FauxPolitik

Monday, February 02, 2004

Hitler is Dead: But what can we learn from his sequel to Mein Kampf? Quite a bit, says Omer Bartov, and not just about Hitler.
But of course Hitler was about much more than this. He was also a pathological mass murderer who caused the death of millions and the destruction of Europe, and so it is important to know that he did precisely what he promised to do. For we still do not seem to have learned a simple crucial lesson that Hitler taught us more definitively than anyone else in history: some people, some regimes, some ideologies, some political programs, and, yes, some religious groups, must be taken at their word. Some people mean what they say, and say what they will do, and do what they said.

Most liberal-minded, optimistic, well-meaning people are loath to believe this. They would rather think that fanaticism is merely an "epiphenomenal" fa├žade for politics, that opinions can be changed, that everyone can be corrected and improved. In many cases, this is true--but not in all cases, and not in the most dangerous ones. There are those who practice what they preach and are proud of it. They view those who act otherwise, who compromise and pull back from ultimate conclusions, as opportunists, as weaklings, as targets to be easily conquered and subdued by their own greater determination, hardness, and ruthlessness. When they say they will kill you, they will kill you--if you do not kill them first.

That needs saying. Read on. He makes a point at the end that is worthy of Orwell:
Hitler taught humanity an important lesson. It is that when you see a Nazi, a fascist, a bigot, or an anti-Semite, say what you see. If you want to justify it or excuse it away, describe accurately what it is that you are trying to excuse away. If a British newspaper publishes an anti-Semitic cartoon, call it anti-Semitic. If the attacks on the Twin Towers were animated by anti-Semitic arguments, say so. If a Malaysian prime minister expresses anti-Semitic views, do not try to excuse the inexcusable. If a self-proclaimed liberation organization calls for the extermination of the Jewish state, do not pretend that it is calling for anything else. The absence of clarity is the beginning of complicity.

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