Social Injustice – 60 Guilders
One of the things that most people who aren’t hopelessly mired in conspiratorial thinking have figured out is that the Holocaust—referring to the whole 12 million dead—was a rather evil thing to do. However, some people seem to be confused as to why it was an evil thing to do.
Here’s what I mean. There’s this underlying tone, whenever you see people talking about the “Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy to destroy Germany” and the “stab in the back” theory of why Germany lost World War I, that the latter was come up with out of whole cloth by the German aristocracy and military while the former was Hitler’s own insane twist on the theory.
Unfortunately, neither one of those statements is entirely true. First, while Germany would have ended up losing World War I even without its internal issues, the fact of the matter is that the morale issues and general disaffection that led the German high command to sue for peace in 1918 were exacerbated by socialist agitation. The most obvious result of this was the Kiel mutiny, when the sailors of the German navy refused to go out and have a last “glorious” battle with the British and proceeded to set up a socialist-led soldiers and workers council, and eventually forced the German government to overthrow the Kaiser. In other words, the “stab in the back” happened—it’s just that it was more of a result of Germany’s loss of the war than the cause of it.
As to the “Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy”—well, the awkward thing is that a disproportionate amount of Jews were involved in leftism in this period. Many of the leaders of the Spartacus League, which was heavily involved in the 1919 Spartacist uprising that attempted to take over Berlin, were Jewish, as were many within the Bolshevik uprising in Russia itself. The reason for this, of course, was that a disproportionate number of Jews were intellectuals, and intellectuals are often attracted to leftism. Now, the emphasis on Judaism was part and parcel of a longstanding pattern of German and European anti-Semitism, while the destruction of Germany/the German people was a case of a toxic combination of “They believe, as I do, that their policies are bad for Germany” and projection.
However, it should be noted that both of these theories, like all the really powerful lies, had a little kernel of truth in them, and a lot of belief behind them. There had been a socialist uprising in Germany that served as the straw that broke the camel’s back, and there were a number of Jews involved in the German left.
This brings me to a particularly unfortunate book I was required to read in college called What About Hitler, which, in the process of attempting to claim that total pacifism was the only possible Christian way of thinking about war and violence, mentioned that Hitler, under just war criteria, was justified in his actions. I should note, in the author’s defense, that this was a dig at just war theory rather than a defense of Hitler.
Anyway, that just really seemed wrong to me, but I couldn’t put my finger on why. Then it hit me. Any sort of justification Hitler might have been able to scrounge up under even the most ludicrously loose interpretation of just war theory was thrown out the window when he decided to engage in genocide, because attempting to annihilate entire people groups—Jews, Germans—for the actions of a secret or not-so-secret cabal, is wrong, because almost all of them will have committed no crime except possessing the temerity to be conceived in the wrong woman’s fallopian tube. For that matter, this is why going after any sort of group of people based on birth characteristics—race, sex, parentage, and the like—is a bad thing.
Unfortunately, that underlying tone of “Of course what Hitler and the Nazis did was unjustifiable, they were wrong about what was going on around them” whenever the topic of the Holocaust is discussed implies that, if they had been right, what they did would have been, at least, justifiable. In other words, there’s an acceptance of the underlying logic of collective justice going on there, and when you put adjectives in front of justice, you almost never get justice.
Which brings us to the current brawl in SF/F and the wider culture. There’s a very large swathe, of Western society that has regressed, though they call it progress, to the idea that one should deliberately punish all members of a group for the actions, real or imagined, of a few members, and to the idea that because members of a group are overrepresented in a particular area that it is a deliberate choice on the part of the group, rather than an accident of history.
You see it nearly everywhere. The idea that SF was somehow filled with racist, sexist hatemongers until…well, as near as I can tell, around five years ago is ludicrous when you have H. Beam Piper writing stories where racial intermarriage has turned almost all of humanity a nice shade of brown and there are heroic characters with names like Themistocles M’Zangwe. But, even if that were true—what, we should stop reading (and buying books from) straight white male authors for an entire year? Because a bunch of people they never even met were theoretically jerks?
On a societal level, however, that’s not especially important. However, you see the same kind of thing with the recent controversies over Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Freddie Gray. Because white cops were involved (even if they weren’t the only ones there), and the dead men were black, suddenly all cops, particularly white ones, were evil, racist, brutal, Gestapo agents. For that matter, all of white America was somehow responsible for the supposed unfair targeting of black men by police, as well as the racial disparities in arrests. Because, apparently, all of white America is responsible for Ferguson’s city council kidnapping Lady Justice and whoring her out to Mammon, New York’s government deciding to be a bluenose, the crime-ridden sinkhole that Baltimore has become, and the weirdnesses of the American criminal justice system.
And if those don’t ring your bell, pick a controversial topic in our society today, and I will almost guarantee that it’s controversial because someone has decided that collective justice is something we as a society should engage in it. Confederate flags, stop and frisk, removal of tax exemptions, affirmative action…I could go on, but I am a guest here.
Now, the thing is, a certain amount of “collective justice” is inevitable—there is, to quote John Piper, a fine line between legitimate probability judgments and racism (fill in with whatever –ism you like). But it should not be a societal value, because when society starts tarring all members of a group with the actions of a few of its present-day members or members who the present-day members have never met, that’s when people decide it’s better to be hung for a sheep than a lamb.
In the best-case scenario for that eventuality, the fabric of society frays a bit more, and we’re all a little worse off. In the worst case, the crops are exceedingly well-fertilized the next year.