Actually time is neutral. It can be used either destructively or constructively. I am comingto feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people. We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right. – Martin Luther King, Letter from the Birmingham Jail
Sixty years ago, the Soviets were overrunning the concentration and extermination camps. Majdenek was reached in July, 1944 by the Soviet Army, which then overran the remains of Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka. Auschwitz was reached on January 27, 1945. Seven thousand prisoners were still there, awaiting the action of the SS, which was evacuating prisoners to other concentration camps throughout the Nazi empire.
This makes a good point from which to survey the last sixty years, a surveyor’s point from which we can string the lines and site the plat. Our contemporaneity stems from World War Two still – wars define us, not states. And since then, since then… the dialectic between heaven and hell has been pursued not in daydreams, but on the killing fields of Cambodia and in the back seats of Cadillacs. The NYT Magazine’s articles about fundie-thugs beating to death Bengali Communists with crow bars is laced about with everything you could want to order, ever. This is not to throw some ancient blame on that abundance – we are firmly for the land of Cockayne, for diamonds and cocktails. But we are puzzled as to that system that depends, for its diamonds, on armies of drugged little boys hacking off the arms of their parents in Liberia. Wear your diamonds with the appropriate blood might be one response, but the symbols simply add one more childishness to an atrocity committed against childishness. The simplest philosophical question of our time is: with the overcoming of the conditions of poverty, why hasn’t poverty been overcome? with the overcoming of the vile slave morality that stems from scarcity, why has that vile morality remained dominant?
Answers to which questions, or at least dancing around them, we are going to explore in our next post, about the Dialectic of the Enlightenment.