When silence enables evil

The recently departed author Herman Wouk, in his epic miniseries The Winds of War, has a classic piece of dialogue that reads:

“Lenin, another jailbird, was the great originator. He made it all up, Leslie, you realize—the Jesuitical secret party, the coarse slogans for the masses and the contempt for their intelligence and memory, the fanatic language, the strident dogmas, the Moslem religiosity in politics, the crude pageantry, the total cynicism of tactics, it’s all Leninism. Hitler is a Leninist, Mussolini is a Leninist. The talk of anti-communism and pro-communism is for fools and children.”

Change the cast of characters and one can apply the description to today’s politicians.  Suppression of ideas is rampant.  The lessons of the past, even the most recent past, are fading and most people want to be convinced that, “This time it’s different.”  However, it isn’t is it?

We should all speak up, and be allowed to speak up in a free speech forum.  Labeling all that is disagreeable or about which we do not agree as hateful, is as authoritarian as any despot chopping off heads.  Free speech is the key to freedom.  Even hateful or unreasonable speech is best countered by hearing it, and hearing the counter arguments.   Words are not the enemy.   Those with differing ideologies, moralities, visions should only be repressed when they attempt to force others to adopt their beliefs, not when they advocate them.

Calling every attempt at political oversight a witch-hunt, charging that every election is fraudulent, and denigrating in despicable terms those with whom one disagrees, sets the tone for the ultimate demise of the democratic system.

Today advocates for evil hide behind nationalism, socialism, globalism, communism and any political or religious belief that can cloak their real motivation of greed and power.  The media has become a propaganda machine for political parties.  Trust of government and its institutions is almost gone.

We need to be suspicious of hidden agendas and beware of those who scream and shout down and label adversaries and refuse to listen, debate or discuss.

There is evil on the horizon and there is an authoritarian smell in the air from almost everyone who seeks power in whatever country they may reside.

Lincoln’s famous words “Of, by and for the people” have been replaced by, “Of, by and for special interests.”  Philosophies of nationalism, socialism, globalism, and Godly institutions and movements have important places and all should be heard and appreciated, but when leaning to singular authoritarian beliefs they should be called out by the voices of freedom.

The people of Hong Kong showed us this week that a populace does not have to be cowed into agreeing to a policy that the majority thinks is simply wrong.  Almost 15% of the population of Hong Kong took to the streets to object to a scheduled change in the law, which they saw as a challenge to their basic freedoms. That is the equivalent of 48 million Americans taking to the streets to demonstrate about something they feel needs redress.  When was the last time something like that happened in the U.S.?  Never!

We must not be silent.  Former Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie said, “Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”

He has been dead for 44 years but the message endures. All it takes for evil to have its way is for good people to remain silent.  We cannot be silent!

About the Author
Sherwin Pomerantz is a native New Yorker, who lived and worked in Chicago for 20 years before coming to Israel in 1984. An industrial engineer with advanced degrees in mechanical engineering and business, he is President of Atid EDI Ltd., a 33 year old Jerusalem-based economic development consulting firm which, among other things, represents the regional trade and investment interests of a number of US states, Ontario and Hong Kong. A past national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel, he is also Chairperson of the Israel Board of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. His articles have appeared in various publications in Israel and the US.
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