Growing up in the United States, World War II is a focus of history class for many years, as I’m sure it is anywhere else. One of the topics that is covered in great detail is the crimes against humanity committed by Nazi Germany. We learn about the abductions of families based on their religious identity, the labor, the gas chambers, the branding, and other horrifying aspects of the Third Reich.
We also learn about the heroes of World War II. We learn about the triumph of Anne Frank and the loving sacrifice of Maximillian Kolbe. We read these stories and picture what role we would have played if we had been residents of Nazi Germany. Let’s be honest though. Too many of us think we would have printed baptismal certificates for our Jewish neighbors or hid dissenters in our own homes. The reality is that we would have been far more likely to tell the Gestapo where our Jewish neighbors resided or even been a part of it.
The audacity that the West has in the postmodern era blows my mind. Society chooses to look upon the past as if everything up to 1950 is some sort of barbaric slaughter, as if civilization began with the Boomers. This could not be further from the truth.
Let me be clear. Nothing about Nazi Germany is being justified in this article; however, if society suffers from the same tribulations and inhumane agenda today, then we are not justified either. I believe that is the case. I believe the average person in western civilization would sooner salute one hand into the air and express depraved allegiance to a hateful existence before acting with uncompromising integrity. I also believe that I’m going to catch a lot of flack for saying this, but so be it.
To start, let’s take a look at where 2020 has left us.
The World Today
Rational discussion and truth have been sacrificed in favor of relentlessly sustaining uncompromising ideologies that simply cannot coexist in harmony. We live amidst a modern plague which has left many without their lives, while many more who were spared their lives lost their livelihoods. Laughing and hugging with friends and family outside the home became something we knew instead of something we did to achieve a collective greater good, although the expense to the individual may never properly be measured. One hint might be that mental health in the United States is at an all time low, which has manifested itself in unparalleled deaths by suicide and overdose. I don’t think it to be unreasonable to feel some sort of dread or sorrow while reflecting upon this, but the majority of people reading this will do so on something made by the hands of Uyghur Muslims who spend their days in concentration camps.
Those forced labor camps that we’ve read about aren’t only for Uyghurs either. In Tibet, there are 500,000 civilians who have been forced into camps there as well. Tibet has a population of about 3 million, but almost 2 million are relocations from culturally traditional China. Those people are not being forced into camps because the Chinese Communist Party does not need to re-educate these people. That means about half of the culturally traditional Tibetans are in captivity by their own government.
At this point, you may be thinking that this forced labor is a horrifying human rights violation but that there’s nothing you can really do. I would agree that ending this would be a monumental undertaking and is not something any particular individual can accomplish. That being said, who is to blame but us as a collective?
At these forced labor camps, the people who are enslaved make products or components of products for the following companies:
Abercrombie & Fitch, Acer, Adidas, BMW, Bosch, Calvin Klein, Cisco, Gap, General Motors, H&M, Jaguar, L.L. Bean, Lacoste, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nike, The North Face, Polo Ralph Lauren, Puma, Skechers, Tommy Hilfiger, Victoria’s Secret, Volkswagen, Zara, and many others.
You, the reader, may literally be covered from head to toe in clothes and shoes made at the hands of slaves who have been abducted based on their religious and cultural identity. That last part sounds awfully familiar.
In the West, we voted for this with our money. For all the individuals I see on social media who posted about saving the Amazon Rainforest or proper mask etiquette throughout COVID-19, I see far less in the way of objecting to the most obscenely obvious human endangerment in our world today. I completely empathize with the fatigue that comes with caring about every issue. It is too much to expect. I just can’t fathom why this is the one people decided was where they drew the line.
History Repeats Itself
I also have to specifically address the multiple German companies on that list. America, the rest of Europe, and Asia are not innocent by any stretch of the imagination, but what lessons have you learned from your offenses than to move them to a location where you’re less likely to be caught? This isn’t just offensive to Uyghurs and Tibetans. This is to clearly show that if it weren’t for other interests that are mostly grounded in finance, there is a strong possibility that the West would still be branding Jews like cows today.
Perhaps you would say that this can’t be the case because countries like the United States and Great Britain interceded. The thing is, they hadn’t for quite some time. Many in America were making money off of Hitler’s policies and made some of the human rights violations more efficient. Some of the companies and individuals who benefited are household names, such as IBM and Prescott Bush, father of President George Herbert Walker Bush and grandfather of President George W. Bush. It was only when the financial side of things began to turn upside down did the United States intervene.
I don’t mean to belittle the complexity that is the timing and strategy of international military intervention. For those who call on the United States to invade China for their crimes against humanity, I understand and share your passion; however, warfare between these nations would result in far greater damage to humanity compared to just letting China continue. From the perspective of how we spend our money though, our lack of action as a society shows that we have had the opportunity to be a people of principle but chose not to be, just like the men in the guard towers at Auschwitz. While their actions may have been more direct, our opportunity to do the right thing is infinitely easier.
Rhetoric in the Postmodern Era
How people communicated in Nazi Germany may be different than how we communicate today, but the rhetoric isn’t necessarily that different. The focus revolves around making a particular group in society the scapegoat. For Hitler, this was the Jewish people. For China, these are people who are not uncompromisingly devoted to the Chinese Communist Party.
America and the modern West is different in that diversity is much more prevalent today than it was decades ago or in the East. The universality of a scapegoat for a larger and more diverse people won’t strike a meaningful chord with the majority of people. That’s why the United States and other Western nations are so divided. This is opportune for those seeking harm because divide and conquer is the name of the game for them. Allow me to illustrate the similarities between Hitler’s rise to power and America today.
