What I’ve been reading this evening
The Banality of Good -- Why individuals who rescued Jews during World War II found it so difficult to explain their motives.
“We have at most a year to defend American democracy, perhaps less“
He doesn’t explain that figure of one year. He does say that we have to act fast, that the massive demonstrations and airport actions were good but that much more needs to be done.
History’s True Warning -- How our misunderstanding of the Holocaust offers moral cover for the geopolitical disasters of our time.
The interesting thing is that most of the Holocaust did not happen in Germany proper. Instead, Germany went about destroying the institutions of the state in neighboring nations after invading them. In an environment of lawlessness, local citizens were encouraged to attack the Jews they had previously lived alongside, and even a formerly decent soldier became a vicious mass murderer.
I am reminded of the way spiders, some microbes and other predators hunt: instead of killing their prey with massive injury from teeth or claws, they inject a poison. The venom destroys their victim’s internal structure, turning its innards into a vile fluid that they then suck up or absorb. Germany absorbed nearby nations by destroying their internal structure.
This is not how most of us have learned the Holocaust went.
In places like Iraq, where we destroyed a nation’s internal structure and replaced it with nothing, there may not be a Holocaust, but the result has been collapse, mass refugee crises and the invasion of Daesh anyway.
It is worth noting that Steven Bannon has called himself a Leninist and expressed a desire to destroy America’s entire state. I wonder how many of you out there have really stopped and thought about what living in a country collapsed into lawlessness would be like? For certain, I don’t think most of Trump’s supporters have.
Snyder also points out that a lot of things people knew back in the mid-twentieth century have been forgotten. He brought up the subject of Stalin’s mass murders, and his audience didn’t even know about them. It’s not taught in schools any more, and it’s been forgotten in mass culture as well.
I’ve also been struck by how much knowledge I was taught in elementary school fifty years ago seems to be totally gone, wiped out of memory. I can remember learning that the Christian God and the Islamic Allah were the same god; today, students seem not to understand this. I can remember being taught that the American Indians were systematically wiped out; today, many students simply have a vague impression that they faded away as European settlers came, and that they are all extinct now. Let’s not even discuss evolution, shall we?
How much of this is simply accidentally forgotten as our educational system has deteriorated, and how much was deliberate, engineered by scheming people in power who know that an ignorant public is more easily manipulated? I don’t know.
Maybe, though, we could use this as a framing tactic while trying to give people back that knowledge. Right now, people are obsessed with the idea of long-forgotten “mystic”, “spiritual” knowledge from more glorious days being recovered, with their silly fantasies of alien-built pyramids, Atlantis and whatnot. If some of us try to spread this info, maybe we should frame it as forgotten knowledge from that allegedly better time now being brought to light. ;)