But Then It Was Too Late

This is from the always worth reading Kaye Lee at The Australian Independent Media – I hope she will forgive me for reblogging without her express permission (and I note that several Pubkateers have commented already).

(Image Credit: Daily Fumes)

An excerpt from They Thought They Were Free – The Germans, 1933-45 by Milton Mayer:

What no one seemed to notice was the ever widening gap, after 1933, between the government and the people. Just think how very wide this gap was to begin with, here in Germany. And it became always wider. You know, it doesn’t make people close to their government to be told that this is a people’s government, a true democracy, or to be enrolled in civilian defense, or even to vote. All this has little, really nothing, to do with knowing one is governing.

What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.

This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.

The dictatorship, and the whole process of its coming into being, was above all diverting. It provided an excuse not to think for people who did not want to think anyway. I do not speak of your ‘little men,’ your baker and so on; I speak of my colleagues and myself, learned men, mind you. Most of us did not want to think about fundamental things and never had. There was no need to. Nazism gave us some dreadful, fundamental things to think about—we were decent people—and kept us so busy with continuous changes and ‘crises’ and so fascinated, yes, fascinated, by the machinations of the ‘national enemies,’ without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us. Unconsciously, I suppose, we were grateful. Who wants to think?

To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it—please try to believe me—unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us had ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted,’ that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these ‘little measures’ that no ‘patriotic German’ could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.

How is this to be avoided, among ordinary men, even highly educated ordinary men? Frankly, I do not know. I do not see, even now. Many, many times since it all happened I have pondered that pair of great maxims, Principiis obsta and Finem respice—‘Resist the beginnings’ and ‘Consider the end.’ But one must foresee the end in order to resist, or even see, the beginnings. One must foresee the end clearly and certainly and how is this to be done, by ordinary men or even by extraordinary men? Things might have. And everyone counts on that might.

Your ‘little men,’ your Nazi friends, were not against National Socialism in principle. Men like me, who were, are the greater offenders, not because we knew better (that would be too much to say) but because we sensed better. Pastor Niemöller spoke for the thousands and thousands of men like me when he spoke (too modestly of himself) and said that, when the Nazis attacked the Communists, he was a little uneasy, but, after all, he was not a Communist, and so he did nothing; and then they attacked the Socialists, and he was a little uneasier, but, still, he was not a Socialist, and he did nothing; and then the schools, the press, the Jews, and so on, and he was always uneasier, but still he did nothing. And then they attacked the Church, and he was a Churchman, and he did something—but then it was too late.

You see, one doesn’t see exactly where or how to move. Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don’t want to act, or even talk, alone; you don’t want to ‘go out of your way to make trouble.’ Why not?—Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty.

Uncertainty is a very important factor, and, instead of decreasing as time goes on, it grows. Outside, in the streets, in the general community, ‘everyone’ is happy. One hears no protest, and certainly sees none. You know, in France or Italy there would be slogans against the government painted on walls and fences; in Germany, outside the great cities, perhaps, there is not even this. In the university community, in your own community, you speak privately to your colleagues, some of whom certainly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, ‘It’s not so bad’ or ‘You’re seeing things’ or ‘You’re an alarmist.’

And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can’t prove it. These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don’t know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise, the end? On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic. You are left with your close friends, who are, naturally, people who have always thought as you have.

Now, in small gatherings of your oldest friends, you feel that you are talking to yourselves, that you are isolated from the reality of things. This weakens your confidence still further and serves as a further deterrent to—to what? It is clearer all the time that, if you are going to do anything, you must make an occasion to do it, and then you are obviously a troublemaker. So you wait, and you wait.

But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That’s the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked—if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in ’43 had come immediately after the ‘German Firm’ stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in ’33. But of course this isn’t the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D.

And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you. The burden of self-deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little boy, hardly more than a baby, saying ‘Jewish swine,’ collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you live in—your nation, your people—is not the world you were born in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God. The system itself could not have intended this in the beginning, but in order to sustain itself it was compelled to go all the way.

