Old Mind Sets, New Minds
Old Mind Sets, New Minds
By: Doris Colmes, MSW
We had been kicked out of two mansions in a row, the chauffeur and governess wandered off, expressing their regrets at not being allowed to work for Jews, and we now occupied a duplex in a middle-class Berlin neighborhood where the concierge from two houses down regularly chased me off her territory wielding both her broom and a remarkably extensive vocabulary describing the bestiality of my Jewish heritage.
Through all this, I had a best friend who provided the fun and relaxation that turned precarious daily life into fun and adventure.
My best friend: Was he one of my well-behaved classmates from American School? Was he, perhaps, Stefan that wildly rebellious Jewish kid from downstairs? Nope – none of the above.
It was Hans Joachim (“Hajo”) Blum, scion of a gentle family of good Nazi “burghers” who lived across the street, and who provided hours of calm afternoons during which we either sat on the curb playing with Hajo’s extensive collection of miniature race cars, or hung out in their apartment where his Mom provided generous helpings of milk and “strudel”. The family even took me away on weekends to their cottage on Lake Wannsee to bask in the summer sunshine and play in the water.
All I had to do in returns was listen to Hajo’s made-up stories about how the Fuehrer picked him out of a crowd and placed him on the saddle of his white stallion. And, on those weekends, if the Blums had company, I was expected to curtsey politely and say, “I am a Jew.” Everybody thought this hilarious, and, after the applause, I got to return to play-time.
The Blums -- Nazis in a regime dedicated to the extermination of an entire culture – were just plain folk. The average citizens of a sophisticated, metropolis, whose Daddy went off to a daily job and whose slender, fashionable Mommy had a ready smile and excellent baking skills. Just like any family in, perhaps, New York City, or Los Angeles. And that’s the whole point: The Blums were simply part of what Noam Chomsky calls “The Moveable Herd.” Their downfall was inertia, their sin was indifference. And, how are they any different from our current American citizens?
These people listened to – and believed in – whatever propaganda was shoved down their throats. Josef Goebbels, the master of this technique, stated clearly that if you told a lie, the bigger the lie and the more you repeated it, the more it will be believed.
David Brock, in his book The Republican Noise Machine makes a clear statement about how current propaganda works, right here in the good old USA. He describes in validated detail how the current administration’s destruction of an independent media, and the resultant “Fairness Doctrine” have eliminated mass critical thinking; For instance, states Brock, in a recent CNN/Gallup poll, 42% of Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein was involved in the September 11 terrorist attack on the US, and 32 % believe that Saddam Hussein personally planned the attack.
Is this weird, or what? Propaganda sure is powerful. Think about it: Why would an enemy who was clearly and definitely labeled as having “Weapons of Mass Destruction” have to resort to an airplane crash to bring down those twin towers?
Mark Crispin Miller, professor of media studies at New York University, explains more of this. “The Age of Information,” he writes, “Has turned out to be the Age of Ignorance.” He goes on to expose how CNN and Fox News ripped apart the credibility of Scott Ritter, the leading expert on Iraq’s weapons – a man who, based on the validity of his research – stood firmly in the way of Bush and Company’s invasion of Iraq. No one hears anything about Scott Ritter anymore.
Back in Nazi Germany, it was the same. Not just the Blum’s but all their compatriots were faced with a variation of cognitive dissonance, which the dictionary defines as “A condition of conflict or anxiety resulting from inconsistency between one’s beliefs and one’s actions.” Harold Thomas, who supplied this information, compares it to “opposing the slaughter of animals and eating meat.”
Harold goes on to explain how this manifests nationally, making the comparison between “then and now” truly simple. He states: “It is being at the complete mercy of the benefits and good will of a ruling power, which one has been trained to love and respect, only to discover that said power is an evil tyrant, sucking resources from its beneficiaries and conducting unspeakable evil in their names.” This phenomenon easily produces cultures completely out of touch with reality.
