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[EZG] Miscellaneous Musings: My Stance on the Depiction of Nazis in Gaming

Gamer Talk

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So, this miscellaneous musing was ultimately prompted by several designers, patreons and friends asking, time and again, for my stance on the issue of the depiction of Nazis in media as adversaries and whether I am comfortable with it. The answer to the question, ultimately, is significantly more complex than one would believe. It should be noted that my observations stem from my own frame of experience and reference and in no way presume to speak for anyone else.

I assume that a significant portion of my readers is American, thus I'll begin with the US as direct comparison. Most Germans I know of, when confronted by the pride US citizens tend to feel and exhibit for their country, take some time to stop feeling weirded out...same goes for other countries, but yeah. When you're visiting Germany, you'll notice, to this day, a distinct absence of flags waving in the wind. In fact, the only time when you'll see a significant amount of them will be during big soccer tournaments. Germans ultimately are not comfortable waving flags, at least for the most part. (Yes, we have jingoistic idiots around here as well, but there aren't that many.)

Why is that? Well, to use an anecdote from my own life: When I was a young child, I already devoured a lot of books and had a keen interest in history. At one point, I started asking questions...and found out that we had not only lost two world wars, we had arguably been the REALLY BAD GUYS in one. As in "all-caps, redefines what real world evil means"-level bad guys. I found the pictures of those crippled by war in our history books; heck, the creepy grandma without a jawbone from my great-grand mother's town suddenly elicited sympathy instead of fear. At the same time, I couldn't really believe what I read. I mean, my neighbors, all the folks I knew, my grandparents, etc. - they were good guys, right? It was like finding out that your favorite neighbor was dismembering animals in his cellar...with the implication that everyone you know was doing the same thing. It's one of those realizations that shake you to the core.

Well, turns out that my family had lost their fair share of members to the Nazis and their madness. My grandparents on my mom's side of the family were forcefully evicted from their home in Danzig and had to escape, first from the Nazis, then from the allies. The deeper I went, the deeper the misery got. When I told my friends, showed them the pictures I had found, I was punched once and some parents refused to let their kids come over. After all, I had given them nightmares with the pictures I showed them in my parent's history books. I was furious. My fellow kids had to know this...right? Well, turns out that my discovery was not greeted with any sort of enthusiasm or zeal to spread the word that such a thing could have happened in our home, the country we all lived in.

At one point, later in life, I began understanding the reaction of my fellow Germans. The concept of German Guilt is very real and ingrained into most of us from a pretty early age on. And there is no denying it. Literally. From the vast emptiness of the "Platz der Opfer des Faschismus" in Nuremberg to museums and memorials, there are reminders strewn throughout the country that remind us to never forget. This has, at least to a certain degree, crippled German nationalism in both people and media - those statements about Germany being the motor of the EU, of the non-conservative free world? You won't see such statements show up in German newspapers. When you read them in English, Norwegian or US papers, the experience is kinda surreal if you're a German.

This crippled national pride has its definite plusses: Compared to other countries, our political far right is very much ostracized, and for good reason. Heck, our conservative party is more liberal than the Democrats in many stances. Denying the holocaust can get you into jail, and swastikas, Nazi imagery etc. are all actually forbidden.

That being said, this lack of national pride also generates this weird experience of living in a country without being allowed to love or like it, at least in the way that other nations can show their appreciation for the constructed entity that is a state. Another example from my own life, much later. In fact, the one that made me realize why my previous failures to spread the word about the misdeeds of Germans had fallen on less than enthused ears. I was in school, puberty had hit and pretty much already the ostracized guy, the freak, the weirdo in the trench-coat with the segmented rings. We were asked whether we liked Germany and felt a sense of pride regarding our country. I raised my hand in the affirmative, having just read Faust, Steppenwolf and other greats of German literature in my first burst of truly diving into this literature. I was the only one in a class of over 40 people to do so. They came at me like vultures sensing carrion and it was the first time I was called a Nazi by another German. I threw rebuttal after rebuttal at the accusations, seething with righteous anger; I was furious. From my great-grandma's tales, I was keenly aware of the horrors both World Wars had wrought and being told that I was one of those despicable Nazi-thugs made me actually, truly, furious.

So I reasoned. I told my fellow pupils about the wonders our literature and culture offered, quoted some of my favorite poems...and when the teacher's pets had to finally concede their points, the teacher stepped in and smashed me down - not with reasoning, mind you, but with the umbrella-statement that "Germans should not be proud." Not of their country, mind you...but of ANYTHING. Personal achievements may be halfway okay, but yeah. That year was the year I had to repeat a class. I went from one of the best in German to constant 5s (which are one step short of "F"s and pretty devastating) in my written assignments. That was when it slowly, but steadily dawned upon me - not only the extent of the random hypocrisy of the education system, but why this reaction happened.

Those people that now so feverishly kept insisting with every fiber of their being that anything German is bad...they were the teacher's pets. The conformists. Those that did not bother looking up the details. The folks that bawled their eyes out when we visited Auschwitz and told me I was cold as ice for not reacting in the same manner. The people that publicly had to display their ostensible disgust to establish a common frame of moral reference to feel like they belong - not based on a moral compass, but based on the pressure of conformity. German Normcore is a thing - being "normal" is elevated to almost an art-form and conforming to any type of social standards is very much ingrained in a lot of the folks round here, to this date. One of the things I found refreshing in the US was the old folks with long hair, the obvious biker dudes and ladies, the tattooed guy in the suit - the broader acceptance of individual forms of expression. I digress.

Now, this striving for belonging does not apply to all Germans, obviously - but it is my contention that this longing for conformity, for belonging ("To be" and "longing" - compounds can be pretty revealing in their construction), has, time and again and particularly in the absence of national pride as an identification construct, been used by malignant ideologies to bring the people in line. I was told I would have been the guy marching with the SS, just because, at that time, I loved my black leather trench coats. (That was pre-Matrix, just fyi.) The matter of fact is that I probably wouldn't have managed to keep my big mouth with its incessant questions shut, not even under threat of death. I am not a good follower. I am pretty much the advocatus diaboli and derive a ton of pleasure from well-reasoned discussions...and discussions, questions, dialogues with the media, are not what totalitarian regimes and their ideologies thrive on. There was a reason for the SS preferring its rank and file members to not exceed a certain IQ.

The reason those people kept bashing me down? The reason they behaved in such a, to me, wholly irrational way? A more empathetic person would have realized this earlier, considered it more readily apparent. They were, at the bottom of their hearts, afraid. Afraid, not necessarily consciously, that the pressure of conformity would have made them willing instruments of such an evil regime....because they feel the need to belong, to conform to a society's expectations. Because, they long to be - something else than the tabula rasa we start as; something else than the hard to construct entity called an identity that we all work on, daily, to achieve. A big construct like a nation, like a circle of people that identifies as parts of a whole, can take all that taxing work off one's shoulders.

This is not intended as a blanket-statement, mind you; but at the same time, it is my firm conviction that it holds true for a lot of folks, no matter the nationality. Whereas nations like Norway or the US can celebrate their sense of belonging, cherish a national identity that is a source of positivity for them, this does not hold true for most Germans. And yes, said identification can and always be misused, but I do believe that barring these cases, it represents an inherently positive social construct.

Indeed, in our interactions with other nationalities, Germans learn pretty early on to be despised. Now earlier, I mentioned that other nations tend to have a more diversified view of Germany - that may hold true, but not universally. I have, over the course of my life, been called a Nazi in many a country I visited - and while my disgust at such an appellation, while the hurt was real, it was worse when people actually told me how much they loved what the Nazis had done, shocasing not only that hate is a global phenomenon, but that is very much still alive.

That tends to be when I go ballistic, when my indignation at such a blatant disregard of human life, at such a display of historic analphabetism knows no frickin' bounds. Why? Because it taps into this opaque notion of guilt for something no German of my generation or younger had any part in; because it taps into a comparison with an ideology we are literally taught to hate, even if our own moral compass does not already make us loathe it. In short: No matter the reason, such statements cause an almost physical revulsion on my part.

The best analogue to describe this sense of gravitas, of weight, would perhaps be biblical - the concept of Erblast (literally: inherited burden), of the sins of the father passing down to the children. It is this monumental cloud of negativity that colors every aspect of the concept of nationality, that enforces, ironically, a need to constantly reaffirm how bad we feel for something my generation had no part in.

