Thursday, March 30, 2006

Parallels you hate to draw

A little essay, excerpt from a book called They Thought They Were Free, explaining what it felt like to be in Germany between 1933 and 1945, the gradual change of how government related to the people, shifting the balance of power toward a central command...
To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it—please try to believe me—unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us had ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted,’ that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these ‘little measures’ that no ‘patriotic German’ could resent must some day lead to, 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.
Things are always so easy to see in retrospect, and comparisons or predictions can seem so overwrought...
How is this to be avoided, among ordinary men, even highly educated ordinary men? Frankly, I do not know. I do not see, even now. Many, many times since it all happened I have pondered that pair of great maxims, Principiis obsta and Finem respice—‘Resist the beginnings’ and ‘Consider the end.’ But one must foresee the end in order to resist, or even see, the beginnings. One must foresee the end clearly and certainly and how is this to be done, by ordinary men or even by extraordinary men? Things might have. And everyone counts on that might.
. . .
You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don’t want to act, or even talk, alone; you don’t want to ‘go out of your way to make trouble.’ Why not?—Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty.
(Read the whole thing, which is touching as well as chilling.)
Somebody's got to be the alarmist. I'm willing to say that this fall is the time when we need to make a serious change in the US; by 2008 it may already be too late. If you're not worried, you're just not paying attention.

(via Medley)

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