Two fun articles have got my attention this afternoon:
Over at The Toronto Star we've got a fascinating article on the Goose Step and what it means to tyrants, and why they seem to like what looks like a ridiculous march to the rest of us. But for some reason, this also brings to mind "The Producers" for me today.
Meanwhile, David Crossland over at The Spiegel has an excellent article reviewing a new book on Nazi-era humor: "Did you hear the one about Hitler..." which brings to mind for me the lines from Bertolt Brecht's poem "Motto":
In the dark times, will there also be singing?
Yes, there will be singing
About the dark times.
Actually, many of the jokes presented, in a different time, probably wouldn't be seen as terribly funny, but back then they could get you killed, especially if they smacked of 'defeatism'.
What gets to me is the fact that we waver dangerously close to a point in contemporary America where laughter and more importantly, opposing viewpoints are silenced and discouraged.
Years ago, I came across a post that argued that the big mistake most of us make is that we treat Nazis and Nazism like they're cold, cruel, evil and competent people.
It was argued that instead we should be mocking them at every turn and opportunity, because what people who are turning to Nazism today are looking for is to be seen as cold, ruthlessly competent people. They think it's cool. And they want to be seen as part of something 'cool'.
Perhaps the appropriate response is if we just presented Nazis as idiotic bumblers with all the style sense of bell bottoms and hair shirts. Neo-nazi recruitment would plummet overnight.
While the US isn't instituting the goose-step, the way we're told to revere and fetishize the military and elite police forces of America should be considered carefully. Giving up freedom for style is never cool.
Leonard Cohen's song 'First We Take Manhattan' utters the lines:
I'm guided by a signal in the heavens
I'm guided by this birthmark on my skin
I'm guided by the beauty of our weapons
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin
Make of this post what you will.