Miscellany talk:Confession to the Führer

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One could argue that it benefited the world for Schrödinger to remain free; on the other hand, oppressors' propaganda victories help them gain the upper hand, which enables them to shackle others. If Schrödinger bows down before the Nazis, it sends the message to those who hear about it that maybe it's a good idea to bow down as well. At any rate, it makes it seem less shameful to be cowardly if one can point to such prominent examples of cowardice on the part of great men who are widely admired.

Suppose Schrödinger had later killed himself and left a note saying that he couldn't handle the guilt over what he had done. That would have sent a message that maybe it's not such a good idea to bow down before the oppressors, because your conscience will eat at you and destroy your ability to do good. There are pros and cons to every course of action.

People constantly say, “The pen is mightier than the sword. We are in a battle of ideas; it is not about brute force. Therefore, we should not get involved in armed revolution.” But then they also say, “It doesn't matter what words you say in the courtroom or write down on paper, as long as you don't commit any physical aggression. Just make whatever statements and symbolic gestures are required to appease the State so that you can keep your freedom.” Which is it?

People might be tolerating inconsistency as a form of wishful thinking. They want to find an excuse for doing what's required to escape punishment, because they don't want to be punished or see the people they care about punished. So if it's handy to say that ideas matter more than actions, they'll say that; but if it's handier to say that actions matter more than ideas, they'll say that. The uncomfortable truth is that sometimes accepting, or at least risking, punishment might be in the public interest.

I'm not sure what situations that might apply to, though. Probably the higher-profile the case, the more it matters. But sometimes a case can attract unexpected attention or, conversely, draw less attention than one hoped. It could be that in some cases, people sacrifice their freedom and nothing good comes of their martyrdom. That may be an occupational hazard of activism. It's a real downer when it happens, but it's also a real downer to be among the millions of people who, without intending to stick their necks out, fall victim to the State's oppression. Nathan Larson (talk) 02:30, 21 December 2013 (MSK)