For Germany, the Great Depression came at an already difficult time for many who were still struggling from the economic downfalls that came their way as a result of World War I. Further strife destroyed the German economy and made getting by almost laughably ridiculous once one needed to bring a wheelbarrow of money to the market for that week’s food. Economic opportunity was nowhere to be found. As such, people became desperate, but it’s not like Germans hadn’t seen what thriving looked like. After all, Ferdinand Porsche was already making a name for himself in the auto industry.
In the United States, the pandemic has caused mental anguish and economic strife. Unemployment is at unprecedented highs. The outlook for jobs is bleak. In what was the capital of the world and fine dining just a short while ago, 90% of restaurants in New York City were unable to pay rent this past month. A third of Americans are unable to make their mortgage payments. Student loans consume paychecks when they do come in, and the class divide continues to widen at an alarming rate. Just like the Great Depression struck Germany during the aftermath of World War I, the economic crisis of 2020 strikes America in the aftermath of its Great Recession but also in a time where nearly new German luxury cars litter our roads.
It is in times like these when we feel lost. Providing for a family or even just yourself can appear increasingly difficult and eventually impossible to manage. Self-actualizing seems like a myth. This is when societies make the grave mistake of shifting where fulfillment is looked for. In good times, we look within and hopefully pursue our dreams and grow with the people we care about. In desperate times, people have a nasty habit of looking outward for a savior.
Our desperation leads us to entertain false promises and compromise who we are so that we can return to a life of less suffering. As far fetched as it may sound when life is good, blaming someone else for your misery can be unbelievably appealing. Make no mistake about it. This road leads nowhere good, but it’s a road our country has already begun to travel down.
While many do not find overwhelming ecstasy in this life, all of us endure suffering in some way. Rushing to judgment leads us down a dark path one by one, but bonding over our common struggles is exactly how we can lift each other out of them.
Our common struggle should be viewed as an opportunity for growth. After all, Mein Kampf literally means My Struggle. If we contextualize our struggle in the wrong light, casting darkness on others, the repercussions can be ghastly.
While life is suffering, the individual cannot depend on other people to reduce that suffering.
The Individual’s Path to Peacekeeping and Success
I’m not trivializing the personal difficulties that any person has encountered. I’m not saying that every person endures the same degree of suffering either. What I am saying is that obsessing over our differences and somehow implying that these intrinsic differences are something to be proud or ashamed of is harmful.
Earlier I had mentioned that the collective’s permission with our money is a major factor of the current state of China’s slavery epidemic. The issue lies with each member of that collective. That means you and me.
Your impact may be small, but that impact is just that — an impact. Gandhi said,
If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him… We need not wait to see what others do.
I’m not going to try to say it better than Gandhi, but let me reiterate that you do not need to wait for the permission of society to improve your own life, nor the world. Also of importance, nobody needs to wait for your permission either. Simply put, we’ll all be better off if we just hop to it and do our best at the things we need and desire to do.
The Morality For Our Time Is Timeless
Take a moment to think of humanity like a simple math equation. If everyone stays the same but you improve, the average for all of humanity improves.
We hear about so many issues in the news today. White women in Middle America who have lost their sons to heroin overdoses are being told that their silence on race relations in coastal cities is violence. Black boys in Baltimore are getting funneled straight from school into the prison system because the education system has utterly and miserably failed them. Cops are shooting civilians. Civilians are shooting cops. The media constantly leaves out key details to benefit their desired position on the issue. Censorship is exponentially increasing on social media. Alternative news networks are being blacklisted by Google Ads, destroying their revenue and subsequently driving you to the same media that lies about what seems to be each catastrophe we face. The planet is heating to levels that will cause dramatic shifts in how humanity sustains itself. There’s an election in the United States coming up in which the majority of Americans are not at all excited about whoever they plan on voting for.
Apparently, you’re supposed to care about all of these things. The world tells you that you’re supposed to have opinions on all of these. You’re supposed to be taking action. I’m going to call that the rubbish it is.
Life isn’t meant to be lived by weighing one side of an issue against another. Zero of these issues are two sided anyway. They are all so complex, but how you live can allow you to arrive at your own conclusions while maintaining far lower stress levels. Life is meant to be lived according to universal principles. These principles should be consistent when applied to all things. How you choose to live as a human being is much more about the core of who you are, rather than a checklist of whether you agree with Fox or CNN.
Choosing to live according to a set of universal principles means treating all human beings with respect and dignity, regardless of the color of their skin, their ethnicity, their faith, their economic status, etc. It means not judging others because no matter how well you know a person, you realize you do not know everything about someone and that their actions could be a result of an underlying factor. It means viewing people as individuals and not grouping them together arbitrarily, no matter how real those group associations may seem.
Living a life of principle means living the golden rule. Love your neighbor. Treat others the way you would like to be treated, regardless of how they treat you. Do the right thing, regardless of who is watching. Living for something greater than yourself gives so much meaning. The paradox of that is that the greatest way to live for something greater yourself is by being the best version of yourself. You benefit. The world benefits. We grow as brothers and sisters instead of fighting like them.
Let’s Make The World A Better Place Together
This explanation and approach does not explain everything there is to know about how one should live, but it’s a starting point. If every individual had this starting point, there would never have been a consideration that Jews in Germany could be responsible for the suffering of others. If every individual had this today, we would not be at each other’s throats. Nevertheless, that is where so many people find themselves.
This is my call to action. I’m making my best effort to always live according to universal moralistic principles. I’m trying to make sure the people in my life don’t feel judged for their beliefs, their hardships, and their characteristics. It would mean the world if you joined me. Chances are, it would mean the world to someone else in your life too.