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 Post subject: TPAOL Question #12 ~ The People's Act of Love
PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 9:26 am 
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Is Samarin’s act of cannibalism justifiable?


Some great discussion I missed this weekend, Noodlemantras! I've got some catching up to do! :noodlemantra:



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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 12:46 pm 
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Logically, without the emotions, if Samarin needed food for survival, and there was absolutely no other way around it, I suppose in this instance, it could be justified. :-/

He did a good job of justifying (An excuse? :-? ) it when he compared it to sending those hundered people to die in a war, the other day. (Brings a political thought to mind here,, :-O ,,Bush sending people off to war. Suddenly I understand Johnny's intense dislike of politics!)

(I think the book kind of avoids this area)
That said, if I was on a jury, I'm not sure Samarin :
1) Had no other way around it.
2) Absolutely needed it.
3) Would do it again if he thought necessary.

Justified, perhaps, yes.
Guilty, perahps, yes, though I feel for him.



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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 12:54 pm 
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Thanks for starting us off, Depputante. :cool:

I personally feel that it was not justifiable. I don’t think anyone could convince me otherwise. He had a choice. He didn’t have to go to the White Garden in search of Katya. He didn’t have to work for the revolution. He didn’t have to be a revolutionary and follow its catechism. He made these choices of his own free will. And he made Katya and the revolution all important. If he not chosen to do that, there would have been no cannibalism. No sympathy for the devil.



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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 1:37 pm 
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I think Samarin's opinion of himself and his importance was overblown. He justified what he did by saying it was for future generations. Sorry, Sam. Guilty in my book. :thumbsdown: Now, having said that, there is someone out there somewhere that will probably make me change my mind. :lol:



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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 2:02 pm 
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The short answer is no.

In history, even though there have been groups of people who have practiced cannibalism, it's generally considered to be this major taboo. People just don't eat people.

Samarin had a choice not to; but he did it anyway. Then his 'reasons' for it come off as being excuses, kind of a weasley justification for his actions.

Since Samarin did break this taboo, there would be no other barriers he would not cross or boundaries he'd break. It testifies to his interior emptiness and lack of conscience.



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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 2:13 pm 
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Ah! The age-old argument: freewill vs fate!! :banghead:
It surprises me to find myself letting Samarin off the hook here, because I really don't like the guy - honestly! But I do think the historical times in which a person lives determine their choices to a certain degree. We're conditioned to thinking that individual choices are limitless and that it's up to the individual to make the 'right' choices. But when there's a whole tidal wave of war and upheaval and chaos sweeping you along it makes it more difficult to focus on individual options or personal choices. Action seemed to be the order of the day, and Samarin acted, with behaviors that fit in with that particular time. The fact that he was described as a manipulator, liar, and schemer from the get-go gives us a template for the way he was bound to proceed through the story.

By now you know my opinion on the cannibalism thing. Not guilty. Again, I think it's important to keep the historical period and the setting in mind, and the fact that this practice had a precedence as a survival strategy, however infrequently it was used. I can see how Sam would find it acceptable, not because of his own sick psyche but because it had been done before.



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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 2:25 pm 
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Aren't our crimes always justifiable to ourselves, or we might not commit them. Samarin sees it as justifiable, but ask the guy he ate. :-? :-/
Our betrayals we justify also. I think this book should be called, "The People's Acts of Betrayal." As I am sure you have noticed, almost all the falling dominos are tipped over by betrayal.
Eating your companion, one of the worst betrayals in the book. :-|



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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 2:55 pm 
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A hundred souls vs. one soul.
Surely the hundred souls are worth more than one.

How much is one act of cannibalism worth?
How much is one hundered souls worth?

Reminds me of war, in any sense.
Reminds me of Davey Jones, vs. Jack's nibbling on toes.
Reminds me of Shantaram's trek.

Who would you rush out to save first?
The one?
The hundred?

If you are rushing out to save the hundred, you've justified killing the one.
If you are rushing out to save the one, you've justified killing the hundred.



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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 5:37 pm 
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By itself, yes. To keep himself alive while trying to save the life of another. I know it is disgusting, and a taboo, but as Parlez has pointed out, not so unique as we might expect, and it does make a kind of sense.
The trouble is, it can't be taken by itself; the act of murder comes first. That is not justifiable. It is not the foundation on which a paradise can be built. I don't believe Samarin's argument holds up either at this point. The people's act of love to its future self? Hadn't he abandoned his cause, to do precisely what the catechism directed that he shouldn't do: put a person above the cause? So, I vote no.



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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 6:24 pm 
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The problem I have with it is very similar. It was a premeditated act of murder and he wasn't necessarily serving the cause as you say, suec. In an unexpected survival situation I would consider a different opinion, such as the ones we read about where people were starving during the war, but not here.



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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 6:36 pm 
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In my mind, Samarin is guilty, although I understand, where he comes from. In general, I guess, the cannibalism might be acquitted in a very extreme case - when the threat of a death really existed and if the victim died with his own death - but I don’t think, it is Samarin’s case. First - in the taiga, in summer or in winter, it is very hard to die from a hunger; second – Samarin took the man in the way specially as a potential food, and he killed him as some animal, which he can eat. It is hard to imagine the greater cynicism.
But, as I said, I can see, where he comes from. I think, Samarin ate another man as a test for himself and as an act of the sacrifice for the future Revolution.

I have to say here, James Meek did a really good job on the Russian literature of 19th century. The type like Samarin was described and learnt in detail in several classical Russian books (so, Samarin looks like an old acquaintance for me). I can call at least three literature heroes, where Samarin could come from.
It was an interesting literature investigation in that time, I have to say. The our writers searched the type of the person, who is able to change the existing order, and many of them guessed, it must be the unordinary person, the sort of an “Ubermensch”, and that person must test yourself before he will start to do his great exploits.
The such ideas was very popular in Russia in the first middle of 19th century – it was the consequences of a so named “bonapartism”, the cult of Napoleon Bonapart, who was considered by some intellectuals like the same unusual person, who got over himself and obtained a condition, when he could stay under any laws. The doubtful theory, in my opinion, but it worked.

So, about Samarin’s literature brothers.
First – Rodion Raskolnikov, “The crime and the punishment” of Fedor Dostoyevsky. Raskolnikov killed the old woman, who was a money-lender, to proof to himself, he can rise under all rules and human customs. But after the killing Raskolnikov didn’t rise under laws, he just lost the bond with the people, and it became for him an unbearable torture.
Second – Evgeny Bazarov, “The fathers and the children” of Ivan Turgenev. Bazarov was a nihilist, who deliberately refused all human bonds – the friendship, the relation with parents, the love to women. He devoted himself to the medicine and the biology completely and dead from some unsuccessful experiment and only his old parents went to his grave.
Third – Rakhmetov, “What we have to do?” of Nikolay Tchernyshevsky. Rakhmetov was invented specially as an universal revolutionary type. He prepared himself to the revolutionary actions from his childhood and tried to make his physical essence to submit to his spirit. He trained his body hard, slept on the nails etc, and made himself to refuse any emotional involving with other people (looks familiar, isn’t it? See the tidbit # 11). This book did a very power impression on the intellectual minds in Russia, including young Lenin. I can imagine, the victim of this book could be young Samarin too (although the idea to eat the man as a test didn’t visit any Russian author in fact, thanks God).

But, I think, despite a having of a power ideological and the theoretical basis for his action in the cannibalism area, Samarin is guilty. You can’t kill people only to proof something to himself. And I think, like Dostojevsky, Meek tries to show not only the crime, but the punishment of Samarin too - his aspiration to get rid of the ability to love completely. I don’t think, Meek approached to Dostojevsky here, but the trying was good. :cool:



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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 7:55 pm 
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Interesting comparisons to 19th Russian literature, Angelina. I was not aware of these types of heroes that must prove themselves. I think we are all very fortunate to have your input during this discussion.

Parlez, the de-emphasis on personal choice or of the individual keeps popping up. It was made clear in Dr. Zhivago (which I watched on Sat.) and also in Reds. The other thing that bothers me is the idea that someone like Samarin or others involved in the revolution should decide what is best for the people—that he could determine that it is worth killing an innocent person to reach a goal that maybe the people don’t even want. I think it is just an excuse, as Depputante suggested.



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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 8:15 pm 
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Not justifiable in my opinion, because it wasn't an act of desparation but premeditated and planned from the beginning. He is portrayed as an intelligent, educated man, why wouldn't he learn about survival in the taiga.
As Angelina pointed out:
Quote:
First - in the taiga, in summer or in winter, it is very hard to die from a hunger;



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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 8:46 pm 
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Okay, okay, I've changed me mind - kill the whelp!! Samarin is a criminal who used the time period - where terms like 'reality' and 'love' and 'the people' and 'the future' were up for grabs - to wantonly indulge in his own perverse sense of power, control, manipulation, etc.,etc.,etc.. He's the scourge of decency in Russia and the Hannibal Lector of the tiaga. He deserves the harshest possible judgement with no hope of redemption.
But wait...
The moral dilema you offer, Depputante, is an excellent one ~ when it comes to murder, who's willing to make the tough, either-or choices? Kill one? Kill 'em all? There's really no moral high ground either way. If we're leaning toward the view that killing one individual for food is just as bad as (or worse than) allowing thousands of people to become 'cannon fodder' for some political agenda, I think we're missing the point. One point being: what kinds of consequences (for the individual and for the society) result from either of these acts?
Hmmm...?



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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 9:05 pm 
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Angelina, thank you for the comparisons. I can definitely see comparisons to Samarin in these works. :cool:

Parlez, I think Angelina touches on your question of consequences, at least for the individual. Was he punishing himself by trying to get rid of the ability to love completely?



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