Confronting the past

After the “alt-right” meeting in the Reagan building a few days ago that ended with the audience giving the Nazi salute, many were shocked at such a public display of Hitlerian values, blaming Trump’s campaign for giving these views a legitimate platform.

While Trump definitely contributed to Nazism’s revival in America, the underlying issue is that unlike West Germany, the US never confronted its Nazi-related past.

After all, this is the country where negative eugenics, one of the cornerstones of Nazi theory, was started… not by fringe groups, but by well-respected (pseudo)scientists whose research was financed by the Rockefeller Foundation, Carnegie-Mellon and other prestigious institutes of higher learning.

American eugenicists created lists of people they deemed unworthy of having offspring and sterilized tens of thousands of American citizens between the two world wars. Some of them even went as far as to practice euthanasia on people they classified as undeserving of life. It was after seeing this in America that Hitler realized he could do the same in Germany with their “rejects”, the first rounds of selection based on illnesses and hereditary defects, later expanded to select whole ethnicities for extermination.

An important factor in allowing these selections to work at the high efficiency levels necessary to be able to exterminate millions within a few years was the specific software developed and distributed by IBM, originally written for American eugenicists to aid in their quest of racial cleansing, later actively marketed to the Nazi government of Germany.

Even seeing the horrors of the Nazi regime didn’t change much in circles of power. While highly publicizing liberated concentration camps, after the end of the war in Europe many inmates were to remain behind the barbed wire for months to come, their German guards being replaced by British and American soldiers. A number of Jews who survived the Holocaust died in the camps after they were liberated.

And while the Nazis’ victims were still “being processed” in the repurposed concentration camps, their tormentors were already on American soil, employed by US government agencies for their knowledge in medicine, rocketry and other branches of physics and chemistry. High-level Nazis who oversaw projects costing thousands of lives were welcomed at laboratories and agencies all over America, some of them being so instrumental in areas like rocketry, space exploration and space medicine that even to this day some institutes of higher learning publicly display plaques honoring these “heroes”.

And if that wasn’t dark enough, thousands of ruthless Nazi mass murderes received refuge in America after the war as clandestine agents in the struggle against communism. Their horrible deeds of massacring innocents in the Soviet Union actually worked in their favor in the Cold War climate.

Some of these Nazis are still alive and living comfortably in the United States, protected by a government that even after seven decades doesn’t want to admit what they really did. And without admitting to past mistakes, one is doomed to repeat them.

The suicide of a nation

On the 93rd anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch, the American people elected someone who publicly quoted Mussolini, was OK with being endorsed by the KKK and called just about every non-white ethnic group in the United States criminals, terrorists and the like. While most of the world is shocked about this “unprecedented turn”, in reality it’s just the United States going back to its roots. It is after all a country built on one of the largest genocides in human history, in which white supremacists fueled by religious fanaticism exterminated hundreds of nations. To some extent, America tried to come to grips with its past and evolve into a more humane society, but that rubbed many people the wrong way – they felt that what their ancestors did was the right thing, and nobody should say it wasn’t.

When people feel attacked, they lash out and don’t care who gets in the way. At a certain point, they just want to hurt everybody around them, even if they destroy themselves in the process. This is exactly what tens of millions of American voters did on this fateful anniversary, as an anonymous commenter so succinctly put it: “given a choice between two evils, people chose the greater evil”.

When freedom is worth less than nothing

When the American people found out about the secret NSA programs, they were livid. For years afterward, Europe has been pointing and laughing at Americans for disregarding the warning of one of their Founding Fathers: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

No more.

Yesterday, smack dab in the heart of Europe, in one of the freest, most liberal Western democracies – Switzerland -, after years of Snowden revelations, two thirds of voters opted for a state surveillance more oppressive than anything the United States government ever dreamt of. It was not created in secret. It was not implemented over the head of Swiss citizens. Instead, it was freely accepted by the majority of my landsmen.

For decades, the question on the mind of advocates of freedom and democracy was why people oppressed by authoritarian governments accept their rights being taken away. After yesterday, that question is academic at most, and the new question is why well-off people in a functioning democracy would sign away their rights and their freedom for no tangible return of any kind.

The answer is probably not that surprising after 15 years of fear-mongering (also called “The War on Terror”, probably because “The War for Oil, Heroin and Big Bank Bonuses” doesn’t have a great ring to it). The average Swiss citizen’s mind is obviously filled with terrifying images of bearded Arabs wearing suicide vests and charging straight into a classroom (never mind that it did not happen even once). And this blind fear robs them of their faculties, their ability to think clearly.

