Perhaps you have experienced what I have experienced frequently in recent months. I‘ve seen history repeating or at least echoing and I’ve thought, “So this was what it was like when . . . .”
And I’ve been completing that sentence with when totalitarians of various species rose to power and/or exercised power. That has been happening so much of late that I have renewed my study of the history of totalitarianism – and I have decided to begin this series, “Totalitarian Moments.”
To say those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it is something of a cliché, but I do think it does service to society to warn that this or that has been tried before and did not work out so well. I and perhaps others hope to perform that service with this series.
Of course, it is a danger to make useless comparisons with the past. This is typified by a current joke that notes that someone drinks water just like Hitler! We will take care to avoid such unhelpful correlations.
With that, let us begin this needful unpleasantness with a remarkable quote from The Black Book of Communism. Jules Margoline in La Condition Inhumaine wrote about the gulag of the Soviet Union, of which he was an occupant during World War II. In so doing, he made this remarkable observation that has much wider application. He wrote of . . .
. . . the need to tell an endless series of lies to save your own life, to lie every day, to wear a mask for years and never say what you really think. In Soviet Russia, free citizens have to do the same thing. Dissembling and lies become the only means of defense. . . . People in the West can’t possibly understand what it is really like to lose the right to say what you think for years on end, and the way you have to repress the tiniest “illegal” thought you might have and stay silent as the tomb. That sort of pressure breaks something inside people.
Some of us “people in the West” are perhaps beginning to understand now.