Ordinary Men

I know someone who's better screwed together than I and she's read, er… (thinks) yeah, I'd best get this back on track before the list of people who are better-screwed-together than I grows beyond my ego's comfort zone!

Anyway, she's been reading Christopher Browning's 'Ordinary Men'; it's an examination of the motivations of, in simplistic terms, a WWII Nazi-run extermination squad.

Not an easy read, by her account, not by any means. It got me thinking again of what minimal set of events would precipitate a decline into times in which our society could condone such events. You've had only to look casually at the TV in recent years to find programmes about 'Doomsday Preppers', disease-created zombies or worse, the shutdown of the electricity grid, aliens intent on extracting all our planet's resources before moving on to the next mining proposition…

Go on then, what, practically, could sow the seeds of our society's destruction?

Our reliance on complex but easily-interrupted food distribution chains, the effect of social media on the ability of looters to congregate on and to lay waste to city centres, the notion that terrorists could strike anywhere even with the complete absence of coherent attack strategies, the transmission of disease across international and across species boundaries, the emboldening of xenophobes as government administrations move towards embracing nativism-inspired lawmaking?

Yeah, fragile. So what can we do?

Nothing, apart from conform to normal societal rules and hope that like the winds of change, it'll all blow over us without too much damage. And that's the problem, as vested interest has the rules change, the moral compass becomes destabilised. Has anyone from any other previous era, outside of wartime, had the rules change literally overnight?


I've read (and watched 2 versions of) Orwell's 1984, read and listened to Orwell's Animal Farm, experienced the dread of imagining the speed of onset of a technological catastrophe during The Terminator series, read Asimov's Foundation series and felt a hope inspired by knowledge there may just be a shadowy organisation skilled in manipulating populations and then crushed as one man with abnormal skills brings it all crashing down… Then there's the similarities between 28 Days Later, The Walking Dead, and Shaun of the Dead; the gulf between the dystopian Star Wars and the utopian Star Trek; the time between the first screening of 'Metropolis' through The Twilight Zone's 'To Serve Man', to the present day's fascination with superhero movies. I'd best not mention 'The Matrix'. Do you remember Bird Flu, note that colds and flu last forever these days, and at any one time, someone you know could easily be carrying an antibiotic-resistant strain of some superbug that'll mean a few days off work, or death (whichever is the least benign?) And finally, during a recent bout of flooding in the northwest of England the entire nation's production of pink sandwich and custard cream biscuits stopped. Ok, really finally: when a major UK retailer decided the post-Brexit-announcement price rises after the consequent fall in the value of the GB Pound could not be passed directly on to the customer so the supplier's profit margin must take the hit; thus iconic products temporarily disappeared from shelves as people panic-bought – no Marmite!

Having an active imagination at a time like this isn't helpful.

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