A quotation for 11 July, Srebrenica remembrance day

Kenneth_BurkeAnd since we know that there are at large in the modern world many militaristic and economic trends quite like those of Germany under the Hitlerite ‘science’ of genocide, we should at least be admonished to expect, in some degree, similar cultural temptations. For the history of the Nazis has clearly shown that there are cultural situations in which scientists, whatever may be their claims to professional austerity, will contrive somehow to identify their specialty with modes of justification, or socialization, not discernible in the sheer motions of the material operations themselves. In its transcendence of natural living,  its technical scruples, its special tests of purity, a clinic or laboratory can be a kind of secular temple, in which ritualistic devotions are taking place, however concealed by the terminology of the surface. Unless properly scrutinized for traces of witchcraft, these could furtively become devotions to a satanic order of motives. At least such was the case with the technological experts of Hitlerite Germany. The very scientific ideals of an ‘impersonal’ technology can contribute ironically to such disaster: for it is but a step from treating inanimate nature as mere ‘things’ to treating animals, and then enemy peoples, as mere things. But they are not mere things, they are persons – and in the systematic denial of what one knows in his heart to be the truth, there is a perverse principle that can generate much anguish.

Kenneth Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives  (Berkeley: University of California Press) 1969: p. 32.

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