You have gone almost all the way yourself. Life is a continuing process, a flow, not a succession of acts and events at all. It has flowed to a new level, carrying you with it, without any effort on your part. On this new level you live, you have been living more comfortably every day, with new morals, new principles. You have accepted things you would not have accepted five years ago, a year ago, things that your father, even in Germany, could not have imagined.

Suddenly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or, more accurately, what you haven’t done (for that was all that was required of most of us: that we do nothing). You remember those early meetings of your department in the university when, if one had stood, others would have stood, perhaps, but no one stood. A small matter, a matter of hiring this man or that, and you hired this one rather than that. You remember everything now, and your heart breaks. Too late. You are compromised beyond repair.

Note: Thanks to mars08 for this chilling reminder

958 thoughts on “But Then It Was Too Late

  1. The Abbott government is still acting like an opposition, so why shouldn’t Labor act as if they are still in government? This is a good start. Paywalled, just Google.

    FEDERAL Labor will embark on major social policy reform, today announcing it will bring together social policy experts, economists, academics and business and union leaders to design an overhaul of a system that it argues is not meeting the needs of modern Australia.

    The Australian can reveal that senior Labor frontbencher Jenny Macklin will lead a series of roundtable discussions and policy workshops to develop bold social policy initiatives to take to the next federal election, due in 2016.

    Labor says the social welfare system is no longer equipped to deal with the major changes in people’s lives, including family and work. “Our social support system is not tailored to the times ahead,” Ms Macklin said. “Our system was designed at a time when full employment and home ownership were the norm, when jobs were secure and lasted a lifetime, when women were not encouraged to work and very few did, and when families were different to how they are today.”

    This is the first and most dramatic step Labor has taken to rewrite the nation’s signature social policies since losing government last year.


  2. leonetwo,

    Latika Bourke ‏@latikambourke · 4m
    Former Labor Minister Martin Ferguson says the Qantas sale act should have been changed years ago to allow greater foreign investment

  3. Leonetwo

    Sounds like a good idea, let’s hope it actually guides Labor policy and is not another waste of time like Rudd’s 2020 gabfest.

  4. Gigilene, that is amazing. The world is moving forwards with technology & renewables, but we’re in reverse!

  5. If I have time today, I might pop into Catherine King’s office and let her staffers know that Abbott clearly has a Cadbury logo on his bike lycra that she could bring attention to.

  6. gigilene, that solar sphere sounds very interesting. The missing link seems to be in individual/neighbourhood energy storage options for solar/electric power, to help manage the peak demand vs peak generation gap.

    leone, with these days of Parliamentary sittings, where they’re down to discussing the Dr Who 50th anniversay (however engrossing a topic that might be), I’ve been wondering if it would be possible for Labor members to put forward ‘private members bills’ to get some debate going on Labor’s policy areas?

  7. This little black duck

    When I saw the video it made me think of the Australia Abbott and his 2GB crowd would have us be.

  8. Labor will have plenty of policies, starting with trying to unscramble The Idiot’s eggs.

  9. Good to see some principled people:

    Five Sydney Biennale artists have pulled out of the event because of the Biennale board’s resolve to maintain its sponsorship links with Transfield.

    The artists Libia Castro, Ólafur Ólafsson, Charlie Sofo, Gabrielle de Vietri and Ahmet Öğüt were among 37 Biennale artists who wrote to the board last week asking it to cut its ties with Transfield because of its provision of services to the Manus Island and Nauru immigration detention centres.

    In a letter this morning the five artists said their decision to revoke their works, cancel their public events and relinquish their artists’ fees comes after the board indicated it was unmoved by their plea.

    “We act in the wake of the death of Reza Berati from inside Manus Island detention centre on February 17. We are in urgent political circumstances with a government that is stepping up their warfare on the world’s most vulnerable people daily,’’ they said in a statement today.

    “We have received indications from the Board of the Biennale and Transfield that there will be no movement on their involvement in this issue. In our letter to the Board we asked for action and engagement, but we are told that the issue is too complex, and that the financial agreements are too important to re-negotiate,’’ they wrote.


  10. Hello people. I’ve been online a couple of days at my new Portland home, but am only now getting around to posting again. My only comments at this point are primarily aimed at two that others have already blasted: Ferguson and Joyce.

