Few of us would defend Hitler as virtuous, in fact few would see him as anything other than “evil”.
Adolf Hitler loved dogs and brushed his teeth, but that doesn’t mean we should hate dogs and stop brushing our teeth.
Says Jared Diamond quoting a friend in “Collapse – How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive” [my emphasis]. The quote follows two long sections on pretty evil events of recent history. Rwandan and Burundian genocides, and the colonialism, slavery and evil dictatorships of Dominica (Trujillo et al) and Haiti (Papa Doc Duvalier et al).
Despite obvious evils, – in the former case, the Malthusian food vs population imbalance rather than the Tutsi vs Hutu ethnic differences, in the latter, the contrast between climate and productive areas vs “enlightened” environmental management at the two sides of the same island, Hispaniola – the full scope of both bottom-up and top-down mismanagements includes pretty much all complex inter-related aspects of social-environmental balance and sustainability.
Fascinating case-studies, and Diamond concludes:
Part of our problem in understanding [Balaguer, a paradoxical Dominican leader] may be our own unrealistc expectations. We may subconsciously expect people to be homogeneously “good” or “bad”, as if there were a single quality of virtue that should shine through every aspect of their behavior. If we find people virtuous or admirable in one respect, it troubles us to find them not so in another. It is difficult for us to acknowledge that people are not consistent, but are instead mosaics of traits formed by diffrent sets of experiences that often do not correlate with each other.
[…] The struggle to understand [him] reminds me that history, as well as life itself, is complicated; neither life nor history is an enterprise for those who seek simplicity and consistency. [my emphasis]
Too true. Life is (just) complicated enough, I often say. In fact I take a slighly different view on the consistency angle. My take [my emphasis] is that consistency and coherence are in the complexity spread across multiple levels physio-bio-socio-cultural-intellectual processes. It’s the simplicity and consistency in simplicity that is the fools errand.
[Refer back also to MacIntyre on the story beyond virtue after multiple virtues.]