The Good, the Bad and the Half-Asleep

Column by Bob Wallace.
Exclusive to STR
It was Aristotle who observed there are two kinds of ignorance: when you’re ignorant and know it, and when you’re ignorant and don’t know it. The second kind of ignorance is the dangerous kind, because people who are ignorant and don’t know it usually think they’re smarter and more knowledgeable than everyone else (as
Rousseau wrote: "One is misled not by what he does not know but by what he believes he knows").
This ignorant-and-don’t-know-it is what makes the afflicted so dangerous. It’s as if they’re using arrogance to cover up stupidity.
Someone not knowing they’re ignorant is a fugue state – the person is in a deluded, half-asleep state but unaware of it. Many people know they’re not totally awake, because to be totally “awake” you’d have to know everything, to know what theologians call the Mind of God. For humans that is of course impossible.
People who understand their limitations and ignorance can be considered humble in the true sense of the word: not debasing yourself, just understanding how limited you are and how easy it is to make mistakes, which is inherent in being human.
The Greeks defined humility as Sophrosyne: "Know thyself," and "Nothing in excess." The more one “knows thyself” the less susceptible to propaganda he’ll be, and believing in Pure Good and Pure Evil always leads to excesses, because it invariably leads to dehumanizing “the Evil” as subhuman or nonhuman monsters.
On the other hand, people who are ignorant and don’t know it, and instead think they know what they are talking about (and what they are doing) can be considered arrogant, or afflicted with what the Greeks called Hubris, and the Bible, Pride.
These days, the term for Hubris or Biblical Pride is “narcissistic grandiosity.” It’s only been noticed in the last century that people with this affliction split things into “all-good” and “all-bad,” into pure good and pure evil.
I have met some of these people and the havoc they wreak is astonishing. All have certain traits in common. The main one is, “It’s always someone else’s fault, never mine.” Another is that they never notice the trouble they cause.
When you get groups of people together they always, under stress (say, an attack such as 9-11), regress to narcissistic infants. They, or their tribe, or their nation, is all-good, and those they define as their opponents or enemies are all-bad. And there the problems start.
Since no one, or no tribe or nation, is all-good, or perfect, whatever flaws they have are projected onto their opponents. The word for this is “scapegoating,” which comes from a practice by the ancient Hebrews in which they projected their sins onto a goat and then drove it into the wilderness, believing their sins would disappear.
An example not so long ago is when the perpetually confused George Bush referred to the Evil Ones who attacked us “for our goodness.” Then the “Evil Ones” returned the favor by calling the United States “the Great Satan.”
In politics everything is either good or evil, with no shades of grey (just as in politics people are never murdered – they are collateral damage, obstacles to be removed). When the belief in either-good-or-evil is wedded to the force and fraud inherent in politics, along with the infantile narcissism and simplistic thinking inherent in the Mob, it is no wonder politics has slaughtered more people than everything else in the world put together.
As deluded as an individual can be, groups – tribes, Mass Man, the Mob, whatever name you call them – are truly the problem. As Jules Monnerot wrote, “There is no such thing as a collective critical facility.”
Jacques Ellul, Monnerot’s contemporary and author of “The Technological Society,” wrote, “Propaganda’s chief requirement is not so much to be rational, well-grounded and powerful as it is to produce individuals especially open to suggestion who can be easily set into motion.” This can only happen when people are not aware of what propagandists are trying to do to them.
The Masses are ruled by their feelings; they follow leaders, not principles; and they are susceptible to the most simplistic propaganda in which they see their in-group as Good and the out-group (always insane, homicidal maniacs) as Evil.
In the 20th Century, the two worst scapegoating philosophies were Nazism and Communism (and contrary to the accepted wisdom, Communism was ten times as bad as Nazism).  The estimate of war deaths in the 20th Century range from 177 million to 200 million people, almost all of them due to those two ideologies.
In Nazism, there were the all-good Aryans and the all-bad non-Aryans. So genocide was committed against the non-Aryans. In Communism, there were the all-good Communists and the all-bad non-Communists. And again -- genocide.
This “all-good” and “all-bad” split applies to religion, at least to the more primitive, dangerous, fundamentalist monotheistic religions, the kind that thinks there really is a Devil. Of course, since one is convinced they have God on their side, their opponents must have the Devil on theirs (in fact, be the Devil), so it’s okay to rub out all of them.
Religion at least has a decided tendency to oppose Hubris; wisely, they consider it the worst of all sins, since it is the basis of all others. There is no such tendency in politics (which celebrates war, i.e., mass murder), which is why politics has caused so much trouble throughout history.
On the libertarian side, the only narcissistic ideology is Objectivism, which is a political/religious cult. It splits people into Rand’s perfect all-good heroes and projects all problems onto her sub-human “looters” and “parasites.”
I consider it a law of human nature that when people split things into an all-good and all-bad, pure good and pure evil, it’s automatic that the unacknowledged flaws of those who define themselves as good will be projected onto those they define as evil, with, at the worst, an attempt at genocide against them.
Unfortunately, it’s been the history of the world. It’s what comes from people being half-asleep and not knowing it.

