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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Are there Bad Anes? (Badjins)

RE:” Is There Really Only One Human Race?”


I read with interest your piece on humanity and the nature of good and evil. It is a question that has long interested me.

As a teacher I do all I can to promote good habits –what used to be called breeding- or what you call upbringing and the Spanish and French call ‘educación’ or éducation respectively. It seems to me we do not have the proper word for this very important act or we have lost it. Breeding is the old Anglo-Saxon word for ‘education’, ‘training’ or ‘home-schooling’ but I am afraid it is obsolete, perhaps a victim of the eugenics movement. Of course, classical ‘breeding’ or training has nothing to do with genetics and everything to do with discipline and good manners.

Liberals or modernists delude themselves –and so waste a lot of energy and money- by thinking all students can learn. Of course, all students CAN LEARN SOMETHING but how much they learn is really a matter of

1) discipline and habit

2) inspired teaching and association with great minds (via great books). We pitch ‘em but they must hit ‘em however as I like to say. I want students to learn but they must respond and take charge of their own lives and learning.

3) personal desire and aptitude. The student must choose to learn for his own sake and for the sake of his family, community and society. Yet the harsh truth is many people resist education all of their lives. The hardest thing for me to get over is the realization that some people cannot be helped or cajoled. They are goners. All you can do for them is encourage them the best you can and pray for them. One should spend one’s energy on those who truly want to learn.

And then there seems to be what my Auld Pop –a Scottish immigrant and former soldier- called the “bad ane, a bitter bad ane.” (pronounced”badjin” some one thoroughly bad as opposed to a “guid ane” (goodjin) someone thoroughly good).

And just what was a ‘bad ane”? A fause hairt (false heart). a blackguard or if we were to use what I believe is a Yiddish expression a “ no-goodnik.”

But the Highland word for this is very expressive as well and makes me think of your conclusion.

The best thing a man could be called, traditionally was of course, a “leal mon” or a “leal and true mon” or more simply a “goodjin”.

But the worst thing a man could be called was a droch bheist (DROCH VAIST) Or a “beist olc” (EVIL BEAST or MONSTER).

Mind you my Auld Pop was not a man of great formal education but he was a man thoroughly schooled in the character, courage and cowardice of men. I think it far to say he was a canny Scot and a survivor. A sailor, shipbuilder and soldier he sailed around the world three times and fought the foe on three continents. He was of the opinion that some people were just bad and so needed either a “guid skelpping” (chastisement).

Some people were so bad that one must avoid them at all costs. “Never seek a fight,” he used to say, “but never shun it either.” He taught me the wisdom of the Auld Book “Thou shall not Kill” but he had killed many times (chiefly in the line of duty and chiefly Germans and Turks). He was a gentleman and very kind to his grandchildren but he said: “To kill, “ he said, “in a war is something you have to do. In a fight it is kill or be killed. And there is an Evil Beast than canna be trusted or captured only killed.”

That was something that stuck in my head: THERE IS AN EVIL BEAST THAT CANNOT BE TRUSTED OR CAPTURED ONLY KILLED.” I remembered that when I read your article. Perhaps he was speaking of man-eating tigers or sharks –he had killed both- but in the context it was very clear he was also speaking of men. He believed, he firmly believed that some people were born bad to the core. This, of course, today would be dismissed as mere prejudice but he spoke with authority from long experience. “The teaching is strong,” he said, “but the blood is strong.”

My kinsman Major Norman Eliasson ( Bronze Star “V” for Valor in Ardennes, 10th Armored Division -nicknamed the Tiger Division- USA) confronted the SS in combat (I have a souvenir Waffen SS helmet kept locked up in a black box –he bad me never display it nor honor it in any fashion). So he saw the face of real evil. On April 27 1945, the 10th Armored Division, along with the 103rd Infantry Division, liberated the Landsberg-Dachau concentration camp. Many years later I visited the camp with my kinsman (I called him Uncle but he was actually my mother’s cousin). He told me "The Battle for Bastogne was no doubt the worst ordeal of my entire Army career. Hunger, capture and death seemed imminent every day. Under these circumstances you do some serious praying.” He narrowly escaped capture in the first days by driving all night in his jeep without his lights on, trying to find a gap in the German lines. At last he came to a German picket and –my uncle spoke fluent German- he decided to act the part of a German Junker officer and bluff his way through. As he told it, he terrified the slavish German soldiers –probably just kids- and drove right through the lines, keeping his head down. As he approached the American lines, he was being shot at from both sides. He turned the lights on the jeep –it took all the fire- and made his way to the American lives.