Of course, in Germany, after the economic debacle of the Weimar Republic which caused such a severe depression that persons were, in fact, on the edge of starvation, it is easy to translate Harold Thomas’s analogy from “Opposing the slaughter of animals and eating meat” to: “Opposing the slaughter of animals and gobbling down any meat available so as not to starve to death.”
There was also then – just as there is now – a kind of secret satisfaction. “Yes, dammit, kill those dirty, greedy capitalist Jews with their arrogant, money-grubbing, thieving ways,” just as, today, it’s, “Well, we all know how Muslims are: Perverted, autocratic terrorists, Talibans, every one--Git ‘em to Gitmo; or, better yet, whack ‘em. Besides, we’re sure running low on oil. Just look at those gas prices. It’s those damned OPEC Arabs; it’s All Their Fault.”
Here, in our current USA, we have no excuse such as that deadly German economic depression of the early ‘30s to invalidate our own ethic, our own morality. Here, we cheerfully allow the slaughter of anyone and everyone, because we simply do not care enough to put a stop to it. Whether it is condoning the Ku Klux Klan, which – even today – burns crosses on the lawns of African Americans who dare to move into white neighborhoods; or whether we cheerfully gulp down whatever propaganda is fed us regarding why we assaulted Iraq in the first place, it’s all the same. “Yeah, yeah,” we say in conversational tones of voice at social occasions, “Too bad our guys are getting killed over there. It’s those damn Muslims again. Oh well, we’ll win eventually, and the only good Rag Head is a dead Rag Head, after all.” Our inertia actually makes those 1930’s Germans look like our clones.
In Germany it was, “Heute Deutschland, Morgen Die Welt” (Today, Germany, tomorrow, the world.) Here, the statistics are similar.
As David Brock makes clear in “The Republican Noise Machine,” a country in which 42% of the population is totally misinformed is not a country where democracy is safe. Here, we are taught that Saddam Hussein is responsible for all that is going wrong in the USA. In Germany, school kids were taught that Jews routinely used Aryan children as sacrifices in their satanic rituals. Aryan children were placed into tight barrels, the walls of which were composed of large nails. Thus, when these barrels doors were very slowly closed, the nails entered the living flesh of the sacrificial child and gradually – with more pain than one can imagine – eventually pierced enough vital organs to cause death.
Incidentally, this same lie is taught in schools today, exactly as it was taught then, only today, it is the kids in schools all over the mid-east who trust their teachers to speak the truth about how the Jews treat Arabs. Just another example of, “If a good lie works once, then use it again.”
And, the Americans believe administrative lies, just as the Germans did so many years ago. Washington DC decides what we ought to swallow next. For example, we have become so inured that no one even protests the concept that the Geneva conventions (formed to prevent torture in any form) are “quaint” and that those dang terrorists all deserve whatever we can hand out to them at Guantanamo Bay, or other detention centers.
Am I exonerating the Germans of the 1930’s? Absolutely not! There can never be any explanation to justify what Noam Chomsky calls “Industrialized Genocide” in which – for the first and last time in history -- there was no passion whatsoever involved in causing the death of millions…in which there were monthly “factory totals” to be counted, in which Cyclon B gas was manufactured to smell appetizing, so that the folks in the extermination chambers would not panic.
There can never be justification for Ilse Koch, the infamous extermination camp guard, being labeled “artist” for creating lampshades made of the tattooed skin of persons whose death she had overseen; Nor can any human being even remotely understand the evil of Dr. Mengele (an actual physician) who calmly contrived the most unspeakably evil torture, not just to adults, but to small children – all in the name of scientific experimentation – to which not even lab rats, either then or now – would ever be subjected.,
What the Holocaust clearly indicates, however, is that humans are quite capable of these extremes of inhuman behavior. And, if those good German "burghers" could cheerfully go off to their “extermination jobs" of unspeakable, mindless torture of the innocent, then so can we – given whatever propaganda we choose to accept as “gospel.” After all, it wasn’t so long ago that our very own, upstanding American citizens, cheerfully went off to lynch yet another Black man who had dared to smile at a white woman, or had failed to step off the sidewalk when approaching a white person. The difference – given how some of these Black persons met their end – is simply a matter of degree.
