«You can look the other way once, and it’s no big deal, except it makes it easier for you to compromise the next time, and pretty soon that’s all your doing; compromising, because that’s the way you think things are done. You know those guys I busted? You think they were the bad guys? Because they weren’t, they weren’t bad guys, they were just like you and me. Except they compromised … Once.»
Jack Bauer in «24»
The university I work for recently did a remembrance event for mentally ill patients who were killed by the Nazis (if I am informed correctly).
And yeah, there were serious atrocities committed during that evil regime.
Seriously, they were Nazis, that is evil incarnate.
That’s literally Hitler.
But evil doesn’t start this way.
Before they could “simply” kill mentally ill people, the Nazis had to create a climate in which those actions were acceptable. Or rather, more than acceptable. A climate in which those actions were seen as “sensible”, as “right”, as “justified”, as “best for the common good”, as “legal”, as “common sense”.
Look, there’s a law, so it’s legal and we should do it, because it’s the law, right?
Yep, evil doesn’t start with industrially killing people. It starts small, it works itself up. It gains legitimacy and public support.
And frankly, I do wonder whether Germany has learned anything deep from those atrocities.
I am not comparing what the university does now with what the Nazis did at the height, or rather, low point of the power. But evil does start small. It starts when the state, the collective, overrules individual choice, individual dignity, individual lives. When other people want to decide what is best for you. Even what is best for your life. How you live, how well you live, or even whether you live at all.
It starts — among others — when someone wants to pressure you into a specific health decision.
It’s easy to scream you can’t compare the two, to treat comparisons to Nazi atrocities as a third rail, which kill your position instantly. And yeah, building pressure for vaccinations against Covid is on a way, way, way, WAY, WAY WAY lower level than killing mentally ill people.
But then intent, and where it will eventually lead, yup, it’s on the same path. At very different positions on said path, but on the same path nonetheless. Very very early in the process of … “removing” “undesirables” from society. Of first making things uncomfortable for them. Then punishing them. Then removing them as scapegoats. And finally, well, wouldn’t it be better if those disgusting people would be removed from society?
Wouldn’t it be just right?
(Seriously, it’s not being feared that kills you. It’s when other people think you are disgusting. Disgust is the step prior to genocide.)
And looking how many people think it’s okay to force students to get vaccinated — using organizational, financial or social pressure — because it’s for an ostensibly good cause, yeah, this lesson of history was perhaps just superficial. We scream bloody murder if anything is a prototypical Nazi, but the mindset … that is still present. Because let’s be honest, the Nazis thought they did what they did for a good cause. Most people do. That’s easy. (Almost) nobody sees himself as a villain.
But seeing that what you do tramples the dignity of other human beings, and no matter how good the cause ostensibly is, that it does not justify these actions, that’s much harder to see.
And no, I’m not excusing the atrocities, or taking away from the … ugly inexcusable atrocities the Nazis did to those who were extremely vulnerable. Even though it’s easy to claim that I do. But I do not want to see history repeat itself, or even becoming worse (let’s be thankful for a moment that Adolf Eichmann did not have Microsoft Excel). But if history is to serve as a warning, we can’t just look at the obvious end-point of an atrocious regime, we have to spot and stop when things first go wrong.
And that time is now.
P.S.: Sorry that some recent postings have been depressing. But I am seriously concerned about the current situation. And among others, actually for the reasons why I started this blog. I like creativity. I like seeing humanity advance, to progress, to realize new and useful ideas. And all that has happened in the last two years … that is not good. That actually concerns me deeply. And I think we have to solve — or at least bypass — that situation. And we need to do it soon.