nazis, the holocaust, slavery, schools

The rain outside is nice. I’ve made two mochas and my mind is wanting to delve into the “ghost in the machine” philosophical question. My train of thought last night, the last couple of journal entries, continued to keep moving in my mind even while I tried to sleep. Moving over this point and that point and somehow I came to the argument of spirit. Now that it is daylight I do not see the path that was taken and I am curious as to how I arrived from politics and morality to the ghost in the machine.

Before I sat down to read I moved the cable channel from news toward cartoon network to see if Dragonball comes on today or not (it does) but in doing so I passed by The Outer Limits. I’ll watch these episodes every now and then as they tend to be on the freaky side. This episode, however, was about a man exacting justice on a former nazi colonel for his murderous past. I watched it. By the end of the episode I was teary eyed. I am reminded of the first time I watched Schindler’s List, it was during a training exercise at Fallon Air Force Base in Nevada. I had watched it in the small movie theatre across the street from a bar/casino. After the end of the movie I was hyperventilating with emotion and could only go to the bar across the street and drink. My commanding officer came up to me and asked what was wrong (a lot of the unit was in the bar… the only one in town… drinking wildly and gambling) and I told him I had just seen the movie. He said he understood and he left me alone. My nephew Brandon, now a freshman in a baptist bible college somewhere in North Carolina, when he was around 11 and I was home from the Marines asked me about the holocaust. As I referenced him to Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” when he posed the question of racism to me, I now referred him to the movie I had seen in Nevada.

The teaching of history is often given with the prophetic tone that those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it. But we are failing. Ours is an education which is glossy and without critical thinking. Yes, we should give exposure and educate on what happened during the holocaust. Such horrible attrocities cannot be forgotten. But the great failure, I believe, is in the approach given to the nazis. I can appreciated that this is a very touchy subject. The social neurosis that gave rise to the nazis is not investigated. I believe that nazi Germany was only one manifestation of the deeper social neurosis. The elements of that neurosis are still alive. It isn’t so simple as to say racism, there were much more going on. By saying such, however, I do not wish for someone to mistake me as to imply a lessening of the amount of racism. Not at all. X does not lose any of its value, but merely is part of a mult-factoral equation. Instead of saying that the holocaust was the result of X, I am saying that it was the result of the sum of squares.

In history class the fascists and nazis are given a brief run-down. Their belief system is plotted generally as two overhead slides that can be copied down into the student’s notes as a five part outline. I remember in class that the shortcommings of fascism were somewhere around four or five points. Do outlines help people understand? Did a mere outlined belief system cause the murdering of millions of people? And when you meet someone on the street today and they talk about their compassionate conservativism, do they likewise give you a four part outline? Life, and people’s views, are not put together like Cliff Notes. While we need to continue showing the graphic images of the black men hanging from the trees in Mississippi from a crowd of whites who then had a picnic, to remove the gloves and show the clear horrible nature of what happened, so too do we need to go more in depth into the motives of those who did such acts. Because while the images of killed blacks in the South during the Civil Rights movement were played on screen and there was obvious discomfort by many in the audience, there were also grins and snickers on some of the rednecks. They kept is low so that nobody could hear them, but it happened.

There are some who might say that the reading or investigation of such corrupts the mind. If reading something had such an effect, then we’d all still be good christians after the many sunday school services given to us as children. No, to borrow a page from Jung… to ignore our evils, to turn a blind eye, or to shallowly dismiss them as such, only makes them grow stronger. There is another thought that the investigation of the motives of people who commit such horrible things lessens their responsibility for them because they are seen as products of their time and place. Yes, they are products of their time and place, as are we all. But does that lessen one’s responsibilty? In understanding the factors that give cause to such actions do we not understand better about how to avoid the same again? It is within the ability of every man or woman to sway in one direction or the other, toward the virtuous or the evil. While a friend has railed against psychology as having no use, psychology has shown that we are capable of far worse crimes against each other than each of us would like to admit, that we follow orders, even to the detriment of fellow humans, far more easily than many would suppose. (a note on psychology, I would recommend anyone who has a distaste for psychology to not take personality psychology at all but instead all the other psychology classes instead). Without investigating into the motives, genuinely doing so and critically exposing them and discussing them in depth, they live on in the hearts of man.

We are taught, hopefully, to abandon the notion of slavery. Even many of those in the south that still hold allegiance in spirit to the confederacy are quick to disagree with slavery. We are familiar with the images given to us in movie and book alike of the black slave working on the cotton plantation and the evil white master. This image is then readily rebelled against. Yet slavery lives on and the numbers today are higher than they were during the 1800’s. Today 27 million people are in slavery around the world. Are the conditions that kept slavery such as “vital part of Southern economics” much different than what is currently occuring today? Are there similarities?

Our education is lacking, terribly lacking. I scanned the results of the local ballot initiatives and noted how many had not passed. Fiscal responsibility, it seems, by the voters. Triple our budgets spending on our schools, at all levels, from K to College. Lower the tuition so that everyone can enter. If the rich want an ivy walled college campus with lacrosse and marbled floors… go for it and charge the rich ten times the tuition. I don’t mind. But increase the availability and quality of our current schools. Build some different schools too, smaller and more a part of the neighborhood. Fire everyone who’s ever designed a school in the past… they all stink. Make them more organic in feel, use more natural light, have better circulation in them and some decent colors (puke yellow on wall lockers… doesn’t work). Increase the athetics but also broaden it beyond football and baseball. Bring in wrestling (we never had wrestling at any of the schools I went to)… lots more, something that lots of people can play at. Bring in more arts, more topics outside of civics and math. I find the trend of some high schools across the country to move toward a votech path to be alarming. They say that they are training the kids for life in the real world, as workers in the U.S. workforce. Is that all a child is, a potential worker? Is that all we can tell our children… someday you’ll have a good paying job? I cannot disagree more with this approach to schools, and I disagree with the school voucher. In theory it sounds nice, but it is saying that as long as my kid gets chocolate milk in school, I don’t really care that your kids have no lunch. A society is more than just a couple of whitebread kids who are put into a school at the choice of their parents.

How about this, take 10% of our national defense budget and simply transfer it over to schools. What a difference that would make (if we made the right choices in what to spend the money on).

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