Saturday, January 15, 2005

Hooray for Harry (not)

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So, Prince Harry is in trouble over wearing a party costume with a swastika on it. The level of manufactured rage and offence is ringing around the globe. Well, it makes a change from Nazis dressing up as members of the Royal Family. Prince Philip comes to mind for some reason.

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It is tempting to simply write Prince Harry off as an example of the result of centuries on inbreeding and unearned privilege. But that would be too easy.

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There's more than that going on.

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Many of the British, particularly upper class British, have retained a grudging admiration for Germans. By and large the Germans and the British fought a clean war against each other and, in many respects, British officers had more in common with their German counterparts than some of their own allies. On top of that, the Germans were just so good at what they did.

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As any British schoolboy war geek knew, the Germans in WW2 had the coolest looking tanks, planes, uniforms, hats, camouflage patterns, everything. Their soldiers were more effective, their generals smarter. They were almost always outnumbered but still frequently managed to prevail, regardless. The only teensy weensy fly in the ointment was that they fought for a repugnant regime. However, 14 year old schoolboys have little or no understanding of the significance of repugnant regimes.

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When they get older, British schoolboy war geeks usually get a life and lose interest in such things but the admiration remains. Speaking as a former schoolboy war geek, I retained an interest but began to understand the significance of repugnant regimes. I also came to the knowledge that guns killed people and that 5p's worth of lead could end a life which had 18 or more years of a mother's love and care behind it. The end-product of all those years of nappy changes, bed time stories and parents' love, snuffed out in a second. Nazis were not cool. War is not cool.

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Yet somehow, a perverse glamour remains. As PJ O'Rourke once said 'nobody fantasises about being tied to a bed and dominated by a liberal'. Bookshops and documentary channels are packed full of material about the Nazis. Maybe it's something to do with all that leather. Sixty years on the bizarre fascination is still there and the capacity to shock is there. From Punk Rock to The Producers.

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The Nazis were masters of manipulating human psychology and they and their symbolism retain a twisted attraction, which probably says a lot about the human psyche.
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I doubt if Prince Harry had thought so deeply before donning Nazi regalia. I'm only guessing here, but I reckon he did it because he is an ignorant dick. A privileged, stupid, inbred, ignorant dick. Actually, maybe not as inbred as we are all meant to believe. I defy anyone to compare photographs of Harry, Prince Charles and James Hewitt and not have any lingering questions about Junior's real parentage.

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Actually, what bothers me more about the whole Prince Harry story was that he was attending a 'Colonials and Natives' costume party. What kind of collection of tools would dress up for and attend something like that?

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However, Prince Harry and his friends aren't the only dicks out there.

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Somehow, as evidenced by the 'outrage' this week, holocaust pressure groups have cornered the genocide market and have sold what the Nazi's did to Jews in WW2 as being somehow so unique that it's worthy to be singled out above all other crimes against humanity.

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Personally, I don’t buy that line. If only genocide were so unique. The murder of the Jews by the Nazis was not the first genocide, the most complete, or the most recent. From throwing Christians to the lions, trading smallpox victims' blankets with native Indians, depopulation of entire Caribbean Islands and continental America, through to the horrors of the 20th Century; genocide has been widespread and certainly not restricted to the Germans or the Jews.

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The murder of Jews wasn't even the largest European genocide in the 20th century. To my, admittedly imperfect, knowledge Stalin was responsible for the deliberate starvation and murder of something between 4 to 10 million Ukrainians in the 1930's. To date, Steven Spielberg hasn't made any movies about that particular horror.

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The list of outfits that Prince Harry should not have worn is potentially enormous and includes a British Army uniform. Harry is expected to start officer training at Sandhurst later in the year. He will be wearing the same uniform as Lord Kitchener, arguably one of the most repugnant figures in British military history and the man responsible for the birth of modern concentration camps in South Africa in 1902.
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The Nazis were responsible for the death of something in excess of 50 million people, roughly half of them were Russians. We can never be too sure of the final number because the death toll was so vast. The Russian figures are so enormous that they can only be estimated by changes in census record totals between one decade and the next. The figures are consequently only accurate to a level of 'give or take a few million'.
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Give or take a few million.