The symptoms of normcore-pressure in interaction with this collective Erblast go even deeper, to the point where several forms of media, from video-games to movies, are heavily censored in Germany in what is called "vorauseilender Gehorsam" -obedience in advance. After all, we have to avoid depictions in media that, in any way, have any resemblance to historic or gratuitous violence in all but the most condemning circumstances. If a certain notion is not considered to be socially acceptable, it is censored; even without state-regulations explicitly demanding it - a censorship in advance, if you will. To say that I have a big issue with such censorship is an understatement, to say the least.

Why? Because it does not eliminate any backwards ideology, it just represses it, forces the misguided and fanatic into the underground of backroom talk and the private sphere.

This may make public life "safer" and more discrimination-free than when allowed to roam rampant.

But it does not change the views of the people.

You can make someone with bad prejudices not utter them, sure...but this does not eliminate the prejudices.

It is a question of whether you want to eliminate the cause or the symptom.

Safe spaces and self censorship do exactly nothing to eliminate the cause of any type of horrid conviction, whether it pertains discrimination against another person based on gender, sexuality, ethnicity or nationality - it just makes them keep their mouth shut. It makes the idiots shut up, sure - but it also prevents anyone from contradicting them, from standing up for one's ideals in the face of atrocious statements


Meanwhile, the ideology grows stronger, gains traction, festers like an untended wound and with the advent of the internet, the argument that, at least, thus the fanaticized won't spread their opinions, has become null and void. They just limit their utterances to the private spaces wherein there can be no dissent, no contradiction.

Heck, we're seeing this festering worldwide; the symptom of people feeling disenfranchised and not being able to speak their minds without being ostracized.

Sure, many of these folks will say things that horrify or disgust us...but without dialogue, how can we hope to win them over, to make them see that they've been had, that they're falling for the same BS people have been falling since time immemorial?

Ultimately, it often boils down to the mentality of "Us" versus "Them" - you construct a collective social identity by establishing what is not part of said identity, then establish degrees of category membership and then, you blame all currently going wrong for your members on one or more convenient scapegoats - whether it's the Roma, the Jews, the LGBTQ-community....or...well, you can easily continue that list when taking a close look at how the far right behaves in any country you choose.

The consequence of censorship, of vorauseilender Gehorsam, and the pressures of normativity, ironically feed the very ideologies they seek to suppress. The structures of any form of hegemony will always invariably result in some people who are disenfranchised by their lot in life and the public consensus. The opinions and convictions held by these people do not go away by simply silencing them with social pressure and threats. The problem here is self-evident: The consensus of suppression can be easily manipulated by the very ideologies it tries to keep in check and ties into the structure of degrees of category membership with an ideology.

Martin Niemöller once wrote:

„Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten, habe ich geschwiegen; ich war ja kein Kommunist.
Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten, habe ich geschwiegen; ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.
Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten, habe ich geschwiegen; ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.
Als sie mich holten, gab es keinen mehr, der protestieren konnte.“

"When the Nazis took the communists away, I remained silent; after all, I was no communist.

When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; after all, I was no social democrat.

When they took the labor union members, I remained silent; after all, I was no labor union member.

When they took me, there was no one left to protest."

These lines have had a profound impact on me ever since I first read them. They illustrate how any form of authoritarian regime works; you create a blanket identity consisting of scapegoats and prejudices, one that appeals to a sufficiently large demographic; you establish a power-base, discredit the agents of social consensus of the current hegemony, link your scapegoat to the status-quo and then, you move in from the outskirts of social acceptability and increase the pressure from there onward. First, you force the people at the fringes to conform and submit; the weaker and less of a public lobby they have, the better.

This invariably weakens your opposition; heck, perhaps you can goad a couple of members of the opposition to your side. Then, you constantly tighten the noose; you move inwards, solidify the core ideology. That's how they get you. Perhaps you're perfectly fine with the immigrant who has this amazing restaurant downtown, but just can't stand seeing homosexuals kissing in public; perhaps you don't have an issue with the LGBT-community, but loathe those long-haired punks clad in black; perhaps it really riles you up when someone's not speaking the "proper" language. If an ideology condemns all of these folks, one such condemnation may suffice, depending on the depth of the prejudice in question, to secure a sense of belonging (remember - "longing to be"; longing to be something), of the feeling that you're part of something that "gets" you, that finally allows you to "speak your mind" - literally.

Only thing don't.

The devious aspect here, beyond the divide and conquer approach, is that the ideology starts speaking FOR the individual. It replaces the individual with a blanket identity that, ironically, takes away the component of individual existence, the "to be" is subsumed in "belonging". There are bound to be topics on which those suckered in a given blanket identity are indifferent towards, perhaps even against the collective stance of the respective manifesto; feeling like one is belonging to such a movement doesn't suddenly make the respective folks hate-spewing maniacs. To take the aforementioned example: A person will not suddenly hate the food offered at the immigrant's restaurant, or come to despise the people running it. But their voice is subsumed under the collective, established identity and dissent against such a strong, identity-constituting element is HARD. After all, the ideology conforms with your views. Right?

Here's the thing - it does not. There is no individual "to be" in such a construct, just a passive voice version of it. I called it a blanket identity, because, like a blanket, it can be drawn over your head - and make you a blind bump under a larger sheet, subsuming your identity-construing elements.

Unless you are part of the core ideology, slowly indoctrinated and converted, any blanket identity, like many a political party, may have some aspects you agree with, others you don't. But it does not care. This is the paradox of our conditio humana, which is, time and again, exploited by fascists, oligarchists, name them. (Yes, "them" is just such a blanket identity!)

We are conditioned to think in binaries, good and evil, us and them, light and dark. As long as absolutes like this cloud our world-view, we'll be susceptible to manipulation by horrid ideologies. And if you think "That can't happen here!" - think again. Nietzsche spoke of the eternal recurrence. In a woefully simplified manner of speaking, the concept of history repeating itself. (Seriously, read Nietzsche. As far as philosophers go, he's really easy to read and grasp and significantly more enlightening than his use by smarty-pants kids in puberty may suggest.)

Ironically for a philosopher whose work has been taken out of context by the Nazis in their strategy of media manipulation and malignant misinformation, he saw it coming: The Übermensch concept of Nietzsche does not pertain to a master race as how the Nazis understood it; it sought to cultivate a psyche beyond the dichotomies that allowed time and again, atrocities to happen. It sought to elevate human thinking beyond the concepts that have allowed such massacres to happen again and again and again -one could reason that Jacques Derrida, Lacan and similar influential minds have been greatly influenced in their theses by this very concept. In short - it represents a benign concept, much like a national identity, that was taken out of context and tainted, misrepresented.

If we take a look at human history, genocides of, whatever was deemed to be "them" at any given time and place, have not been isolated phenomena. The genocides and atrocities committed by the Nazis are not singular instances in our history as human beings as far as their savagery and loathsomeness are concerned; only the scope and disturbing efficiency with which they were conducted was "new"- courtesy of both all the minds subjugated under their ideology, and of the technology at their beck and call. I honestly shudder at the thought of what they could hav done with our current level of technological advancement...

I am convinced that we have to, at one point, transcend the recurring frames of mind that allow such dichotomy-using ideologies to prosper. Forbidding and censoring taboos are not only ineffective, such acts and constructs do not change the mindset of anyone. There will always be folks that simply do not want to see the error of their ways, but without dialogue, without standing up for our values, for freedom, for democracy, for whatever you consider to be a worthy ideal for our species, without an open dialogue that is the very foundation of our countries, how are we supposed to interact with them?

To paraphrase a sentence often attributed to Voltaire: "Monsieur, je déteste ce que vous écrivez, mais je donnerai ma vie pour que vous puissiez continuer à écrire." In case your French is rusty: I detest what you write, but I'd give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.

This is what sets us apart. (See what I did there?) We're humans, one and all, not a mythic Übermensch. We have prejudices, small ones and big ones. If I met you in the street, there's a pretty decent chance you'd probably consider me a weirdo long-haired satanist, some stupid goth-dude, a metalhead biker who didn't finish high-school. The chance that you'd consider me to have more than 2 braincells isn't too big. Similarly, I am not exempt from such stereotyping, try as I might; I may think of some folks as air-heads, as stuck-up snobs or worse. It's just how we are wired, just the way we are, how our operation in society and our language, our whole conception of the world, works.

