Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The seductive nuances of "not-knowing" about mass murder elsewhere

I always love quoting books (gratuitously indulgent pseudo-intellectual I am), and to be able quote two simultaneously is highly pleasurable, although the subject matter itself is as far from pleasurable or savoury as possible.

This is from Stanley Cohen's States of Denial (Polity Press, 2005 [2001], p146), who is quoting Norman Geras' (yes, that old NormThe Contract of Mutual Indifference: Political Philosophy after the Holocaust (Verso, 1998, p96), on what could be called "purposeful ignorance" (or minimisation for that matter) about on-going genocide, mass murder, and ethnic cleansing, and its perverse relief effects:
Literal denial to your fellow citizens--who know that you know--requires further tactical collusion. You have moved from sight to insight, but your meta-insight tells you that it would be wise (for the time being, until things change, until the public wakes up, until things blow over) to play a little dumb in public. Geras nicely captures the nuances of not-knowing, even about mass murder: 'There are the people who affect not to know, or who do not care to know and so do not find out; or who do know or do not care anyway, who are indifferent; or who were afraid for themselves or for others, or who feel powerless; or who are weighed down, distracted or just occupied (as most of us) in pursuing the aims of our own lives.'
I would recommend the book as a whole, but does this passage remind you of anyone or any group of persons in particular?

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