By Eric Vandenbroeck
A hokey show trial of a third-echelon prison commander was foisted of as the start of the real tribunal against the KhmerRouge by Cambodia and the United Nations. Kaing Guek Eav, better known as "Duch", appeared in a solemn show-trial and photo opportunity for a day and a half. Media claimed he was a high-ranking official of the 1975-1979 Pol Pot regime. In fact, he was the brutal chief at the main S21 interrogation centre, carrying out orders from the regime whose members, most of whom have never even been arrested or closely questioned, will never go on trial. One reason: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen was a member of the Khmer Rouge, with a rank higher than Duch. We investigated the paranoid thruth of Khmer Rouge terror:
In fact the dramatic story of the Khmer Rouge is a clasic example of what we termed Apocalyptic Politics During the 20th Century.
In the early 1970s, Prince Sihanouk Cambodia’s situation wass congruent with his overall philosophy of isolationism, and a resistance to the forces of modernism. Considering that Cambodia had just freed itself from French colonialism, that it had suffered land grabs from Vietnam and Thailand, and that it was betrayed by the nations who promised freedom in exchange for their alliance in World War II, one can at least understand, Sihanouk's sentiment (although, he was also motivated by wishing to maintain his own power).
By the end of the Vietnam War then, a coup was staged by General Lon Nol, with the aid of the United States, and Sihanouk fled to China. Around the same time, the Cambodian communist party, the Khmer Rouge, formed a guerilla army, and began fighting the forces of Lon Nol. After a bloody civil war, the Khmer Rouge was victorious. These partisans then sought to transform Cambodia which had been a predominantly Buddhist nation - into a communist utopia. Here is where the enigma of what happened begins, how, after the devastating war that had ravaged the country, the Khmer would engage in an effort at social engineering that had such horrific consequences.
The failure of the Khmer Rouge's ideologically-driven goals had paranoiagenic consequences. For example in Cambodia's most productive area, Battambang and its environs, the leadership ordered that the groups there be at least doubled. This improvement would be accomplished by the ethnically pure workers inspired by the new communist government and freed from the "servitude" of receiving material reward for their work. They would also be freed from Western fertilizers and insecticides. Of course, the brutalized, ill-fed, and often inexperienced workers were not up to meeting the previous production level, much less doubling or tripling them. Productivity plunges. But for the leaders, failure did not lead to doubt of their ideology. Rather, they assigned the blame to ingrained capitalist habits and to traitors in the party.
What is significant here, is that in an effort to make sense of their failings, the leaders of the Khmer Rouge did not question the validity of their Marxist-Leninist economic and sodal theories. On the contrary, they fell entirely under the sway of the paranoid vision, with its specious explanatory and justificatory power. It was under the influence of that distorted way of seeing that the Khmer Rouge, between the years 1975 and 1979, murdered, by most accounts, over 1.7 million of their fellow Cambodians. Those who managed to survive the genocide had to endure an unimaginably repressive tyranny, one in which almost the entire population was essentially enslaved, had their family units destroyed through collectivization, and were in continual fear for their lives, lest they were found guilty of violating the slightest rule, such as showing up late to a meeting, or accidentally breaking a farm implement when working. Let us, then, examine how a nation can be transformed, almost overnight, into a nightmare realm, through the alchemy of the paranoid vision.
Peter W. Rodman (1996) argues, in an article, that the Khmer Rouge's tyranny and murder were merely the implementation of an ideological vision that they had articulated back in 1959, namely Marxism. No doubt the regime of Pol Pot was not pure Marxism, but Marxism with admixtures of the ideas of Robespierre, and strong elements of fascism. The Khmer Rouge rejected the grand narrative endemie to c1assical Marxism of eeonomic progress leading to a communist revolution. The Khmer Rouge were not interested in advancing beyond capitalism, but in immediately retuming to a supposedly idyllic agrarian way of life.
Then again, there was never a regime - whether it be that of Lenin, Stalin Mao, Castro, etc. - that Marxists regard as pure Marxism. The key here is that they aspired to be Marxists, and it is that aspiration that is what is dangerous. More universally, one could say that it is not utopia - which never comes about anyway - but the aspiration to utopia (as in the case also of extreme Islamism), that is dangerous.
Plus as we can see , Marxism, like all utopian worldviews, has the power to foment the paranoid vision. This is not to deny that there were other significant factors that contributed to the Cambodian holocaust. American bombing raids were merciless and played a part in radicalizing the populace. The character of the Cambodian people, also played apart; a number of scholars contend that Cambodians have a history of bellicosity and cruelty, even though many visitors to Cambodia have found the people there to be warm and friendly. Also influential was Cambodian nationalism, as weil as the extremely hostile xenophobie and radal attitude that Pol Pot and his cohorts had towards other groups of people, especially their neighbors, the Vietnamese. But, as will be evident, the primary paranoiagenic factor was, indeed, Marxism.