We are not yet beyond good and evil and there is a reason I am dreading the confirmation of the veracity of eternal recurrence. We are not yet bereft of prejudices, no matter how much grandstanding we engage in; and in fact, some of those standing up for the rights of the discriminated employ the very same strategies as their adversaries. We are not perfect. But what gives me hope is the ability to engage in dialogue; to discuss; to talk; to stand up for what we believe in. Censorship, traditional strategies of destabilizing media and the former monopoly of information all have been broken by the internet. While this has allowed all the putrid filth of extremists to spew forth unfiltered, it has also presented us with a colossal chance to engage in dialogue: Without talking, we fall prey to the same us vs. them dichotomy that allows authoritarianism to prosper.

We can literally talk to people across the globe with but a flick of our wrists, a few strokes on the keyboard. We can visit other countries and talk to the folks there in the blink of an eye - and it's harder to hate those you can talk to, those you can see. For me, an important measure of a human being that tries to do the right thing is the willingness to engage others, the conscious effort to try to understand others and interact with them while trying to suspend one's preconceived notions. At least, that's what I try to do.

Which brings me full circle to the aspect of the representation of Nazis. You see, the horrible truth is that we fictionalize our history. History is, as a whole, one of the grand narratives of humanity, a conventionalized story we more or less have agreed upon. Now, I know some historians will leer at this sentence, but the matter of fact is that there is no possible, valid rebuttal for this notion - by definition, there cannot ever be a neutral form of history. However, this does not mean we have to consider everything as utter subjectivity; there are FACTS. Truth. Things that have happened that cannot be rationalized away and the outrageously inhumane crimes of the Nazis are such a fact; anyone who disputes this is engaging in a level of willful ignorance that borders on fantasy. Fantasy.

Well. That's very much the issue for me. You see, I don't necessarily mind the fictionalizing of terrible things; in fact, I do derive significant pleasure and consolation from many a form of media that depicts misery. There is consolation to be found in pit-gazing, and, from the realms of Silent Hill to indie-games like Downfall or The Cat Lady, the depiction of psychological trauma can provide understanding and solace. The issue for me is that the depictions of Nazis in media do not foster the like; they ultimately generate the lowest common denominator of villain we can all agree on hating. You can't be apologetic for what they did without completely compromising your point of view and any form of debate; there's a reason Godwin's law exists.

Ultimately, Nazis are real-life supervillains in the way they're used and visually coded. And I get why. We need such easily codified enemies, right? Here is my issue: This oversimplifies the problem and, in fact, employs the very same media representation strategies the Nazis used to ostracize their victims: We see subhuman, moral-less swine and know that it's okay to hate them, that they deserve what's coming. Never mind that the Antifa uses the same violent methods, the same stereotyping, the same forms of generating a hostile Other. They're Nazis. We're basically morally obliged to hate them. Because they're Nazis. Because they have that label. The issue is that, by depicting Nazis like this, we, to a certain degree, use the very same methodology they did.

Sure, I can laugh about Nazi-zombies in Død Snø or about Iron Sky.

This does not change that, no matter how we deal with them in media, whether it's movies or roleplaying games, we engage in a representation strategy that is too close for comfort for me. In our reductive capabilities, we may engage in harmless fantasies of revenge versus this blight upon human history. But the disturbing, underlying aspect remains; that we're all closer to "The Man in the High Castle" than we think. Philip K. Dick's novel is not my favorite from his oeuvre, but replace the Nazi imagery with the globally festering ignorance, the willful denial of scientific facts. Replace it with Huxley's flood of information garbage predicted in Brave New World, in which the important bits are lost in a tide of stupidity. We have missed a 1984-ish dystopia, but we've been skirting the edge of a Brave New World for quite some time now. A pessimist might say we're already there.

I don't object to evil empires we can fight in our games; I don't object to the use and reappropriation of fascist visuals and symbols; but I do object to real world groups being used as such. To me, as a person, that takes away the real horrific truth:

That evil is banal. Hannah Arendt's "Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil" was right in that claim - and yes, that evil may be gratuitous and cruel, but that does not change the banality of it, the fact that it doesn't take much to make people commit horrible deeds and go above and beyond. Neither does it change that, by envisioning Nazis as this supervillain-force of supernatural/superscience evil, we're missing the whole point.

The unparalleled crimes of the Nazi regime are indisputable and horrible; but not because they were committed by caricatures, devil-worshippers, zombies or Frankenstein-hybrids wizz en atroschus Tschörmen akzent. They are horrible because they are more real, more immediate, more contemporary than many of the blood-drenched atrocities our species has committed against itself over the course of its existence. They allow us a glimpse at the darkest, blackest, most vile abyss of what humanity is capable of in its worst moments and they show us how easily, how quickly "normal" people can be made into willing cogs of an engine of mass destruction.

The legacy we have, not only Germans like me, but all of humanity, is to never forget that for now at least, in Celan's words "Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland" (Death is a master from Germany - the most famous line of his Todesfuge). But it is our duty as a species, as moral beings, to learn from the past. To ensure that history, for once, does not repeat itself.

This tremendous moral responsibility makes it very hard for me to appreciate the depiction of Nazis in a fictional context - to me, they are too REAL. They are the ultimate representation of the all that is vile about authoritarianism and the exploitation of the human, social desire to belong. To borrow Lacanian terms, we live in a Symbolic order of conventionalized meanings (tl;dr and horribly and inaccurately simplified, if you don't want to read up on Lacan: Our sensory apparatus and languages shape our perception, we can't perceive reality and exist in a world of symbols and conventions we create; beyond that lies the desert of the real. The first Matrix movie represents a semi-decent visual representation of the concept, if you take the AI aspect away and replace it with our own, imposed and conventionalized order) but the term "Nazi" represents such an absolute, incomprehensible vileness that it, by virtue of being quoted in fantastic texts, it is always diminished, reduced in its impact and, more importantly, the monumental gravity of its meaning. Sure, we use humor and satire to make fun of things we can't process. Sure, grimdark games can actually provide solace and act as a catalyst, can make it easier for us to grapple with a level of evil or trauma so profound that it shakes us to the core.

When it comes to Nazis, discussing them in such a context, while preferable to not discussing them at all, also must come with the consciousness that it simplifies and fictionalizes them by virtue of the medium employed. This abstraction, this reduction, makes the issues that Nazis pose to us seem easier, solvable - detached, a part of the past. We all want to be Captain America or Superman, punching Hitler in the face. The good guys won, right? The frightening truth is, that, while I honestly believe us to be capable of being that guy, I also believe that we are very much capable of being indoctrinated into becoming a horrific servant of an empire of pure evil. By making nazis supervillains that are okay to hate, we're missing how their horrid legacy remains alive to this day.

In violence, media manipulation, fear-mongering, spreading dissent. In how we're used like fighting dogs, given a slap on the nose and thrown into a ring, mindlessly attacking one another instead of biting the hand that slapped us on the nose, in breaking the cycle of violence and hate. We should continue to discuss Nazis in every damn way we please; we should not censor ourselves. I sure as hell don't judge anyone for liking games like "Achtung! Cthulhu" or the like (kudos btw. to that series of books; they are great if that's what you're looking for!) - these games do have a purpose and I can see why they're this popular.

At the same time, these games simply do not work for me.

I see the reassembled and reconfigured components of ideology and methodology of the Nazis very much present when I turn on the news and follow global developments. There seem to be other scapegoats, other agendas, other symbols; they have a myriad faces and can be found in a myriad of places. I don't think there'll ever be a proper Nazi-regime ever again; we're too smart as a species for that and our moral compasses, as a whole, should keep only a deranged and/or particularly angry or misinformed fringe from identifying with them.

But the abyssal evil, the sheer vastness of human potential for causing untold suffering that is so exemplified by all connotations of the "Nazi" lurks. It waits. It feasts on fear and prejudice and hate. Its methodology and the ever bountiful fruits of its labor can be seen daily. It is profoundly, disturbingly human and as such deliberately malignant and ignorant and thus, more horrible than the Great Old Ones (which renders aforementioned game an exercise in reductio ad absurdum for me); it makes the cosmic indifference of Cthulhu seem almost benign in comparison. In short: For me, such games either Godwin themselves or become too depressing and real to constitute what I'd consider a fun past time.

