Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Proud to be British

Recently I've been reading a bunch of "heavy books". This is mostly due to the fact that all my favourite books are packed up ready for an apartment move, but it has led to my coming across some interesting concepts.

The most fascinating idea so far is from "Eichmann In Jerusalem" by Hannah Arendt, which uses the trial of a Nazi war criminal to give a disturbingly matter-of-fact discussion of the Holocaust. One chapter speaks of why it was that Denmark suffered so little of the genocide, why Danish Jews didn't get carted off, and why no concentration camps were ever set up there.

In short: it was because Denmark didn't give an inch to those trying to foment hate. Did the Germans decree that all Jews were to wear golden stars? The Danish made clear that everyone in Denmark would insist on wearing one, starting with the King. Did the Germans try to set up "Jewish Councils" as a first step to deportation? No-one showed up. This continued right up until the Nazis' final attempt to unilaterally arrest all Jews, at which point the majority of Danish Jews fled to Sweden in transport funded by their fellow Danish citizens.

That is in itself a very heartening story. But the amazing thing about it is the effect it had on the Nazis. You see, it was a Nazi who let the Danish Jews know that they were about to be arrested en masse. It was Nazis (among others) who completely failed to enforce any of the previous edicts. In the face of Danish protest, Nazi anti-Semitism collapsed.

It turned out that many Nazis simply hadn't thought about the morality of their actions that much. When all the world was Nazi (or so it seemed), when all the authority figures were supporting the Nazis, when there was no sign of protest or outrage at their actions, they struggled to even realise that their genocide might be considered evil.

Danish courage shattered that illusion. Danish outrage broke open the Nazi echo chamber and filled it with cries of dismay. Danish loyalty to the principles of liberty and common humanity managed to "corrupt" the entire Nazi hierarchy in Denmark, to the point that the final mass arrest required outside troops.

Wouldn't it be nice to be so proud of your country?

Well, now the Brits out there can be. Via Dispatches From the Culture Wars, the news comes through that Salman Rushdie, the famous fatwah recipient, has been made a Knight of the British Empire. In the face of entire fascist countries and communities, our Government has made a stand for freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the human right to life. Quite frankly, I didn't think they had it in them.

We haven't quite taken on the badge of the oppressed, but we've offered to share our own badge of honour with those whose lives are in jeopardy from murderous fanatics. We've drawn a line: an attack on Salman Rushdie is an attack on all of us. We have not gone quietly into the night; in this battle of ideologies, we've made a stand for humanity. Today, I'm proud to be British.

1 comment:

JanieBelle said...

Hi LifeWish! We love your British self.

JanieBelle and Kate