So he saw a lot of action and a lot of killing. But nothing topped the horrors of Dachau. The smell was suffocating, sickening. He told me it was hard to imagine how anyone could endure those depths of misery which included slaver labor under unspeakable conditions, the brutality of merciless, sadistic –often drunken- guards who seemed to murder for fun as well as delight and profit, sleep deprivation, starvation, water deprivation, physical and emotional torture, diseases, blistering heat (in the summer) and unceasing chattering cold in the winter. As he spoke German he interviewed both prisoners and guards. To live in Dachau was to live in Hell. That was the only way to describe it. And the Commandant was the Devil in chief and the guards themselves Demons. Public humiliation of the prisoners and collective punishment were commonplace. The most vicious form of torture –so my uncle was told- was to lock the prisoners up and deny them any water until they died. Under such conditions, he was told, the prisoners literally went mad and devoured each other or drank the blood of corpses. I often asked him to write down his experiences but he resisted it. He did not like to talk too much of Dachau in particular though he often spoke of his experiences as a soldier. My uncle told me that after Malmedy and Dachau many American troops shot SS troops on sight. He never said that he did it himself but he did say he saw rows of SS troops who had been killed, presumably after capture.

But despite all this my Uncle Norman was very fond of Germany, German culture and Germans. He was stationed in Germany a few times and visited Germany many times. He asked that German hymns be played at his funeral (he is buried in Arlington Cemetery). He told me that it was wrong to hate Germans just for being Germans. He told me many religious and gentiles suffered under the Nazis as well. One of my uncles’ favorite books Priestblock 25487 A Memoir of Dachau by Jean Bernard

He quoted Father Bernard, a Luxemburger priest, who had been a prisoner at Dachau who said, “We must forgive while remaining conscious of the full horror of what occurred, not only because nothing constructive can be built on a foundation of hatred ... but above all for the sake of Him who commands and urges us to forgive, and before whom we, victims and executioners alike, are all poor debtors in need of mercy.”

I suppose my uncle believed in the traditional idea of Original Sin which meant hat every child was potentially a greedy beast with an alarming capacity for evil. Hence the need for ‘breeding’ or training especially –in the eyes of my uncle- in ethics and religion.

But my uncle ,like my grandfather, felt that some people were ,by nature, almost totally depraved.

There were bad anes. (BADJINS).

But he reminded me, paradoxically, that even Adolf Hitler was not UTTERLY depraved and potentially could have been saved!

I will tell you that I found this shocking and still find it shocking.

I suppose, in theory, Hitler could be forgiven, but to me it seems his crimes are unforgivable. I remember telling my uncle if I woke up in Heaven and saw Hitler I would think I was in the wrong place!

But as evil as Hitler was, my uncle said, he did not kill his own mother nor murder his wife. I still was not convinced that Hitler had a chance in hell but being a polite young lad I listened.

He could have been even MORE EVIL than he actually was by, for example, being more moderate and devious in his hatreds and so winning World War II first and exterminating ALL his enemies later AND FOR A LONGER TIME. In a way, that is what Stalin did.

But both my Auld Pop and my uncle would have agreed, however, that there are some people who are ‘bad anes’.

“Aye, the is such people and perhaps they are incorrigible.”


May you encounter mostly good anes (goodjins) , Dennis.



Richard ("Ricardo") MUNRO

Teacher of English, history and Spanish

Bilingual Certificate of Competence (BCLAD)

Adjunct Faculty (AP Reader) ETS

West High School (Kern HS District)

Home of the Vikings

1200 New Stine Rd

Bakersfield, CA 93309

(661) 832-2822

fax (661) 831-5606

RE:” Is There Really Only One Human Race?”

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