more settled than that for the last three.  The position is even more obscure with that old left/right distinction.

We are speaking of abstractions.  The concrete is material and specific.  The abstract is the ideal and general.  The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy says:

Many philosophies are nervous of a realm of abstract entities…Friends of abstract objects say that there is nothing wrong with referring to them, but we must not make the mistake of imagining them to be especially large or spread-out kinds of concrete object.

Bertrand Russell came close to making that kind of mistake.

If we ask ourselves what justice is, it is natural to proceed by considering this, that and the other just act with a view to discovering what they have in common.  They must all, in some sense, partake of a common nature, which will be found in whatever is just and nothing else.

If I want a blue table, I can go and buy a can of Dulux and paint it.  But I cannot do anything like that to get a fair (just) result in a dispute I have to decide.  Fairness is an epithet to be applied by looking at how that assessment has been made or justified in the past.

So, if we find words like ‘socialism’ or ‘liberalism’ being applied as if they were some kind of thing that has a life or force of its own, then we may be looking at thinking that is at best sloppy.

Consider then the headings and final paragraphs of pieces by Paul Kelly, Greg Sheridan and Chris Kenny in The Weekend Australian (6 June, 2020.)

Kelly

The Uncivil War Killing Liberalism

The US riots are symptomatic of a disease spreading across the West.

Twenty years [after 1999] it is obvious that those shared values are gravely undermined and equally obvious that liberal democracy is no longer working properly.  History, however, suggests liberalism has been in worse trouble at various times in the past.  Its demise has been frequently predicted but such predictions always misjudged its immense recuperative ability.

Sheridan

US protests not about race but disadvantage

The liberal media has got it all wrong on America

The U S is not systemically racist.  Despite its history, it is systemically anti-racist.  If the liberal elites, who more or less hate the U S on principle, push the systemic racism line long enough and hysterically enough, they may create the reality they claim to oppose.

Kenny

Trump attackers as ignorant and shallow as he is

Millennials, fuelled by the media, are trying to blame centuries of division on just one man

Democrat activists are now proudly cheering ‘defund the police’ along with lawless mobs.  The liberal left and the media/political class might realise all too late, that they are fostering a clear-cut law-and-order debate in an election year and putting themselves on the wrong side of it.

May the Lord have mercy on those infected with the liberalism espied by these commentators.  They put me in mind of a song of Anne Murray that my daughters grew up with: ‘Hey Daddy…. there’s a hippo in my bathtub.’  (She also does a fine Teddy Bears’ Picnic and, I think, Dorabella in Cosi fan tutte.)  It is as if the three commentators are competing to allow abstractions to drive their commentary and go for as long as possible without committing to one verifiable statement of fact.

Just what any of them may have had in mind is not easy to pick.  Mr Kelly says ‘liberalism means equality before the law regardless of race, equal access to health care and education on the principle of universalism.’  Over the page we get: ‘The essence of liberalism has been treating people as people regardless of race, gender or sex, religion age and ethnicity.’  Who would oppose that essence?  But equal access to health care does not exist in the US, whereas the quickest way to commit political suicide in Australia would be to call universal health into question or to seek to impose universal education provided by government.

Yet we get a citation of an American observer: ‘The thesis is that liberalism is to blame for the decline of religious faith and the destruction wrought by progressive morality….In practice (it) generates titanic inequality, enforces uniformity, fosters material and spiritual degradation and undermines freedom.’  Golly.  Mr Sheridan sees hysteria; so does Mr Kenny.  ‘The hysterical obsession with Trump and the endless hyperbole about him demeans those spewing it and distracts from the central issues.’ Yes, ‘spewing’ is the word.

For the reasons given, the articles that I have set out above do not in my view make sense.  And there is something ineffably patronising about the reaction of these people to both climate change and Trump.  ‘Yes, yes, Dear Boy, there is a problem….. but don’t go over the top.  If you do, you will be consigned to join the ‘liberal elites’ or ‘the media/political class’.  And then you might be branded as a Guardian reader.  You can trust us.  We’ve been around longer than the liberals and progressives. We have seen it all before and we will continue to call it just as we see it.’

