From October, 2007
On this, the last day of my Thanksgiving weekend, I decided I needed to watch a movie on my new HDTV. What do I decide to watch? Well I wanted something light, so I decided on Schindler’s List. I am of course being facetious. I haven’t watched that movie in years and figured that it was about time. Plus, I think that Ralph Fiennes is hot, even if he does play a psycho in the movie. You know, just to go off on a tangent here for a sentence or two, for some reason I seem to like him in that sort of role. After all, particularly in the most recent movie, he does play probably the best Voldemort in Harry Potter. Not to say that he’s perfect, I think there are some subtleties from the books that are not carried over to the movies but that’s for another post.
Getting back to my original reason for making this post. So I was watching this movie and when it was finished I was thinking about that slogan “Never again” that had been adopted by war veterans. Given that there was somewhere in the order of forty million casualties as a result of the second world war, that statement is certainly well placed. That got me thinking though, could there ever be another war like the second world war.
I think that most people are in agreement that the second world war largely grew to the scale that it did because people, including those in positions of political power, turned a blind eye to what was going on in Germany. Based on the limited knowledge that I have of European politics of that time, I feel fairly confident in saying that if Neville Chamberlain had acted before Germany invaded Poland they might have been able to curtail Hitler before things grew to the scale that they did. Of course, if they had stopped him before he invaded Poland it would have been a whole other story I’m sure.
In any case, the war happened, and we can’t change that. Can we stop it from happening again? Of course we can! Does that mean that we will never see another war on that scale again? I doubt it. Here’s why.
One of the big contributors to world war two was world war one. The very extreme and restrictive conditions that were placed on Germany after the end of the war led to harsh economic times and, if I remember correctly, persecution of the German people. Thus when Hitler and the Nazis came in and started turning things around in the country people were more likely to support him.
Second, we as the world’s population are still turning a blind eye to extermination of one culture by another if it does not suit our needs. Darfur is to what I’m referring. I think that more attention is being paid to that region now than in previous years, however it is certainly not being done on a large or political scale, which is unfortunate. I suppose the reason that more attention is not paid to this region is their lack of oil reserves. It just amazes me that the U.S. was so quick to jump on Iraq with the trumped up information about weapons of mass destruction. The Janjaweed don’t have a use to the rest of the world I guess, to hell with the fact that they are murdering and raping innocent civilians!
One final thing that I wish to bring up are the experiments conducted by Stanley Milgram on obedience. After the second world war a lot of the German military officials tried to escape punishment by saying that they were just following orders. If my memory serves me correctly, that was the impetus for Milgram’s experiments. He wanted to know if people could blindly follow orders to kill someone. After many, many, trials with varied conditions he found that the vast majority of us will blindly follow the instructions of an authority figure.
Given these finding, it is my contention that we are in no way out of the woods, so to speak, when it comes to another atrocity like that of the second world war. The fact that we do have more information on obedience, as well as the history of what did happen during the early to middle part of the twentieth century can only work in our favor though.
I just think that in terms of the actual carnage that Jewish people experienced during the reign of the Third Reich, there is a lot that we can learn psychologically speaking. The obvious thing, of course, is the role obedience played. However I think that this also shows us the strength that we, as a people (or in that case the Jewish people) can have, both physically and emotionally.
The last point, and the one that most fascinates me, is how people can stand by and let things like the Holocaust happen. While the average German citizen may not have known the more gruesome details of what was happening in places like Ausxhwitz, I find it highly unlikely that they did not know of the extermination of the Jews in general. Anti-Semitism played a part in their willingness to turn a blind eye, that is a given, but even so. How can you honestly hate a person, or a group of them so much as to let them be brutally tortured and murdered? How can you seriously think that just because someone has different religious beliefs than you that they are less of a person.
Again drawing on Schindler’s List, there’s that scene where Goethe and Helen were in the basement when it looks like he’s going to . . . well you know what scene I’m talking about, and he makes the comment that she almost tricked him into having sex with her, when in reality she didn’t say a world. Then later on he makes some comment about how they have great powers of persuasion. Forgive my terrible paraphrasing, however, it’s more a man to woman thing than a inter-species thing,. The whole idea in this movie, and in the whole Hitler regime that Jews were non-human just revolts me to no end. It’s the same with the ideas perpetrated by the English and the Americans about blacks for so long.
It is this very idea that I think I’m going to write my next story about. That is the terrible price we pay for indifference. As the great Dumbledore once said, “Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike . . .” Which I think is perfectly true.
In closing then, I can succinctly sum up this post by saying the following: I find world war two fascinating from a psychological and political aspect. I think that the political missteps that lead to the war should not be repeated, and hopefully they won’t. The psychological aspects that we see in the war, those of indifference, obedience, and survival are great to study, and immensely fascinating for me, so fascinating in fact that I need to write about them. And of course the most important point – Ralph Fiennes is hot!
Enjoy my long-windedness,