Perhaps it's easier when your own nation was one of the "good guys" and thus received an amnesty for comparatively smaller genocides in the past. Perhaps I've studied the extent of the crimes of the Nazis too much. Perhaps that's the German Guilt talking. I most certainly have no problem discussing the holocaust and the unspeakable crimes the Nazis committed. Even in games, I can and have managed to sufficiently distance myself from the subject matter to review them and play them as just that. I do not condemn games that features Nazis as foes. Games can convey knowledge. They can act as a starting point. They can educate the players in the methods employed by the regimes, in the extent of evil that we're capable of committing, even without the convenient excuse of madness. These games have a raison d'être. But at one point, the knowledge one accumulates will invariably render the fun aspect of games featuring Nazis obsolete.

To me as a person, the fight against their body of thought is one fight that we don't need to fictionalize, because we can all participate in it, every day. In every open palm we shake, in every measure of understanding towards other cultures, races, sexualities; in every effort to enlighten and foster cooperation. Whenever we do not give in to looking for scapegoats, whenever we do not give in to fear and suspicion, we can transcend, for a short while, the limitations of our prejudices and grow. And every time we do, the abyss, the darkness signified by the Nazi term, cringes. It's hard. It's unpleasant at times. It requires time and effort. It requires dialogue and not screaming for the state to censor or ban. It's worth it.

So, dear readers - continue playing those games. Spread knowledge. Talk to each other, respectfully and compassionate. We're all fighting for the collective soul of humanity each and every day.

Here's the one truth that no divisive ideology ever wants to acknowledge: There's no "them" - there's just an "us", hurtling through a cold and uncaring universe on a pile of rocks. The true measure of our being, of whether we, as a species, are enlightened beings or just self-destructive, rabid animals, remains to be determined. I choose to believe that we can transcend our limitations. I believe that we're capable of winning a fight that is not fought with fists or weapons, but within our minds and those of our fellow humans - every day, in every single one of us and in every representation that exists of us. This may be the ultimate game we're playing as homo ludens, the game to encompass all others, and if a game, an act, a text can tip the balance, even in the slightest in the favor of a more benign world, it is one worth existing.

Endzeitgeist out.

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To me, the big deal with portraying Nazis as the big bad irredeemable evil guys is simplist. It's like saying everything that happened there was just a consequence of Nazis being evil. They are the bad guys that you can hate and kill without remorse because, you know, they are evil.

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Endzeitgeist - Thanks for sharing that. It's an informative and fascinating perspective.

I agree that shutting down communication about these sorts of topics is ultimately very harmful. People need to be able to discuss these things in order to really process them, or there's nothing that prevents them from falling into similar habits of thought themselves.


However, I would like to talk further about one part of what you wrote - when you said "I don't think there'll ever be a proper Nazi-regime ever again; we're too smart as a species for that and our moral compasses, as a whole, should keep only a deranged and/or particularly angry or misinformed fringe from identifying with them."

I think it is all too possible for something like this to happen again, and large numbers of people in many countries are embracing hate-filled rhetoric right now that pushes us in this direction. And it's been "proven" that people remain very vulnerable to this kind of thinking and behavior.

In the 1960s, Stanley Milgram performed a psychology study trying to understand conformity and obedience to authority - he later published a book "Obedience to Authority" that really ought to be required reading in U.S. high schools. He wanted to understand what made it possible for Nazis to perform such terrible crimes; although he expected that since his experimental subjects were freedom-loving Americans, he'd have trouble finding such behavior. (spoiler - that turned out to be false.)

So he set up a study in a major U.S. city, advertised through the newspaper (with no apparent connection to any educational or government organization). People who responded to the ad came to a storeront, where they were made to believe they had been randomly assigned as "teacher" (the "student" people actually worked for Milgram). They actually strapped the "student" into an apparatus, then stepped around a wall to a board with a row of switches. They were told to ask a series of questions, and whenever the student got an answer wrong, to administer a shock by depressing a switch on the board, going up to the next more powerful shock with each mistake.

The board of switches was labeled with indicators of danger, and the final few switches were just labeled "XXX"

During the course of a subject's time, they heard the person on the other side of the wall (actually a tape with specific recorded responses) get numerous answers wrong; beg to be released; cry out in pain; and eventually cry out and then go silent.

The only signifier of authority was that the person running the experiment wore a white lab coat. Whenever the "teacher" protested, the lab-coat-clad authority figure just sat there calmly and told them they had to continue. "You have no choice. You must continue." Despite having every reason to believe that they had seriously injured or killed someone, the majority of subjects (65%) continued to press the buttons on the shock board all the way to the end, past "DANGER" and up to "XXX".


All it takes is someone appearing to be an authority figure, and the majority of people can be pushed to perform horrors. This is part of human nature too. This is why it's so important that people never forget - and why Holocaust-deniers are so very dangerous. Because the only way to inoculate people against repeating these sorts of crimes is to make them commit, and re-commit, and build their very sense of identity, around the idea that preventing the recurrence of these crimes is part of who they are. Whereas all it takes to make significant numbers of people commit these kinds of acts is someone acting as an authority who tells them they must continue - to "protect" their kind against others, to exclude, to hate.

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Cintra, I aggree 100% with you.
And our tendency to demonize History instead of learning from it makes it easier to happen again.
This notable figures appear from time to time, with radical ideologies, and desperate people follow them because they provide simple answers and simple solutions to end their miseries. They are mistaken for the good guys because they pose as heroes who have the solution for all your problems. This was a problem then and is a problem now.
I feel like I'm not being able to express my thoughts in English. Damn, I hate when it happens.

Regarding to other thing EZG said, here in Spain patriotism is also seen as a bad thing, not because how we are seen by foreign people but because o how we judge ourselves. We've been through a fascist dictatorship that endured many years. The dictatorship encouraged the idea that patriots were only people who supported the regime, so today people still think a patriot is the same as a fascist. The fact that many self-proclaimed patriots despise all languages and cultures in Spain but the main one doesn't do any good to change the idea of patriotism that we have here.

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@Kileanna: Exactly one of the points I'm making!! Glad you agree!

@Cintra Bristol - I wholeheartedly and completely agree with you; the behavior-studies regarding people and authority are something I very much am aware of. I tried to make clear that I do believe that the underlying evil, the methodology of Nazis, and the massive danger they represent still are a danger. The banality of evil is a very real concept - all it takes is authority, not even necessarily law, to sanction horrid behavior to eliminate the moral compass of an unreflected person.

However, at the same time, I believe that the label "Nazis" has become so vilified, so synonymous with absolute evil, that a it becomes a very hard sell as a blanket identity to a wide enough range of folks. And why would people bother? You'd just create an identity with a ton of baggage when you can just as easily craft your own custom brand of evil - suckering in self-identifying Neo-Nazis in such an ideology has never been hard.

The issues Nazis and their underlying ideology represent for us as a species continue - a significant part of my argument pertains that it is very unlikely that we'll see Nazis V.2.; it is, however, extremely likely that we'll encounter their methods, their hate-mongering, their abuse of fear, etc. again - and indeed, we are actually seeing these in action, constantly and globally. So yes, I concur with your statements; at the same time, I do not think it's likely that we'll see racism, bigotry and hatred as a mass-phenomena under the swastika again. It is much more likely that these will wear business-suits, hipster-glasses like those lamda-pricks or come under the guise of traditional, conservative values. It's mind-boggling for me, how extremists always seem to be able to find a way to hijack values they constantly flaunt.

Anyways, thank you so much for replying! I haven't posted one of these essay/article-style posts here on Paizo before, but people kept telling me to try it. So yeah, thank you!!

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I really liked that you posted this here and I'm always glad of finding a good read to make people think. Thanks to you for posting it.

Thank you so much, Kileanna! And thank you for letting me know about Spain's stance there; I wasn't aware that patriotism was this ostracized in Spain as well, though it obviously makes sense!

We can only carry Spanish flags for football reasons. If you carry a Spanish flag and no sports event is going on you are labeled a fascist. And if you carry Galician, Catalonian or Basque flag people thinks you are a nationalist (specially Basque and Catalonian).
When Spain's team is in some sports event you are suddenly allowed to be a patriot and mock every other country.

