Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Does being young, dumb and arrogant set you free?

Oh my … there are days when you just want to avert your eyes from things people say in all seriousness.

There is an expression – Arbeit Macht Frei – dating back to the title of the 1873 novel by German philologist Lorenz Diefenbach, in which gamblers and fraudsters find the path to virtue through labour.

The expression literally means “work makes free” and can be interpreted as “work will set you free” or “work liberates.” It was adopted in 1928 by the Weimar government to support their desire for large scale public works projects to end unemployment. Later, the Nazis adopted it for much the same purpose.

But the phrase took on a sinister and cynical tenor when it was installed in iron above many of the concentration camps, notably Auschwitz and Dachau. See the linked Wikipedia articles throughout this piece for more information, but the phrase has clearly become something to be avoided in normal conversation.

So it comes as no surprise that the use of this phrase on a forum today drew a sharp response from a few people. What did come as a surprise was the author’s misunderstanding of the meaning of the phrase and his flippant dismissal of the implications of using it in this context.

His exact words, delivered in a rather condescending comment to a critic, were:

My Dear man,

If they knew a bit more about German sayings you would know that this phrase was used for centuries before Nazi Germany and that it means to work for someone for free.

Now not that I am going to apologise[sic] for what I wrote as it were my grandfathers with their fellow soldiers who finished the craziness of Hitler, so obviously I am not referring to a nazi saying, but more so to the psychology behind the whole process.

(a) It was used for decades, not centuries. (b) It means “work will set you free”, not “working for someone for free” … two dramatically different contexts.

Even were the original poster correct about the meaning, its use when he had to know some of its history is deeply cynical at best.

Now, when confronted with a fairly strong defense of the negative reaction towards the use of that phrase, the original poster reacted with dismissive arrogance:


Interesting info, this sure sounds crazy but I guess it is the left overs in people's psychology. There are many crazy rules around the world. I can't see the point in forbidding words in your own language and forbidding digit combinations sounds even more crazy. But if the people find this OK, then of course it is OK

Psychoanalyzing other people as a form of insult and defense is simultaneously juvenile and arrogant. And to be this obtuse over the historical significance of the concentration camps and their connection to that phrase is simply a crime.

The whole episode ended from the original poster’s perspective with a shameful epic response naming everyone he dislikes and telling more lies than a sociopath-under-siege (which he may very well be), containing this arrogant gibberish that pretty much sums him up:

I am completely uttered[sic] by the several main characteristics of some posters her[sic] (all of them being proud of these): conformity, submission, ignorance, pseudo-moral[sic], hypocrisy, aggression based on evil memory and not on current situation, false concern and false emotions. People wake up and live.

My opinion: It is ok to be young. It is ok to be dumb. It is even ok to be young and dumb. But I draw the line at young, dumb and arrogant. That’s really not ok.

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