My first post in this three-part series, about how the evil that surrounds us has manifested, was about the elite global technocrat class and their distance from the people whose lives they may crush; I noted too their lack of belief in, or loyalty to, the nation-state. Added to this toxic mix, I argued, is the certainty of this class of people that they know best about your life.
I made the case in that essay that surrounding us now was a metaphysical, seemingly a Satanic, level of evil.
I am seeking to explain in this series of essays, how otherwise nice people — and indeed Western people, who grew up with post-Enlightenment norms about human rights and the rule of law — can be doing evil now, with whole hearts.
I am asking how they can be suppressing the respiration of children intentionally; how they can be consigning friends and colleagues to eat in the street like outcasts, or sending cops to arrest a woman and terrify a nine-year-old child, whose crimes were that they tried to visit the Museum of Natural History in New York without “papers”?
How could “nice” people in the humane West, can have be put on the agenda in Washington State just two weeks ago, plans to detain those exposed to a “contagious disease” in forcible quarantine, without charge or trial, and dependent on a court order and good behavior to get out?
All of this is happening right now in America – -in the land of people who, since the Civil Rights Act of 1964, have had the principle of equality governing human relations as a matter of law; a nation that had passed laws against the abuse of or corporal punishment of children in public schools in the 1970s in virtually every state; and a people who have been raised in a culture of freedom and civility compared with lawless or totalitarian regimes, that led them, for the most part, to be, on the scale of decency to cruelty, until two years ago, very decent people.
How could good people be going along with this?
There are lessons from history that we have to learn, or re-learn, and quickly.
Some leaders and commentators (including myself) have passionately and publicly been comparing these years, 2020-2022, in the West and in Australia, to the early years of Nazi leadership. Though we face criticism for doing so, I won’t be silenced about this. The similarities must urgently be addressed.
People need to reread their Nazi history. They are getting it wrong in demanding, ‘How dare you compare?”
While the popular imagination of the Nazi era is familiar with deaths camps, and think of them when Nazi policy is invoked, the fact is that many years led up to that horror. Germany invaded Poland in 1939. The extermination camps were established years into the Nazi drama: 1941. [https://www.theholocaustexplained.org/how-and-why/how/creation-of-extermination-camps/]. Dr Josef Mengele, “The Angel of Death,” began his medical experiments in Auschwitz after 1943. [http://www.auschwitz.org/en/history/medical-experiments/josef-mengele]
No one sensible is talking about comparing what we are living through now to those years and those horrors.
Rather, the vivid similarities between our moment in the West since 2020, and the earliest years of Nazi Germany’s civil society policies, are to the years 1931-33, when so many vicious norms and policies were set in place. But these were often culturally or professionally policed, rather than being policed by camp patrols. That’s the point that better-informed analysts of these similarities, are making.
That is to say, during these years, mass societal cruelty, and a two-tier society itself that perpetuated this cruelty, was built up and policed, as like today, by polite civil society institutions tasked with snarling and baring its teeth.
Casual, escalating cruelty, a culture of degradation of the “othered,” and a two-tier society, were built up in those years certainly at the behest of Nazi social policy. But the construction of a world of evil out of what had been a modern civil society, if a fragile one, was also endorsed and even policed by doctors, by medical associations, by journalists, by famous composers and filmmakers, by universities; by neighbors, by teachers, by shopkeepers — for years before the death camp guards were tasked with their own far more heinous cruelty.
Amos Elon’s poignant history, The Pity of it All: A History of Jews in Germany, 1743-1933, reveals how many Jewish civil society leaders warned about the imperceptible shifts day by day in the direction of evil. In 1931, street violence was directed against Jewish storefronts, and led to smashed-in windows. In other contexts, Jews were beaten upon leaving synagogues. Commentator Theodor Wolff warned, “This simply cannot continue. All decent people, irrespective of party, must form a common front […]”
So one might say today.