In line with the example of China during the late 1960’s, the revolutionary organization embarked on a program of social transformation that affected every aspect of Cambodian life. Money, markets, and private property were abolished. Schools, universities, and Buddhist monasteries were closed. But they went a step further; no publishing was allowed; the postal system was abolished; freedom of movement, exchanging information, personal adornment, and leisure activities were curtailed. Punishments for infractions were severe, and repeat offenders were imprisoned under harsh conditions or killed.
What can one derive, more essentially, from the Khmer Rouge's brave new world? First of all, their notion of utopia is founded on a primitivism, on a belief in an original innocence, of a very radical sort. As Francois Ponchaud states about the leadership of the Khmer Rouge, it was true for many Khmers educated in the French tradition, the leaders held in admiration the work of Jean Jacques Rousseau, exalting the 'noble savage' corrupted by society.
Under a different guise, this is a style of primitivism that as we have seen, als inspired radical Islamism. It follows that the Khmer Rouge were anti intellectuals, for they believed that thinking, knowledge, and all of the products of civilization destroy that original innocence.
Thus the Khmer Rouge abolished schools and universities, and the Khmer Rouge put to death intellectuals (think of Komeini’s call for the execution of Rushdie and “all those” involved with his publication, were to be killed "quickly.”), as well as anyone who was educated in a trade or profession, such as doctors, lawyers, college professors, and engineers. But while Mao was mostly engaging in politically motivated revolutionary rhetoric, but did not actually kill those with an education, Pol Pot brooked no such compromises with life's necessities.
The extraordinary aspect of the Khmer revolution (like with bin-Laden’s Islam) is the doctrinaire literalism with which they applied these [ in this case Marxist-Leninist] abstract principles without regard for the awesome costs to Cambodia in terms of diplomatie isolation, economic devastation, and massive human suffering.
Consequently, anyone wearing glasses, or who had soft hands, or who spoke French or English, was immediately dispatched to "the killing fields." All of these people, who were regarded as hopelessly corrupt – (referred to as animals, as lice, as germs all terms that can be found also frequently in Mein Kampf whenever Hitler was in this case, referring to Jews) - had to be killed if the millennium was to come. The Khmer Rouge not unlike religious founders, created a new calendar, and regarded the present year, which then was 1975, as the year zero.
Also, for the Khmer Rouge not unlike we have seen in our article about suicide bombers two days ago, the cities were the centers of foreign domination. The city was viewed by Pol Pot and bis inner circle as having a corrupting influence. They believed that not only Phnom Penh, but Cambodia itself, should be decimated, if necessary, so that it could be purified and saved from the defiling influenee of foreigners.
The title of a book by Robert J. Lifton is apropos to this discussion, Destroying the World to Save It (2000). Suffice it to say that the mystique of purity belongs, as we have seen, to the paranoid vision.
But as we have seen, the sense of inadequacy and inferiority often leads to envy, and then to the need to prove one' s worth. In regard to their sense of inferiority in relation to the Vietnamese, Cambodia, under the Khmer Rouge, needed to prove that it was on the cutting edge of the communist revolution, no matter how many people were exterminated in the process.
Furthermore the Khmer believed that the reason why China' s Cultural revolution had failed was becouse as they saw it, tthe Chinese had stopped at half-measuresi they had failed to sweep away every counterrevolutionary obstacle: the corrupt and uncontrollable towns, inteIlectuals who were proud of their knowledge and presumed to think for themselves, money and aIl finandal transactions, the last traces of capitalism, and "traitors who had infiltrated the heart of the Party."
In that essay, Margolin also suggests that the extremism of the Pol Pot regime stemmed from a feeling of desperation. Pol Pot and his comrades suspected that they were late arrivals. They sensed that they were living in an age in which communism was in the throes of revisionism. That revisionism was due to the various communist regimes increasing awareness of the unbridgeable gap between Marxist-Leninist theory and the realities of the actual world. They realized that unqualified communism was proving to be problematic and unworkable in the Soviet Union, China, and elsewhere. Pol Pot and his cadres may not have suspected this in the 1950s, when they were students in Paris, full of the blinding idealism of youth. But they must have realized as much by the 1970s. It has been said that a fanatic is a person who redoubles his efforts when he suspects that what he is doing is impossible. That might be Pol Pot's epitaph. If communism was failing in other parts of the world, and was becoming subject to revisionism, then he must be a1l the more extreme, all the more ruthless, in his efforts to make it succeed in Cambodia.
