Quote of the day—Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn

To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he’s doing is good, or else that it’s a well-considered act in conformity with natural law. Fortunately, it is in the nature of the human being to seek a justification for his actions.

Macbeth’s self-justifications were feeble—and his conscience devoured him. Yes, even Iago was a little lamb too. The imagination and the spiritual strength of Shakespeare’s evildoers stopped short at a dozen corpses. Because they had no ideology.

Ideology—that is what gives evildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination. That is the social theory which helps to make his acts seem good instead of bad in his own and others’ eyes, so that he won’t hear reproaches and curses but will receive praise and honors. That was how the agents of the Inquisition fortified their wills: by invoking Christianity; the conquerors of foreign lands, by extolling the grandeur of their Motherland; the colonizers, by civilizations; the Nazis, by race; and the Jacobins (early and late), by equality, brotherhood, and the happiness of future generations.

Thanks to ideology, the twentieth century was fated to experience evildoing on a scale calculated in the millions.

Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn
The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation (Volume One) pages 173 and 174.
[Those that believe in the power of the state to do good have and will use the state to enforce their ideology upon the unbelievers. They believe “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” The twentieth century saw 60 to 100 million people murdered by their governments to make the world a better place. Governments which believed the welfare of the nation took precedence over that of individuals. That is what their ideology enabled. The ideology of the U.S. Constitution is that government has a very limited role, must be given only a small set of enumerated powers, and must respect the rights of the individual. That is why the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right. The oppressed individuals in the great massacres of the 20th Century always vastly outnumbered their active oppressors. This is why the ideologies of those who believe in the power of the state always include the disarming of the individual. The armed individual is too dangerous to their ideology.

Let’s not let the 21st Century ideologies that succeed be those that enable the murder of 10s or 100s of millions.—Joe]

4 thoughts on “Quote of the day—Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn

  1. Even worse than the overtly aggressive ideologues that Solzhenitsyn mentions are the ones that want to do it for our own good. I believe the de Tocqueville called this one.

    • I’m not familiar with de Tocqueville making a comment on this, but I could have easily missed or forgotten it too. I kind of like what Thoreau had to say about it.

  2. I can just imagine some Soviet apparatchik reading this in 1971 and thinking to himself, “He learned that from Shakespeare?! We have to ban it.”
    Which is why the Soviet Apparatchiks in Academia, both secondary and graduate, are trying to make it possible to get a degree in English Literature without the graduate having studied any Shakespeare. It interferes (as it did under the USSR) with the indoctrination.

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