On The Natural: Human Tendency For The Eradication Of Dirt

1661 words - 7 pages

Staub, as referenced in Ordinary Men, proposes that “ordinary psychological processes and normal, common human motivations and certain basic tendencies in human thought and feeling are the primary sources of the human capacity for mass destruction of human life” (167). This idea is indeed exemplified by the actions of the Nazi party towards Jews during the Holocaust. Though this statement raises controversy, in that most people dislike the notion that they, too, possess the capacity for such atrocious actions against other human beings, Staub’s claim is given merit by several authors in their own works regarding the events of the Holocaust and the nature and actions of human beings; specifically, Spiegelman’s Maus I and Maus II, Browning’s Ordinary Men, Bauman’s “The Dream of Purity,” and Sherman’s Bent support Staub’s accusatory claim. The aforementioned works support the notion that, given the proper conditions of existence, any otherwise normal human (that is, not selected for traits expressing violence) possesses a natural capacity for the “mass destruction of human life” (Staub 161) due simply to the intrinsic nature of humans to desire order.
In his essay, “The Dream of Purity,” Bauman discusses the desire, possessed by all humans, for the complete control over the order of their lives. As conscious beings – that is, capable of forethought – humans have a dependency on familiarity and order such that they can reasonably guess the events of the future and plan their actions accordingly. Bauman makes this desire for order clear when he says that people’s desire to “[stigmatize] traitors [and banish] strangers stems from the motive of preservation of order, of making or keeping the environment understandable and hospitable to sensible action” (2). Without the ability to “tame the wild profusion of existing things” (Foucault) into a fashion in which it is easily understood, humans, in essence, lose what it is to be human – they become incapable of reasonably guessing the events of the future. Bauman says that “Only in such surroundings” of order “can [humans] select actions properly – that is, with a reasonable hope that the results in mind will indeed be achieved” (2). When anything is at risk of occurring spontaneously as a result of the inability to order dirt as desired, those capable of conscious thought become uncomfortable in their conditions of existence. Bauman also notes that in some cases, there are things “for which the ‘right place’ has not been reserved in any fragment of man-made order” (1). This case becomes particularly troublesome when it is “other human beings who are conceived of as [obstacles] to the proper ‘organization of environment’ – when, in other words, it is other people, or more specifically a certain category of other people, who become ‘dirt’ and are treated as such” (2). This particular notion applies specifically to the actions of the Nazi party during the Holocaust, as their actions were planned in a way to...

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