The End(s) of History (part 1)

Traudl Junge, from

I watched the movie “Downfall” last night.

If you’ve ever seen a video meme with Hitler yelling at people in German, you might recognize this movie as the source for those memes. It’s the story of the Fuhrerbunker as told from the (real) point of view of a young woman (Traudl) who takes a job as a secretary for Hitler shortly before becoming trapped with him during the final days. Spoiler alert: she survives and is acquitted by the Nuremberg trials on account of her youth.

Part of the reason I feel the need to jot down some thoughts about this movie is that it reinforces my vague distaste at recent attempts to portray the Republican rise as hitleresque- but also, it provides me some very real reframing about the politics, too.

One of the things that struck me most during the film was repeated references by Hitler and other inner circle members about the “mandate” the German people gave to them- I’m entirely convinced that despite their evil ends, by and large there was a perception of the ecology and economy of the world at the turn of the 20th century as being overtaxed and insufficient to support the growing population, and warfare and wholesale mass slaughter have been used as a curative for what was perceived to be a very real problem.

The very real struggle of getting through to people of Trump’s generation is in reminding them of the futility of warfare and perceptions of “the end of history” and other arch conservative memes. The point of capital is the velocity of capital- and conservatism is almost uniformly opposed to increasing the velocity of capital, instead, favoring preservation of capital. I have so much to think about on that, but probably that’s off topic here.

What bears witness here is the difference in the visceral experience of war between Americans and Germans: having a handful of bombs dropped on you (viz. Pearl Harbor or 9/11) and sending a select group of teens and twenties off to fight war elsewhere is a very different experience than having it happen on your doorstep, to have civilian life intermingled with military action. Our closest analogous experience is inner city police brutality (Baltimore, Detroit, LA) but even that analogy is dangerous because it’s not something white people *in actuality* have much experience with- and this lack of shared, direct experience of military-style violence is the most dangerous blind spot of all. Even being a veteran (whether soldier or policeman), while traumatic, isn’t the same: you have experience with the effect of killing but not the psychology of standing your ground on the the hill you literally will die to hold, that hill which is also is also your home and your meager accumulations. Again, I have much to think about on that, too, but off topic here.

The point is, you can reframe any shared experience in any ideology- for Hitler, it was the experience of losing a expansionist push to create a greater German state, and the cost of his ideology. To Germans, the experience of post-WW1 depression (which happened due in large part to the economic trauma of industrialization and happened to both sides of the war) became confused with their ideology of a “war” against “communism”and “international jewry”. It was so striking to see the generals portrayed using the words “never again” at the idea of a “1918-style armistice” in 1945. They had sold themselves on an ideology where one more step back was going to be “less than zero”, and for many, suicide became preferable to calling a truce (or even just seeing things through, as the protagonist does in “Downfall”). What is needed is propaganda that doesn’t escalate to that, and I see that escalated death propaganda used on both sides. “Death panels”, was the cry before ACA, and “Literally killing me” is the cry now with the proposed cuts to Medicare. Mind you, I’m pro-ACA and against cuts to Medicare, but if we have learned anything, it should be that the politics of declaring things “the hill I will die on” is extremely dangerous and will warp our minds to fail to see the obvious solution- call a truce, give things time to cool off, give yourself space to think and plan.

Some people might say, “that’s easy for (me) to say, since (i’m) a rich white man”, and fair enough, that may be easy for me to say, but I don’t say it lightly. What worries me the most is the mutual suicide pact that both dems and gops are pursuing. Each meter the two racing cars hurtle toward each other in this game of chicken is another lost chance to stop the game. We could solve our budget crisis tomorrow if we spent not one more dime on the police and military state, and that’s just one of a million probable ways we could get away from playing this game. We could uncap social security tax on income, make it progressive. We could do lots of other things. The solutions don’t matter, the fact that there *are* solutions is what matters.

But the most important first step is to unbind ourselves from the suicide pact. If we don’t stop this madness on both sides of the aisle, I’m convinced it will be like the scene toward the end of “Downfall”, where the secretaries and Eva Braun go outside for a smoke in the ruined garden, staring wistfully at a half-broken lily sprouting in the rubble. So many missed opportunities, simply because we cant see beyond what is “unthinkable”.




no job too dirty for the f*%&ing scientists. --Burroughs

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matt harbowy

matt harbowy

no job too dirty for the f*%&ing scientists. --Burroughs

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