Yep, pretty much the same here. Though we don't even really get to mock other countries. At least from what I've gathered. I'm not big into sports, so not 100% sure on etiquette there, just noticed that, while some other teams and players engage in serious mud-slinging, Germans tend to be the epitome of boring/reserved/professional - depending on how you'd evaluate such behavior.

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Nothing against boring/reserved/professional people. We need more of these here. When I am at work I am a bit of that myself. Not being a huge fan of sports either, my boyfriend is (he was a referee), and he has always admired German sportspeople.
Here people gets really mad about sports, specially football. Don't pay attention to people who says Catholicism is the main religion in Spain... The official religion here is football.

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A very thoughtful and interesting read, kudos to you!

While I might not agree on every little bit of your post,(and it covers a lot - history, philosophy, psychology and sociology!) I wholeheartedly agree with its sentiment.
The thoughts on national identity are always a tricky subject to condense into an understandable form, for an outsider, who's not in the 'know' (ie in the said identity, since many identifiers often carry multiple layers of meaning), but I think you did a admirable job here. If I could give a little bit of advise, then I would caution the comparison to other nations shows national identity.

To give some context, I'm Danish. Anyone who's ever been to Denmark will properly know, what I'm talking about, when I say that the Danish flag is literally Everywhere in Denmark and if there isn't one we will find an excuse to put one up.
The reasons for this are many (historical, psychological and so on) but sufficient to say that this is an 'outward' display, meant most for the 'outsiders' and has far less 'inward' meaning. An example of something that has shaped the 'inward' mindset would be something like this Law of Jante.

As for the depictions nazis, well I agree on your assessment that they have been reduced to the epitome of Evil. Which is why I generally use them sparingly, and when I do, they run the entire range of different types - from cackling manic to professional soldier to secret good guy.

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In violence, media manipulation, fear-mongering, spreading dissent. In how we're used like fighting dogs, given a slap on the nose and thrown into a ring, mindlessly attacking one another instead of biting the hand that slapped us on the nose, in breaking the cycle of violence and hate.

This may be a nitpick, or just a consequence of the analogy, but doesn't this just redirect the hate and violence, not stop it?

Arguably you are redirecting it in a justified manner toward a deserved target, but it still perpetuates that cycle. Which I guess is the main problem. Violence begets violence but it's damn hard to stop violence without violence in the grand scheme.

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Sundakan wrote:
it's damn hard to stop violence without violence

It's hard, but it can be done. I help organize non-violent resistance training for protestors. PM me if you want more information.

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Huh. This thread is refusing to accept my . I wonder why.

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Fantastic essay, Endzeitgeist. I very much want to write an answer, so here goes. Even if it's sort of unformed right now.

I live in Sweden. I am by no means a scholar of national history here, but:

Sweden in modern times comes from a period of poverty, emigration (mostly to the US), but also intense and world-spanning trade in the late 19th century. Sweden is a trading nation, and has been dependent on import and export for ages. The black side of this is that we have been pretty good at weapon manufacturing and exports, with people like Alfred Nobel continuing a long-standing tradition. However, a vital trade network doesn't easily allow for demonizing your trade partners, and correspondingly, Sweden has been open to cultural change for a long, long time.

During the early 20th century, Sweden took part in the eugenics movement, invested in building a national identity, seeking the germanic roots of our culture and so on. The buildings are what remain today. WWI saw us neutral, and we continued that in WWII. Almost. Sweden was a prime target to Germany, mostly due to mineral resources, and toeing the line to avoid invasion required doing stuff that was not exactly clean. The openly worst part was the transit traffic, referring to the permission the Germans got to moving soldiers to and from Norway - which didn't exactly help the situation in Norway. There are many Norwegians who still haven't forgiven Sweden for this. I understand them. Then again, there is another factor to consider. IF Sweden HAD joined the war, it is quite likely that it would have done so ON THE GERMAN SIDE. Pro-German sentiment among the decision-makers was widespread. Perhaps what happened was the best we could have done. Either way, none in my generation were born back then. The guilt is difficult to relate to.

After the war, the idea of another one wasn't that far-fetched. Sweden mobilized and built up its forces. We had a booming economy due to a not-destroyed industry. The social democrats hit on an idea: Folkhemmet! (The home of the people). It built on isolationist politics, a huge military, strong social norms to follow for everyone, and a state that governed every practical detail. Furthermore, it had always been that way! And this was as an ANSWER to WWII.

As for national identity, Sweden got over its fear of using Swedish flags in the nineties, but it's more of an embarrassment now. The Swedish flag day is pretty much ridiculed as a non-event despite efforts to make it such. Nationalism is a hard sell in Sweden. Of course, we have our nationalists here too.

Now, this is where I will draw some ire, I suspect.

The key issue here isn't Nazism. It is a much wider, many-armed concept: Authoritarianism. Dogmatism. Conformism. All these attract people who want identities. They can feel they are someone if they obey someone who tells them they are doing good. They are happy if they don't have to seek answers. They have questions, and if someone gives them a simple, easy answer, they are hooked. These people are everywhere, and they have always been the reason for bloodthirsty people's success. What the exact tenets preached are doesn't matter, so long as they follow the concept of simple answers and identities. Note that Churchill predicted that the next time something like the nazis happened, it would be called anti-racism.

And here is the core: Race was just something that was in at the time. It was a useful tool to the nazis, to get to the authoritarian society they wanted. In the Soviet Union, the concept of the tabula rasa served a similar purpose. In both cases, it could well have been something else. The end result would have been just the same.

So where does this leave us? Well, so many want to focus on race. Racism is the unforgiveable sin, and so long as we don't allow that, we will never have nazis again. And to them, this is so important that ANY method must be used to prevent racism, or discussion of race, or even the concept of race. All the while, their methods used push us all ever closer to an authoritarian society. Censorship, ostracism, isolation, vilification for those who do not conform, a pat on the head and an identity to those who do. Again. Nota bene: Racism is a problem. It just isn't the central issue in ending up with an oppressive society.

The only thing that ever worked against authoritarianism is freedom, debate and contact with those not like us. Spreading ideas and letting them crash against one another allows us all to see the benefits and problems of each. Shutting down is the exact wrong answer. This is why I am a liberal: My political goal is and has been for a long time only to prevent the rise of another authoritarian regime. I find Hayek's The Road to Serfdom an absolutely vital book.

Personally, parts of my family has German roots. My great grandfather came to Sweden in 190X to work as an engineer. He left behind the rest of the family tree, and in the 50s, my grandparents got back in touch with them. Their stories were rather varied. Some joined the nazi party to be able to protect their loved ones. One was a convinced nazi. At least one refused to join - nothing happened to him except his kids weren't allowed to attend Hitlerjugend, but maybe that was because he was an engineer also, and built tanks. After the war, he was given a mayor position because he was not an ex-Nazi-party member.

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I don't think its only attracting people who search for an identity. It attracts desperate people. After WWI Germans were facing a crisis, people were desperate, and they wanted a solution. You only need someone who proselitizes giving them someone to blame for their miseries (the jewish in this case) and to come with an easy solution to get rid of all their problems. The Nazis told Germans that by getting getting rid of the jewish who were keeping all the money all their issues would be solved, and they were desperate enough to believe.
Of course, what you mentioned is also true, but most people don't care about identity as much as they care for feeding their families.

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True... but desperate people will always vote for the authoritarians. It is the identity-seekers that make them more than a fringe phenomenon. In the end, no political movement survives only on support from the desperate. They also need believers.

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Kileanna wrote:

I don't think its only attracting people who search for an identity. It attracts desperate people. After WWI Germans were facing a crisis, people were desperate, and they wanted a solution. You only need someone who proselitizes giving them someone to blame for their miseries (the jewish in this case) and to come with an easy solution to get rid of all their problems. The Nazis told Germans that by getting getting rid of the jewish who were keeping all the money all their issues would be solved, and they were desperate enough to believe.

Of course, what you mentioned is also true, but most people don't care about identity as much as they care for feeding their families.

I think identity is more important than that. But it's not necessarily the creation of a positive identity among the people you're trying to sway as much as it's a creation of an "other" identity that you can get your supporters to accept. Once you've got a "them", then the people you want supporting you become the "us" and you've got enough identity to get started.

Racism happens to supply the low-hanging fruit of creating "other" identities and that's why it's been so relevant and will likely to continue to be so.