Patrick Raszelenberg offers another interpretation of the extreme radicalism of the Khmer Rouge. He suggests that it was politically motivated, particularly in regard to Viet Nam: " ... the Khmer Rouges intended to attain communism by leaping over the socialist stage of development. Theirs would be the first truly communist sodety on earth, completely independent and self-reliant. Only then would Cambodia be able to withstand Vietnamese pressure and embark on a more aggressive policy toward its neighbor. Elements of this policy included the revindication of southem Vietnam as weIl as the expulsion of the Vietnamese from this area. After the initial internal stabilization of the situation, the Khmers Rouges pursued a policy of direet confrontation with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, culminating in the explicit desire to wipe the Vietnamese off the face of the earth. (Raszelenberg, The Khmers Rouges and the Final Solution, 1999, p. 62)
Of course, this leads us to the question: why the need to exterminate the Vietnamese? The Khmer Rouge's racism derives from their paranoiagenie notion of an original purity, a purity made possible by the eradication of all that was foreign. Only when purity was achieved would the Khmer millennium arrive. Consequently, they sought the expulsion or eradication of everyone living in Cambodia who was not a Khmer, inc1uding those who were Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, French, or American. Furthermore, Cambodian citizens who were not of Khmer descent were considered foreigners, and were dealt with in a similar fashion. A large number of these non-Khmer Cambodians, many of whom were of Vietnamese descent, and many of whom were Islamic Cambodians, were brutally killed. So it was that there were, for the Khmer Rouge, several classes of the impure. Most prominently they were the educated and the foreign, and the land bad to be made pure through "ethnic cleansing."
Particularly rife were conspiracy theories about traitors within Khmer society, who supposedly had plotted with foreigners to overthrow the Khmer Rouge. Many of these theories revolved around the accused person working for the CIA. But since the ‚foreigners’ were now gone, the only people left for the Khmer Rouge to blame were their fellow Khmer Cambodians, which led to what has been called an "auto-genocide," Cambodians killing Cambodians.
Like true paranoids, the Khmer Rouge projected their own toughts upon other people and other ethnic groups. Eventually, of course, their paranoid suspiciousness became a self-fulfilling prophesy, for their aggressiveness towards the Vietnamese - manifested by the repeated military incursions of the Khmer Rouge into Vietnam - prompted the Vietnamese army to invade Cambodia in 1979, which led to the end of the reign of the Khmer Rouge. Ironically, it was their avowed enemy who unwittingly ended their autogenocide, probably saving an untold number of Cambodian lives.
In the end not surprising it was paranoia, not enemies, most responsible for bringing down the regime itself. Those who might have been useful to the regime, and necessary in bringing about the renewal of Cambodia, were murdered, out of fear that they might be dangerous enemies. At the very heart of the Khmer Rouge horror show was, a secret detention center called „5-21,“ used to interrogate mainly those higher-ups in the Khmer Rouge, and their families, suspected by the Khmer Rouge of treachery. Indeed, eighty percent of those prisoners had been members of the Khmer Rouge.
As far as can be determined from the meticulous records that were kept, the overwhelming majority of these prisoners had been falsely accused of treason. There are a number of mysteries here. However an analogy between Stalin and Pol Pot - especially in regard to the great show trials of 1938 in Moscow that preceded Stalin's purge - might help to answer that question:
The elaborate confessions extracted in Moscow were orchestrated to please Stalin. They confirmed his often inchoate fear, preempted "enemy" initiatives, and strengthened his authority. In this respect, the Soviet purges and the confessions stemming from them closely resembled those extracted at 5-21.
What is particularly interesting is that the trials confirmed the inchoate fears - which, one might say, are really paranoia-infused anxiety - into concrete conspiracy theories, with their perpetrators apprehended, put on trial, and then executed. This sort of scapegoating is a way of dealing with anxiety, although not a successful way, for it never confronts the real origin of that anxiety.
Would it have mattered to Stalin, and Pol Pot - from the standpoint of managing their paranoia-laden anxiety - whether or not those about to be killed were actually guilty? Would it even have mattered whether, in all likelihood, those who were convicted of crimes were innocent? Apparently not, for the mere act of killing people instilled fear in their respective kingdoms and made these dictators feel more in control. Furthermore, totalitarian dictators are generally of the opinion that it is better to be safe than sorry; it is better to kill people just in case they are traitors. All the same, how can one understand the fact that many young children, who were relatives of accused prisoners, were murdered by the Khmer Rouge? The Khmer Rouge believed that young children were guilty because they were related by blood to the accused, plus they might revenge themselves later. This was also the paranoya which led Hitler decide all those who were up to three generation ‚descendants’ of Jews had to dy to.
The accusations of treachery by their jailors might range from being counter-revolutionary to plotting the overthrow of their regime. It was not the only such prison run by the Khmer Rouge, but it was notorious for its brutality. Of the 14,000 prisoners who had been held there - which included men, women, and children - only seven were freed. The rest were severely tortured and interrogated, until they confessed to crimes that they did not commit. They were also tortured into implicating other innocent people. Finally, each prisoner was taken out into a field, beaten over the head with a metal club until dead, and buried in a shallow grave.
More specifically, they had to write a confessional autobiography, detailing how they had betrayed the party, and they had to invent some scheme of how they had gone about it. It was a kind of macabre creative writing project, in which the inducement for a lack of creativity was more severe torture. The final document then served as their last will and testament.
