Friday, June 4, 2010

Freedom Is A Precious Thing

One of the chief concerns of this blog is the issue of freedom, particulary as it pertains to our lives here and now in what has become an ever more controlled society. The controls are sold to the public with high sounding names: the public good, environmental protection, health and safety.

My own struggles and misfortune are not particularly noteworthy, except in what they say about our republic as a whole, and the path of ever increasing bureaucratic control that we as a people are going down. Some ask where is the harm in serving the public good or protecting the environment. The answer lies in the loss of individual freedom and the capacity for individual responsibility that each of us experience against the expanding powers of the state.

A young German ex-patriot wrote of his own similar experiences growing up in the Germany of the Weimar Republic, and the impact that came with the rise to power of the National Socialist Party of the Nazi's. From his prologue:
This is the story of a duel.

It is a duel between two very unequal adversaries: an exceedingly powerful, formidable and ruthless state, and an insignificant, unknown, private individual. The duel does not take place in the sphere of politics; the individual is by no means a politician, still less a conspirator or enemy of the state. Throughout, he finds himself very much on the defensive. He only wishes to preserve what he considers his integrity, his private life, his personal honor. These are constantly under attack by the government of the country he lives in.

The state demands that he give up his friends, abandon his lovers, renounce his beliefs and assume new, prescribed ones. He must use a new form of greeting, eat and drink in ways that he does not fancy, employ his leisure in occupations he abhors, make himself available for activities he despises, and deny his past and his individuality. For all this he must constantly express extreme enthusiasm and gratitude.

The individual is opposed to all of that, but he is ill prepared for the onslaught. He was not born a hero. He is just an ordinary man. He is nevertheless stubbornly antagonistic. So he enters into the duel - without enthusiasm, but with a quiet determination not to yield. He is , of course, much weaker than his opponent, but rather more agile. You will see him duck and weave, dodge his foe and dart back, evading crushing blows by a whisker. You will be compelled to admit, that for someone who is neither a hero nor a martyr, he manages to put up a good fight. Finally, however, you will see him compelled to abandon the struggle, or if you will, transfer it to a different plane.

The state is the German Reich, and I am the individual.

So begins his tale. Sebastian Haffner is a talented writer whose own story and insights into the human condition have much to say to us today. I highly recommend Defying Hitler, for what it said to me and what it will say to you.

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