It is not ideas or labels that make history – our story.  It is people who make history.  That proposition is as simple as it is inevitable, but people, who should know better, either forget it or choose to ignore it.  Sir Lewis Namier knew as much about writing history as anyone.  He said this:

The basic elements of the Imperial Problem during the American Revolution must be sought not so much in conscious opinions and professed views bearing directly on it, as in the very structure and life of the Empire; and in doing that, the words of Danton should be remembered – ‘on ne fait pas le procès aux révolutions’ [There is no fixed process for revolutions].  Those who are out to apportion guilt in history have to keep to views and opinions, judge the collisions of planets by the rules of road traffic, make history into something like a column of motoring accidents, and discuss it in the atmosphere of a police court.

So, the next time someone lobs an –ism at you, ask them if it was wearing blue suede shoes.  If it was, the imperative of Elvis may or may not have been honoured.

Bloopers

The MP in question is George Christensen, the Queensland National. It’s no great insight to observe George blows hard. George talks a big game, and here he is, talking a big game on the reddest, hottest, political issue of the moment – Australia’s fraying relationship with our largest trading partner. George has given the matter some reflection, and he thinks ‘we can keep giving in to China’s threats, and selling off our country, or we can make a stand for our sovereignty’ – and he’d very much like you to write him and take his survey.

The Guardian, 23 May, 2020                                       

Community takes precedence over the individualistic liberalistic atomising tendencies of the egoism of the individual.

Hans Frank, cited in East West Street.

Well, did you know that they do a nice line in sovereignty at Manila?

Passing Bull 238–Execution

 

During the lockdown, a new fad has appeared on footy panel shows.  The panel wear headphones.  Do they want a replay of the Dam Busters? While watching cricket replays I came across another fad.  At a critical point in the game, for batsman (‘batter’ is better left to baseball) or bowler, we get solemnly told that ‘execution’ is essential.  ‘Execution’ there means bowling the ball or playing a shot.  That is what the whole bloody game is about.  The word ‘execution’ adds nothing.  As do those ‘War Room’ analyses where people solemnly intone about tactics and strategy after the event and in a manner that suggests that footballers have boned up on Clausewitz On War.  They occasionally make plausible comments on strategy in Rugby Union, but when they do that for the NRL, we know that we are in Fantasyland.

Bloopers

The MP in question is George Christensen, the Queensland National. It’s no great insight to observe George blows hard. George talks a big game, and here he is, talking a big game on the reddest, hottest, political issue of the moment – Australia’s fraying relationship with our largest trading partner. George has given the matter some reflection, and he thinks ‘we can keep giving in to China’s threats, and selling off our country, or we can make a stand for our sovereignty’ – and he’d very much like you to write him and take his survey.

The Guardian, 23 May, 2020

There you have a politician who is unlovely as it gets.  He has a passion for bull whips, God, and whatever he can get in the Philippines.  And ‘sovereignty’ is the first retreat of the inane.

Passing Bull 237–Category mistakes and the virus

 

What philosophers call a ‘category mistake’ arises when ‘things or facts of one kind or category are presented as if they belonged to another.’  Put differently, it is a mistake to ascribe to some object a characteristic that belongs to objects of a different category.  Such as, this piano has a pink sound, or these mice are neurotic.  Or treating God as human or calling a symphony ‘socialist’ – or ‘capitalist’.  Or using political values to evaluate science.

Some examples appear from the following piece in The New York Times, where reactions to the corona virus, an issue for the objective science of medicine, are treated as if the virus was an issue of partisan party politics and the financial hunger of Fox News.

What are some of the forces driving the split between those who prioritize the economy and those whose primary concern is the physical health of the population?

A W Wilcox, a sociologist at the University of Virginia, emailed in response to my inquiry:

‘Progressives have grown more likely to embrace a culture of ‘safetyism’ in recent years. This safetyism seeks to protect them and those who are deemed the most vulnerable members of our society from threats to their emotional and physical well-being.’

In the case of Covid-19, he continued,

‘…progressives are willing to embrace the maximal measures to protect themselves, the public, and the most vulnerable among us from this threat’.

In contrast, according to Wilcox,

‘….many conservatives are most concerned about protecting the American way of life, a way of life they see as integrally bound up with liberty and the free market’.

