Friday, February 17, 2017

What a Pity the Human Animal Is: Harry Truman on Human Nature

After touring Berlin, Germany following the second world war, newly inaugurated President Harry S. Truman wrote the following in his diary on July 16, 1945:
Then we went on to Berlin and saw absolute ruin. Hitler's folly. he overreached himself by trying to take in too much territory. He had no morals and his people backed him up. Never did i see a more sorrowful sight, nor witness retribution to the nth degree.

The most sorrowful part of the situation is the deluded Hitlerian populace. Of course the Russians have kidnaped (sic) the able bodied and I supposed have made involuntary workmen of them. They have also looted every house left standing and have sent the loot to Russian. But Hitler did the same thing to them.

It is the Golden Rule in reverse - and it is not an uplifting sight. What a pity that the human animal is not able to put his moral thinking into practice!

We saw old men, old women, young women, children from tots to teens carrying packs, pushing carts, pulling carts, evidently ejected by the conquerors and carrying what they could of their belongings to nowhere in particular.

I thought of Carthage, Baalbek, Jerusalem, Rome, Atlantis, Peking, Babylon, Nineveh; Scipio, Rameses II, Titus, Herman, Sherman, Jenghis Khan, Alexander, Darius the Great. But Hitler only destroyed Stalingrad - and Berlin. I hope for some sort of peace - but I fear that machines are ahead of morals by some centuries and when morals catch up perhaps there'll be no reason for any of it. (52)
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