Evil and its forgiveness
This is small talk.
I (BMcC[18-11-46-503]) took a course as an undergraduate student on Hegel's "Phenomenology of Spirit". Most of it I did not understand. I read the Introduction, even in the original German, the latter: summa cum difficultate, and I think I understood that fairly well. It was also succinct. There was one chapter of the book which, I think I understood very well, and it has been at the center of my thinking and living for the rest of my life: "Evil and its Forgiveness". At least I think I understand it, and what I think I understand is focally meaningful for myself.
To sum it up in one sentence: I see this story as a condemnation of all asymmetrical social relations and an affirmation of mutual peer respect among persons, and this, not just as theory, but as practice, i.e., a CEO does not just give an unemployed person a handout but gives him or her a hand up → into the executive suite for the rest of their lives.
I see this story in "The Phenomenology of Spirit" it as a condemnation on principle of all asymmetrical interpersonal relationships, including but not limited to: employer-employee, teacher-student, leader-follower, most parent-child, etc. I see it as an affirmation of such symmetrical interpersonal relationships as: "Friends have all things in common". I see it as a radically "subversive" story, an affirmation of what a Marxist society should be: not either Stalinism (Putinism) or Reaganism ("Mitch" McConnellism, in 2020).
What is the story?
The story is simple. A gentleman has a butler. The butler, of course, knows who the gentleman really is, because he sees the man naked both physically, in helping him to get dressed each morning, and also metaphorically, becasue he hears the man expressing his true thoughts and feelings when the man is "off camera". The gentleman may even confide in his butler that he thinks the people he flatters all day are fools he jerks around because they are stupid, uncouth and gullible. The butler, of couse, never says anything abot these things to anybody (else he would be summarily fired). The butler knows the gentleman is a hypocrite.
The gentleman realizes he has been a hypocrite in treating the butler as a servant and not as a fellow human person. The gentleman apologizes and ceases to be a boss to the now used-to-be a butler. The butler, however, in his turn, recognizes that in knowing his boss was a hypocrite but treating him like a king to keep his job, has also been a hypocrite himself, who has not admitted his own failings as a person to his now used-to-be boss. The gentleman and his butler each accept the apology from the other; the two have reconciled as peer human persons. This is the real, not cutsie smiling little Pollyannas flying over the sugarplum rainbow etc., kitsch, happy ending. Hegel writes this is:
"God appearing in the midst of those who know themselves in the form of pure knowledge."
Jurgen Habermas, John Wild and probably others such as Hans-Georg Gadamer would say: "we are dialogue", or similar words.
A philosophy professsor pontificating this ideation, from a podium,to a group of students beneath him or her, busy taking notes to regurgitate back on their forthcoming class examinaton is one obvious example ofwhat I am talking about here. I seem to recall that I pointed this out to Professor Wild when he was lecturing about "freedom", and, again, if I remember correctly, he respectfully and apologetically replied that he meant no harm. It is possible.
An individuated person is good; groupings of people are bad (Waldo is human; "Where's Waldos" are dehumanized)
A slight extension of the Hegelean story: A peer to peer interpersonal relationship is simply not posssible in a large group. Not all persons can be heard. Soon enough one gets representatives who distill the discourse of a number of persons into their personal voice. The President of The United States speaks for 3.28 * 10 ** 8 persons. The 3.2 * 10 ** 8 are all Where's Waldos. A soloist musician playing for an audience of 4 is good. A symphony playng to a full house at The Kennedy Center (Washington D.c.) or Lincoln Center (New York City) is not a situation of one-to-one discourse, musical or otherwise.
It's even worse than theory in the case of symphony musicians. here was a long New Yorker magazing article (ref. lost), some years ago, about the bad worrking conditions of symphony musicians. They never hear the music until they retire. The musicians who are positioned near the percussion section suffer permanent hearing damage and try to protect themselve fro the percussion noise by deploying such things as the cardboard cartons household refrigerator are shipped in. That' not jut philosophical degradation; it's otological pathology. And the members of the audience blithely wear their evening dresses and tuxedos. Merry! Merry!