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Yet, somehow. The media this week was full of people demanding that Prince Harry pay a visit to Auschwitz. Why not Leningrad/ St Petersburg where hundreds of thousands people, maybe as many as 3 million, were starved to death? Or Lidice in the Czech Republic where an entire town and its population were erased from the map? Or Warsaw, where the Nazis set about enslaving an entire nation by selectively murdering everyone with an education, with the intention of producing a leaderless, slave people?
One in four Poles were killed in the last war.
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But no, Auschwitz is the place Harry should visit in order to atone. It would seem that holocaust pressure groups have laid first claim not only to the concept of genocide but to the entire Second World War as well.

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We are frequently told that we should never forget and never let such an enormous crime ever happen again. But which crimes do we remember? Surely holding up Jewish victims higher than any others insults the memory of the others and their suffering. Also, living in a country that is frequently criticised for not forgetting about the war this is all a bit rich. OK, we're not allowed to dwell on the fact that Britain is responsible for the liberation of all Europe from Nazi oppression but we do have to remember one particular atrocity more than any other for perpetuity.

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Genocide remembrance is a selective process and we are told quite specifically which horrors to remember. For example, we don't remember the 25 million dead Russians because that might have lead to Western sympathy and understanding as to why Russia maintained a strong military after WW2. For some stupid reason those silly Ruskies didn't want to be invaded and slaughtered in multiples of a million ever again.

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Nope, I can't imagine the holocaust industry having much positive impact on people in Russia, Eastern Europe, Armenia, Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Africa or South America; even with Hollywood and the rest of the media instructing them to believe that one particular attempt at genocide was more significant or horrible than other genocides committed much nearer to home. It won't wash.

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I know that I'm on shaky ground writing about this stuff. The merest hint of criticism can be hysterically denounced as anti-Semitism and that is how the game has been played, particularly over the last 20 years or so. However, the rise of the holocaust guilt for cash business has grown to such an extent that it is arguably having a negative impact on people's opinions. It certainly has had a negative impact on my own. How dare the holocaust industry desensitise me and others to past horrors; hijacking the imagery of countless thousands of wretched, innocent people being taking away to extermination, and using that imagery to mask the more extreme actions of Israel or to lever an enormous, and undiminished flow of reparations from around the world. It's a sick industry, a business; Shoah business.

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5 comments:

Geek's Girl said...

I wanted to say "Hear, hear" but then thought I might sound a bit prissy. So I'll quote from Orwell's Animal Farm instead:

"All animals are equal but some are more equal then others"

And in this day and age it seems that the same is true of victims of genocide.

I wonder if anyone in Rwanda read this week's outrage about Harry's choice of fancy dress and were as upset and as offended. Somehow I doubt it.

We are told that we shouldn't forget - but then selective memory is not the answer either.

Thank you for writing this post - somebody needed to say it.

Stef said...

Thanks for the support for this post

but, unfortunately, no more than a handful of people will ever read it.

Maybe they don't need to. British public opinion over the last few days seems firmly along the lines of 'So what, this is trivial!'.

My worry is that this is more a result of 'genocide fatigue' than a reaction to manipulation of historical memory. There really is a risk that people will become densensitised to genocidal horror and that really would be a crime.

Liam said...

Hi,

Just stumbled on your site.

"Thanks for the support for this post

but, unfortunately, no more than a handful of people will ever read it."

I've just read it, and a damn fine peice it was too. :)

As in many other blogs, I wrote about the supposed furore caused by Harry, but I wish I could have written it as well as you did.

I'll place a link to you from my blog, perhaps you'll get a couple of others reading.

Cheers

Liam

You can find my blog here

sapheyerblu said...

This post will be read by more than a handful of people and being a boring housewife from the states I would like to add one small thing. "Thank You!!!!!"

It's nice to see someone else in the world has the same feelings that I do. If we're supposed to "never forget" the attrocities that happened to those murdered during WWII, then we must never forget those murdered in every horrible war since the dawn of time.

Nice article.

Stef said...

Thanks for the support guys

Liam, I particularly enjoy the line in your blog ... 'a possible audience of a few billion, and a probable audience of significantly less'

which gave me a good laugh. I'm off to blogroll you site right now ...