Quisling’s Heirs and Quisling’s Foes by 60 Guilders
At our most gracious hostess’ request, I have updated Dorothy Thompson’s “Who Goes Nazi?” for the present. I confess myself inadequate to the task, but she told me she’d have to do it if I didn’t, and she’s got enough on her plate.
There are times when one wonders who would collaborate with an invading regime and who would not, or who would gleefully take up the whip hand themselves. In a world where there are reds to the left, browns to the right, terrorists and dictators in front, and bureaucrats behind, simplifying it down to one ideology just won’t cut it. So we’ll be discussing two more basic philosophical schools: those who wish to have slaves and masters, and those who wish for there to be neither.
Imagine yourself, at a reception held by a Mister John Boddy, the only person these days who could attract such a disparate group as we will be observing tonight. Let’s start with that fellow over there, the one holding the wine glass somewhat uncertainly, like he’d rather be holding a bottle of beer. Mr. A is an oil engineer, who Boddy met and became fast friends with when he decided to invest in the Bakken shale boom. He doesn’t know much history or philosophy, but I can tell you that if it came down to it, he would die free. He doesn’t have much truck with people telling him how to do his job or live his life, and he extends to everyone else the same courtesy. Such a fellow would have to be forced into the role of master at gunpoint, and the role of slave would require his family taken hostage as well.
Contrast him with the fellow he’s talking to, Mr. B, similar in type but not in character. Both men, truthfully, think themselves underpaid for their work. They both grouse about their bosses, and both, deep down, think the world would be better off if more people lived according to their lights. Mr. B, however, is an inveterate meddler who was raised by inveterate meddlers—and be assured, should a group come to power who shared his opinions, he would cheerfully truckle to them in order to lord it over others.
Mr. C is of a similar type to Mr. B, but with the added complication of having managed to get a Ph.d.—despite, frankly, having little inclination or aptitude for inquiry. What he does have, however, is a deep and abiding need for respect and a knack for telling people what they want to hear, combined with a crippling fear of failure. What is often referred to as “impostor syndrome” is in his case a reality, and he knows it. He will enthusiastically sign on to any cause that might allow him to quash anyone who could and would reveal him for what he is.
Ms. D, the gender studies professor who he is currently engaged in conversation with, is a truly sad case. Unlike many of her peers, she actually was hard done by in an overly traditionalist environment, and in a fashion that, once the authorities learned of it, resulted in several felony convictions with lengthy sentences and without parole. This resulted in her becoming something of a minor celebrity within certain circles, and a leading role in fighting against the sort of mentality that led to her abuse. Unfortunately, she has radicalized to the point where she assumes that everything that has results unfavorable to a woman is the result of “the patriarchy,” and, if pressed, would admit that she thinks accusation is proof enough regarding certain crimes. Given the chance, she would eviscerate even Mr. C if he put a foot wrong.
Now consider, for a moment, Mr. E, arguably her male counterpart, currently glowering in the corner. His story involves a shrew of a wife, terrible friends, and a violently biased family court judge whose verdict resulted in him never seeing his beloved children save but once a year—children who, by now, hate him because of the lies their mother tells them and hate their mother for the same reason—and being forced to pay alimony to the point where, despite being a white-collar professional, he has no car and lives in a dingy one-bedroom apartment. Initially only raging against those specific persons who had wronged him, he has extended his wrath both to all womankind and any man who does not see females as the enemy, and would take any chance he could to wreak his vicarious revenge.
Mrs. F, over by the fireplace, is different from both of these. Mr. A is her husband, with whom she has had five children—a fact that, when Ms. D realized it, caused her to instantly dismiss her and drift over to C. This was D’s loss, frankly. Mrs. F is not much more intellectual than her husband, it is true, but raising three boys and two girls will tell you much about how society actually deals with men and women, and about how to live life well. Were she to learn of Ms. D’s story—or Mr. E’s, for that matter—she would extend to them her sympathy, but would never let either of them near her children, whom she has raised to treat people like they’re people, not means by which to work out one’s own neuroses. She would not want to fight to keep or make a world where they could live in such a manner, but that would only make her the more ruthless, that she might never have to again.
Mr. G, who Mrs. F is talking with, is an odd sort, and possibly one of the most interesting people here. Born over the ocean, he will cheerfully admit to being a drifter, a dabbler and a dilettante, one of the many reasons that he has never married. Arguably technically homeless, he’s worked on every continent, and has seen the best and worst humanity has to offer because of it. Some might call him something of a hitchhiker, and so he is—but he’ll leave you a twenty for the gas, and offer to pay for your meal and his. He doesn’t think anyone owes him anything, and he knows when he’s discharged a debt. He’s a wanderer who thinks others should have the same right as he, and woe betide any who would abrogate that right.
Mr. H, who has just joined in on their conversation, is as anachronistic in his way as Mr. G is in his. He has never left the United States—indeed, he barely ever leaves his home state, the virtues of which he will expound upon for hours if he is permitted to do so and does not believe that he is boring his listener. However, he will also listen for hours to people talking about where they have been. His is a profound intellectual curiosity tempered by a desire to never leave the place of his birth, but he detests the idea of being bound to one place by any will other than his own, or being prevented from learning about whatever he wants to.
Then there’s Mrs. I, presently talking listlessly with Mr. J, her husband. There is not much to say about them, really, save for the fact that if one wishes to know what the cultural zeitgeist is, one need only find them and inquire about their opinions, as said opinions will match the average opinion of the society around them to a T.
Then there’s Miss K, who’s here because she’s the daughter of one of Boddy’s old friends. She’s been drifting from conversation to conversation, and has lingered on the outside of all the conversations in the room—she considered talking to E, as she’s a good-hearted soul, but the look he shot her when he approached was very unwelcoming. Her parents worry about her, as she’s a sophomore at a public university—however, they need not fret. While she agrees with a few of the things Ms. D says about modern society, she finds her monomania to be off-putting, and much prefers the company of persons like Mr. A and Mrs. F, and would not aid any regime that had no place for the latter.
Finally, there is Mr. L, who just arrived and is gravitating towards Mr. C and Ms. D. He is the sort of person one might expect to see at a party like this—that is to say, he was born with a trust fund, as were his parents before him. He is acutely conscious of two things: that neither he nor his parents did anything to earn the wealth that they were born to, and that they have done nothing with that wealth that justifies their holding it. A better man might have given the lion’s share of it to charity and settled down to live off the interest of the rest in a modest house in the suburbs. Mr. L, however, has decided to tear everyone else down in order to assuage his own feelings of inadequacy, and is very popular in certain political circles because of it.
Now, upon observing the people at this party, one might be inclined to express concern for the future. But hold a moment—do you see what’s happening? The engineer, his wife, the wanderer, the homebody, and the neophyte are gravitating towards each other, leaving the others to stew in their self-created miseries.
This expresses the truth of the matter: in the end, there are many types that may or may not side with a tyrant, depending on what sort of tyrant he is. The more answerable question is who will never side with a tyrant, and you see them there now—the people who understand, even if they cannot express their understanding, that there is enough in being human to lift the head of a beggar and bow the head of a king, and that in this no one is any better than another.
See them talk and laugh as though they have always known each other despite only having met tonight, and know that none shall break them.