Something else interesting here
Everybody knows that the slave has been dehumanized. I, of course, would argue that the wage laborer (who may be a white-collar person with a graduate degree) is dehumanized too. All asymmetrical social relations are dehumanizing to the person on the receiving end because the latter has been reduced to an object to be disposed over by the persons on the disposing end, like other raw material inputs to the production process.
But the correlate of this is also true. The slave owner and the boss, up thru the CEO, are also dehumanized, albeit less grievously. They are treating human persons as objects, which is a category mistake, so they are living at a lower level of existence than they themselves could have, by actualizing this falsification. They have also thus denied themselves the opportunity for peer-to-peer communication, indeed, they have actively destroyed this possibility. And, yes, they have peer-to-peer relations with their fellow disposers, but, when you open the door a crack, maybe it will open all the way: Who will be reduced to an object next/? True peer-to-peer friendship is inversely related to having to secretly keep up one's guard. This all is not ennobling, even if the persons who are doing it have no idea they could do better.
The logical conclusion, if social hierarchy is a pyramid, is that the person at the top has nobody to be his or her or other's friend. I have always regretted not capturing the reference, but somebody said: "God reigns in sorrow." He could have had maybe Adam and Eve, but definitely the master builders at Babel for His peers in discourse, i.e., friends. (He made them mortal? Maybe he did the best He could do, and sincerely apologize.) The master builders at Babel presumably had practice in peer-to-peer discourse in their guild. If He is lonely (and He cannot be his own good company any more than a person can give themself a benediction), He has earned it.
A boss walking thru his factory should expect to be discreetly monitored by everybody there, for they must be on guard what might happen to them if he gets an itch and scratches it. An exception, perhaps, is Oskar Schindler, who saved many concentration camp inmates from the gas chamber by providing them the cover of being essential employees. Mr. CEO, what death camp are you saving your employees from? Teach, what death camp are you saving your pupils from by grading them like beef? God reigns in sorrow; are you above God? Just what do you think "your" employees / pupils would do with you if they ever figurted out the situation and had power to do something about it? Watch Sergie Eisenstein's film "The Battleship Potemkin", and observe what happens to the ship's physician officer who certified maggot infested meat as fit for the sailors to eat.
I (BMcC[18-11-46-503]) have reached the point in my life that if anything is not self-reflective, it's not worth it unless I must do it " ". Show me the instrumentss of torture, and, like Galileo Galilei, I wll say: "Yes, massa'". What does this mean here and now? It means I do not "do" any Internet social medium except Quora, where specific perons ask specific questions and specific persons respond to the questions. I do not "follow " anybody, and I do not solicit anyone to "follow" me. For over 20 years, until my ISP decided web hoseing was not profitable for them and so SOL (Shit Out of Luck), I built a large public personal website, with my email address prominently displayed on every page. Tolle, lege! (St. Augustine) "Seed corn scattered to the wind; knowledge for whoever finds" (Norbert Elias). I do not participate in Mass Protests for Good Causes, even before pandemic, because I find such stuff demeaning. I do not want to be a zero, aka: a Where's Waldo. I used to listen to high-brow classical orchestral music on recordings, but no more. "Thank God" Josquin des Prez's "Missa Pange Lingua" means: Mass for 4 voices, because it has been my favorite of all music and would not want to give it up, but I would have given it up now if it was for more than 8 voices. Period.
How Good Causes can be furthered without concurrently degrading persons' dignity
If people want to protest anything, first of all they should become persons. Instead of being bipedal donuts, they should say, along with the woman who as a toddler was the poster child for her father's donut business said (whether for real or just in a cartoon, I am not clear):
"First of all, I'm Debbie the person!"
