My Japanese wife in her quest to understand Western culture regularly runs by me some very interesting, sometimes entirely bizarre web sites. Recently she directed me to one strangely called vegetariansareevil.com, from which I borrowed the image you see posted here. The site is now shut down, I guess because they couldn’t pay their bill or maybe there are still some sane people in the world who had the good taste to delete it.
I have to say that while I am pretty jaded about what pops up on the internet, this one truly pushed the envelope of absurdity.
Offering a twisted taint-by-association logic __ which even makes the outlandish satire of The Onion seem tame by comparison __ the web site seemed to be promoting more meat consumption, based on the intrinsic evil of being a vegetarian. Right! Just what we need. More heart attacks, colon cancer, strokes, hypertension, clogged arteries. More stinking blood-drenched meat farms and global warming resulting from even more massive herds of steroid-plumped beef cattle farting continent-engulfing eddies of methane gas. More tectonic escarpments of slimy pig shit and tidal waves of cattle piss to foul the waterways and aquifers of our fragile ecosystems.
It can safely be assumed that whoever is behind this __ if it is not a complete put-on, in which case my hat goes off to them for their entirely brilliant if bizarre bit of mockery __ suffers from severe blockage of the arteries that supplies blood to their brains. But that’s a whole other can of beans. Or spam. Or something. Maybe a Double Down from KFC?
The reasoning is as direct as it is specious . . .
Hitler was evil incarnate. Hitler was a vegetarian. So vegetarianism is evil incarnate.
I am reluctant to point this out __ since I don’t want to trivialize the extent to which such thinking can impede any constructive exchange of ideas __ but I have it on good authority that Hitler also breathed. So we all should stop breathing? Because clearly such imitative behavior is evil incarnate? Inhaling an endorsement and praise of the Holocaust? Exhaling like clicking our heels together and yelling ‘Sieg Heil!’
Maybe more interesting, or at least sensible, is to ask: Exactly why was Hitler a vegetarian? The answer is brilliant on many levels and the perfect cause for disbelief and indignation.
First we have this quote from Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister of Propaganda, asserting the extent of Hitler’s devotion to the idea . . .
“The Führer is a convinced vegetarian, on principle. His arguments cannot be refuted on any serious basis. They are totally unanswerable . . . He believes more than ever that meat-eating is harmful to humanity. Of course he knows that during the war we cannot completely upset our food system. After the war, however, he intends to tackle this problem also.”
Then we have the words of Hitler himself . . .
“One may regret living at a period when it’s impossible to form an idea of the shape the world of the future will assume. But there’s one thing I can predict to eaters of meat: the world of the future will be vegetarian.”
It appears that Hitler based his vegetarianism on an opposition to causing suffering to animals __ isn’t that ironic? __ and rooted in the writings of Richard Wagner . . .
“When first it dawned on human wisdom that the same thing breathed in animals as in mankind, it appeared too late to avert the curse which, ranging ourselves with the beasts of prey, we seemed to have called down upon us through the taste of animal food: disease and misery of every kind, to which we did not see mere vegetable-eating men exposed.”
So here is a man whose demented policies resulted in cruel human experimentation, the cold-blooded torture and murder of millions of people, a man responsible for collecting gold fillings from freshly killed victims and turning people into lampshades, the man who stacked human corpses like they were cobs of corn during the autumn harvest . . . the same man who found the killing of animals for consumption as food, indelicate, cruel, unsavory.
Let’s try to get a handle on Der Führer, some perspective on him and his times.
Remember that the German people in the 1930s and 40s looked at Hitler as a great man. He was revered and regarded by millions of Germans, both in Germany and in enclaves of Germans in bordering countries, as a demigod. Most, of course, subsequently denied any knowledge of his savage treatment of the Jews, gypsies, Poles, and others he regarded as ‘subhuman’.
I personally believe that many, if not a majority, had a strong inkling of what was going on. It’s hard to be downwind of the human barbecues taking place at Auschwitz-Birkenau and conclude the stench coming from the ovens was yet another splendid meal of sausage or beef steak for the residents, who for some reason looked extremely anorexic.
But citizens somehow looked the other way. They gave Herr Hitler a pass. Anything which might cast doubt on his noble work on behalf of the German people was swept aside in the torrents of praise. Why question this remarkable man? After all, he was telling them what they desperately wanted to hear, that Germans were a great people, an exceptional people __ destined to lead the rest of the world into an era where Germany would oversee a grand new world order. He told them to stand tall, be proud and patriotic, serve their country, to support the wars, and let him and the Third Reich create an empire which would raise them to their rightful place as the leaders of the world.
