Niagara Gazette

Columns

July 6, 2014

SINGER: Thinking about an earlier era of instability

Niagara Gazette — Today’s decadence, along with a Niagara gorge-like gulf between so-called Right and Left unfortunately remind one of Germany’s Weimar Republic, before Hitler assumed power early in 1933, rapidly becoming a dictator. I’ve thought a lot over the years about the Weimar Republic (given that name because its constitution was formulated in Weimar); and especially, its fortunes in a racy, unstable, but interesting Berlin of the ‘20s. Several decades back, I read what’s still the best book on the subject, Otto Friedrich’s “Before the Deluge.” For those who can’t visualize the period, think of the Liza Minnelli vehicle, “Cabaret,” set in that time and place.

American commentators used to draw parallels — and Friedrich was implicitly doing so as well — between late ‘60s and ‘70s decadence here and excesses of German culture and society after World War I, particularly in Berlin. Few do so today.

Which is odd because today’s socio-cultural landscape and ideological splits seem to outdo by far what one could find in those pre-Hitlerian times. And for certain, the Nazis’ success in closing down the Weimar party for good is a key part of the lesson once taken seriously by certain American or British thinkers. Because one can’t separate Hitler’s dictatorship from the period which preceded it. Through the ‘20s his Nazis had wanted viciously to gain revenge against virtually every aspect of the era, especially in turbulent, far-out Berlin.

Why does all this disquiet me? Because we had the “occupy” movement? No, that wasn’t very significant, it turns out, though tolerance of its excesses (including sanitary ones) did seem overly generous.

In any event, some may retort to my fears: hey, we’ll never have a Nazi dictatorship or any form of fascism. And I agree: a new take-over would probably not go under the colors of “Nazi,” “Fascist,” or even “Communist.” However, something similar could certainly occur, and it would be ghastly.

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