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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Check Your Perspective At The Door: No Man Is Purely Evil, No Man Purely Good.

*This post in no way justifies the dismal and wicked things that were committed under the ruling and/or orders of these and other men. It is an offering for us to, at least, check our own personal perspectives and come at these characters as fellow humans rather then purely figures of our educational, governmental and societal systems and biases.*
When recalling the tyrants of the past and looking upon those of the present, it is easy for us to immediately define them as evil, wicked men who have, perhaps, even lost their souls. While their is no doubt that these men have committed terrible atrocities, it is vital to remember that outside of their hate these men also loved as well. I feel a vital importance, in that, caution must be taken when scrutinizing these characters. In our observing, we tend to compliment the observed by referring to them in such a way that they become risen above man to god-like status. We lose focus of what and who they really were... human just like you and I. Perhaps, this is why we do it, for fear that we too have the potential to be as such.

We all love no matter who we are, or what we do. We may, perhaps, be the wickedest person alive, but that means not, that we do not love. Wether it be another person, possessions and/or just plainly our own selves.

I came across an article on C.N.N. today that described a few love letters from famous tyrants of our past to their beloveds. I feel that these letters help to give us an insight into the minds and hearts of these characters, one that might not otherwise be noted. 

First off the great Joseph Stalin, Soviet leader, writes to his Nadya Stalin, who's family had previously sheltered Joseph Stalin after one of his escapes from Siberian exile during 1911, and the two reconnected later when she worked as a clerk in Vladimir Lenin's office. Their romance began when she was a teenager. When they married in 1919, he was 41. They had a boy, Vasily, and a girl, Svetlana.
He wrote to his wife, using his pet name for her, while she was away having her headaches treated in Germany.

"I miss you so much Tatochka. ... I'm as lonely as a horned owl."

In June 1930, Stalin was busy revamping the Soviet Union's economy, which led to millions of people being deported and exiled and a catastrophic famine. His plans would later lead to the slaughter of millions.

Then, the great French Commander Napoleon Bonaparte of the later 1700's. 

In typical stereotype fashion this frenchman was most likely the more romantic of tyrants. He was passionate, vibrant and descriptive. Not only in his relation with his wife but with that of his soldiers, armies and fellow countrymen. 

Napoleon wrote often to his wife, sometimes more then once a day, portraying a very emotional and sensitive man. 

"I have your letters of the 16th and 21st. There are many days when you don't write. What do you do, then? No, my darling, I am not jealous, but sometimes worried. Come soon; I warn you, if you delay, you will find me ill. Fatigue and your absence are too much."

No doubt this Frenchman was a sensual man all the while exhibiting this in some of the letters to his wife,

"But you are coming, aren't you? You are going to be here beside me, in my arms, on my breast, on my mouth? Take wing and come, come! A kiss on your heart, and one much lower down, much lower!"


"I am going to bed with my heart full of your adorable image. ... I cannot wait to give you proofs of my ardent love," he writes in November 1796. "... How happy I would be if I could assist you at your undressing, the little firm white breast, the adorable face, the hair tied up in a scarf a la creole. You know that I will never forget the little visits, you know, the little black forest. ... I kiss it a thousand times and wait impatiently for the moment I will be in it. To live within Josephine is to live in the Elysian fields. Kisses on your mouth, your eyes, your breast, everywhere, everywhere."

Wow! Is it just me or is it getting hot in here? 

Sadly, as it is in most cases, tragedy befalls all... the conquerer and the conquered. Life plays no favourites, nor does Death. All things must come to an end. It was in and during his exile when Napoleon discovered through the reading of the local newspaper that the love of his life had died from a common cold. A dismal way to discover the death of your love.

These are just a few of the examples of historical figures that committed many atrocities and yet still held, within their lives, love that ran deep and was enveloped in passion. 

When I read these, I can not help but somehow be sitting within the individual, experiencing their hopes and dreams, passions and fears, successes and failures.  This type of reflection on any individual is a healthy and positive practice. It does not negate the wrongs one commits, but rather diminishes the potential, of examined, from becoming more and/or less then what they truly are. Practicing the presence of the other.

