The Myth of Progress

I watched The Pianist last night, and it put me in a particular misanthropic mood I recognize. I last experienced it years ago as I read through the comments book at the end of my last visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The comments in the book, reading between the lines, added up to this: “Boy that sure was moving! The Germans were some mean, evil dudes, huh? It’s great to be an American, because we’ve got museums that’ll keep this Jew-killing stuff from ever happening here!”

What hubris! Of course it can happen here. Men are made of the same stuff in the 21st century they were made of in the 20th. Under the right circumstances, given the right push, they’ll do anything to anybody. The push doesn’t even have to be that hard.

Of course, it won’t be Jews next time. Nonetheless, on a crowded street, or in the lobby of a Holocaust museum, look around you. Ask yourself: how many of these people would gas me for the glory of der Fürher?

Answer: too damn many.

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