Chapter 4: A New Perspective
But he was not listened to. And when he was standing in line the first day and they said, “Left turn,” everybody turned, except him. The commander asked him, “Have you heard me or not?”
He said, “I have heard, but I don’t see any reason why I should turn left. And these people will be ordered again and again, and they will finally come to the same position in which I am already standing.”
“March forward!” And he would not. He wanted some reason for every single act. Why should he march forward, why not backward? The commander got fed up. Such a person cannot be made into a soldier. He asked his chief what to do with this man: “He asks about everything. I don’t know myself, I had never asked myself. This is a simple training of learning obedience, but this man is impossible. Everything is confronted with ‘Why?’”
The commander-in-chief said, “You don’t know him, he is a very famous professor of philosophy. His whole life he has been arguing, doubting, and it is certainly difficult for the poor old man to drop all those habits. Give him some work which he can do, something very simple.”
So he was sent to the kitchen. And he was given a pile of peas, and told that he had to sort them, the smaller ones on one side, the bigger ones on the other side. After an hour, the chief commanding officer came in and the professor was sitting there with closed eyes - and the pile was exactly the same as when he had left, one hour before. Nothing had been done, not a single pea had been moved.
He asked the man, “What are you doing? You have not done anything!”
He said, “So many problems have to be solved before I start. You said to me, ‘The smaller ones on one side, the bigger ones on the other side.’ What about those that are in the middle? Where do they go? And it is not only a question of just three grades. In fact, there are many grades. Between the bigger and the medium, there is again the middle; between the medium and the small, there is again the middle.”
He said, “It is such a complicated mathematical thing, and I am absolutely ignorant about mathematics.”
Finally he had to be discharged because he was good for nothing.
What was the problem? The problem was they were trying to take away his individuality. They were trying to make him a robot: “Just follow, there is no question of ‘Why?’”
Years of turning left and right, and marching forward and backward. One slowly stops asking, “Why?” What is the point? One simply starts doing things mechanically. Only then can you make a human being drop the atom bomb on Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and he does not ask “Why?” Those people of Hiroshima had done nothing wrong, they had not harmed anybody. They were civilians, small children, women, pregnant women, old people - they had nothing to do with the war as such. Why destroy them?