Sunday, February 23, 2003


In my various postings about the sources or alleged sources of the respect for individual liberty that characterizes the English-speaking nations, I have often referred to what I take to be the ancient Anglo-Saxon sources of such attitudes and have referred to such attitudes as �Germanic� -- on the perfectly undisputed grounds that the Angles and the Saxons were a German-speaking people when they arrived in England 1500 years ago.

The word �Germanic� has troublesome resonances for many people, however. It sounds to them like Hitler. They ask: Is what I am saying not reminscent of Nazi doctrines of German racial superiority? Am I not attributing at least one type of superiority to Germans just by reason of their being German?

In response I have to say that I have been a student of the Nazi phenomenon for most of my adult life and have even written several papers for Jewish journals about it but I still do not know what Hitler thought was Germanic. On my reading he had no clear idea at all: Just confused and contradictory utterances from time to time. He was in fact much more vocal about being Aryan than being Germanisch. So it is difficult to show that my ideas are dissimilar to Hitler's without knowing exactly what his ideas were. His speeches are raves rather than anything consistent.

I guess, however, that the one lesson he would NOT draw from German history is precisely the one that I DO draw: That the German spirit is inimical to tyranny and in favour of individual liberty. I think it is fairly clear at least that individual liberty was not one of his priorities. So does that not make me ANTI-Nazi? I think it does.

But why should I even try to make such distinctions between my arguments and Hitler�s? I do not really see why a rational debate should be distracted by irrelevant comparisons with a populist demogogue. On the other hand, I do not like to give needless offence so I am making this clarification.

Actually, I should probably have been using the word �Teutonic� instead of �Germanic� as it is clear that everything I have so far said about the Anglo-Saxons is equally true (if not more so) of the Scandinavians. Those Vikings were certainly an individualistic, independent and decentralized lot! They also treated women more or less as equals and have a great history of democracy. The oldest continuously sitting parliament in the world is in fact the Althing of Iceland -- with a history going back 1,000 years. And Scandinavians are almost 100% Protestant too -- which fits with a spirit of independence and individualism.

As to Jewry, I no more believe in Jewish conspiracy theories than I believe in the man in the moon. I will leave such beliefs to the simple-minded of both political extremes. I am and always have been, however, an unapologetic and unreserved supporter of Israel. But I hope nonetheless that I have the sort of balanced view of the Jews that one should have of any group -- seeing both strengths and weaknesses. I think that Jews in general are a remarkable and admirable people but I do not think that they are right about everything and I think that their historic collectivist doctrine that they are a "chosen people" has been both a blessing and a curse to them.

And insofar as Christians have adopted such �groupthink� it has been a dubious influence among them too. Fortunately, St. Paul (a Jew) initially set Christianity on a much more inclusive path than that adopted by Jews before him so group consciousness has not had such good precedents among Christians. The way both Catholics and Protestants have engaged in persecution of those not of their faith does however show that religious groupthink is far from absent among Christians.

Interestingly, both modern Jews and ancient Jews have always been fractious and disunited so Jews could be an inspiration to those who OPPOSE collectivist thinking if we looked at what they did rather than what their religion preaches!


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