You may only read this site if you've purchased Our Kampf from Amazon or Powell's or me
• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

February 07, 2008

Knowing And Not Knowing

Here's Albert Speer writing in his memoir, Inside the Third Reich:

[W]hen a man's position rises, his isolation increases and he is therefore more sheltered from harsh reality...But in the final analysis I myself determined the degree of my isolation, the extremity of my evasions, and the extent of my ignorance...

Whether I knew or did not know, or how much or how little I knew, is totally unimportant when I consider what horrors I ought to have known about and what conclusions would have been natural ones to draw from the little I did know. Those who ask me are fundamentally expecting me to offer justifications. But I have none. No apologies are possible.

The same must be said about myself and this website.

ALSO: Four People Turned Stupid by Power

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at February 7, 2008 12:30 PM

Jon: Are you supplying forced labor to build Focke-Wolfe 190s?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at February 7, 2008 04:18 PM

That liberal fascist Jonathan Schwarz (with a name like that who needs Godwin's law) once again shows he's a terrorist-loving idiot by attacking one of my favorite bloggers, comparing the blogging at A Tiny Revolution to the atrocities committed by Albert Speer. Geez, these cheese-eating surrender monkeys can't even buy a clue...

Posted by: snarky at February 7, 2008 05:20 PM

Sorry, I don't understand. What are you talking about? Are there secrets you dare not post or something?

Posted by: me at February 8, 2008 08:56 AM

Are there secrets you dare not post or something?

No, no, it was just a wee joke.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at February 8, 2008 12:28 PM

No offense Jon, but this doesn't hold up under scrutiny.

The extent to which you (Jon) can shelter yourself is grand by global standards, but barely middling by local (USA) standards. Any stupid actions you might be expected to justify aren't going to be predicated on having risen, over time, into a position of "power-over," but on your excessive (by global standards) "power-to." You're not stupid with power so much as you're stupid by virtue of being up at the top of Maslow's ladder. There is a difference, and that difference means that Albert Speer's critique simply doesn't apply to you.* It's like arguing that if mammals can adapt to arctic temperatures reptiles ought to be able to as well.

* Unless of course there really is something you haven't told us...

(yes, that's all an attempt at a joke too)

Posted by: at February 8, 2008 01:52 PM

You're not stupid with power so much as you're stupid by virtue of being up at the top of Maslow's ladder. There is a difference...

Please elaborate. As I see it, power-over and power-to are the same thing, and my position differs from Speers quite a bit quantitatively but is basically the same qualitatively. But my mind is open.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at February 8, 2008 02:44 PM

Hm. Well, really it was a joke, but lemme see if I can tease out a kernel of truth from it.

You and I, by virtue of living in These United States, are the beneficiaries of a certain amount of oppression and injustice. We are "made stupid" by those benefits, insofar as it's not in our immediate interest to examine that injustice too closely. But ultimately, whether we are aware of it or blissfully ignorant, whether we examine it closely or look away, repudiate it or embrace it, the benefits require no action on our part. Only ignorance, or perhaps consent.

Speer, like us, was in a position to passively benefit from injustice, but he also took action. He was simultaneously an agent of injustice and a non-observer. He was "made stupid" in the additional sense that he couldn't simply "look away" as we can. He had to look in order to plan, in order to build, in order to decide what to do. He had to learn to "not see" even as he was looking closely.

In the abstract moral sense I think there's a decent argument to be made that the difference is merely quantitative. But cognitively I think it's a very different skill, that requires a whole 'nother layer of what we're euphemistically referring to as stupidity.

JFTR I think of power-over as the power to make others do your bidding. Power-to is freedom to do your own bidding.

Posted by: radish at February 9, 2008 01:48 AM

Stupid, or selfish? This WaPo article from November suggests the latter :

Posted by: lurking gnome at February 10, 2008 04:50 PM