February 11, 2008
To continue on the theme of how “family values,” can ameliorate the pains and harms of life, I will talk about an undermining problem: how well humans compartmentalize, disassociate, and rationalize.
I suspect there probably were SS soldiers and concentration camp guards in Nazi Germany who came home and acted as affectionate parents to their own “Aryan” children. I suspect that there were slave owners and slave overseers in the antebellum American South who were perceived by their own children as caring and loving parents. In the same way, there were probably New England colonist parents who demonstrated love to their children after a hard day massacring Indians who fussed over the land the English Puritans had helped themselves to. I’ve heard of serial killers who led a double life as loving fathers and husbands in between murdering victims.
To a large extent we focus on the victims. We switch between admiring the Jews who died fighting back against the German troopers in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and lamenting the Jews who died after passively riding cattle cars to German death camps .
In the unlikely event anyone reading this is majoring and history (with perhaps a minor in psychology or sociology), and looking for a project, try studying the “Good German” parents who were also good German soldiers in say the Ukraine, or the good “Japanese parents” who were good Japanese soldiers in Nanking, or the good English parents who were good soldiers in the invasion of Ireland in the 1500s or the good colonial settlers in Australia who were good parents as they were moving the aborigines out of their way and so on. The list could get very long.
The family lives of the top leaders of the greatest genocidal atrocities of the 20th Century: Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, tend not to be great example of “family values.” However, I suspect that many of their faithful functionaries were able to combine adherence to the values of their leaders with domestic tranquility in their personal family lives.