Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Godwinning, Well, Anything, Part II

You’ve got to be careful, I think, when quoting a book describing the “social revolution” in Nazi Germany and making any parallels to today’s society.

Yes, I have blogged about that caution before.

Nevertheless, after reading David Schoenbarum’s “Hitler’s Social Revolution: Class and Status in Nazi Germany 1933-1939,” parallels will be made. I don’t want to be accused of Godwinning anything, so just let me say that these are the parallels I see between what I read in Schoenbaum’s book and what I see in society today. I’m not calling anyone a Nazi, I’m just marveling at how society repeats the same errors and flubs made by those who went before them.

Two of Schoenbaum’s general observations just jumped out at me as I read. The first, from page 199:

The Third Reich was a state of bureaucratized charisma, and no less than a state of permanent improvisation.

The second, from page 275:

The Third Reich proved that a house divided against itself can stand, provided at least, that the occupants have no alternative place to go and that the landlord pays attention to the wallpaper, if not to the walls.

I’m struck, as is Schoenbaum, how much social Darwinism played a factor in the Third Reich, with social moves ranging from deifying the farmer to reforming civil service and labor organization ebbed and flowed with which direction the popular winds were blowing, where easily exploitable institutional weakness was found and where support from high places encouraged further movement.

We see the same kind of Darwinism at play today, as governments and political parties vie to be the one force that effects change when that change is only window dressing – or wallpaper – leaving the underlying woodwork in varying states of repair and fitness unchanged. The political back-and-forth we get today – and I blame both Republicans and Democrats for this – leaves us with a government more interested in the wallpaper than the walls. And we as a public have no alternative direction to head as third parties are marginalized and our attempts to democratize the republic for which it stands gets lost in the noise.

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