Each of the prisoners was, in essence, forced to create a conspiracy theory about himself or herself, and to implicate other people into their conspiracy. These forced confessionals then became the material in support of an elaborate super conspiracy theory. A man nicknamed Duch, the notorious head of 5-21, was in charge of finding a thread among the many conspiracies contained in these confessionals. He summarized dozens of confessions, pointing out the links he perceived with earlier ones and suggesting fresh lines of inquiry.
Like all conspiracy theorists, Duch is a kind of primitive metaphysician, for the "reality" behind the appearance/reality distinction is a nefarious plot of some sort, which is buried and hidden. The fact that Duch had worked as a math teacher, i.e. he was a mathematician, was not insignificant, for we have seen that the prototyp al conspiracy theorist is an abstract sort of person, with a top-down, apriori, way of seeing the world, a person who favors theory over experience, and who will gladly jettison the world of appearances in favor of the "real" world of theory. After all, experience is riddled with absurdity, but the world of theory is intelligible, or at least it seems that way.
All metaphysicians seek to explain how an apparent multiplicity is really one. The goal of conspiracy theorists is similarly to explain how all subplots are part of the one plot. Duch's "The Last Plan" was his conspiracist version of Einstein's Unified Field Theory.
It attempted to weave two years worth of confessions into a comprehensive, grand narative that implicated the United States, the USSR, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Duch also was mesmerized by the idea of moles infiltrating his organization, and the comparisons to the confessions and conspiracy weaving that occurred during the Stalinist trials in Moscow in 1938 are striking. As notedin the previous part, coherence is the conspiracy theorist's criterion of validity. Of course, the dark irony is that a coherent theory need not, to their way of thinking, correspond to objective reality. And in this case we could ad that maybe it is not totalitarianism as a system, that lead to these trials, but merely the psychopathology of Stalin and others. Furthermore, in regard to Pol Pot' s regime, how is one -to explain the fact that history repeats itself - in regard to the confessionals that became part of a huge conspiracy - with the advent of the Khmer Rouge?
It is no doubt true that Pol Pot and the other higher ranking Khmer Rouge were influenced by Soviet history and admired Stalin. That is one way to explain it. But most likely the reason why history is repeating itself here is that both Stalin and the Khmer Rouge shared a way of seeing, i.e., the paranoid vision. One must not dismiss the possibility that totalitarianism was an essential cause of what transpired in both the USSR and in Cambodia, for it may be that totalitarianism, as a form of government, is not only a product of the paranoid vision, but is itself paranoiagenic, and thus will eventually give rise to a Stalin, as Bakunin and Luxembourg once suggested.
There was a prisoner who did survive 5-21 and wrote a book about it, and what he has to say may further illuminate the Khmer Rouge prison system, and the nature of their way of seeing. The ethnologist and expert on Buddhist culture, Francois Bizot, who had been doing field research on Cambodian Buddhism, was captured by the Khmer Rouge and accused of spying for the CIA. Duch came to believe in Bizot' s innocence, and eventually he was one of the few to be freed. During the course of his stay at Tuol Seng, Bizot had an opportunity to speak to Duch, and to try to understand him. Bizot’s view of Duch is that he was anything but a cynic, for Duch was convinced that bringing communism to Cambodia would be the country's salvation. Ironically, Bizot saw that Duch (like bin-Laden?) was leading an "ethical life," one of honor and sacrifice, although for a wrong cause and committing atrocities to serve that end. Bizot even developed a certain fondness for Duch, whom he presents in his book as anything but a monster. In one passage, Bizot has a philosophical conversation with Duch, where he confronts the assumptions of all totalitarians:
You are dreaming of a system intended to make man happy in spite of himself. When will we stop allowing men to die in the name of man? This notion of Man, with a capital M, lies at the root of so much suffering. The individual is always alone beneath the heavens; it' s pointless to try to make him master of the world. (Bizot, The Gate, 2003, p. 117)
As Bizot sees it - and he follows a long tradition of thinkers who have pursued this line of thought, from Dostojevsky to Camus - the problem with that type of true believer who become totalitarians lies in their abstractness. Apropos is an article that appeared in Atlantic Monthly about the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, another mathematician (a Harvard mathematics professor for a time). According to Alston Chase, here again is an abstract thinker, an idealist, who became a paranoid conspiracy theorist. Chase perceptively relates Kaczynski' s way of seeing the world to the totalitarian worldview that ravaged the twentieth century. He mentions Stalin, but Duch and Pol Pot fit his picture:
The real story of Ted Kaczynski is one of the nature of modem evil-evil that results from the corrosive powers of intellect itself, and its arrogant tendency to put ideas above common humanity. It stems from our capadty to conceive theories or philosophies that promote violence or murder in order to avert supposed injustices or catastrophes, to acquiesce in historical necessity, or to find the final solution to the world's problems--and by this process of abstraction to dehumanize our enemies. We become like Raskolnikov, in Crime and Punishment, who declares, "I did not kill a human being, but a principle!""Guided by theories, philosophies, and ideologies, the worst mass killers of modem history transformed their victims into depersonalized abstractions, making them easier to kill. Much the way Stalin, citing Communist dogma, ordered the murder of millions of peasants toward "the elimination of the Kulaks as a elass," so Kaczynski rationalized bis murders as necessary to solve "the technology problem."