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Every country has its skeletons, that is true. Sweden has persecution of its same population, ages of wars against Denmark, long periods of authoritarian rule, and so on. I suppose it comes with the concept of being a nation: You set some people up as responsible for the security of the country. To do so, you offer them secrecy and extensive pardons for what that forces them to do.

If you do not, it is an open question whether there will be a country tomorrow.

This has consequences. Perhaps one day, we will no longer offer that secrecy and those pardons - and realpolitik will become different.

@Kjeldorn: Thank you so much for the constructive criticism! I mean it! It is thoughtful and deliberate and the other nations I chose, i.e. the US and Norway as points of reference were chosen since a) I grew up with a lot of contact to GIs and their families; b) since I actually lived for a pretty long time in Oslo; and c) I have actually a degree in cultural studies for both, so I figured I wouldn't be completely talking out of my behind when using them as points of reference. Still, I tried very hard to not presume to talk for both nations and if/should I have offended anyone, I hereby apologize. It is definitely interesting to hear your perspective on Danish displays of nationalism, since I unfortunately only have been to Denmark for short trips.

@Sundakan: I agree, the simile is not perfectly chosen, as it only pertains to the divide-and-conquer aspect and not the overall argument I was trying to make, but at the same time, one that would fulfill the illustrating needs of the overall argument does not exist, so I felt justified in using it. If that did come off as a redirection of violence, that was not my intent, as you can read in the closing paragraphs. Just felt the need to specify that!

@Sissyl: Thank you so much for the detailed elaboration on the Swedish side of things; while Sweden's history happens to fall within my chosen academic fields (though I am not a historian!), your perspective from someone on the "inside" is invaluable. You are also 100% correct in the fact that, paradoxically, anti-racism has been made into a tool that operates pretty much as racism does; as stated in my essay, I have seen the Antifa (anti-fascists) resort to the same methods of terror and violence as their right-wing antagonists. And yes, "The Road to Serfdom" would be an enlightening book! And yes, fascism and racism were "in" when the Nazis claimed power; heck, there were fascist movements in almost every nation around the gloae at that time - just happens that the truce of Versailles and the failing economy and hyper-inflation made Germany more susceptible than other countries. Well, that and a standing army of well-trained professional soldiers suddenly out of a job (due to the restrictions imposed in Versailles) didn't help either. Today, other ideas are more in-vogue for authoritarianism, though racism isn't gone off the plate either: Anti-Islamism. Racism towards Hispanics. National separatism. EU-skepticism and scapegoating. The list goes on. Anyways, glad to see some well-reasoned resonance of some tenets of my idea.

@Bill Dunn: Exactly! And the worst part is that ONE aspect successfully generating the "other" is often enough; it's so easy to heap racism atop homophobia and vice versa, for example.

@Drahliana Moonrunner: You're correct in that German display pride regarding achievements of their culture; at least now they do (late 90s/early 2000s was a different topic), but when it comes to pride in the country as opposed to the individual achievements etc., things tend to become a bit more strained...though admittedly, that has improved during the Merkel-years and the mostly positive feedback we received during that time.

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Endzeitgeist wrote:
@Kjeldorn: Thank you so much for the constructive criticism! I mean it! It is thoughtful and deliberate and the other nations I chose, i.e. the US and Norway as points of reference were chosen since a) I grew up with a lot of contact to GIs and their families; b) since I actually lived for a pretty long time in Oslo; and c) I have actually a degree in cultural studies for both, so I figured I wouldn't be completely talking out of my behind when using them as points of reference. Still, I tried very hard to not presume to talk for both nations and if/should I have offended anyone, I hereby apologize. It is definitely interesting to hear your perspective on Danish displays of nationalism, since I unfortunately only have been to Denmark for short trips.

Thank you.

And my comments were not really as much meant as criticism, as it was meant as advise. You thoughts on the subject clearly showed that you had done some good research on the area, and if I may be honest for a moment, sociology isn't really something I have studied on a college level (now history I have studied on a college level but that a story for another time).
But now that you mentioned living in Oslo for a time, did that give you a differing perspective on identity? did you constantly feel "foreign" or did you gradually go "native" and were ever treated as such by the Norwegians?

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Endzeitgeist wrote:
@Drahliana Moonrunner: You're correct in that German display pride regarding achievements of their culture; at least now they do (late 90s/early 2000s was a different topic), but when it comes to pride in the country as opposed to the individual achievements etc., things tend to become a bit more strained...though admittedly, that has improved during the Merkel-years and the mostly positive feedback we received during that time.

The time I was referring to was mainly in the 79-84 era. Keep in mind that the period you're thinking of was one of stress and a lot of self-evaluation.

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@Drahliana Moonrunner: That would predate my existence, so I can't really comment on it. However, I figure that expats do tend to behave differently than people in their native country, so that may also be a way to explain it.

@Kjeldorn: Yes, most definitely! It made me, for example, appreciate German postal services and craftsmen actually being punctual and competent. It basically made me realize how terribly German I am - punctual, diligent to the point of being obsessive, etc. It also made me realize all the aspects I hated about my own culture - what previously was an undirected weltschmerz suddenly turned into an epiphany of these aspects being cultural peculiarities. When I left Norway, I has utterly heart-broken; same experience when I returned from Iceland back in the day. I had missed some aspects of Germany, sure - but the sheer immersion into another culture is extremely rewarding and broadens one's horizons. In fact, it is my firm conviction that we, as people, are better off if we manage to live for some time in another country. It puts a ton of things in perspective, from one's own character traits to the numerous things one takes for granted.

Now, as for Norway in particular - I was told to expect some serious resentments for being German...and a long-haired metalhead-looking guy all in black. Instead, I found the young and, surprisingly, the old Norwegians to be extremely open and friendly, particularly when I insisted on actually speaking Bokmål or Nynorsk with them, when they realized I had an actual grasp of their literature and culture. Reserved, yes, but extremely friendly once you get to know them. So no, I did not feel like an outsider. Part of my family's roots come from Scandinavia, so it felt more like a homecoming for me. One of the best things the Norwegians can appreciate is silence - just remaining silent with the average German is hard/uncomfortable. While in Norway, just sitting at the shore of a sea or fjord with a close friend of mine, just contemplating the nature, the moment, just existing sans babble...was glorious. Perhaps it's just me being a globetrotter or my incapability of experiencing home sickness, but I have never felt truly "fremd" in the Brechtian sense anywhere. I just try to accept a culture's peculiarities and pick the better traits to supplement my own world-view. Then again, I'm a strange fellow... *laughs*

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As an American I dare say I occupy a very different space here in this fascinating discussion.

Guilt is a powerful thing, and we Americans are very good at forgetting all the crimes we are guilty of in our history, marginalizing and diminishing those whose land we took, whose freedom we stole, and whose human rights we ignored to build this "great" transcontinental nation.

Oh, and let us never forget our final solution to the "Indian problem" in the West, to speak plain, the genocide of the Native North-American population. Pox blankets, bullets, decimated bison herds, and shiny beads strung with lies, those are the implements of American made mass-murder.

And we actually celebrate those achievements, and only show our token amount of remorse for what was done in the name of expansionistic nationalism, aka Manifest Destiny.

Slavery, institutional racism, economic exploitation, gender inequality, LGBTQ phobia and exclusion (not to mention violence against said groups). A justice system that is anything but, all set in a paved-over quickly dying landscape that was once verdant and green (trust me, we have songs about how nice it USED to be)

But, to get on point, I personally try to avoid the Nazi stereotypes. To reduce every German of that time to a black clad luger carrying thug is terribly dangerous. As I believe you point out Thilo, and I shall reaffirm, that just makes "them" into the easy to hate Other. I refuse to believe the mud spattered 13 year old kid they put a coal kettle helmet on and handed a panzerfäuste to during the final defense of Berlin in WWII was a soulless killer, or that every Wehrmacht soldier bayoneted Pols in the ghetto and shot POW's.

What I can see is a normal person swept up in the midst of something so world-shaking, so terrible in it's destruction and horror, that it is easier to follow orders, go where you are told, shoot when told to, run when told to, than trying to make any sense of the madness in which you now live.

