Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Gradual Transformation of American Society

    Before you read this, I think it'd be helpful for you to go read at least the first half of this article. I have a few issues with the way she presented some things later on, but during the first half she's quoting a book They Thought They Were Free:The Germans, 1933-45 by Milton Mayer, which is an account of the Nazi takeover by a German citizen of the time. It discusses how life in Germany transformed from what it was to the Nazi Germany that we are all so familiar with. And I think it sheds some light on the dangerous situation we face here in the United States.

    For those of you who didn't read it, the article talks about how the changes in Germany happened so slowly, so imperceptibly. The change occurred with each step not being too radical from the position previously held, so that there was never that one event which was so outrageous that the German people would be shocked and put an end to it. The situation is actually very similar now.

    Sure, to you everything seems pretty much as usual. The Super Bowl is going to be on this Sunday, your local pizzeria still makes that great pizza that you love, your son won his soccer game this week, work is going well, and people on the streets seem like they're happy. Things, to you, appear "good". Certainly no mass graves anywhere, so what is their to be so upset about?

    The thing is, while you may have not noticed, things have changed dramatically. Those smiling faces you see on the street now have quite a few new ideas in their head that they either agree with or accept as normal. They think that it's important for the government to be able to torture, to spy on American citizens, to give huge tax breaks to the rich while we're fighting a war and running a huge deficit. They think that those who are against the war are simply "America-haters" and "blame America firsters" Unless they think it's a liberal lie, they believe that corruption is prevalent on both sides of the spectrum and are beginning to simply accept that as normal. They think that Alito's views are nothing to be upset about, certainly nothing to warrant a filibuster. To want peace is to betray your country and let the terrorists win. To bring up the issue that companies with political ties shouldn't receive no-bid contracts is also unpatriotic. The media is liberal, and they must shift the news to the right if they want to get the truth. And so on.

    Point is, things have changed. One tiny issue at a time. The torture issue came up and the media pundits "debated" it for a few days. None of the guests on the show were outraged, and all of them were smiling. Must not be that big of a deal then, thinks the average American. Next issue, same story. The nature of society is changed continually, but only by little amounts at a time. Mayer writes

Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, regretted,” that . . . one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.
Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. . . . You wait for the one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. . . .

But the one great shocking occasion . . . never comes. . . . That'’s the difficulty.

    Often I think that as long as America doesn't have concentration camps where we're gassing Jews, most Americans will be completely unable to see the similarities between a fascist society and that which America is starting to create. And so they will remain silient, as ideas of what is right and wrong, true and untrue are distorted to drastic proportions. Their foods, favorite sports, and daily life remain "normal", so they don't worry about it. And besides, aren't Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie having a baby?


Dean said...

Read a longer excerpt from They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 by Milton Mayer on the University of Chicago Press website: http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/511928.html

Anonymous said...

Good post. I have been mentioning the slow slide to fascism for some time now, and few have bothered to listen or consider what I have to say. My grandmother is German and was a small child in Nazi Germany before her family fled to GB. She believes that Bush is a good president and that Fox News is a reliable source of information. Her father could not stand the Nazis, and she (later) learned to dislike them as well. She of all people should be acutely aware of the transition, and be concerned about what may happen when the goon squads come knocking on people's doors. Alas, she is blind, as are so many Americans. That great picture of an Amerinazi that's floating around sums it up best "Its not fascism when we do it!"

Anonymous said...

OMG, Angelina Jolie is having a baby! Why doesn't the news focus on that instead of being nervous nellies?!

Anonymous said...

Great, great post mate.

I completely agree with you on all points, it's staggering how far to the right the field of play has been shifted.