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Education After Auschwitz and The Veil of Technology

Some excerpts from the excellent essay, Education After Auschwitz, by Theodor Adorno:

One must fight against the type of folkways [Volkssitten], initiation rites of all shapes, that inflict physical pain—often unbearable pain—upon a person as the price that must be paid in order to consider oneself a member, one of the collective.

The evil of customs such as the Rauhn¨achte and the Haberfeldtreiben and whatever else such long-rooted practices might be called is a direct anticipation of National Socialist acts of violence. It is no coincidence that the Nazis glorified and cultivated such monstrosities in the name of “customs.” 

(Also see: Can Pain and Discomfort Make you Like A Group More

He also offered some interesting advice for Amy Chura (see here):

…He thought hardness necessary to produce what he considered to be the correct type of person. This educational ideal of hardness, in which many may believe without reflecting about it, is utterly wrong. The idea that virility consists in the maximum degree of endurance long ago became a screen-image for masochism that, as psychology has demonstrated, aligns itself all too easily with sadism. Being hard, the vaunted quality education should inculcate, means absolute indifference toward pain as such. In this the distinction between one’s own pain and that of another is not so stringently maintained. Whoever is hard with himself earns the right to be hard with others as well and avenges himself for the pain whose manifestations he was not allowed to show and had to repress.

… One might think that the less is denied to children, the better they are treated, the greater would be the chance of success. But here too illusions threaten. Children who have no idea of the cruelty and hardness of life are then truly exposed to barbarism when they must leave their protected environment.

On Technology

A world where technology occupies such a key position as it does nowadays produces technological people, who are attuned to technology. This has its good reason: in their own narrow field they will be less likely to be fooled and that can also affect the overall situation. On the other hand, there is something exaggerated, irrational, pathogenic in the present-day relationship to technology. This is connected with the “veil of technology.” People are inclined to take technology to be the thing itself, as an end in itself, a force of its own, and they forget that it is an extension of human dexterity. The means—and technology is the epitome of the means of self-preservation of the human species—are fetishized, because the ends—a life of human dignity—are concealed and removed from the consciousness of people.

On the main factor leading to Auschwitz
The inability to identify with others was unquestionably the most important psychological condition for the fact that something like Auschwitz could have occurred in the midst of more or less civilized and innocent people

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Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl is among the most influential works of psychiatric literature since Freud. The book begins with a lengthy, austere, and deeply moving personal essay about Frankl’s imprisonment in Auschwitz and other concentration camps for five years, and his struggle during this time to find reasons to live. Through his horrific experiences, Frankl discovers the one thing that can never be taken away.  Another book, The Theory and Practice of Hell is a horrific examination of life and death inside a Nazi concentration camp, a brutal world of a state within state, and a society without law.