It is darkly ironie but understandable, then, that idealistic people like Duch, who become possessed by abstract, utopian ideals - and who have an unquestioned faith in the ability of social engineering to realize those ideals end up becoming political mass murderers. A curious comment that Stalin once made, "A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic." It would seem that a proc1ivity for engaging in political abstractions coupled with ablind faith in social engineering are highly paranoiagenic, for they set up the us/them opposition that makes it possible to dehumanize and then to kill the enemy.
Why is it that, after confessing, the prisoners were killed by the Khmer Rouge? After all, in China, Korea, and in Viet Nam, political prisoners were usually "reeducated," ie. indoctrinated, or brainwashed, with the party's dogma. But there were no such reeducation efforts made by the Khmer Rouge. Death was the only option, and death was the punishment for even the smallest, stealing a piece of fruit to being related to someone who had already been executed by the Khmer Rouge. Certainly, a clue may lie in the language that was employed by the Khmer Rouge to describe prisoners. In bis "Last Plan," Duch compared their strategy to "the way the Devils bore into wood" or "the way oil permeates" and likened them to silworms" (dongkeau) or germs (merok) that had come from the CIA, Vietnam, and so on to attack healthy, revolutionary people.
The fact that metaphors suggesting impurity, germs, infection, and disease are used is rather significant, for there is more than mere metaphor behind the language used. The language is the manifestation of a powerfully symbolic level of moral consciousness; the assumption, that one is originally pure. The sense of an original purity and an original grandeur, that were somehow lost - invariably because of other people - lends itself to utopianism and all the serious consequences that follow horn utopian longings.
If a person is viewed as completely infected, then there is no hope for reedueation or for ideological indoctrination, since the problem is not conceptual; as Hitler expressed it in his ‚testament’ although not racial, it is quasi-biological when he dictated:
"We speak of the Jewish race only as a linguistic convenience, for in the true sense of the word, and from a genetic standpoint, there is no Jewish race. The Jewish race is above all a community of the spirit. Anthropologically the Jews do not exhibit those common characteristics that would identify them as a uniform race. A spiritual race is harder and more lasting than a natural race." (Adolf Hitler, Political Testament/Politisches Testament: Die Bormann-Diktate vom Februar und April 1945, Hamburg, 1981, 68-9.) And yet, in Maoist China, this notion of defilement was also present, although the language used to describe prisoners was not as virulent.
Furthermore, the Maoists had a notion of purification, and they believed that this purifieation could come about by reeducation. As to why, then, the Maoists believed in reeducation but the Khmer Rouge held a darker view is not entirely clear. It may be due to a failure of imagination on the part of the Khmer Rouge, a failure to imagine that anything more is possible for human beings. But if their death-dealing was due to a failure of imagination, this failure may itself be due to the utter extremism of Pol Pot' s program, and to an impatience on aceount of that extremism.
There is another factor that might explain why reeducation was not an option, for he might have been a person with mixed motives. They wanted to bring about a Cambodian paradise, but they also had a darker motive. Thus, it was much easier for the revolution in Cambodia to define what it opposed than actually to announce a positive program.. For the most part, the Khmer Rouge sought revenge, and it was through this intention that they found most of their popular support, which then gained new impetus through radical collectivization. The desire for revenge often derives from the feeling of envy call it resentment if you want, as we have seen in the case of Islamism. The envious man does not so much want to have what is possessed by others as yearn for a state of affairs in which no one would enjoy the coveted object or style of life. Certainly that desire to level down distinctions between people is the darker side of communism's rage for equality. That is often the root of the terrible violence in communist revolutions, and it was certainly a spur to the vengeful violence in Cambodia.
Not surprising Pol Pot had sought out those from the bottom rung of society - those who were so envious of persons with more wealth that they would willingly strike them down. But not simply in the material sense, for there was a revengeful envy towards anyone who had any skills, who was educated in any way. With that malevolent attitude in place, a program of reeducation would be out of the question, for it would militate against the longing for vengeance.
Thus the extreme violence of the Pol Pot regime as is the case on an emotional level with extremist Islamism, stemmed from a melange of dark feelings, including feelings of desperation, inferiority, impatience, and vengefulness. On the other hand, the extremism of the Pol Pot regime, its desperation, and the terror that it engendered - although bloodier than Maoist China - was really not all that unique. But Where most people in China died due to Mao's agricultural economic policies - which Mao derived from his reading of Marx - the result of which was massive starvation, one could say, Pol Pot was implementing Mao's plan with Stalin's methods.
