Murder by Ideas
A warped individual can be responsible for killing dozens of other people; a warped idea can be responsible for the deaths of millions.
How this is so may be illustrated by a passage from the Book of Isaiah (XXVII,13-14). The passage (which, set to music, is a popular song in Jewish religious circles, and can be heard commonly on such occasions as Simchat Torah) runs: U-va’u ha-ovdim bë-Eretz Ashur vë-ha-niddachim bë-Eretz Mitrayim. Vë-hishtachavu la-Shem bë-Har ha-Qodesh b-Irushalayim. A reasonably literal transliteration is: “And those lost in the land of Ashur, and those exiled in the land of Egypt will come and prostrate themselves to G-d on the holy mountain in Jerusalem.”
The people whom the prophet is referring to are the ten northern tribes of Israel, exiled by the Assyrians about a century before the conquest and exile of the people from the southern kingdom of Yehuda by the Babylonians who succeeded them, and a small group who fled from Yehuda to Egypt after assassinating the Jewish governor who had been placed in charge of those people whom the Babylonians had left in the Holy Land, an event which is mourned to this day by Orthodox Jews and commemorated by a fast day immediately following Rosh ha-Shana (cf. II Kings XVII,7-23 and XXV,21-27). Since both groups had vanished utterly by the time of the Babylonian exile, the commentaries not unreasonably assert that this prophecy concerns the final redemption of Israel, which has not happened yet.
There is another way to read this passage which offers insight into our introductory premise. This assumes that “prostrating oneself before G-d on the holy mountain in Jerusalem” is a metaphor for tëshuva, literally “return,” the Hebrew word which best translates the English “repentance.” Going with this, the Jewish tradition considers “Egypt” to be a metaphor for gross hedonism, for all of the lusts and appetites of the flesh (cf. e.g. what Ezekiel has to say about the Egyptians in XXIII,19-21). So, someone “exiled in the land of Egypt” may be understood as someone who admits to the truth, who knows what is right and what is wrong, but who simply has no backbone and cannot resist succumbing inappropriately to whatever temptation it is that he gives into.
For such a person, tëshuva is relatively easy, since he does know right from wrong; what is necessary is for him to develop the courage and resolve to resist temptation.
But those who are “lost in the land of Ashur” are a different proposition. Ashur is derived from the same root as the verb isher, “permit, authorize.” Someone who is më’ushar in his illicit actions is someone who believes them to be permitted, perhaps even noble and praiseworthy. He has a far more difficult path to tëshuva, since he first has to admit that his entire previous intellectual and moral Gestalt has been wrong. He needs to cure himself of warped ideas, before he can come to terms with his actions.
And it is this which the modern world confronts with the world of ideology.
Communism is a set of warped ideas derived from the thought of Karl Marx, a deranged intellectual who convinced himself that he had discovered the “scientific laws of history,” under which he asserted that each stage of civilization was based upon a thesis, which eventually generated its antithesis, the resulting clash leading to synthesis of the next thesis (do you see how neatly that flows? To an intellectual that means it must be true, and the facts can be adjusted to fit). Consequently, Marx analyzed his own age, and alleged that the inevitable contradictions of industrial Europe (for which he coined the word “capitalism”) would lead to its downfall, as the down-trodden proletarians became conscious of their membership in a “class,” and their class consciousness would lead them to rise up in bloody revolt against the capitalists, seize control of the means of production, and redistribute the economic pie, for which he and his equally deranged friend Friedrich Engels coined the word “communism.”
As a result, millions lost their lives in the Russian Revolution of 1917 and subsequent Russian Civil War, which went on until 1923; tens of millions of Ukrainians, Poles, and Byelorussians died of famine and exposure in induced famines as Stalin systematically confiscated all of the grain he could to feed his industrial cities and sell abroad for machine tools; and millions more perished in the Great Purge of the 1930s. Then there are the horrors of the Chinese Revolution, the Cambodian Revolution and on, and on....
But modern Leftists will not give up, they will not admit that Marx was wrong and his ideas warped; no, they will always tell you that they were not implemented correctly, but next time....
National Socialism was another crackpot ideology, based upon the deliberately anti-Biblical, “scientific” (for the nineteenth century) notion of human polygenesis, that is, that human beings were not descended from a common ancestor, but from various different lines; that one of those lines, the “Aryans,” were the world’s Kulturgeber (“givers of culture”), and that human progress depended upon the “purification” of the Aryan strain from all the other “inferior” strains. This nonsense gave rise to the “science” which the Germans called Rassenkunde, a term literally untranslatable into English (a sense of the meaning may be gleaned from the German word for astronomy. Sternkunde; Stern means “star”; Rassen means “races”), and means that virtually all German research into such areas as anthropology, sociology, even archaeology and biology conducted in the 1930s is quite valueless. And National Socialism accounted for millions of lives before it, too, bit the dust.
Ah, but has it? The Germans in the 1930s saw themselves coming into conflict again with France and the British Empire, who between them ruled most of the Muslim world in those days. And so the Germans began to flood the Arab world with National Socialist propaganda. One of their greatest pupils was a member of a prominent Arab family in Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini (one of whose younger relatives was a fellow named Yasser Arafat), whom the British were stupid enough to appoint Mufti of Jerusalem, the highest Muslim position in the country. Haj Amin repaid them by constant anti-Semitic and anti-British ferment in mandatory Palestine, then fled to Berlin whence he made propaganda broadcasts in Arabic for the Germans and helped to raise SS units of Bosnian Muslims. It is thanks to him and others that National Socialist racism did not die in 1945, and has gone on to infect the Sunni Ikhwan (the so-called “Muslim Brotherhood”), to develop a Shi’ite flavor in Khomeinism, and has thus added many thousands more to the death toll of that warped idea.
Evil ideas have a way of finding weak spots in the human race, where they probe beguilingly “with a bayonet,” as V. I. Lenin once said. Where the bayonet goes in a little, where there is some erosion or neglect of the absolutes of conventional, Biblical morality, their proponents probe a little deeper, find a new guise, a bottle with a new label, a new “-ism,” to contain the old, intoxicating beverage, which then goes on to do its toxic worst in yet another generation. The only successful resistance lies in the armor of moral clarity concerning the eternal verities of that selfsame Biblical morality.