Because many on the political right see the lockdowns as impinging ‘on their liberty, the free market’s workings, and their financial well-being,’ he continued, ‘many conservatives want the lockdowns ended as quickly as possible.’

In addition, Wilcox noted, ‘some (especially male) conservatives see the lockdowns and mask wearing as expressions of cowardice that they reject as unmanly.’

Labels are dangerous enough at the best of times, but when you take them from the wrong box, you get the kind of intellectual mayhem described in the article.

Of course, politics come into it when a government considers what powers it should invoke to deal with the pandemic.  But the first thing to do is to get the best medical advice on how to deal with it.

Then there is the problem with experts.  If a doctor is the only thing between you and death, you lap up his or her expertise as gratefully as you can – especially if you do not understand it but proceed on faith.  But if the issue is one for the community at large, then many want us to place our faith on the basis of some ideological divide.  That may just be the biggest category mistake of the lot.

One reason for the aversion of some to expertise is that they fear that it is the gateway to government intervention.

Another reason is, in my view, raw arrogance born of unnerving insecurity.  In professional people, that reaction is lethal.  Among the politically driven, it looks sadly inevitable.

And the worst offenders – serial offenders – are those rigid souls in think tanks clustered at an uncomely part of the spectrum.  Their indoctrination, both emotive and intellectual, means that they see the world through their own made-to-order prism, and the result is that they are both predictable – nauseatingly predictable – and wrong.

Bloopers

I like this stuff. I really get it… People are surprised that I understand it. Every one of these doctors said ‘How do you know so much about this?’

New York Times, 21 May 2020

The President knows best.  Who needs doctors?

Passing Bull 236–Other causes

 

In a book about how to think and how to write (as yet unpublished) Chris Wallace-Crabbe and I said:

One form of fallacy recurs all the time in political argument.  ‘The State should not worry about the welfare of children being brought up by same‑sex parents – just look at the mess that so many heterosexual parents make of bringing up their own children.’  ‘Don’t worry about dying of lung cancer from smoking – you can just as easily die from heart or liver failure from drinking.’  If the argument is that it is good to avoid harm of a certain kind flowing from one kind of conduct or cause, it is immaterial to that argument whether the same or a similar kind of harm may flow from another kind of conduct or cause.  One of the arguments against the English abolishing slavery was that if the English did not do it, others would.  Coal miners say that if we don’t dig it up, others will.  When you state the position like this, the argument is obviously a fallacy – but you hear it all the time. 

It is astonishing to see how many people pursue this fallacy with a view to putting economics above people with Cofid-19.  We are solemnly told more people die in car accidents or, in the States, by gunshot wounds.  It is worse than astonishing – it is revolting.

Bloopers

Regarding the decision to block Fauci from appearing in Congress, a White House spokesman, Judd Deere, said: “While the Trump administration continues its whole-of-government response to Covid-19, including safely opening up America again and expediting vaccine development, it is counterproductive to have the very individuals involved in those efforts appearing at congressional hearings.

“We are committed to working with Congress to offer testimony at the appropriate time.”

An unnamed senior administration official told the Washington Post the White House was “not muzzling” Fauci, because he is expected at a Senate hearing about testing the following week.

The Australian, 4 May 2020.

And they will continue that whole-of-government response by getting rid of the Task Force, that is, people who know what they are doing and who are not dishonest.

Passing Bull 235– Intolerance

 

The discussion about George Pell is like that about climate change – and, as it happens, you tend to see the same people on each side.  It is like watching a collision between Collingwood and Carlton supporters – you are either IN or you are OUT.  There is no middle ground.  People crave certainty – that is why they are suckers for simplicity – like the inane edicts of Donald Trump or the superficial nostrums of people like Nigel Farage or Boris Johnson.  (The twentieth century versions were much, much, worse.)  Too many people lack what Keats called ‘negative capability’ – they feel threatened if they are left in doubt.  We go to the footy because there we can be irrational – but we are looking for deep trouble if we go the polls with that mind-set.  Talking to such people is like addressing a brick wall.  The insecurity of these people makes them clam up.  The result is both unseemly and unsettling, but this poisoning of our public life just seems to keep getting worse.

