Guilt as Power

One of the most common reactions to the Planned Parenthood body parts scandal is along the lines of "I can't bear to watch the videos of those horrible people laughing and talking about the sale of babies.  It's just too upsetting to see".  This exactly captures the reason why the videos are so dangerous: they have forced society at large to watch what many must have always suspected was true, but hoped never to confront directly.

The Center of Medical Progress has over 300 hours of undercover video which has been turned over to investigators.  It looks like society is going to have to watch, whether it wants to or not.

Willful ignorance "is a term used in law to describe a situation in which a Person seeks to avoid civil or criminal liability for a wrongful act by intentionally putting him or herself in a position where he or she will be unaware of facts that would render him or her liable."  Apart from its legal utility it has a lot of psychological usefulness because it allows society to put certain things where they don't have to deal with it.

Some historians have argued that a fairly large number of Germans in the 1940s knew, suspected or otherwise strongly guessed that the extermination of the Jews was taking place. But many were happy not to think about it, or refer to it only indirectly and then only in the most beneficial terms like "racial hygiene" or "living space".

But the knowledge was always there, straining to come out of the background and into focus.  After the fall of the Third Reich there was no use denying it and some Allied Commanders forced the residents of towns around the concentration camps to visit, and sometimes to remove the corpses.  Once it was out in the open, the first impulse was to assert that it must have been some mistake.

According to Peter Wyden, in his book "The Hitler Virus," a few of the Dachau notables, who were forced to view the corpses, fainted. Some cried and many shook their heads. Most of them turned away, eager to avoid the scene. Afterwards, they were heard to whisper, "Unglaublich!" (Unbelievable.) The Dachauers could not understand how the prisoners could have starved to death since the townspeople had regularly sent food packages to the camp. ...

The practice of bringing German civilians from nearby towns to the concentration camps after they were liberated was started by General Walton Walker who ordered the Mayor of the town of Ohrdruf and his wife to visit the Ohrdruf labor camp after it was discovered by American troops on April 4, 1945. After their visit, the Mayor and his wife returned home and killed themselves.

General George S. Patton visited the Ohrdruf camp on April 12th, along with three other generals, one captured German officer and a few of the citizens of Ohrdruf. After his visit, General Patton suggested that all the citizens of Ohrdruf be brought to see the bodies.

And we are as a society, complicit to a greater or lesser extent, by virtue of our membership in the community. Greg Gutfeld hits exactly the right note in his video comments below when he asserts that the guilty party in the Planned Parenthood horrors aren't a few liberal elitists, but humanity: those of us who guessed, deduced or knew in some way or fashion, but preferred not to look at what we knew was there.

The "secret knowledge" was in fact Planned Parenthood's best defense, for it bound many to silence out of guilt or shame.  We could not bear to look;  we still cannot bear to look.

Now that the cat is out of the bag the objections to looking the issue straight in the face, without eupemism, must vanish. Even those who, like Geraldo Rivera, argue that the end justifies the means can have no further reason for refusing to tell us "what end in exchange for these means?". And in that matter, handwaving will not suffice.  If Geraldo's so proud of "medical research", surely our admiration for it can only grow after all 300 hours of undercover video have been broadcast.

In our modern, post-religious age society needs to know what ethical taboos, if any, remain. What won't we do? Now that we have resolved to live without God and must perforce live under men that is all the more reason to know what those men believe. Sigmund Freud believed that the secular motives of "educated people and brain-workers" would be a reliable substitute for what was formerly regarded as natural law.  Can these educated people spare a moment then to explain what their secular motives are?  Besides money that is.

In The Future of an Illusion (1927) Freud refers to religion as an illusion which is "perhaps the most important item in the psychical inventory of a civilization". In his estimation, religion provides for defense against "the crushingly superior force of nature" and "the urge to rectify the shortcomings of civilization which made themselves painfully felt". He concludes that all religious beliefs are "illusions and insusceptible of proof.

Freud then examines the issue of whether, without religion, people will feel "exempt from all obligation to obey the precepts of civilization". He notes that "civilization has little to fear from educated people and brain-workers" in whom secular motives for morality replace religious ones; but he acknowledges the existence of "the great mass of the uneducated and oppressed" who may commit murder if not told that God forbids it, and who must be "held down most severely" unless "the relationship between civilization and religion" undergoes "a fundamental revision"

But Freud, like many 19th century men were so steeped in custom they could never conceive of the possibility that "educated men and brain-workers" would free themselves, not only of God, but all fixed taboos -- of everything. He himself never imagined the Nazis were possible. At the end of his life, sick and old in Vienna -- a Vienna he never thought could come to pass --  he was saved, as David Cohen writes, not by the harsh logic of supermen, but by bourgeois sentimentality: the kindness of friends, the intervention of admirers and the secret intervention of a Nazi admirer.

The trouble with 19th century atheism is that it had not completely freed itself from the sentiments of Christianity: in many subtle ways they assumed that man after God would still have limits. They failed to understand until the middle 20th century that man's need for power did not necessarily contain limits. They  learned, too late, that like the Bill of Rights understands, it is in the "won'ts" on men's actions that earthly freedom lives.

The people who in the videos merrily describe the prices they can obtain for this or that body part may one day be old and as helpless as the infants they have dismembered.  Then they will be in the care of men like themselves.  And on that far day these young -- then old --  may want water. On what grounds will they demand it? On what basis will they ask for care, love or compassion?

Perhaps the ultimate argument for the belief in God is history's lesson that we have no reason to expect mercy from men. Our sole hope, illogical as it may seem, in betting that God will have mercy on us is the certainty that Planned Parenthood won't.

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