However Pol Pot did not have all the personality characteristics of Stalin, interviews with people who knew Pol Pot, and reported that most people regarded him as rather friendly, if not saintly, making in turn also a compairance with bin-Laden possible. He is described as a soft-spoken, smiling, amiable man who, as a communist, was valued for his ability to bring together different tendencies and groups.
astounding, it is the same question that one derives from reading Bizot's description of Duch, the
head of 5-21. There is no doubt, though, that he was pathologically paranoid,
as was Duch, and there was no doubt about the depth
of his moral depravity.
Thus in end the key to understanding Pol Pot, as well as his dosest associates in the Khmer Rouge, lies in their ideas.
Following Heidegger and Fanon, leaders like Lin Piao, ideologist of the Red Guards in China, and Pol Pot, justified revolution as a therapeutic act by which non-Western peoples wou1d regain the dignity they had lost to colonial oppressors and to American-style materialism, selfishness, and immorality. But violence, murder, and terror became means to bring about the perfect society.
Marx determined that violence was often necessary for a communist revolution to succeed. Apparently, Sartre agreed with Marx on that score, for he was an apologist for Stalin, and he was for the FLN murdering European civilians in Algeria. Furthermore, in a magazine artic1e, Sartre justified the killing of eleven Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. He also supported Castro who, although not a mass murderer, was, and is, a ruthless totalitarian dictator who has had many people murdered. We are, of course, uncertain as to what degree, if any, Sartre's ideas influenced Pol Pot, but the latter did attend some of the formers classes. What is likely, though, was that the ideas of Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Althusser, and other thinkers were in the air, so to speak. It was part of the intellectual milieu of the Sorbonne at the time. Marxism was in the air, which is understandable because these Cambodians were seeking to rebel against French colonialism, and Marxism seemed to provide the necessary ideology. In fact were von Kuehnelt-leddihn alive today, he might find that there exists at least 009 other group who have taken Marxist materialism and egalitarianism to its logical conclusion, namely the radical ecologists discussed before on this website.
Marxists have a proclivity to argue that the murder and mayhem found in any particular Marxist regime - from Lenin's to Pol Pot's - is a mere aberration, an exception, and not true Marxism. But just as the Holocaust expressed the extreme nature of national Sodalism, so did the Khmer Rouge rule in Cambodia (1975-78) represents an embodiment of Communist totalitarianism, when pushed to its logical condusion.
In the end however, it seems to be the discrepanc, between ideals and reality, which engenders the disappointment and bittemess that is paranoiagenic. Secondly, there exists a class of ideas that are not millennial, but tend towards nihilism, one could say they are ‚nihilistigenic,’ and, as such, are ‚paranoiagenic.’ Different from Heidegger (as seen in the previous part), nevertheless Sartre' s existentialism, is un-grounding, unbalanching, and disorienting.
European intellectuals in particular had a proclivity to admire men of violence, such as Che Guevara, who seem to be able to act untroubled by hamstringing deeper questions. Sartre fell prey to this, as did Camus initially, but Camus eventually woke up. In the end, Camus saw Communism as adesperate attempt to create meaning and certainty when he wrote, „Those who pretend to knoweverything and settle everything finish by killing everything.“
Now this is the curious thing: Marxism was able to provide meaning and certainty there would be no ontological devolution, no moral sliding, from Marxism to the paranoid vision, but inevitably there is. Neither Marxism, nor fascism, nor any other radical ideology can successfully militate against the disorientation created by the real ‚specter,’ the specter of meaninglessness. Consequently, the paranoid vision always appears, for the paranoid vision is a desperate quest for reorientation. And it is this that currently is happenning with the only now beginning, radicallisation of Islam, to flee the disorientation of the present age, by seeking to return to their own mythic vision of an imagined glorious age. Here it should stongly be emphasised that we are neither recommending nor not recommending a return to lost values. We are merely observing the connection between their loss and the emergence of the paranoid vision.
Furthermore, the ideological roots of the Cambodian genocide are not the roots of all genocides. As this website pointed out when it first went on-line, the American massacre of the Indians, for example, was an "ethnic cleansing" whose cause was simply greed for land, and whose specious justification ranged from manifest destiny to racial superiority. Similarly, those who perpetrated the Armenian genocide, which c1aimed the lives of over a million Armenians, were not Marxists either.
It is also, as we pointed out before, debatable whether genocide, and murder in general, is more prevalent today than in an age of faith. Philosophers -like Marx, Sartre, and Fanon - may have had a undermining influence on mores and morals, and therefore a pernicious influence on the social and political realm. But it is uncertain whether or not their ideas have actually added to the already murderous potential of human beings, something that came under sersious discussion the last quarter of the 20th century. (See Steven Pinker, The Blank State, 2002; Steven A. LeBlanc, Constant Battles, 2003.)