Because if years of Snowden revelations, Wikileaks and Anonymous taught us anything, it’s that sooner or later that government agency will be hacked and all that vacuumed up data will be available online, either for all to see or to the highest bidder. State surveillance is an illusion of security that is actually less secure than no surveillance, because the number one beneficials will be criminals and maybe even terrorists. They will have to put a lot less effort into gathering intel for their attacks, because the government so kindly collected and organized it all for them.

Maybe if those trying to prevent the vote going so wrong would have used the argument “no matter how much you trust your government, do you also trust the criminals who will inevitably get access to the same data?”, people might have realized they can’t vote out of misguided fear. Then again, maybe not – their thought processes were probably more like “terrorists terrorists omg terrorists refugees terrorists terrorists refugees refugees omg omg please wise military protect us from those people who would take our lives or even worse our wealth omg terrorists omg refugees omg omg”

The Swiss government’s war on the weak

Multinational corporations like Glencore and their subsidiaries pay off local governmental forces or hire mercenaries in resource rich third world countries to drive inhabitants off off their legally owned land so they can mine the minerals or drill for oil. Swiss law doesn’t allow for class action lawsuits, so every single ousted person would have to hire his or her own lawyer and sue these huge corporations alone, instead of the thousands of victims banding together and filing one common lawsuit.

Swiss law allows the sale of weapons to any country not on a very short list, provided the buyer promises the weapons won’t end up in the hands of human rights abusers. The sole control mechanism is the so-called “end user certificate” which is exactly what it sounds like: a worthless piece of paper. Regimes not on the list can purchase arms unfettered, even if they have a track record of using these arms against their own citizens in nonviolent protests or their troops are partaking in a neighboring country’s civil war. Not even if such a regime resells (or gifts) the weapons en masse to known terrorist organizations are they barred from further purchases. Even regimes with known human rights violations can buy arms with certain limitations, for example if the war materiel is declared as only suitable for training purposes. That’s how airplanes from Pilatus Werke ended up strafing civilians in Darfur: all the Sudanese regime had to do was use a different order form for the wing-mount machine guns and missile launchers.

Chemical conglomerates like Syngenta scout out highly customized local crops in remote third world locations, take samples without notifying local authorities and then bring them back to Europe and North America where they patent them, to in turn go back to the place of origin and serve farmers with a notice that they either pay the licensing fees or are not allowed to plant the crops their ancestors lived off for centuries.

And while some Swiss NGOs are calling on government and parliament to pass laws fixing the injustice, their pleas fall on deaf ears. Unlike in the US, here in Switzerland the law doesn’t require politicians to disclose gifts and payments received from lobbyists.

When the self-deluding become the majority…

this happens. Disregarding the extreme right which always prefers autarchy over international trade and the few old school diehards that still live in the mindset that Great Britain is a world superpower, the majority probably voted for separation because they truly believe they can make better deals with the US and the rest of the world if they are not part of the European Union.

Three quarters of a century ago, this messianistic belief already cost the Brits their empire and their economic prosperity. Winston Churchill was a prime example of a British politician who sincerely believed the Americans had nothing but the best interests of Great Britain on their mind. Roosevelt played Churchill like a fiddle and by the end World War II the UK was hopelessly broke and doubly dethroned as leading world power by both the United States and the Soviet Union. Decades of recession followed, just like they most probably will now.

 

Update 1, originally published on June 30, 2016

A big mouth with nothing to back it up

The probably biggest liar of the “Leave EU” campaign, Boris Johnson, announced he won’t be throwing his hat in the ring for the post of prime minister. Just another dishonest lying cheat in politics who soils himself at the first sign of trouble, the blame doesn’t rest on him so much than on the cattle that ate up all he spewed out.

I guess Brits can now stop making fun of Americans for re-electing a president they didn’t even elect the first time around.

 

Update 2, originally published on July 4, 2016

…and then there were none

With a pretext worse than a 10-year-old could have invented, Nigel Farage slunk off the stage as well, showing the world how little he believes in the very ideas he has been promoting for so many years. While it’s too late for Britain, maybe enough people will wake up all across Europe to the fact that the far right has nothing to offer beyond empty promises.

Who knows, maybe even America realizes the fact that electing a clown like Trump would be a really bad idea.