None of that denies the palpable evil Nazi fascism perpetrated, nor should it. But from my nameless gray cubicle here in The States, there is no high horse for we Americans. Our problem is somehow many of our worst crimes and mistakes are glossed over, romanticized, or tucked away as part of a "national coming of age" narrative our history just loves to pander. It it quite (or so it seems to me) impossible to do the same to the events of the holocaust. Though I am by no means an expert.

Strange thing is, I have a hard time seeing exactly how different the Nazi attempt to exterminate Europe's Jewish population (along with a myriad of others they deemed inferior) and the very American attempt to exterminate Native North Americans are from each other. As they lived on valuable gold and silver viens, grazing land, and timber needed for a neonatal corporate consumerist nation to grow from a wee non-power, to the corpulent ailing super-power we seem to be today. We made them the Other we needed to distract a war ravaged populace (post civil war), and in doing so, gained access to all those raw materials and arable land we wanted the rights to as well.

The same dehumanization techniques were employed, science "explained" how the "red man" was a savage, and if he could not be tamed, needed to be put down for the safety of all god fearing settlers and gentle folk.

But does Captain American ever punch Andrew "Stone Wall" Jackson, Nathan Bedford Forrest (first grand dragon of the Klu Klu Klan), or Steven Anderson (the head pastor at the Faithful Word Baptist Church, a christian fundamentalist anti-gay/LGBTQ place of "faith") in the face like he does Hitler? If only he did...

Maybe we Americans should think more about who suffered and for what, when we tout our greatness. Perhaps we would do well to remember our own heavy burdens, bestowed upon us by our forebears, are not all that different from the ones Germans carry still today, and I dare say in much more of a spotlight, for better or worse. Maybe what really matters, to Americans, to Germans, to Humanity as a whole is not the burdens we all bear but in which we had no hand, but how each of us bears that burden. Do we crumple under the weight, drag it behind us like an anchor? Or do we thrown it down, rebuild the frame, shift the paradigm, and use it as a foundation for something new, something just, something humanely human.

Our blood is red
Our tears are blue
You are just a human
Just as I am too

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I was shocked in Iceland when I realized I had a better knowledge of the Sagas than most of the locals -- seeing where they took place was a huge draw. More apropos to EZG's last post, though -- the very best part of my 2014 Iceland trip was meeting a long-haired German metal musician in black.

I just want to go to Iceland. Glaciers, along WITH volcanoes, YES PLEASE! :)

Oh, and Hey Kirth, good to see ya in this thread!

Sorry, had to lighten my mood a bit there.

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GM_Beernorg wrote:
I just want to go to Iceland. Glaciers, along WITH volcanoes, YES PLEASE! :)

They wouldn't let me on the glacier because they claimed the nearest volcano *might* erupt.


Me being me, I would have tried going up the opposite slope, after nodding "yes" to not going up, hey, IMO, If I get incinerated, that's on me, not the fine folks of Iceland, I would have called that fair warning.

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@GM Beernog: Thank you so much for adding another facet and well-reasoned argument to the discussion! It was indeed enlightening to read!

@also Kirth Gersen: People in Iceland justifiably believe that non-Icelanders suck at surviving in the wild...and indeed, without care, the right tools and serious trekking experience, it can be pretty dangerous out there - cold, scalding pits of water, brutal wind, uneven floor...but at the same time, it is AMAZING. On another note - whom did you meet? Perhaps I know the guy! Oh damn, now I want to go to Iceland one point in my life, I have to complete my collection of the gorgeous hardback sögur they publish there...

The only thing Rochester, NY does not have vs. Iceland is volcanic features, and well, our glaciers kinda left a while ago...otherwise, we NY rust belt folks know all about snow, cold, wind, and treacherous conditions.

Of course, Kirth is a Texan...

That white stuff is called snow Kirth...::ducks::

@ Endzie Thanks Thilo, been a good while since I wrote anything that was not fiction or game design related. It was nice to brush off the History and Philosophy minors I had from College and put them to use again.

Silver Crusade

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@Beernorg: A bit of a nitpick, you confused Sherman "Stonewall" Jackson (Confederate General) with Andrew "Old Hickory" Jackson (President). Easy mistake, aND I enjoyed what you wrote, but I just felt the need to let you know.

woops...should have caught that, thanks Lucky.

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Endzeitgeist wrote:
On another note - whom did you meet? Perhaps I know the guy!

Fellow named Sebastian, goes by "Vinz Vik" on Facebook. We met on a tour of the Egil Skallgrimsson brewery, then led our tour group to a local bar where we all got completely blotto. He was a fantastic drinking companion!

I started out trying to speak German (I was born in Germany), but was ashamed to discover I'd forgotten pretty much all of it -- I couldn't even carry on a simple conversation. Thankfully, like all Germans, our new friend was totally fluent in English.

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GM_Beernorg wrote:

The only thing Rochester, NY does not have vs. Iceland is volcanic features, and well, our glaciers kinda left a while ago...otherwise, we NY rust belt folks know all about snow, cold, wind, and treacherous conditions.

Of course, Kirth is a Texan...

That white stuff is called snow Kirth...::ducks::

I grew up in Troy, NY, and recently spent 3 years in Pittsburgh, so I know snow!

My best friend growing up ended up settling in Rochester. It's a nice city! And Jay's Diner is not-to-miss.

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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
lucky7 wrote:
@Beernorg: A bit of a nitpick, you confused Sherman "Stonewall" Jackson (Confederate General) with Andrew "Old Hickory" Jackson (President). Easy mistake, aND I enjoyed what you wrote, but I just felt the need to let you know.

I think we're seeing more confusion around Stonewall Jackson here. The Confederate general nicknamed Stonewall was Thomas Jonathan Jackson and he was reputed to have pretty good relationships with both slaves and free black people in his hometown (specifically, he taught sunday school for them - the motivation was definitely paternalist, but apparently honestly compassionate).

There is, however, a Sherman Jackson - but he's an African-American scholar who teaches religion and American studies at USC.

Jay's has the BEST pizza logs, and makes a mean BLT!

@ Kirth Ahh, transplant, so you are the guy that does still drive when it snows in Texas, and wonders what the big deal is LOL.

Ack, I screwed up my Indian fighter references. Really aught to have stated either William Tecumseh Sherman or Philip Henry Sheridan, as the dude Cap should punch...pardon all, it would seem I am rustier on my History than I thought, apologies.

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GM_Beernorg wrote:
so you are the guy that does still drive when it snows in Texas, and wonders what the big deal is LOL.

Are you kidding? The way people try to drive in the snow around here, I'm the LAST person who would venture out on the road with all of them slamming and sliding around at ridiculous speeds.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Endzeitgeist wrote:
Though we don't even really get to mock other countries.

Excepts if it's the Netherlands not qualifying for a big event, then mocking them is totally allowed. ;)

@ Kirth I see your point sir... :)

Silver Crusade

Bill Dunn wrote:
lucky7 wrote:
@Beernorg: A bit of a nitpick, you confused Sherman "Stonewall" Jackson (Confederate General) with Andrew "Old Hickory" Jackson (President). Easy mistake, aND I enjoyed what you wrote, but I just felt the need to let you know.

I think we're seeing more confusion around Stonewall Jackson here. The Confederate general nicknamed Stonewall was Thomas Jonathan Jackson and he was reputed to have pretty good relationships with both slaves and free black people in his hometown (specifically, he taught sunday school for them - the motivation was definitely paternalist, but apparently honestly compassionate).

There is, however, a Sherman Jackson - but he's an African-American scholar who teaches religion and American studies at USC.


Thanks for catching that, Bill.

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Endzeitgeist wrote:
without care, the right tools and serious trekking experience, it can be pretty dangerous out there - cold, scalding pits of water, brutal wind, uneven floor...

I've spent much of my career working outdoors in hostile conditions in all climates -- scorching deserts, dust storms, swamps, 60 mph winds, sub-zero blizzard conditions -- so I was a little less worried about that aspect than most. (Also, my tour package had supposedly included it.)

@WormysQueue: You're probably right - I'm not into sports, so I don't really can comment on these finer details.

