I find it frustrating that on so many encroachments upon rights and privacy we have gone from “it could never happen” to “it’s no big deal” in a single generation.
The citizens of 1930s Germany were not all that different from you or I or the people of any other nation. And we have a false picture of their motivations and apathy, preventing us from learning the lessons reaching out to us. They did not wholesale comply with a progressive train of laws out of fear, but out of desire for security, from enemies without and within, in realms both economic and nationalistically ethnic. Disappearances of neighbors were obscure rumors, or necessary relocations for everyone’s common good. If you were an upstanding citizen, you had nothing to fear.
Hints and suspicions and inconveniences regarding rights became active apathy. Those who were too uncomfortable to sit still about it were the ones to watch … and report. They had reasonable cause to have some idea what was going on, but rationalized their consciences for comfort by a hope it was for the best. And this is why they did not know what was really going on until it was far too late. They wouldn’t look at what was so unfathomable, today it would be called a “tin-foil hat conspiracy”.
Villagers nearby concentration camps were invited by the Allied forces after liberation to visit the facilities. Many vomited on sight, before thinking to consume the picnic baskets they brought, expecting a lovely afternoon tour of a temporary relocation center. Forty years later, the United States constructed internment facilities “for civil unrest” far exceeding the capacity of Nazi-controlled Europe at its height, and it is virtually unknown to Americans to this day, years after becoming declassified.
We couldn’t imagine it at the time under Reagan; forty years further under Bush’s, Clinton, and Obama, we whitewash it away as nothing to concern us, regardless of uncomfortable details in the [[Patriot Act]] and the [[NDAA]]. After all, we’re upstanding citizens with nothing to hide or fear.
Orwell was wrong.
The dystopia of 1984 never happened, at least not as written. As many elements can be found in times and places such as the Soviet Union and North Korea, our technology suitable for such a society surpasses George’s imaginings. From drones to facial recognition to micro-chipping and GPS tracking … well, you get the idea.
His prophesy has come to pass unfulfilled, but the core principles of his warning remain. The mentality of fascism has been softened by outward civility, and the threat of force applied so subtly, that when present is unrecognizable to the modern citizen. Or perhaps it was always that way, and we only see it for what it is in hindsight.
Sadly, it is more likely we still will not learn, and dumb down tomorrow’s history of our own time, if not simply to repeat the mantra: you have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide.