Page image of X(41)

X (41)

If modern churches were to symbolize their true faith, they would take the crucifix from their altars and substitute the three little monkeys who counsel men to 'speak no evil, hear no evil, see no evil.'
R. Niebuhr
Racial pride is revealed today to be man's primary collective sin.
R. Niebuhr
Merton incorporates the second Niebuhr quotation in a journal entry. This is a good example of how Merton's reading became a springboard for his own expression:
Someone has come out with the theory that racial injustice is the product of individualism. There may be something to it, in the sense that individualism is a component in the lawlessness and irresponsibility of a society that has no care whatever to treat other human beings as if they might conceivably have human needs, and rights. In a sense, even Nazism was a result of individualism. Mass society is indeed made up of individuals who, left to themselves, know they are zero, and who, added together in a multitude of zeroes, seem to themselves to acquire reality and power. But this is the negative individualism of the man who thinks he establishes himself as real by comparing himself with everything that is not-I. (When you count up enough things that are not-I, you end up by discovering that even I is not-I.) But, meanwhile, what is to blame is not individualism but collectivism. Reinhold Niebuhr says rightly: "Racial pride is revealed today as man's primary collective sin."
Conjectures , p. 56.