Leafing through An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, published by David Hume fifty years before white settlement here, I read a word perfect description of this condition.

The greater part of mankind are naturally apt to be affirmative and dogmatical in their opinions; and while they see objects only on one side, and have no idea of any counterpoising argument, they throw themselves precipitately into the principles, to which they are inclined; nor have they any indulgence for those who entertain opposite sentiments. To hesitate or balance perplexes their understanding, checks their passion, and suspends their action. They are, therefore, impatient till they escape from a state, which to them is so uneasy: and they think, that they could never remove themselves far enough from it, by the violence of their affirmations and obstinacy of their belief. But could such dogmatical reasoners become sensible of the strange infirmities of human understanding, even in its most perfect state, and when most accurate and cautious in its determinations; such a reflection would naturally inspire them with more modesty and reserve, and diminish their fond opinion of themselves, and their prejudice against antagonists. The illiterate may reflect on the disposition of the learned, who, amidst all the advantages of study and reflection, are commonly still diffident in their determinations: and if any of the learned be inclined, from their natural temper, to haughtiness and obstinacy, a small tincture of Pyrrhonism [scepticism] might abate their pride, by showing them, that the few advantages, which they may have attained over their fellows, are but inconsiderable, if compared with the universal perplexity and confusion, which is inherent in human nature. In general, there is a degree of doubt, and caution, and modesty, which, in all kinds of scrutiny and decision, ought for ever to accompany a just reasoner.

The Scottish philosopher compares the reaction of the ‘illerate’ to that of the ‘learned’, and that reaction reminds us of the dour immovability of a spoiled child.  As it happens, a mistrust of experts also infects our public discussion.  We got used to it with climate change and we now have to put up with the same dummy spit on a pandemic.  We might wonder whether anything more than jealousy is in play here – but we are in deep trouble when a general mistrust of expertise – that is, advanced knowledge – may infect decisions of life and death.  If you have to rely on a pilot to bring you down safely during an electrical storm over Hong Kong, you are not inclined to belittle his tally of hours flying.

And for the removal of doubt, this intolerance of doubt is lethal in a professional person like a doctor or lawyer.

Bloopers

Malcolm Turnbull’s term as prime minister ended because his personal convictions were at odds with core Liberal Party values, and it showed.

The Australian, 20 April, 2020, Jennifer Oriel.

Offhand can you imagine bullshit more certifiable than ‘core values’?

Passing Bull 234 – Postscript

Postscript

According to the press today (14 April), one Australian economist said ‘savings tens of thousands of lives was a drop in the ocean compared to the long-lasting disaster caused by economic collapse’ and another said ‘What matters in these sorts of analysis is whether a life at 80 years old, beleaguered by multiple pre-existing conditions, is equivalent to a 20-year-old with their whole life left to live.’

If these quotes are in context, they are appalling.  It is putting the dollar above life and espousing the notion that moral issues can be solved by arithmetic.  While studying eugenics, did they take time out with Mein Kampf?  At least we know that our doctors are precluded from this espousal of doing harm.

Passing Bull 234– An inarticulate premise

 

Last week I asked if I were a mere statistic.  Well, I may be.  The basis of our logic is a syllogism.  You have a major premise (All men are equal), a minor premise (Socrates is a man) from which the conclusion (Therefore Socrates is mortal) follows ineluctably. You quite often see arguments where a premise is not articulated.  That is not necessarily sinister.  Take an example.  ‘The team consists of fat players.  Therefore it will lose.’  The unstated premise is something like ‘Fat players are not as good as players of normal weight.’

In reporting in the press on the deaths caused by the virus, there may be unconsciously a related thinking process.  We see reports of deaths in one country regularly exceeding one thousand in a day.  That is roughly the equivalent of deaths caused by four major airline crashes, or about half the total fatalities of the attacks on the twin towers.  Any of those would get screaming headlines day after day.  How did we get so blasé about all this death?

There are I think at least two factors.  One is that it is not happening to us.  (And, on a bad day, it is happening in places where life is cheap.  You will hear hardly anything of the toll in Africa.)  The other is I think an unexpressed sentiment.  Most of these deaths are among the old and decrepit who were on their way out anyway.

