The further in time one gets from World War 2, its savagery and ruthlessness, the horrors of the holocaust, the destruction of cities and the senseless massacre of millions of soldiers and civilians, the more the memory begins to resemble a filmed entertainment complete with make believe pain and what passes for realism and authenticity.
One begins to see a growing army of doubters and deniers alleging that the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis were exaggerations for purposes of propaganda by the allies who needed to portray the Nazis as Neanderthals.
The changes in perceptions, despite all the historical data, the endless documentaries and books attesting to the abject cruelty of the Nazis and their allies, the laws that Germany has enacted to prevent such a bestial catastrophe from happening again, are beginning to find traction in the old and new media. We no longer turn away in horror, but often observe these events merely as spectacle, a performance by others for our entertainment.
Remarks by a Danish filmmaker about his sympathy for Hitler elicits chuckles, despite his slap on the wrist punishment, and a holocaust denier becomes head of the oil cartel. Sympathy for Israel, once the plucky little democracy created by the UN in the aftermath of the holocaust as a haven for this oppressed minority is now considered a menace to its billion strong neighbors and must now justify to the world its right to exist as a Jewish nation. Apparently the shortest distance between two points is human memory.
Perhaps there is so much evil being portrayed in the fiction of films and books that it seems commonplace to believe that real evil is also fiction. Even the most bizarre and tragic circumstances like peaceful protesters being killed on orders of power mad dictators, devastating floods, fires and earthquakes, massacres by machete, beheadings, suicide bombings, and an endless catalogue of assorted horrors are seen, if one isn’t at risk, as mere entertainments.
To most of us the bloody conflict seen on our screens seems repetitive and ordinary. We shrug with vague acceptance when we learn that the weaponry of mass destruction is proliferating, that religious wars are accelerating, that true believers of one cause or another butcher true believers of opposing causes. Mankind seems to float on a river of blood. All of this is filmed, packaged and sent to our homes and offices through the miracle of technology. We are voyeurs of evil. We love it.
There are, for example, thousands of Internet sites set up by ultra fascist groups hawking monstrous accusations against the same imagined enemies conceived by Hitler and his supporters. Many of his ideas have been recast, notably in Arabic and used to promote Jihad and brainwash potential suicide bombers. Copycat Nazi hate machines have been rejuvenated, thanks to the Internet and they are gaining adherents and supporters.
One might say it has always been thus. Evil is mankind’s hobby. Killing fields are everywhere.
Of course, the great stars in this mass charade are the so-called leaders who orchestrate their appearance with contrived props, cheering crowds, their words packaged for digital dissemination. It’s getting so that every time I see and hear a speech by a politician I think of Charlie Chaplin and his indelible performance of Adolph Hitler in the film, The Great Dictator.
If there is any bottom line to all this sturm and drang it is that if it is not happening to you directly, it is merely entertainment. And if it is happening to you, rest assured that others will be viewing your agony on a screen somewhere holding a bowl of popcorn, mesmerized by the spectacle.