Monday, April 4, 2016

betrayed by class

Kim Philby
The desire for human social warmth is so insistent that the antics of an unremitting skeptic are wearing, tiring and, perhaps too often, 'simply untrue.' Skeptics hold things at arm's length where the spirit yearns for closeness and trust and a peg on which to hang such characteristics.
Kim Philby, Britain’s most notorious cold war traitor, told an audience of East German spies after his defection that he was able to avoid being rumbled [exposed] for so long because he had been “born into the British governing class”....
“Because I had been born into the British governing class, because I knew a lot of people of an influential standing, I knew that they would never get too tough with me....
During the second world war and the subsequent decades, and despite periodic suspicion over his political loyalties, Philby rose through the ranks of MI6, eventually becoming the chief of the service’s anti-Soviet department. However, throughout this time he was filing reports to KGB handlers. His treachery was only unearthed in 1963.
How delightful in one sense to see the implicit snootiness of the British upper crust hoisted by its own sanctimonious petard. But how significantly different is that from any group anyone might belong to? True, there is greater and lesser damage that can be done, but the human principle is much the same, I suspect: I like the cozy feel of my chosen environment and my selected companions ... and if I like them, they couldn't possibly lie or otherwise undermine whatever code we adhere to. They, like me, are honorable men and women.

Once betrayed, of course, there may be a rush to reconfigure the elements of trust -- to become more skeptical or in some other way less gullible. But a volte-face dive into unmitigated skepticism is still held at bay, if only in the newly-cemented, warming bonds of skeptical outlook.

What a ticklish business.

1 comment:

  1. "Unearthed" doesn't quite describe it. It doesn't say he paid for his treachery by imprisonment, wasn't drawn and quartered or hung. Nor does it say he escaped and spent 25 years retired in Moscow.