Let us not forget that it is not only our friends and families that love, weep, laugh and take joy in the beauty of the sunrise and sunset, but also our enemies. Those of whom we are so quick to claim we are nothing alike, yet all the while being closer in similarity then we ourselves can even comprehend. 

“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.” 


Song: Nothing Else Matters- Metallica


Kmarie said...

Loved the ending of this. Well done my love. You are inspiring. I am glad I am your partner. Quite the love letters there:) Wink. I love you.

Nathan said...

Fascinating post Phil. You are doing Levinasian phenomenology here in pointing to the otherness of the other. In other words, there is always an aspect of another person that is beyond our reach – we cannot reduce the other to our knowledge. Kearney talks about this in The God Who May Be through the term persona. Persona is that part of another person I cannot grasp - persona as “the in-finite other in the finite person before me.” Anyway, your post also points to concrete people who loved, and while we have deemed these people monstrous (for right reasons) it is interesting to note their humanity. Peter Rollins talks about this in Insurrection when he notes that Hitler often hosted extravagant parties at his place, how he loved children, art, and music, etc. Perhaps the lesson is to see the monstrous in ourselves (or the potential) and the humanity in the monstrous.

CalledtoQuestion said...

Thanks Nathan, your quite right. It is humility that allows us to see the potential of what we can become and the, seemingly slim, glimpses of good in those of whom we deem wicked.

My Little Warriors said...

There almost always seems, at least to me, to be a driving point in these "villains" lives where they have been betrayed or deeply scared, and what they chose to do with that pain ended up being evil. I know that the bible says that we are all born with sin, but I think that on many cases of currupt leaders and tyrants.. It comes from something broken deep inside them that drove them to madness. I always think "what drove them to want to hurt and control others so badly" something had to have such a deep effect.

CalledtoQuestion said...

You touched on a good point that, they made a choice, As discussed in the above blog post, we all face struggles and adversities through out our lives. What we choose to do with them is entirely up to us.

I will take the risk in stating that what drove them and all others, including ourselves, was and still is, Happiness. We are all in pursuit of it and some will go to great lengths in attempts to achieve it. I think that this realization is a great neutralizer all, as it reminds us that we our all humans, pursuing the same thing. Thanks

nyssa said...

Kmarie suggested this post to me :-) It's something that popped up recently in my life.. the good and evil in people. I agree with most of your points. The only exception in my mind is narcissists who need their supply and will "act" lovingly like many of the men who were tyrants or leaders who have done horrible things.. what can look like love and longing for their significant others can be actually the need for their ego to be stroked and for them to *feel* something and if the women they hold on pedestals rebuked them, I can only imagine the rage. It reminds me a bit of the stockholme syndrome (?) where abusive people then turn and act loving.. confusing the person who gets torn into trying to heal the wounds of the very person who is the abuser.. the person who beats their significant other then kisses the bruises to make it all go away and in fact, can appear to be the most attentive and loving person in those moments.
Human psychology can be so complicated. I'd like to think all people are capable of truly loving even if they do *evil* things and I don't think it's the exception.. most people are.. but many of the world's leaders ( such as hitler who supposedly had a deep love for animals and children) did things that only God himself can look at and decide what to do with. I think some of the people who write with such longing for their "loves" while they commit horrible atrocities are really not loving and "good" at all although it may look like that. Anyway,you're right no man is purely evil or good but I wouldn't trust someone to have my heart in their hands no matter how loving those letters seemed to be while he ( or she) did despicable things. I love your blog, it stretches my mind and makes me think but I went off on a tangent here ;) as I often do when my brain starts clicking but wow, I went all over the place with this, probably missing the point altogether!

CalledtoQuestion said...


Great points. No one needs to put themselves in a situation where the other is abusive, even if that person says they do "love" them. That is not healthy for either party. I love what you said, "but many of the world's leaders did things that only God himself can look at and decide what to do with." I absolutely agree.

I guess in the situation of the narcissist, we must delve into the matter that they, like us all, desire happiness and joy(both divine things), however incorrectly they pursue it. I feel a great importance in seeing all through the eyes of this perception. It reminds us, at least myself, that we all are in the same journey together, all in the pursuit of one thing.

Thanks for your thoughts of wisdom.