On behalf of the old and decrepit who might be said to be on the way out, I protest!

News cycles are funny.  We all know the line about tomorrow’s fish and chips.  Until about six weeks ago, the unrest in Hong Kong was near the top of the BBC news every evening.  Since then – nothing.  Et praeterea nihil.  Why?  It is hard to imagine that the unleashing of the virus has endeared the regime to the youth of Hong Kong.  Have they all just drifted into acquiescence?

Bloopers

The government’s massive fiscal intervention in the Australian economy, entirely justified by the gravity of the COVID-19 crisis, will change centre-right politics in this country forever…

A strong government to build a strong nation need not mean anything like socialism.

But that is a danger.

Greg Sheridan, The Australian, 1 April., 2020

What might the word ‘socialism’ mean there?  Mandatory affordable health care, or some other demon of American wasteland?  Is that dangerous?

Passing Bull 233 – Am I a mere statistic?

 

In the discussion about the virus that threatens the world, we can see two sides forming.  One wants all possible steps to be taken by government now to stop the spread and reduce the risk.  The other favours less intervention with a view to keeping the economy going for as long as decently possible.  If you put it that way, a lot depends on the scope of the term ‘decently.’

Those on the side of the economy – if I can put it that way – are fond of quoting statistics.  They refer to other causes of death.  Death from this virus may or may not be excelled by deaths by influenza, pneumonia, road accident, or gun use, in the United States.  But how is that a reference to one cause of death might logically affect the way that we deal with another cause of death?

I have to confess a personal interest.  By reason of my age and health – especially the heart and the lungs – I would be a luscious target for the virus, and one of the first to be thrown overboard if those in control determined that the life boats were insufficient and that they had to decide who should be saved – which is, as I understand it, the position in at least Italy right now.  While it may be possible to envisage such a phase of death-sentencing triage, allowing people to play God over the lives of other people is abhorrent to any reasonable notion about the rule of law, or, for that matter, civilisation.  In the fullness of time, I will be a statistic.  But it is appalling to think that other people might see themselves as empowered to say when my humanity should succumb to arithmetic.

Some colour is given to the argument for the economy by saying that we are at ‘war’ with the virus.  The short answer is that government cannot claim new rights or powers, that affect our rights and powers, merely by claiming to affix a different label.  And we should remember not just the hollowness but the danger of the term ‘war on terror.’  The results were not pretty.

And while I am about it, the Second World War was a real war, but for the most part parliament kept its normal routine. There is something than worse than odd in suggesting that this crisis makes parliament unnecessary.

In a book about Terror and the Police State, I said:

In his book Bloodlands, Professor Snyder estimates that Hitler and Stalin murdered more than fourteen million people between Berlin and Moscow in twelve years.  While it may be within the power of the human mind to plan murder on such a scale, it is hardly within our power to comprehend the human evil that is required – or of the injury to mankind…….

If you accept as an article of faith that each of us has our own dignity or worth just because we are human, then it is wrong for anyone to treat anyone else as a mere number.  We are at risk of doing just that when we seek to compile numbers of the victims of the three regimes that we have been looking at. 

The essential crime of both Hitler and Stalin was that they degraded humanity by denying the right to dignity, by denying the very humanity, of people beyond count – by denying the humanity of one man, woman, and child multiplied to our version of infinity.  Every one of those victims – every one – had a life and a worth that came with that life that was damaged or extinguished.  …..Professor Richard Snyder endorsed the proposition that ‘the key to both National Socialism and Stalinism was their ability to deprive groups of human beings of their right to be regarded as human,’ and when we descend to statistics, we might do the same. 

In short, a government that treats me or anyone else as a disposable statistic resembles those governments that we least admire.

Bloopers

But if the present crisis does not convince our leaders of the dangers of big government, nothing will.

The Australian, 27 March, 2029, Maurice Newman

It is a terrible time to be a small government ideologue.

The Guardian, 28 March 2020, Katherine Murphy

Those quotes might stand for the difference between two media groups on the current crisis.  It is frankly hard to see our present trials as an ad for less government.  And it is appalling to think that a government appointed Mr Newman as Chair of the ABC.