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.