In the featured image, Leni Riefenstahl and a camera crew stand in front of Hitler’s car during the 1934 rally in Nuremberg. Note the eerie order in the street, the crowd carefully controlled in the gutters to express their awe of the military behemoth.
Earlier, in 1927, Fritz Lang had produced the unsettling film Metropolis, where wealthy industrialists and business magnates and their top employees reign from high-rise towers, while underground-dwelling workers toil to operate the great machines that power the city. And lo, a few years later……
It struck me today while travelling from Zurich to London by air, that the way our society is now organised lays us wide open to dystopia in the not too distant future.
Airports, airplanes and their employees seem to be closely related to the prison services. The secret police. We are dehumanized and humiliated while in their clutches. We are frogmarched, searched and sometimes seized and stripped. We become numbers; lumps of meat. Our society has created monsters in the wings waiting to enchain and enslave us when commanded so to do by the Hitler or Stalin of the modern age.
Faceless men and woman roam at will with guns. They keep us in line, push us shuffling towards what today might laughingly be called “transport” but could tomorrow so easily become the gas chamber. Hundreds if not thousands of faceless officials are in support of those toting guns. Humor is strictly discouraged and a minor infraction of some petty rule will have you marched, arm twisted behind your back, to a dark guardroom and interrogation.
If you attempt modern air travel, you will so easily understand why Hitler’s Germany was run by clerks. Ordinary people who became institutionalized into monsters. The station masters and train guards who transported the victims to the camps. The police who rounded up Jews and dissidents. The ordinary people, you and me, our neighbors who gave rise to the phrase “the banality of evil”: we are turning ourselves into Hitler’s railway clerks. His Blackshirts. His Gestapo.
The descent into totalitarianism is made so easy by modern technology. What would Hitler have given for CCTV. For a digitised society where our every move can be traced and tracked and minuted by automated software and replayed at whim whenever we are caught in some infidelity towards the hydra state.
Am I exaggerating? Am I just feeling particularly down after a hateful day? I think not. The monolith I witnessed today could so easily be pressed into more sinister service. The common response of the common man after the Second World War was that there was nothing he could have done to stop the terror.
And how right was that common man. Picture a group of strong men in control of modern media, the army, transport, banking. Our societies are so centralized, our freedoms so restricted that a gang of half determined thugs could walk all over us and we, the common men, could do nothing to resist them.
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
How right you are! And, in the USA, the future is here. My dear old dad, a Cold Warrior, remarked once how very like the Soviets America was becoming. I was a kid then but never forgot it. And I now feel quite like a nervous German circa 1937 watching the totalitarianism gel.
With a President like yours one is right to remain fearful. We have our equivalents waiting in the wings in this grubby little island of ours.