words are the most powerful thing that you own.
words are the worst thing you could ever say.
we don't value words enough anymore and that's why we're
suddenly so susceptible to foreign propaganda.
your words matter. a lot.
Editor's Note: the following is submitted without editing or checks for correction.
and yet i seem so incredibly unable to sit down and get mine out. i'm trying to get all these other things done instead, to not get distracted, but the reality is that not writing feels like the procrastination.
everything else is just me procrastinating from writing.
if all i ever did was write all the time i think i would be a very happy person. i don't think i'd run out of things to say.
there are blog posts that i owe myself. here's a short list of them:
- reactions from arendt's eichmann in jerusalem
- an update on the moon clock project
- a personal life update
- an essay about gentrification and home ownership and san francisco housing politics
- an essay on why i want to leave california
- an update on Mandarin learning.
Reactions: Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem
Right now, we're in the midst of an Uber vs Waymo case. Waymo is suing Uber over misappropriation of trade secrets, or something. To keep up with the court updates, I've been following Sarah Jeong who lives tweets the court room action every day. Sarah's part of a new breed of immediate courtroom relaying, but in some ways Sarah's tweeting follows in the footsteps of other court reporters, the most recent of which comes to mind is Hannah Arendt's missives from the Eichmann in Jerusalem, published first in the New Yorker as articles and then, later, compiled into a book.
I'd be curious to see if Jeong can turn her tweet storms into a book at the end of the Uber x Waymo trial; it'd be interesting to see what the result of a tweet reporting process is compared to a missive based storytelling style.
I digress. Let's talk about Eichmann, about what Hannah saw in Jerusalem, about what she discovered about the limits and the legacy of law.
I don't think I can say it as nicely as Arendt does, but in her epilogue, written ostensibly much later, she talks about how the judgement of the Israeli courts fell short of its goal of providing a framework for crimes against humanity, such as genocide, to be tried on an international scale.
For see, the problem with Eichmann was that he didn't kill anyone. At least, not himself. Eichmann's crimes are of the white collar variety -- there were layers of men and orders separating himself from any of the front line action of murder. Rather, Eichmann's role in the massacres were merely administrative -- he was brutally efficient at arranging transportation and logistics for moving hundreds of thousands of people on an already clogged train network. A skill that, in the aggregate facilitated the murder of millions.
But who were these Jews that were murdered? They were disowned by their countries, rendered stateless by the apparatus that was the German government, and then emigrated elsewhere, or, if there was no elsewhere available, eastward to one of the killing centers.
Eichmann was an expert on Jewish affairs. Originally, Eichmann billed himself as a Jewish expert. He used his 'expertise' in Judaism to become the first point of contact between Jewish communities and the Nazi regime. He organized Jewish Councils that, then in turn, helped to send their communities to slaughter. At first, it was merely emigration. The Jewish Council could honestly and firmly tell themselves that they were just helping their fellow Jews to escape bad conditions. What they didn't know, at least not at first, was that they were sending their communities to their deaths. Once Eichmann's team had successfully exported a Jewish Council's population, they exported the Jewish Council itself.
The goal was judenrein, or, in other words, a Jew free territory.
You know, it's strange to say but also true that if the United States had opened their doors widely and unequivocally to Jewish emigrants from Europe that not nearly as many would have been killed. Eichmann exported in earnest first. But after a while, he found that there was no where else to send Jews. Maybe they would have sent more to Israel, if it hadn't had been Palestine and heavily opposed by the British. The first Israelis owe much of their early influx of immigrants to the Nazis' desire to see Jews leave Europe. And then even more after, once survivors realized there was nowhere to return to.
Arendt's book on Eichmann, more than any other book I have read, clearly outlined the extent and the mechanics of the Holocaust. Why didn't we read it earlier? Sure, Anne Frank's Diary is not bad reading, but in terms of expressing the total impact and political implications of the Jewish Question and how the Nazis Tried to Solve it, it's not nearly as broad and concise as Arendt's telling of Eichmann's work. Because so much of it was his work -- the exports, that is. The movement of people.
And yet, can you charge a man with murder for the mere act of moving people? Even if he was doing so under direct orders? How much does the law of the land,, HItler's will in this case, absolve you of responsibility from your actions? Eichmann admitted to exporting Jews to death, but he claimed innocence in the killings.
You know, Eichmann does remind me a lot of the question of responsibility that arose lately around the Wells Fargo scandal wherein thousands of Wells Fargo employees were opening accounts for customers without their consent. The customers ended up with black marks on their credit and charges for accounts they didn't even know existed; Wells Fargo then fell to the unhappy task of assigning blame for the hundreds if not thousands of front line workers' actions. The workers were just following orders to meet quotas. WHo should be responsible for their malfeasance? To what extent do the quota setters share responsibility for their actions? I think in this case some people's heads rolled but I'm honestly not sure. What then. What now.
God I'm so tired. I should go to sleep. But there's so much more to tell you. So much more.
Feb 9, 2018
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