    Ferguson was one of the last of the Labor ‘hereditary peers’, having had an armchair ride through the trade union movement and then the ALP through being the son of the legendary Jack Ferguson. Although uncharismatic, I thought he led the ACTU rather well for a while, with his plainspoken style. He was much the same on the ALP front bench – not exactly incompetent, but don’t expect any vision. As others mentioned, he’s always been pro-uranium and probably at odds with his brother Laurie who has more of the passion that you’d expect for somebody from the Left. Laurie has also not been interested in cultivating business bosses to the extent of Martin.

    He was always pro-Rudd, somewhat surprising after Rudd’s kamikaze efforts with the resources rent super-profits tax. Although in that camp, the Gillard supporters did not view him as a destabiliser in the same way as Fitzgibbon, Bowen and Carr were. They would have allowed him to stay, in the same way as they did Albo. (of course, they didn’t have a lot of numbers to play with after Rudd forces stuffed the 2010 campaign.) But he walked then, probably because he couldn’t see Labor surviving.

    He blotted his copybook then by repeating the line that Labor ‘should not join in the class war’. That was part of Rudd’s media campaign line, aimed at undermining Gillard and Swan. So it is hardly surprising to see him selling out a little more. He’s as far removed now from Labor values as Richo.

    Joyce is the upstart MBA elevated into the corporate executive world with a package vastly in excess of his actual worth, but not unusual in today’s corporate world. Ever since Lee Iaccocca managed to claim all the credit for rescuing Chrysler, executives have got away with stealing corporate assets accumulated over generations and rolling them into fabulous largesse packages for themselves. It was such overpaid wankers that bankrupted our state banks in the ‘deregulation’ phase of the Reagan era.

    The assumption that wizards from one industry can just walk into another and succeed is suspect at best. Apple nearly went broke when they put a former Pepsi executive in charge. It was only after returning to Steve Jobs and getting back to what made them different that they began to boom.

    Joyce was brought in over the top of some senior Qantas chiefs, some of whom have gone on to prove their worth at Air NZ and Virgin. You need to know the product and the service you are providing. I have been 30 years out of tourism marketing, but I am sure the traits of success have not changed. Basically you have to maximise the areas where you differ (favourably) from the rest. In Qantas it ought to be self-evident. The safety, reliability and engineering have been second to none. And because their base is so far from everyone else’s they have expertise in distance travel. Good heavens, they were the only aviation company other than Boeing that was accredited for major servicing of Boeing planes. You don’t earn that by being nice or cheap.

    Joyce trashed all of the points which gave Qantas a competitive advantage over the rest, just as the Pepsi executive had done with Apple. If Qantas is to survive it needs to dump him and all the board responsible for appointing him fast. I’d call back some of those former executives if they can afford them. Some hard decisions may have to be made, but asset stripping is not the way to bring it back to profitability.

  11. Welcome back, Kotter gd.

    I understand moving house can be traumatic. We’ve been in the same house for 43 years. Putting up with assorted extensions was bad enough.

  12. More job losses. None of this is really news, it’s all been in process for a while, mostly since the election.

    Job losses: look to rural NSW. Yesterday we attempted a tally of the job losses across the country over the last three months. Of course, there are many more. One Crikey correspondent in central-west New South Wales pointed us to significant retrenchments at Simplot and EDI Downer in Bathurst, Electrolux in Orange and the Windsor cannery at Cowra. “Bloody disaster out here too,” they report, “and not a federal or state finger lifted to save them.”


    The Simplot retrenchment at Bathurst has been brewing for a while, and as usual, this lousy government had excuses for doing bugger all. Obviously they had no intention of doing anything. Simplot is US-owned.

    The Windsor Farm cannery at Cowra, along with that entire company, has been in trouble for a long time. It was placed under administration this week, with 70 people now sacked. There is not much hope of finding new jobs in Cowra.

    Electrolux, Swedish owned, announced last October that their Orange plant would close in 2016, with 500+ jobs to go. It looks like they have started to wind down already.

    EDI Downer’s Bathurst plant manufactures rail locomotives. Again, closure of the plant was announced last October, but the plant was to stay open until early this year. It looks like time is up.
    Downer says the downturn in the mining industry is to blame.