So, here we stand at a juncture…. We either accept what our government chooses to tell us, and line up sedately at the slaughter house to become either the executioners or the cattle. Or we can protest this whole evil cabal that is leading us down the same path that we now label as the worst ever trodden by any person, ever: Nazi Germany.
That fascism is already here is quite apparent. One need only to read the newest version of the Patriot Act to understand that there is no longer such a thing as “civil liberty.” One need only to watch the First Amendment disappear as persons are routinely arrested not only for speaking their minds, but for wearing the “wrong” T-Shirt at a political convention. Search and seizure, without warrant or justified cause…Or, the arrest of the wife of a soldier, Amy Bartell, for simply being Dale Bartell’s wife; thus making her legally liable for “enticing” him and abetting him in his “desertion.”
Apparently, this soldier -- a member of the Mennonite Church – had been attempting to file Conscientious Objector status, in the process of which he was called a deserter, and not only was he taken into custody, but his wife, Amy, was arrested for (can you believe this?) being his wife. The trial was scheduled for August, but, since Amy’s arrest the Army, on July 27th, decided to drop the charges against her—charges which should not have been brought against her to begin with!
Minor examples? Hey, that is how dictatorship begins: The tyrants start out with small acts of dictatorship, and with every subsequent restriction or act of tyranny that the citizenry accepts, ups the ante until the citizenry either lives in terror, or enthusiastically joins in the slaughter. (German SS and Gestapo come to mind.)
Way back in the days of the Viet Nam war, we marched in the streets, we did “sit-ins” at legislative and other governmental offices. We burned draft cards and stuffed flowers down the rifles of the National Guard sent out to prevent us from demonstrating our views. We rioted at a political convention, and got shot at (Kent State, anyone?) for our determination. And we marched, and we sang and we did not give up.
And, today, the exact same war is being perpetrated, only this time in the Mid-East. It is as manufactured a war as was Viet Nam. There were even contrived and controlled elections in Iraq as there were in Viet Nam in 1964. And no one cares.
“Hey Children, what’s that sound, everybody look what’s goin’ down.” Remember? Where is the music? Where is Buffalo Springfield when you need ‘em most? Or, Country Joe and the Fish, with his “One two three what’re we fightin’ for, don't know and don’t give a damn, next stop is Viet Nam.” And, for inspiration, we sang along with Peter, Paul and Mary who so gently – and so powerfully – asked, “Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?” And we marched, we marched.
But no longer. We have, become, collectively, the Blum family….”Oh yeah, that sure is a shame, killing all our soldiers. So, Hajo, did you do your homework?”
In the late eighteenth century, Alexander Fraser Tyler wrote The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic. In this book, he stated that the average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years, and that all these nations have progressed through the following sequence:
From bondage to spiritual faith;
From spiritual faith to great courage;
From courage to liberty;
From liberty to abundance;
From abundance to selfishness;
From selfishness to complacency;
From complacency to apathy;
From apathy to dependency;
From dependency back to bondage.”
Harold Thomas who quoted the above, states, “I would submit to you that the American people are in the last line of that quote: that is, somewhere between dependency and bondage.”
Just as were the Germans under the Nazis….whether they agreed with what was going on under their noses was irrelevant. They had created this political monster, just as we have created ours, today. And, please do remember that the Nazi government seized its ultimate power simply by taking control of their Courts, just as is happening here, today.
And, sometimes I wonder…..what became of Hajo? What became of Stefan? Both the same age. One a potential victim and the other a potential victimizer. Just thinking about either one of them is sad, indeed. Especially today, as I watch the kids walking past my window on their way to school. What are they learning to believe?
Doris Colmes is an independent writer in Portland, Oregon. Her book, "The Iron Butterfly" was published in 2002, and she received the Kay Snow Award for non-fiction in 2003. She can be reached via: www.doriscolmes.com