(By the way, does this sound at all familiar?)
Yes, Hitler turned the faltering German economy around. Hitler restored the faith of the German people in themselves and their country. Hitler loved dogs. Hitler loved children. Children loved Hitler! Hitler made his people proud. Germans worshiped their Führer. He loved his people! By golly, he was so gently and caring he was even a vegetarian. What a great guy! So they proffered one of the most savage men in history the blind eye of absolution, a total pardon for his less than humane activities, the not-so-pleasant collateral damage, necessary evils __ the pogroms, the slave and concentration camps, the terrifying and indiscriminate civilian massacres of the Blitzkrieg, all of the unpleasant but requisite slaughter necessary to achieve the greater glory of Germany.
As one of my favorite contemporary philosophers says . . .
“Rationalization is the evil step-brother of rationality.”
Now with the hindsight of history and the clarity of victory, we know Hitler was pure evil. Worse than pure evil! Evil evil evil! How convenient, because our bully pulpit blowhards have the perfect tool at hand to demonize anyone they don’t like. How often we now hear the hysterical screaming . . .
“[Fill in name of latest evil bogeyman here] is another Hitler! He must be destroyed!”
Now I’m not about to make any such comparison between Adolph and any living politician or national leader. I’ll leave that to the purveyors of panic, a congested field of hysterical pundits and desperate politicos who lie and spit their hatred in pursuit of their insatiable appetites for plunder, death and destruction.
What I want to point out here is that there is an important lesson to be learned.
At the time of Hitler’s reign, the German people saw him as a savior, a hero, a man who would restore dignity and worth and greatness to the German nation. They looked very selectively at all of the positive things about the man, ignoring the blatant signs that they were in the throes of a love affair with a madman, whose unprecedented cruelties knew no bounds, whose egomania and visions of hell drove his destructive delusions. Obviously, we now benefit from a more complete understanding. All of the niceties and personal charm, the propaganda and spin which mesmerized the German nation and infused them with a pathological reverence for their leader is horribly irrelevant against the massively cruel, psychopathic crimes their Führer inflicted on humankind.
And that is the lesson we must learn from this.
I’m not going to name names here. All of you out there are big people and can determine on your own who this might apply to. These idols who substitute charisma and charm for character and honor are scattered far and wide across the political landscapes of the world. We have them here where I live in Japan, though I’d like you to focus on America and its European allies, since the West is the center of power in the world __ at least for now __ and represents the greatest existential threat to humankind.
Having said that . . .
When our contemporary leaders give their inspiring speeches, when they appeal to our pride, declare America the greatest nation in the world, declare Americans to be superior and exceptional, appealing to our already bloated pride. When they calculatingly take popular stands on “hotbutton” issues sure to bring them easy support because these are intensely emotional and appealing matters, for example, when they support gay marriage and minorities and other human rights, when they voice their concerns for the vulnerable, the sick and the less fortunate members of our society, even come out in favor of legalizing marijuana, then maybe give a little boost to the budget to help the unemployed or shove a nice plate of food in front of a hungry kid at school. There’s no question, these are on their own terms good things. These show common decency and compassion and common sense. These are fine, genuinely heartening gestures for sure. They feel good and give us the warm and comfortable feeling that we’re in good hands.
By golly . . . they’re just like loving children and dogs and being vegetarian.
The point is, when these same people then slaughter tens of thousands of innocent citizens around the world, start unnecessary wars over oil or other resources, promote aggression to enrich the corporate stockholders of our vast defense industries, sponsor extrajudicial torture and killing __ drone and special ops assassinations __ refuse to sign or approve treaties like banning land mines and cluster munitions, when these same leaders support ruthless murderous regimes around the world, and through all of the horror of these and other crimes against humanity, we look the other way, are we any better than the German citizens were before and during WWII?
Aren’t we just giving these putatively wonderful men and women a pass on the things that are the true measure of their moral leadership, the things which will blot our history for generations to come with the blood stains of our savage disregard for human life?
Of course, none of our splendid current leaders will ever reach the level of depravity and notoriety in history books as the man who was more evil than pure evil . . . Herr Hitler.
Our leaders can be forgiven for their sins.
They still eat hamburgers.
Just like us.