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Bob Wallace's picture
Columns on STR: 89


GeoffreyTransom's picture

The "ignorant of one's own ignorance" thingy is now called the "Dunning-Kruger Effect" (the original paper is here - )

I also take issue with this - "The estimate of war deaths in the 20th Century range from 177 million to 200 million people, almost all of them due to those two ideologies" (the 'two ideologies' being Nazism and Communism, for those who read comments in email).

The deaths attributed to both Nazism and Communism in WWII were, in reality, due more to the reaction of the (waning) Great Powers' reaction to the regime in Germany. France and Britain did not like the Hitler government, and were keen to foment conflict.

Yes, naughty old Adolf tried to annex bits of Poland and Czechoslovakia - but the notion that Britain and France were 'obliged' to go to war as a result of either annexation are risible. Given how badly the same ploy worked in 1914, it is lamentable that anyone would have thought it would fare better in 1939 - but at the end of the day, perhaps it makes sense: war is about enriching one's cronies who own the arms manufactories and financiers, n'est-ce pas?

The deaths in WWII - almost to a man - were entirely avoidable. There is little evidence that even the unpleasantness experienced by 'internal enemies' (e.g., Jews - whose transnational hierarchy declared 'war' on Germany in 1933) would have reached the heights it did, had the war not been started by France and Britain. After all, the Americans interned all their Japanese (without regard as to whether they were actively working for the Emperor) without incident: deplorable and racist though it was, internment per se does not indicate a predilection for genocide.

As a kratoclast (a word I think I made up - it means "one who wants to break State power"), I am an enemy of ALL States - so I am certainly no fan of Naughty Old Adolf or his regime (even though they had spiffy uniforms and were quite popular at the time).

But history is not a cartoon, and as Pat Buchanan has noted, Hitler was not interested in any territory outside of Germanophone bits of the Sudetenland and the Danzig corridor... until the inbred syphilitic catamite warmonger Churchill began agitating for war.

Imagine for an instant, a world in which German-speakers in the Sudetenland and Danzig were reintegrated into Germany: where England and France simply reneged on their defence pacts with Poland and Czechoslovakia. Would there have been mass deaths in camps? Given that the overwhelming majority of internees were from regions captured as a result of being forced into war (not a single 'death camp' exists in areas not liberated by the Soviets), my conjecture is 'No'.

And of course the 3-4 million dead in South East Asia were not 'caused' by Communism - they were caused by the US refusing to permit the Vietnamese to experiment with Communism. Had the US kept its nose out, Communism would have failed in Viet Nam due to its inability to furnish growing material prosperity.

In summary: all those deaths were caused by the combination of hubris and insouciance on the part of the political class REGARDLESS of specific ideology. Same with all the deaths in the First World War, and all the deaths in Viet Nam, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan and anywhere else that the downtrodden are sent to kill each other on behalf of the scum who seek to rule.

Paul's picture

While I find most of your post here plausible, I doubt this one:

"Hitler was not interested in any territory outside of Germanophone bits of the Sudetenland and the Danzig corridor... until the inbred syphilitic catamite warmonger Churchill began agitating for war."

So Churchill controlled Hitler's actions? Merely by agitating, he got Hitler to grab the rest of western Czechoslovakia, past the Sudetenland?

I rather doubt it. Hitler controlled Hitler. It was his own idea to divide up Czechoslovakia and Poland between Germany and Russia. If you think otherwise, I'd like to see some citations...

AtlasAikido's picture

Re: the good-bad-and-half-asleep as it relates to Mr Wallace's posit that 'On the libertarian side, the only narcissistic ideology is Objectivism, which is a political/religious cult. It splits people into Rand’s perfect all-good heroes and projects all problems onto her sub-human “looters” and “parasites.”'

This issue was already covered and refuted in the following link. Mr. Wallace was also taken to task for intellectual dishonesty on this issue and refused to correct it.

Indeed, Mr Wallace continues with his Ayn Rand and Objectivism bashing but with no support other than another article with the same assertions and self-confessional projections; and explicitly without taking into account the evidence of his own black and white weaknesses.