@Kirth: That may sound strange...but consider me somewhat jealous. I don't know why, but working in blistering sun, freezing cold and similar hostile environments always had a special appeal for me. The sense of accomplishment is amazing, even if one is only trekking, and the few blizzard experiences I had in Norway were amazing. As I keep telling my friends: It's not yet properly raining or snowing if your vanilla leather pants can withstand the water, snow and wind. Then again, I go running whenever there's a downpour or lightning storm, so perhaps I'm just strange. XD

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The main difference between working under those conditions and doing leisure is that, for work, the bosses back at the office (who aren't out in it) assume you'll be equally as productive as when conditions are perfect. So you can't usually take a break or get in out of it if it gets too uncomfortable. You're also often faced with tasks that, while very easy at a table indoors, become nearly impossible in the wind and flooding rains (for example). I'm also usually managing subcontractors who may not be fully acclimated, so the health & safety of the field team, always a top priority, becomes even more critical.

The Exchange

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Endzeitgeist wrote:
@WormysQueue: You're probably right - I'm not into sports, so I don't really can comment on these finer details.

Oh, I think in general you're completely right. Apart from the yellow press, we (german) sports fans pride ourselves of being fair sportsmen, so mocking other countries is normally out of the question. With this one notable exception probably stemming from our long time rivalry with the netherlands and some events happening at the Euros 1988 and the WM 1990, where certain dutch players behaved in what's the opposite of fair sportsmenship.

Though even then, it's more of a joke and I think that most german fans have a lot of respect and sympathy for the Oranjes. I mean, for most of the history, they played the game in a way we would have loved our teams to be able to emulate.

Regarding the topic, I'm not agreeing with everything you wrote, but that may have just to do with my own experiences differing from yours. For example, I have basically never felt despised in any interaction with people from other countries, no matter if I was abroad or if I met people visiting germany for whatever reason.

On the other hand, I also don't feel crippled by german guilt regarding nationalism. It's just that I - and many of the people I know - perceive the concept of nation and nationalism as terribly outdated and actually damaging, as far as the progress of the human race is concerned. (I'm also highly pro-EU for that very reason and I would love to see the United Nations of Europe come into existence during my lifetime, because the existing weaknesses of the EU basically boil down to the EU not being organised as a cohesive whole like the U.S. of America are; and even with that, I think that living in Europe is generally better than living in the U.S.(and more so anywhere else)).

I also think that you overexaggerate the german longing for conformity a bit. We might strive for normality, but to be honest, in today's political climate, I'm glad of being able to vote for such normal people like Angela Merkel or Martin Schulz and not having to deal with the likes of Trump, Erdogan or Putin. At least for the moment, this wish for normality saves us from a lot of the stupidity our friends all around the world have to cope with.

But yeah, patriotism (and it's evil brother nationalism) is generally something you just can't be as a german. We wave the flags during big sports events, but apart from that, we basically have no need for them (except for certain people who still live in the last century). It's just that it isn't really a problem because as a human being I'm not nearly as defined by my nationality as I am by many other things and I simply don't need that concept because in the end it practically doesn't matter. I'm not denying the influences that come with being born and grown up in Germany, but I don't even think in this categories any more. I remember driving my mum to the train station, when a bunch of young people crossed the street before us. I was actually surprised when my mom pointed out that those young people might have been immigrants or fugitives, because what I saw was just some young people and that they were colored in a darker shade didn't matter to me the least. Because they also could simply have been born here and probably speaking german just as good as I do, listening to the same music (ok, that's not true, I'm not listening to the crap that those young people nowadays call music ;), having the same interests as my kids have, and so on.

I simply don't feel the need to put people into categories defined by nationality, and as far as that is typical german, that's something I would like to be proud of. I'm aware though, that this is only the case for a (hopefully major) part of our population: "linksgrünversiffte Gutmenschen", as we are called by our extreme right.

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@Kirth: I did NOT want to imply that your job was easy or that anyone could do it; just that I can feel a certain fascination with the raw elements and the experience of throwing one's mettle versus the powers of nature. Then again, I am pretty much sitting in front of screen and keyboard all day long, generating intangible text, so the sheer physicality of such a job holds some appeal to me.

@WormysQueue: Huh, didn't realize you were a German as well! I did not mean to presume to speak for EVERY German; I specified my subjectivity clause in the first paragraph, but yeah, consider me happy that you did not have to make the same experiences I did.

Now you're making two very valid points: I consider myself to be an entity that does not necessarily define as all German, but neither would I define myself as European; I agree with you in that the concept of nations, as far as Europe goes, is not necessarily productive for the progress of the human race; heck, a lot of my argument pertaining the construction of the "Other" and the need to overcome such binary constructions can be applied to nationalities quite easily; the EU is a step in that direction. In order to retain global relevance, there simply is no way past a more cohesive collective identity. At the same time, this can only be one step and, at least regarding my own experiences living in other countries, I'd argue that the EU is not necessarily superior to living in the US or another developed country for that matter - there ultimately are bound to be pros and cons in every nation.

A big con for me that you denied would be the pressure of conformity, which you did not seem to experience as harshly as I did. However, I don't think that tying it to the political climate suffices to apologize what is frankly the most stifling, unpleasant component of my home, actually works. Established "normality"-standards are upheld by conservative forces; the conservative traditions and standards of Germany and the US are simply different.

I only truly could grasp the extent of conformity pressure after living in other countries for a prolonged amount of time. The general level of acceptance and overt tolerance exists, that may be correct; however, when it comes to jobs, interactions with people and how you are treated, the differences between Germany and Scandinavia or the US are pretty pronounced. The German pressure to conform and longing for normality may not seem stifling to you, but they do exist and are deeply ingrained; if you had never felt comfortable with the general normalcy eschewed by mainstream society, you would have felt the sting of the lack of true tolerance in that regard quite harshly.

I don't say that your stance is not valid, mind you. I do, however, believe that one explanation may be that you may have been simply more comfortable with society's expectations of what is considered to be "normal" and thus never really had to contend with the extent of this pressure to be something you simply aren't. I'm not trying to put words in your mouth or talk over the experiences you may or may not have had in that regard, mind you - I'm just saying that, from my perspective, I did not exaggerate German normcore/conformity; in fact, I was pretty lenient and could have fielded many, many more examples from all walks of life, but didn't want to digress further from the main topic than I already did.

That being said, I am, like you, pretty happy that Germany, for now, is inhabited by people, whose non-far-right-conservatives are more left than left-wing parties in other countries, and something in me giggles triumphantly whenever a right-wing idiot slurs "Get a haircut!" in my direction. I just don't see a connection between the political angle and the normcore pressure. On a related note: While I'm not his biggest fan - Jan Böhmermann - Be Deutsch. Interesting positively connotated construction of...unfortunately, yet another them/us construction, but at least an amusing inversion.

Oh, and thank you so much for sharing your observations!!! Love this discussion!! :D

Endzeitgeist wrote:
@Kirth: I did NOT want to imply that your job was easy or that anyone could do it; just that I can feel a certain fascination with the raw elements and the experience of throwing one's mettle versus the powers of nature.

I understand; my post was more in the way of "be careful what you wish for." ;)

Endzeitgeist wrote:
@WormysQueue: Huh, didn't realize you were a German as well!

For my part, I'm following the thread with great interest because I was born in Germany, to bilingual (English- and German-speaking) parents, and could just as easily have ended up growing up over there as here in the U.S. Thankfully, I haven't had to deal with most of what you have!

(Things were frightening, though, when we moved to Connecticut in the '80s and discovered that having a Jewish-sounding last name made us the target of some of the most vicious anti-Semitism I've ever encountered -- daily threatening phone calls and so on, for years. When my brother and I explained our name was German, our more ignorant schoolmates started calling us "Commie Nazi Jewboys," not realizing that was essentially a 3-way contradiction.)

@ Kirth, don't suppose you need a field assistant? As honestly, while I sit here in my zombie cube, I long for real work, with challenges, wind, rain, snow, tough terrain.

Thing is, there is nowhere I would rather be than out in nature. Climbing, hiking, snowshoeing, fly fishing, caving, running about in a good old thunder and lightning downpour, scaling a massive pine for the sheer joy of it, etc etc.

All very tough to do from a tiny work box :).

Ahh, the self-confused insult, usually an indicator that the speaker may very well have their head up their backside.

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GM_Beernorg wrote:

@ Kirth, don't suppose you need a field assistant?

Unfortunately, right now, with all the oil company geologists having been laid off, there are about a zillion applicants for every position. I've also hit a point where I'm chained to my desk inside most of the time -- a huge bummer for me.

That said, if my current Sith apprentice gets tired of being in the field all the time, there may be an opening after all.

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