Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The limits of loyalty

Through a series of circumstances too long and unimportant to relate, I found myself looking up the Schutzstaffel, aka the SS of Nazi Germany. What a horrid history they have, not that that surprises me, but other than thinking "Nazi SS--bad," I hadn't really considered them before.

I was particularly struck by their motto: "Meine Ehre hei├čt Treue", which is translated "My honour is loyalty." I'm beginning to grow suspicious of the virtue of loyalty. Suspicious anyway of the virtue of loyalty to a particular group, organization, or party, as opposed to loyalty to certain values. Loyalty for loyalty's sake, and loyalty being tested by acts of loyalty, no matter what the act. That's what's scary to me.

Loyalty is a pretty easy virtue, it seems to me. It can excuse one from the hard work of independent thought while supporting one's own sense of virtue: I am being loyal. And in so many cases, it seems to be a dangerous virtue, keeping people in situations and having them take actions that under other circumstances they would most certainly find abhorrent.


qoe said...

How you came to be looking up info on SS... might be interesting to find out... (?) Won't press to find out... But, as to the issue of loyalty, what you say resonates with me. Loyalty offers individuals the opportunity abdicate personal responsibility to some 'leader'. By contrast, the 'leader' derives power from each individual within the rank and file of those who abdicate personal responsibility; this power can be used for good or for ill, but historically shows forth on the side of ill. Loyalty is a tool of oppression, particularly political oppression. Unfortunately, I cannot avoid the fact that this brings to mind the creeds that are part of our tradition and liturgy. Would God expect us to recite a creed? I am sure the answer is ultimately 'no'. A creed is neither a proof of belief nor a proof of action. But it is the key that opens the door of inclusion (even collusion) toward a group existence or effort; or that is, at least, the way in which it has been employed, both in history and in the present day. I would timidly but truthfully confess to you that I recite the creed with great trepidation in my soul (knowing what I know of the history of the creeds and how they have been employed as tools of threat and control), but that the exisitence of creeds in our liturgy does not shake my faith in God, in the teaching of Jesus or in the Way that has been revealed to me. In the end, God is the final judge and arbiter of the mundane summation of my existence, not the church as a whole or any controling organization or any single individual.

qoe said...

Said I wouldn't press, and I won't... But had the sudden inspiration that you might have recently read "Peeling the Onion" by Gunter Grass...