Then, if they want to do a public demonstration they should appoint one person, or at most one representative from each gender they consider to be among them, to walk solumnly with at least 50 feet social distance, to the target of the demonstration as a symbolic figure, with all the media super-telephoto llenses focussed on that person, and the rest let their fingers do the walking in emails or similar. Can you imagine how awe inspiring that would be, unlike the anthropoid colloidal suspensions of Where's Waldos we have today?
"Yoon Sung-yeo was sentenced to life for a crime he did not commit in South Korea. He was able to clear his name after a notorious serial killer confessed last year." (The New York Times online, 17Dec20)
This picture of this man, with the explanation, which begins the article, should be pasted all over classrooms, courts, corporate board rooms and many other places in The United States of America as an example of honorable action for all Americans to aspire to.
Here is a person who made a mistake, and who has taken it to heart and publicly shown shame. He's not weaseling out. He's not minimizing what may at the time have been at least partly understandable even if not miraculously sagacious.
In 2006 I wore a mask on Metro North and was scared I would suffer harm. Today I would fear greeting someone with an honoring bow, although that is what I would like to do.
This is probably a contentious topic. Certainly in reality most servants get crapped on. But which is more honorable and which would you, my reader, prefer to be: (A) A white collar computer programmer working, "at will" or per diem, on billing application for advertising agencies and headhunters? Or: (B) A well paid (with benefits) housekeeper for a world class cardiac surgeon, whose hands save lives each day and whose focus in the operating theater is best assured by having nothing but unfettered leisure outside it?
In the first case, you would be earning an EFT transfer and little else from your daily life, indeed, maybe in a big room of banal cubicles and even maybe a micro-managing boss breathing down your neck and demanding weekly status reports, where you would have to figure out how to make nothing look like prograss. In the second case you would be contributing to the life and health of several persons each of your employer's working days, and doing your work perhaps in a home that was also an art museum, and makbe with fewer dead-lines (deadlies kill).
Of course I am presenting a somewhat unrealistic picture of the servant's life here, and an all too realistic picture of the white-collar wage-slave. But that could be fixed with some dollars, of which, presumably, a world class heart surgeon has more than a few, and hopefully he has a non-cardiac heart.
But I have not yet finished setting up the question space: Suppose you are not a deep scholar or a great artist yourself, but just an "ordinary Joe" or "ordinary Jane", i.e.: that there is no way you yourself could be a world class anything (e.g.: above, right)? If you could be a world class something or other of value, of course, you should be neither a servant nor a wage-slave. There's the question.
The challenge for all persons with power over any other person, e.g., a parent over a child or a manager over an employee is:
How can you so exercise your power as to enhance the life of the person(s) over whom you have that power? How can you make their lives better, happier, more fulfilling?
I'm not asking you to cut the flesh off your bones while you are still alive to feed the poor. A person can live a fulfilled life on middle-class money, can't they? But if you are a billionaire, might you be able to make do with, say, $5,000,000? If to save one life is to save the whole world, you need not even part with a single penny. just reach a hand down to help a fellow mortal up. If he (she, other) is dirty, give them some wet-naps first before grabbing thier hand, or even put on surgical gloves. You don't have to want to go to bed with somebody do help them. You don't have to go hungry to feed them (at least not usually in civilized countries). If it's no skin off your ass, what could be more gratifying than to see you have given another person the opportunity to succeed in their life? Or is all the sentimentality about teaching being a rewarding profession just agitprop to try to keep from having to pay teachers what they are worth? Would Aristotle have had a more rewarding life and contributed more to humanity and civilization by working as a trader for Goldman Sachs?
Try a thought experiment. Do you think the employees of Amazon are amenable to reason, or they all just people who hate anybody who has more money than them and want to tear down civilization? If the former, then consider this: Suppose you converted the whole company into workers' soviets, i.e.: direct worker ownership and management. Do you think the collectivity of the work force would have a problem giving you $5,000,000 if you earned it by inventing something that would save each and every one of them an hour's labor per day? Amazon has 1.3 million mployeees. That would be less than $4 per employee for a gain of 1 whole hour of living for each employee per day. A fair reward for your genius?