I'm nearing the end of Dostoevsky's 'Crime and Punishment' and thoroughly entertaining it has been too. It is also thought provoking and I've been tempted to post a lot more snippets but have resisted the urge, since you should just go and read it. The main protagonist, Raskolnikov is a murderer, who considers himself like Napoleon. An extract:
I asked myself one day this question—what if Napoleon, for instance, had happened to be in my place, and if he had not had Toulon nor Egypt nor the passage of Mont Blanc to begin his career with, but instead of all those picturesque and monumental things, there had simply been some ridiculous old hag, a pawnbroker, who had to be murdered too to get money from her trunk (for his career, you understand). Well, would he have brought himself to that if there had been no other means? Wouldn't he have felt a pang at its being so far from monumental and... and sinful, too? Well, I must tell you that I worried myself fearfully over that 'question' so that I was awfully ashamed when I guessed at last (all of a sudden, somehow) that it would not have given him the least pang, that it would not even have struck him that it was not monumental... that he would not have seen that there was anything in it to pause over, and that, if he had had no other way, he would have strangled her in a minute without thinking about it! Well, I too... left off thinking about it... murdered her, following his example. And that's exactly how it was!
This question fits in well with my discussion of morality and of murder. Raskolnikov is certainly no Dusseldorf vampire (his paltry two murders caused a great deal of personal anguish and mental suffering, compared to Peter Kurten, who killed for pleasure). But the question boils down to Raskolnikov's belief that there are two types of men in the world. Those that abide by the rules, and those that break them, so they can make new and better ones. I can see the thinking behind this position. I have posted quite a few times now, on evidence which show people are often blindly obedient and that they like to follow orders and be told how the world is, and what to do in it.
And I agree that there are those who do not abide by the rules (whatever they might be). People who don't get up and trudge a modern 9 to 5 existence, but do whatever they want. However, ultimately Napoleon and Raskolnikov desired power. They considered themselves better than the average man, and so imposed their will on others. Relating this back to an earlier post on Pol Pot, such people may believe themselves to be a genius and destined to make the species better, but they can be just as ignorant and deluded as the average man (and Raskolnikov admits this). Finally from Lord Acton:
The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern...Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.Go Top