Dostoevsky’s Six Nightmare Prophecies That Came True in the 20th Century, Part Two
Uncle Fyodor wasn't fooling around when he diagnosed the problem of human evil.
April 1, 2013 - 2:00 pm
In The Devils, Peter Verkhovensky delivers eloquent monologues in front of his acolytes regarding the need to abolish private property and to redistribute wealth back to the peasants. He then spends a large chunk of the novel fighting tooth-and-nail with his father over the sale of property being held in his own name. He wants that money. He wants the finer things in life. He spends all of his time winning the favor and affections of the wealthy and influential people in his hometown. On the surface he says it is all a ploy to bring the system down, but when push comes to shove, Peter is found out to be a power-hungry, money-loving coward.
Why? The simple answer: envy. Dostoevsky believed that even those who started out with the noblest intentions would succumb to the temptations of wealth and power if their mode of “leveling the playing field” included putting themselves chiefly in charge of the leveling. The use of force to take from some to give to others, the abolition of private property, the high-minded refusal to give a man and his family the chance to own their own plot of earth — these were wicked means to disingenuous ends in his mind. Dostoevsky foresaw that the dissolution of private property would spell the end of freedom for any country that adopted it.
To start an ideology on a lie — revolutionary Marxism’s falsehood that all would magically be equal once these new people were in power — was to render it void of morality and to guarantee havoc if ever given power over the population.
As the saintly character Father Zosima put it in The Brothers Karamazov:
A man who lies to himself, and believes his own lies, becomes unable to recognize truth, either in himself or in anyone else, and he ends up losing respect for himself and for others. When he has no respect for anyone, he can no longer love, and in him, he yields to his impulses, indulges in the lowest form of pleasure, and behaves in the end like an animal in satisfying his vices. And it all comes from lying — to others and to yourself.
It is a lie to say that owning property — whatever form this may manifest itself in — is wrong or immoral. Someone is going to own it, and Dostoevsky quickly identified the collectivist mindset was one that would lead to great human suffering. It accelerates envy and greed because it is rooted firmly in both.