After ousting the human peasant from George Orwell's Animal Farm the victors learnt from history: "Four legs good, two legs bad." It looks like a reasonable command and for a while the animals stuck to it. Only brute humans believe that there might be better safeguards against tyranny than counting legs.
After the world defeated Hitler we also learnt from history: "No more." No more what? Well, that changed. It was "no more war", but because German military today aids and partakes in other countries' military actions, it was softened to "no more war breaking from German ground", whatever that means.
This "whatever that means" made its way into other lessons of history. "No more Auschwitz", whatever that means. One would not expect another mass murder near or on the site of Auschwitz ever again. But why does it not explicitely state, 'No more mass murder'?
The lesson from history requires a consensus from the people. Four legs good, two legs bad - unless you have wings. It would be easy to condemn all mass murder when there had been a consent in post war Germany. However, for decades, long into the 70s Mao was cool, Ho Chi Minh was supported, Lenin was ambiguous. Some. Some could not condemn mass murder.
To appease those who could not bring themselves to condemn mass murders as they come, we gave the two legs wings. The holocaust, we were told, was an 'industrial mass murder' - whatever that means. However, those who cannot bring themselves to condemn mass murder expanded "never again" to "never again fascism" - whatever that means.
It is unlikely that another political movement would name itself after the movements of Mussolini and of Hitler both of which shared very little between themselves and share even much less with political groups today. "Fascism", we were told, was about abortion laws, opposition to gay marriage, restricting immigration and disagreeing with the EU. "Never again", we learn from those who cannot bring themselves to condemn all mass murders, is followed up with generally disagreeing with them.
"Never again right-wing."
I'm still unable to find a quote of any historical Nazi that identifies himself as "right-wing" or as "conservative." Abundant are the quotes of high-ranking Nazis, including Hitler, that identifies them as left-wing, socialist, anti-capitalist and revolutionary. Of the name of Hitler's party NSDAP, only the N could be agreed on to be problematic. It was the National(N) Socialist (S) German (D) Workers' (A) Party (P). Only the Nation could be agreed upon to be evil and only supranational bodies like the United Nations could alleviate the stain of two legs.
Societies change through rote learning. The repeated messages embody what was agreed upon at the time when a lesson had to be learnt. Four legs good, nation bad. To adjust the obviously moronic pillars of common morals, a society needs public figures that openly debate, the intellectuals or talking heads.
The word intellectual induces too much awe for some and what a nation needs is not a genius. By proxy of Milo Yiannopolous' incursion into American pop culture, a rather strange debate contribution was laid on the table: "Do we want to cheer this?" The question was formulated by Reality TV star Katie Hopkins and it cuts through moral philosophy like a red-glowing blade through a block of butter. She used the phrase at first when it was only about unimportant things (a reality TV star - mind you). When somebody shows his tattoo, his piercing or the bodily result of his fatty diet to you, do you laud him for his bravery, do you show discomfort or do you make clear that this is not your business?
The underlying psychological trait Katie Hopkins so prominently displays is a lack of 'agreeableness'. Can we agree to disagree? In a healthy society we can. But are we a healthy society? Hopkins and by extension Milo did not have to be geniuses to highlight this basic question and to make an important contribution to the debate at a time when it was needed.
In a climate of fear, fewer people come to contribute to the public discussion. The public realm is filled with trite propagandists. The quietness left by those who got bored with the lies is often followed by the noise of conspiracy theories. Nobody, it seems, has an explanation of what is going on.
But there comes a novel, a piece of art. Monika Maron, who fell out with the dictatorship in Eastern Germany when she worked as a journalist and novelist at the time, is back. And she visits the few Youtubers and some few media outlets that can bring themselves to listen to a conservative.
"Munin or Chaos in the Head" is the name of her new novel. The protagonist is an author who stays awake at night because a crazy 'singer' is disrupting the neighbourhood during the usual working hours of the day. She writes at night. The novel shows her attempt to pen an essay on the Thirty Years' War.
The silence of the night let's the chaos talk, the chaos all Germans have in their heads right now. Doesn't the Thirty Years' War resemble Syria? Don't all parties of a war come with bulk immigration? Why do the elites do this? Is everybody becoming crazy? Do the do-gooders or the conspiracy theorists have less chaos in their heads? Do they have anything in their heads?
A one-legged crow appears. The protagonist lures him into her home, names him Munin and starts a dialogue with him. The crow argues with her, is part of the chaos, gets uncomfortable. Wouldn't it be better if we were animals and could let die what cannot live? Can humans be reasonable given that they think of G-d as somebody in their own image and then lose faith in him? And most importantly: Do humans always, always learn the wrong things from history?
Monika Maron's Jewish grandfather Pawel Iglarz was murdered by the Nazis in 1942.