There is always the temptation to imagine that the present age is entirely the root cause of present problems. It would seem, though, that human beings have not significantly changed in their most fundamental aspects - such as their destructive potential - despite great differences in places, times, and cultures, throughout history.
If genocide can arise in different times and places, all with different zeitgeists, it may then be that genocide is not a disease in itself, but a deadly symptom whose cause could be any of a variety of diseases, ranging from those that are ancient to those that are modern, from those that are related to religious beliefs to those that are products of a secular ideology such as fascism or Marxism. On the other hand, the fact that genocide may arise under very different circumstances - sorne of which are, for example, quite foreign to Marxism - does not nullify the fact that in the case of the Cambodian genocide, Marxist ideology, allied with other deadly factors, played a significant role.
As we have seen so far the paranoid vision is characterized by delusions of persecution, but are also indicative of delusions of grandeur. Paranoiac delusions are not, though, the exc1usive province of the clinically paranoid as pointed out in the previous section. For example, if the internet is any indication, a fair number of people believe that the damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina-was part of a plot by certain politicians to destroy the poorer sections of New Orleans, so as to alter the electorallandscape in their favor. Similarly, there are those who believe that Princess Diana was really assassinated by British royalty.
In fact since most conspiracy theorists are relatively sane, conspiracy theories derive from a certain worldview, i.e., from a way of interpreting reality, which we non-clinical case, have been calling conspirational thinking. Like all worldviews, this thinking or vision, can be shared by a group of people, an organization, or by an entire society. Of course, worldviews are usually indigenous to a particular place and time in history. But conspirational think although expecially pertinent in the Middle East as we have seen, can also be said to be under circumstances as familiar to the human landscape as is love, hate, jealousy, sadness, laughter and longing.
A clue to its potential for ‚malevolence’ however lies in the curious fact that it is contagious, akin to a cognitive virus, restructuring how one sees the world. That is how entire organizations, religious sects, societies, and Nations as we have seen in the case of Nazi Germany, can be transformed. Other examples of this are what build up to when the genocides occurred in Serbia and in Rwanda.
Entire organizations or societies however have not as we pointed out, for example, quickly become obsessive-compulsive. This would confirm our argument that paranoia was more than a personality disorder, for personality disorders are not communicable, but visions of life, or worldviews, are.
How, exactly, is the paranoid vision able to spread? It must find narrative expression; Le. it must consist of a story with a plot and characters. The story is then told by one person to another. These consist of - conspiracy theories and apocalyptic fantasies. Such stories are like a Trojan Horse, secretly harboring the paranoid vision of life. As we have seen, the antidote to the paranoid vision, to discern its structure and dynamics. That is because visions of life are creatures of the night that vanish before the light of conscious understanding.
As we have seen, the essence of the paranoid vision is that there exists an enemy who is conspiring to do one or once religion, harm. There is much to suggest, though, that a certain continuum exists within the paranoid vision. Some paranoids have a vague sense of suspicion, and a mild proclivity towards believing in conspiracies. At the other extreme are those paranoids who are intensely suspicious, have wild delusions of persecution coupled with insane delusions of grandeur, and vilify other people, to the point of violence. This creates somewhat of a conundrum: Is it the case that the paranoid vision, in its essence, is malevolent? Those who belong to "conspiracy culture" are not just the stereotypie rightwing lunatics written about and described by Richard Hofstadter in 1965. Understanding the paranoid vision as not intrinsically malevolent requires determining what factors would make it so. But understanding the paranoid vision as intrinsically malevolent requires determining what it is that dilutes it, sublimates it, or elevates it to a higher level.
If paranoia is a vision of life, it must be single, or unitary, but paranoia, c1inically understood, is recognized by a diversity of symptoms. In the statistically based guidebook (pictured in the previous part) that many clinicians use to determine the presence of psychopathology in a person, called DSM-4, there is little effort to indicate how these symptoms are interconnected, other than to state that if four or more out of seven symptoms are in evidence, then that person could be judged to be paranoid. Even specialized texts on personality theory that present a general theory of paranoia leave many dots unconnected. Paranoia, like other psychological maladies, is viewed as a syndrome. The notion of syndrome merely points to the fact that certain symptoms are found together, without infonning one as to the essential reason why.
Thus the argument that we have been making,in the previous part, is not that there exists a paranoid personality, but that there exists a paranoid vision. The paranoid vision is not merely a syndrome, for it possesses an underlying unity that logically accounts for why different symptoms are found together. In order to truly understand paranoia, one needs to grasp all of its manifestations as derivative of that single essence, or way of seeing.
The paranoid vision is not merely a syndrome, for it possesses an underlying unity that logically accounts for why different symptoms are found together. In order to truly understand paranoia, one needs to grasp all of its manifestations as derivative of that single essence, or way of seeing.
