Human All-Too-Human, Part 1

Page 15 of 70


Revelling in Vengeance.—Coarser individuals who feel themselves insulted, make out the insult to be as great as possible, and relate the affair in greatly exaggerated language, in order to be able to revel thoroughly in the rarely awakened feelings of hatred and revenge.


The Value of Disparagement.—In order to maintain their self-respect in their own eyes and a certain thoroughness of action, not a few men, perhaps even the majority, find it absolutely necessary to run down and disparage all their acquaintances. But as mean natures are numerous, and since it is very important whether they possess that thoroughness or lose it, hence——


The Man in a Passion.—We must beware of one who is in a passion against us as of one who[Pg 79] has once sought our life; for the fact that we still live is due to the absence of power to kill,—if looks would suffice, we should have been dead long ago. It is a piece of rough civilisation to force some one into silence by the exhibition of physical savageness and the inspiring of fear. That cold glance which exalted persons employ towards their servants is also a relic of that caste division between man and man, a piece of rough antiquity; women, the preservers of ancient things, have also faithfully retained this survival of an ancient habit.


Whither Honesty Can Lead.—Somebody had the bad habit of occasionally talking quite frankly about the motives of his actions, which were as good and as bad as the motives of most men. He first gave offence, then aroused suspicion, was then gradually excluded from society and declared a social outlaw, until at last justice remembered such an abandoned creature, on occasions when it would otherwise have had no eyes, or would have closed them. The lack of power to hold his tongue concerning the common secret, and the irresponsible tendency to see what no one wishes to see—himself—brought him to a prison and an early death.


Punishable, But Never Punished.—Our crime against criminals lies in the fact that we treat them like rascals.

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Sancta Simplicitas OF VIRTUE.—Every virtue has its privileges; for example, that of contributing its own little faggot to the scaffold of every condemned man.


Morality and Consequences.—It is not only the spectators of a deed who frequently judge of its morality or immorality according to its consequences, but the doer of the deed himself does so. For the motives and intentions are seldom sufficiently clear and simple, and sometimes memory itself seems clouded by the consequences of the deed, so that one ascribes the deed to false motives or looks upon unessential motives as essential. Success often gives an action the whole honest glamour of a good conscience; failure casts the shadow of remorse over the most estimable deed. Hence arises the well-known practice of the politician, who thinks, "Only grant me success, with that I bring all honest souls over to my side and make myself honest in my own eyes." In the same way success must replace a better argument. Many educated people still believe that the triumph of Christianity over Greek philosophy is a proof of the greater truthfulness of the former,—although in this case it is only the coarser and more powerful that has triumphed over the more spiritual and delicate. Which[Pg 81] possesses the greater truth may be seen from the fact that the awakening sciences have agreed with Epicurus' philosophy on point after point, but on point after point have rejected Christianity.


Love and Justice.—Why do we over-estimate love to the disadvantage of justice, and say the most beautiful things about it, as if it were something very much higher than the latter? Is it not visibly more stupid than justice? Certainly, but precisely for that reason all the pleasanter for every one. It is blind, and possesses an abundant cornucopia, out of which it distributes its gifts to all, even if they do not deserve them, even if they express no thanks for them. It is as impartial as the rain, which, according to the Bible and experience, makes not only the unjust, but also occasionally the just wet through to the skin.


Execution.—How is it that every execution offends us more than does a murder? It is the coldness of the judges, the painful preparations, the conviction that a human being is here being used as a warning to scare others. For the guilt is not punished, even if it existed—it lies with educators, parents, surroundings, in ourselves, not in the murderer—I mean the determining circumstances.

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Hope.—Pandora brought the box of ills and opened it. It was the gift of the gods to men, outwardly a beautiful and seductive gift, and called the Casket of Happiness. Out of it flew all the evils, living winged creatures, thence they now circulate and do men injury day and night. One single evil had not yet escaped from the box, and by the will of Zeus Pandora closed the lid and it remained within. Now for ever man has the casket of happiness in his house and thinks he holds a great treasure; it is at his disposal, he stretches out his hand for it whenever he desires; for he does not know the box which Pandora brought was the casket of evil, and he believes the ill which remains within to be the greatest blessing,—it is hope. Zeus did not wish man, however much he might be tormented by the other evils, to fling away his life, but to go on letting himself be tormented again and again. Therefore he gives man hope,—in reality it is the worst of all evils, because it prolongs the torments of man.


The Degree of Moral Inflammability Unknown.—According to whether we have or have not had certain disturbing views and impressions—for instance, an unjustly executed, killed, or martered father; a faithless wife; a cruel hostile attack—it depends whether our passions reach fever heat and influence our whole[Pg 83] life or not. No one knows to what he may be driven by circumstances, pity, or indignation; he does not know the degree of his own inflammability. Miserable little circumstances make us miserable; it is generally not the quantity of experiences, but their quality, on which lower and higher man depends, in good and evil.


The Martyr in Spite of Himself.—There was a man belonging to a party who was too nervous and cowardly ever to contradict his comrades; they made use of him for everything, they demanded everything from him, because he was more afraid of the bad opinion of his companions than of death itself; his was a miserable, feeble soul. They recognised this, and on the ground of these qualities they made a hero of him, and finally even a martyr. Although the coward inwardly always said No, with his lips he always said Yes, even on the scaffold, when he was about to die for the opinions of his party; for beside him stood one of his old companions, who so tyrannised over him by word and look that he really suffered death in the most respectable manner, and has ever since been celebrated as a martyr and a great character.

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