    Funny how all this bad news broke right after the election of the Abbott government, which has done nothing to stop any of the retrenchments and closures. Funny also that the people of Orange, Bathurst and Cowra overwhelmingly voted for Coalition MPs. Orange and Bathurst are in the electorate of Calare, held for the National Party by the utterly useless John Cobb. Calare used to be held by independent Peter Andren until he retired ahead of the 2007 election. Cowra is in the electorate of Hume, won last election by Liberal Angus Taylor. The former MP was Liberal Alby Schultz. Both MPs had swings towards them. More turkeys voting for Christmas, and look where it’s got them. The flow-on from these job losses will be severe.

  13. I have grave doubts about its abilty to survive, or how good it wil be, but we’ll see. Paper copies in Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra. Digital subscriptions avavilable too. I’ve decided not to subscribe, but will buy the first few hard copies and give it a go. I expect though, it will hopelessly smug, and filled with too many recycled left-of-centre media personalities, the ones we always see either in left leaning small-media or as token lefties elsewhere. The Saturday’s biggest problem is the Guardian is already here, it always has op-ed & features sections, it has up to date real news (not just long form articles & feelpinions) and its FREE. New Matilda is also FREE. Crikey has fresh stories every day, and a few writers who actually break real news stories. However, the owner of the Saturday Paper did make The Monthly work, but are there enough of the right people for this?

    Guardian speaks to the owner & editor.

    A contributor speaks to the editor (cringe).


  14. NT News reported Scrot needed 20 police around his car to protect him. Feel the lurve Scrot.

  15. “Mr Abbott is in Darwin for the welcome home parade for 250 Australian Defence Force members who have returned home from Afghanistan.”

    Didn’t he just cut their wages?

  16. I’m not interested in the Saturday Paper at all, especially not since they let it be known that their target audience was affluent, presumably childless (they travel a lot), inner city types. There was also some rampant sex discrimination in their description of their subscribers, ‘He has a Moleskine and a Netflix account, she subscribes to Vanity Fair and the New Yorker’. Oh FFS, what drivel.

    I’ve posted this before, it’s worth a look if you are thinking of wasting your money on this pretentious rubbish. Scroll down to ‘Creative, with a high disposable income’.

    Click to access tsp_media_kit.pdf

    I’m sticking with The Guardian, they don’t mind if I’m over 60, most definitely not affluent and don’t live in the inner city.

  17. Sorry for posting a Sunrise link, but the animated argument between Latham and Kennett about Qantas was interesting. Kennett is mounting a blind defense of Joyce and Latham was instead saying he should resign.

    Just as I thought he would, Kennett used Marn’s words to back his argument “If a Senior Labor minister said that then… etc”. I noticed Latham was fuming as he said that. I hope something is done about Marn very soon, although after all this time Graham Richardson is happy to be used as a bat by Murdoch to beat Labor with.


    I wish progressives would throw back all this talk about “wages are too high” in these bastards’ faces. “Well, what do you think would be a fair minimum wage then?” and “If we did that and cut the minimum wage down to something like $10 an hour like you want, how will families be able to afford that? A 38 hour week, that means it’s $380 the minimum weekly wage, how can people live on that?”

  18. leonetwo

    Better still would be to make him do what these guys are having to do.

    [@GrogsGamut: What a disgrace: Communications staff told to reapply for their public service jobs http://t.co/Y7gmo6SOaM via @canberratimes

  19. Pubsters, we are trying not to get anxious here, but Fiona and Mum haven’t turned up yet…….Fiona anticipated time was ‘around lunchtime’. Don’t have contact number, trying to stay calm.

  20. gigilene
    That is absolutely beautiful. Oddly enough, my middle name is Margaret, which means ‘pearl’. Are you psychic? I’ve never thought I was any sort of pearl though, not even a faux one.

  21. kk
    Seeing Abbott made redundant because he didn’t meet the slection criteria would be wonderful.

  22. I never knew that, leone. According to wiki, Margaret is related to the sanskrit मञ्यरी mañjarī. Very strange! And, no, I’m definitely not psychic …

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