Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Particular Type Of Hatred

The Buddha was something of an expert on hatred - he turned his wisdom-eye towards it and identified and described its many varieties, nuances, expressions and forms. I can identify about 25 Pali words for the different types and intensities of hatred. However there was one type of hatred the Buddha never identified and that is anti-Semitism or an equivalent to it, although I'm not sure there is one. This is the most fascinating types of hatred - it can range from a Goebbels-like 'frothing at the mouth' type all the way through to a smiling, seemingly reasonable form. It can hitch its wagon to religious devotion, indeed it has had a long relationship with Christianity, or secular ideologies like National Frontism and National Socialism. It pops up in the most unexpected places; in Japan where there are not and never has been any Jews, and most bizarrely, even amongst Jews themselves! It is most comfortable with neighbors like paranoia, xenophobia and resentment but it is quite capable of co-existing with intelligence. When it's more obvious expressions are shamed into unacceptability it skillfully morphs into 'concern for the economy' or a desire for 'historical accuracy.' Fortunately, anti-Semitism has had a hard time of it during the last 60 years, except in the Arab world. The enormity of the Nazis crimes exposed it for what it is and made it completely unacceptable in civilized society. So now it has dressed itself up in the cheap suit of Holocaust denial and tried to go 'reasonable' and 'respectable.'
I mention this because the other day someone drew my attention to the video of an interview with Bishop Richard Williamson in which he stated that there were no gas chambers and that only a few thousand Jews were murdered by the Nazis. I must say, to me he looked like a criminal low-life denying that he had committed an offence - slightly flushed, careful with his words, eyes nervously darting sideways and upwards, slightly uncomfortable but insistent in his assertions nonetheless. Bishop Williamson is a member of the extreme right-wing Catholic Society of St Pius X and is notorious for his heavy-duty nuttiness. He has stated that the US government was responsible for the 911 attacks, he believes the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are genuine and he is convinced that Freemasons actually control of the Vatican. Some years ago he described the film The Sound of Music as 'soul-rotting slush.' Mmm. Well, maybe not all of his views are nonsense. Williamson was excommunicated 20 years ago for breaking canon law and has just been welcomed back into the Church, to the dismay of many people, including many Catholics, around the world. I'm not interested with Papal politics and as far as I'm concerned if the Vatican wants Williamson they're welcome to him. But I am interested in the Holocaust denial manifestation of anti-Semitism which, you'd have to admit, is an interesting psychological abrogation.
Take the Cambodian genocide, concerning which there is wide disagreement amongst scholar and historians about exactly how many people were murdered. Williamson (and other Holocaust deniers) has made no public statements on these differences. Similar uncertainties exist about how many Armenians perished in 1914 and how many Rwandans in 1994 but Williamson is apparently unconcerned about this. Kenyans claim that during the Mau Mau Rebellion the British kept thousands of people in squalled camps and are now demanding compensation from the British government which so far has refused to address the matter. Apparently Williamson is not interested in the truth or falsehood of the Kenyan claim and about seeing justice done. Why is Williamson so concerned about exactly by what means Jews were murdered by the Nazis and in what numbers, and not about Poles, Gypsies, Slavs and Russians similarly mistreated? Why is he so concerned in 'getting the facts right' about the Holocaust and not all the other genocides in recent history? Why does he so focus on this historical event and not some of the others mentioned above? In his interview Williamson mentioned that aerial photos allow one to calculate the height of a chimney at Auschwitz by the length of the shadow it cast - so clearly he takes an more than a passing interest in what went on there. But why only in the Holocaust and not other terrible events in recent history? The reason is because he hates Jews. He wants to deprive them of sympathy. He longs to belittle and diminish their suffering. Some Holocaust survivors have been ennobled by their frightful experiences and this irks Williamson, it burns him up. He probably also gets a perverse kick out of saying things that he knows will offend the Jewish community, not that Jews are the only ones offended by such lies, they are an insult to all those abused by the Nazis. Williamson would probably love to express his hatred the way Father Coughlin or Joseph Goebbels used to do, but his clerical dress and the needs of public relations make it judicious not to so he has to channel his vitriol into Holocaust denial. The most frightful thing about this type of hatred is that in trying to disguise it from others, the hater disguises it from himself. He can't see it and so it is incurable. Cold hard facts make no dent in it, eye-witness testimonies don’t move it one inch and in Williamson's case, a life dedicated to learning, teaching and supposedly practicing Jesus' teachings of love and understanding, has no effect on it. As the Buddha said, 'Only blindness and gloom prevail when one is overwhelmed by hate' (It.84). Bishop Williamson won't go to hell, he's already in hell - a self-created hell of mean-spirited, resentful, nastiness that isolates him from decent society and brings him nothing but censure and scorn.

11 comments:

minotaurus said...

This issue has had wide coverage in the German press. A lot of Germans - Jewish, Catholic and agnostic - and even a few bishops have expressed criticism and/or outrage. Personally, I can see that psychologically there are interesting differences, but as far as I'm concerened those kinds of views - whether expressed with froth at the mouth or in a calm, seemingly detached manner - need to be opposed publicly. It is a pity that the (German!) pope decided to 'commune' with the priests of the order of Pius X. again - a breakaway Catholic society which opposes the Second Vatican Council. Its members were excommunicated in the 1980s, a decision that Benedict has now more or less revoked (they are no longer excommunicated, but are still not allowed to act as priests). But it is not only Bishop Williamson who is anti-Semitic. Their German head wrote a letter some time ago expressly stating that the Church's official policy of inter-religious dialogue (based on the theological decisions of the council) was a severe error and that the Jews deserve no respect as the 'older brethren' to the Christians, as Vatican II states. He pointed out that not only present-day Jews are 'in error' as long as they don't embrace Christianity but that technically these Jews are guilty of deicide as well. (I couldn't find an English translation of that document, sorry) So, bhante, there you even have your theologicial error. And if you say understand the whole thing even less now - I don't blame you. Benedict has long been known as a very conservative theologian. Even though I don't think he is an Anti-Semite himself, I believe (to put it mildly) that he was even more misguided than usually in his attempt to bring those Catholic reactionaries back 'back into the fold'.

David said...

As the comedian Colbert observed, "it's strange that he finds enough evidence that a dead man returned to life some two thousand years ago, but not enough evidence of 6 million people being killed a few decades ago."

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Thanks Minotaurus for that extra background (I tried to read your blog but its all in some strange language!). And thanks David for that gem by Stephen Colbert.

linnea said...

Thank you Bhante, for this post. Thoreau said " let us make distinctions and call things by there true names" Bishop Williamson is an anti Semite he hates Jews, and currently resides in his own hell. Would you mind if I sent your post as a link to our a couple of other websites?(Blogs and newspapers)

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Linnea,
Please do.

Yashas said...

Hello!
Have You seen the PowerKills website of professor Rummel, from the Unversity of Hawaii? It contains lot of hard to find information about the democides that have occured in the history of humanity.
www.hawii.edu/powerkills/wellcome.html

BarbarraBay said...
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BarbarraBay said...
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BarbarraBay said...

This article contradicts itself in that it mentions how there is so much disagreement about the other genocides yet it is unwilling to accept any disagreements about the Holocaust. Contrary to Buddhist principles, this article demonstrates 'blind faith' or acceptance. The reason why many humanitarians take an interest in the Holocaust is because the Holocaust is a primary rationale for the established of the state of Israel, which itself resulted in a similar Palestinian 'holocaust'. The writer of this article is thoroughly out of touch with world events & world history. The Buddha was not only an expert about 'hatred'. The Buddha was also an expert on prejudice (agati) & declared there are 4 kinds of prejudice or bias, namely, prejudice due to love, due to hate, due to fear & due to ignorance. That individuals seek to examine the Holocaust, its cause & its aftermath (effect) in an objective manner does not mean they are acting with hatred. But those that accept the official story without investigation do act with agati.

BarbarraBay said...

Holocaust denial or revision is a crime in many countries. What would the Buddha think about this?

Okhotsk said...

The fact that Jews can be "anti-Semites" should make you reconsider the concepts involved. Firstly, you failed to distinguish between Judaism the "religion" and Jewishness, the "ethnicity." To add to your conceptual conundrum, there are many Jews in every generation who simply stop being Jews, whether they convert to another religion is immaterial. Gilad Atzmon is an example of such an ex-Jew. After serving in the Israeli army and other life experiences growing up Jewish, he decided that he didn't want to be Jewish anymore, so from that point forward, he simply wasn't. He carefully and philosophically dissects the conceptual elements of "Jewishness" and finds them to be at the center of contemporary global violence, i.e. war.

In my view, a "religion" for a "Chosen" people is put simply ethno-religious supremacism. Historically, the ethnicity of Jewishness would not have survived throughout the centuries without this racial idolatry to hold it together. For example, the Irish diaspora was occasioned by an imposed genocide of starvation by the British troops who forcibly exported Irish wheat and left the diseased potatoes for the indigenous population to starve on. And yet, the Irish, having no racial supremacist history/religion, assimilated quite naturally into their new countries upon immigration -- their religion was a universal one, that accorded the same value to all human life. The historical-religious background of supremacism found in Jewishness was unable to do the same thing. The same ethno-religious supremacism found in Judaism and Jewishness throughout history, is currently destroying the Palestinians as a people, and wreaking havoc throughout the Middle East as the "Chosen" people attempt to fulfill Genesis 15:18. Those who get in the way of that goal being dealt with according to Deuteronomy 20:16.