Bearing that in mind, one may wonder: what, essentially, do delusions of that inner opposition, almost sounds like a manicdepressive disorder, except that there is an important difference: the sense of one's ignominious position in life - humiliated - is blamed on other people. This same sense of humiliation could, of course, apply not solely to oneself, but to one's people, group or nation. That same poisonous sense of having been humiliated is spewed forth in Hitler's Mein Kampf and the speeches of Osama bin Laden. In other words, the happiness, that I - as well as my people (religion, society, ete.) - deserve, would exist today were it not for the machinations of a certain cabal, who ruined it a11 for uso I bitterly hate them for having robbed us, and resent them for enjoying what they have stolen. Furthermore, I fear their insidious power, and their nefarious plans to totally enslave, pauperize, defile, humiliate, or destroy us.
Obviously, the paranoid is no stranger to hatred, but here is hatred of a eertain type. Ordinary hatred is founded simply on the sense that someone is in my way of getting what I want. It lacks the grandiose claim of paranoid hatred - that happiness and greatness is one' s birthright - and the eonsequent resentment and bitterness over paradise lost. Apparently, the paranoid does not believe in "win/win," but has a "zero-sum game" notion of success, which means that there is only so much wealth, success, or happiness to go around. Therefore one person's failure is predicated on another person's success, and one person's paradise is another person's hell.
This envy, or resentment, has most unfortunate consequences when the paranoid vision finds expression on the politicallevel, for envy is impervious to goodwill. As has often been observed, if someone hates you, and you act kindly to that person, his or her hatred towards you is likely to abate. But if a man's hatred is founded on envy, and you show kindness to him, his hatred will increase. Furthermore, paranoids will suspect that your goodwill has a dark ulterior motive, and that what you are conspiring to do is far more sinister than if you had simply been directly aggressive. This bitter envy, resentment, and wounded pride leads the paranoid to vilify other people.
As Richard Hofstadter pointed out, "Since the enemy is thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated - if not from the world, at least from the theater of operations to which the paranoid directs bis attention." (Hofstadter, The Paranoid Style in American Politics 1965, p. 31)
The driving force of Osama bin Laden' s mayhem has been his wish to restore the Caliphate. If such movements as we have seen, are incredibly sanguinary, it is because they are infused with asense that an apocalypse must precede the millennium. To some extent, the dream of utopia would appear to be born of the universal longing to be free of the hardships, disappointments, and injustices that one suffers in this less than perfect world. Imaginative dreams of a better world appear to be, at worst, merely naive, the idle speculations of philosophical dreamers. Sometimes utopian thinking has a positive value; it can awaken the human imagination to undreamed of possibilities, some of which can be a boon to mankind.
But there is a darker side to such longings, just as there is a darker side to romantic, idealistic, and unconstrained longings in general. As we have seen also, doubts about one's grandeur should result in a shift from egocentricity, to the question of how to be. Unfortunately, all efforts to transcend ego can be subverted by alteriar motives. Religious faith, for example, can become a new and far more deadly arena for paranoid delusions. Like a deposed dictator, one's ego can wait for the opportune psychological moment - a moment of spiritual stress, a dark night when the soul is weak and susceptible to invasion - and then return, this time in the guise of sanctity, to recapture its lost throne.
From a psychological perspective, utopian thinking is essentially vain selfexaltation, a clinging to childhood egocentricity. This clinging has the effect of canceling, or at least deferring, the process of psychological maturation. It is an adolescent protest against facing the responsibilities, and the harsh realities, of adulthood. Adolescence mistakes the quixotic promptings and paradisal images - that arise form puerility of spirit - for true idealism. Anything but innocent, this romantic, adolescent outlook has given birth to violent revolutions and cruel reigns of terror. The perception of the immense gap between the real world and the utopian dream world breeds frustration and discontent, which then give way to hatred, resentment, wrath, and suspicion. Eventually, it leads to violent thoughts about how this gap might be bridged.
If one understands this frustration, many of the paranoia-infused plagues of modernity - including terrorism, totalitarianism, apocalyptic visions, and conspiracy theories - might also begin to be intelligible. For example, a utopian or millenarian might conclude that our world is so hopelessly perverted in its iniquity, or so deeply sunk in confusion and ignorance, that the millennium is not very likely, through any practical course of action, to come -about. There then emerges a longing for a savior who could magically transform the world. But instead of a savior comes an autocrat who seeks to repress independent thought and judgment. The autocrat, or totalitarian dictator, then spins the narratives - conspiracy theories and apocalyptic fantasies - that become the organizing principles of paranoid movements.
Furthermore, one might imagine that there exists a certain group of people preventing the realization of a utopian paradise. When delusions of lost or stolen grandeur combine with delusions of persecution, the result, quite often, is the emergence of virulent conspiracy theories. There are, then, significant reasons why utopian longings often give rise to a dystopia.