A couple of days ago I stumbled upon an article written by Stuart Weiner about the call for both South African Jews and South African non-Jews to wear kippot to the movie screening as a sign on solidarity for the three easily identifiable Jewish teenagers who, while wearing traditional orthodox clothing, were verbally and physically assaulted by three South American men.

Instantly I thought that this was a brilliant idea. Why did it take the world over 65 years to think of it again? Though some sources agree and some disagree as to the extent of the King’s Christian X personal involvement in saving Danish Jews from the Nazis, i.e. whether he and Danish citizens actually wore the yellow Star of David on their clothes as a sign of both solidarity and respect they paid to a human life, regardless of one’s religion; the fact of the matter remains: the nation stood side by side with their Jewish minority and were more than instrumental in saving their lives from the Nazis.

Sadly, in comparison, this certainly was not a general trend across Europe, where the head of the state decided to stand in defence of those who were primarily persecuted. I think it is needless to give detailed examples here, but the majority of conquered Europe happily traded Jews in exchange for less aggression directed at them. I do, of course, feel obligated to mention here that Jews were not the only type of European citizens that ended up in the camps. Apart from them there were political enemies, Gypsies, homosexuals and everyone that did not fit into the newly established III Reich’s order. It is however of paramount importance to say that Jews were nonethelessprimarily targeted as a matter of ideology and principle. The pre-war campaign was that of a Jewish leech, draining the blood from the German economy. The propaganda multiplied and the politics of the Reich became to eliminate every Jew that was living and breathing in Europe and, if they managed to conquer it, the world.

What we saw then, what we had seen before the 20th Century, and what we are seeing now is the situation based on the same principle: that of terror and fear. Then coup d’etat of Reich and the subsequent war were performed, quite frankly, by a bunch of legalised terrorists. Their way of ensuring compliance and governing the country was to instil fear so incomprehensible that the subjects would comply even without a direct need of introducing physical violence to achieve the crucial level of compliance. What we saw was an example of a failed attempt. The Nazis, quite simply, did not learn from the French during their la Terreur which lasted from 5 September 1793 to 28 July 1794 and was simply an outcome of incitement to violence between two rivalling political parties, the Girondins and the Jacobins, and subsequently resulted in mass political executions, with even the common people acquiring the title of a traitor for little or no reason; with 16,594 people being executed by guillotine, nick-named as The Razor, out of which 2,639 were executed just in Paris, and another 25,000 in following executions across France. The problem with continuous manipulation of fear with a view to establish compliance is this: eventually, it becomes simply too much and people who were once scared, aren’t afraid anymore; the trauma turned them into emotional and social wrecks pushing them even more against the establishment. After all, what have they got to lose? Head? Everyone lost their heads. The French people eventually laughed as their death sentences were delivered. Simply, terror became the norm; there was nothing more to be afraid of. The result for France was that of Robespierre being overthrown following the decisive defeat at the Battle of Fleurus. He equated Terror with Virtue – neither of which was wanted in the end.

A satirical engraving of Robespierre guillotining the executioner after having guillotined everyone else in France.
A satirical engraving of Robespierre guillotining the executioner after having guillotined everyone else in France.

The only most recent dictator in the past Century, who learned from both the French Revolution as well as from the III Reich, was Josef Stalin. He employed the ‘carrot and stick’ approach: terror, loosening the pressure and, again, terror and, no surprise here, less fear. This ensured that the nation didn’t know what to expect and, thus, Stalin managed to remain in power for decades. Subsequently he was also ‘removed’ from his post, with violent speculations as to the nature of his death, whether it was indeed of natural causes or someone ‘helped him’ cross the point of no return when he fell ill.

In either way, domestic and international citizens cannot be controlled by fear for too long. There is only as far as a terrorist organisation, or a state which acts in a similar manner, can hold on to power and pretend that they care for the wellbeing of their subjects. On a personal level, I understand why people choose to ‘hand in’ what is requested, even if it is other people’s lives. The treat of an immediate physical pain evokes the animal instinct of appeasing the aggressor instead of the feeling of solidarity, which instead encourages a unified action against the enemy. During the fight or flight dilemma, which literally lasts milliseconds, in general, we decide to flight and give the aggressor what they want hoping that even though we may not be left permanently in peace, we will somehow postpone our own execution.

Considering that Josef Stalin was able to learn from the history, why does the public fail to learn from it too? Education is accessible to a vast percentage of the world population, even more so, in the ‘developed’ world. If we face terror imposed either by an organised political group, organised guerrilla fighters or simple individuals, why would we choose, first and foremost, to give in and ‘hand in’ what they request? From the South African perspective, why not stand by the Jews? Why not wear a kippah, even nationally, whether people are Jewish or not? I doubt that there would be much less violence if various states stood fast by their ethnic and religious minorities instead of withdrawing in fear.

That reminds me of both “1984” and “V for Vendetta“. In the former film, the subjects agreed to comply, by fear and imaginary reality, with the system which really, did not think of their wellbeing, but singled out enemies. In the case of the latter, eventually the whole nation wore white masks and black cloaks, confusing the executive arm to the point where the mistake they made, namely shooting an innocent and unarmed girl, cost them their power and control. That was the wake-up call for the nation, to stand up and fight the establishment of terror. The same nation, that was, just moments before, pushed into lethargy due to the instilled fear found it in themselves to oppose the oppressor and be free. Not give in. Not turn in people, but to stand by them.

I wish there were more initiatives such as the one in South Africa. I wish people supported each other despite their backgrounds. Because after all, the only way for the fear to turn us into animals is for us to believe that what we are told is true, that we are supposed to hate and thus, consequently, eliminate. Really? I doubt that. The moment the common people figure out that they have the power to stand by their neighbours, despite their descent and religion, none of the terrorist groups, whether organised or not, not even political institutions or entities would have any power over their minds to push them into thinking that if only they just separate themselves, just hand over the other people, they will be safe. On the contrary, for the terror establishment to function there has to be an enemy. Always. Today this enemy may by the other, but if the other is gone, burned into ashes, who is there that remains?