Who do you trust?

A person whose opinions I respect and admire wrote this:

I recently had dinner with some liberty-minded friends. The evening was wonderful and each of us were coming up with ideas about how to promote liberty among the general public. Some of the ideas were political, while others were not. One of the questions that got asked was: Who do you trust?

This was a surprise to me. My answer is to trust every one until proven wrong.

I wrote this in response:

Trust of others must be tempered by the wisdom that human nature is a mix of good and evil. People are not “basically good.” Humans are fully capable of benevolence or vile wickedness at different times under various conditions.

The people of Jedwabne, Poland had lived amicably with their Jewish neighbors for decades but on July 10, 1941 the non-Jewish half rose up and murdered the Jewish half. Most of the Jews who were murdered had thought of their non-Jewish neighbors as good people. They interacted with them, traded with them, and they trusted them. They ended up dead at the hands of those “good people.”

Why did those “good people” do it? Simply because their government let them know it would be acceptable for them to do it. The Nazi government did not force them to do anything, it merely gave them permission. Under that condition these good people, en masse, had no inner moral compass to dissuade them from evil and point them to the true North of beneficence . A theretofore non-violent community were fully capable, with little more than official sanction, of carrying out a brutal slaughter.

  • TMats

    I was aware of complicity (or at least conscious indifference) in the general population all over Europe with respect to the “Ultimate Solution.” I guess I wasn’t aware of a city that actively murdered the Jewish population just because it was OK to do so.

    I truly think the potential for similar action is present in today’s American Left. Righteous indignation is rampant aimed at the those of us who resist their world view. Rumors of the suppression of information under threat of arrest surrounds a “refugee” camp in Texas, run by a private group that refers to themselves as “Brown Shirts.” History repeats itself

  • TeeJaw

    For more information on the Jedwabne massacre see Neighbors; the destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland by Jan T. Cross. Also In Jedwabne, by George Will, a column from July, 2001. You can also do a Google search for “Jedwabne 1941” and find numerous other references and sources.

    I don’t know the psychology of a group of people numbering around 1,500 who lived peaceably and even amicably with another group of about the same size, and then suddenly committed mass murder after being assured no governmental authority would interfere. Perhaps one could find answers in Hannah Arendt’s The Banality of Evil or Frank O’Connor’s 1931 short story, “Guests of the Nation.”

    George Will gives this answer to the question of how can ordinary people be capable of such evil: At bottom, the explanation is not in this or that national history but in humanity as it quickly becomes when severed from social restraints. So, again: Why in Jedwabne did neighbors murder their neighbors? Because it was permitted. Because they could.

    You make a good point about the American Left, or the Left anywhere for that matter. Whenever people convince themselves that the ends they seek are just and good and that anyone who doesn’t support their cause is evil, then any means to accomplish that end will be deemed justified.