Friday, July 1, 2016

making sure that Hitler, not Stalin, take ALL the rap for our ills

In terms of the sheer number of murders ordered by both, it is hard to decide who was worst - Hitler or Stain.

But in terms of the popular imagination, as seen exhibited by individuals and the entertainment and news media, it is no contest -- Hitler gets almost all the blame.

Upon Hitler, not Stalin, we have displaced all our guilt for past wrongs the West inflicted on 'Others' in the recent past.

I argue we downplay Stalin because the specific nature of his victims were not replicated among those victimized by the (usually less lethal) violence that all of the West inflicted on Others during the era of Panic Modernity, running roughly between the 1860s and the 1960s.

By contrast, the nature of Hitler's victims, again with our violence usually dialled down a few notches compared to his, were exactly the sort also targeted by the Western democracies.

It is our ghosts, the sins of our grandfathers, that we are attempting to exorcise by displacement, putting all the evil in that era totally onto Hitler and the Nazis.

"He and he alone did all those bad things - never us - we were always and only the good guys during the war - remember ?"

By contrast, Stalin claimed to be the voice of the Russian working class, with his victims mostly from the middle class of Russia. (In fact, he killed many millions for being both middle class and of minority ethnicities such as Ukrainians, Poles and Jews.)

But Hitler proudly claimed his victims/enemies were inferior foreigners and coloreds from outside, uppity women and pansy men, defective unfit individuals, together trade unionists/socialists/communists.

His potently appealing mix of enemies captured all the middle class paranoias --gender, race, class and xenophobia --- that the West's Panic Modernity exhibited in its heyday.

What we can't handle that Panic Modernity represented a relapse, for all of us, in the course of our favourite narrative, the one about the ever upward progress in becoming a nicer gentler humanity, year by year, decade by decade.

In fact, to take but one example, the popular ideal for males in the 1830s was far kinder and gentler than the ideal model for male behavior in the 1930s.

Neither the Left or the Right now wants to admit that we might have gone down the same road as Hitler's Germany if the circumstances had been similar.

After all we, the we old enough to recall something of the war and its immediate aftermath, are talking about the actions and opinions of our own parents and grandparents.

Our genes are their genes.

What in our own past we can't deny and ignore outright, we happily displace onto Hitler and the SS.

Only when time lets us admit that the upward progress of human niceness can in fact have its relapses and wrong turns, will we ever be able to move on...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Longer comments, something for readers and blogger to set their teeth into, preferred