3 March, 2021
With apologies for being prescriptive, I recommend that you watch this two-part documentary on the Hitler Youth movement (the Hitler-Jugend). Its impact is terrifying, and it uses colour footage that most of us have never seen before. But the important thing is that it demonstrates unforgettably the power and the naivety of young people when their trust is abused and perverted by corrupt and evil adults. The membership of the Hitler Youth grew from about 30,000 in 1929 to more than nine million in just ten years. Eventually its boys were being sent as cannon fodder to replenish the devastated battalions on the Western Front and elsewhere, where their ruthless and often cruel fanaticism horrified even hardened Wehrmacht troops.
The temptation to use dramatic and exaggerated hyperbole in political discourse is well known and should be resisted. Reagan, Thatcher and Howard were not Nazis, and it is equally absurd to dismiss left leaders such as Sanders, Corbyn or our own Daniel Andrews as Leninists. No good is served by exaggeration, even if some of our leaders make some of us very angry. We need a sense of proportion: unbridled and immoderate abuse effectively trivializes the far more brutal tyrannies of Hitler and Stalin.
But it’s a slippery slope from minor to major transgressions, and we all agree in theory that absolute power corrupts absolutely. None of today’s western democracies can be seriously likened to the horror regimes of the mid-twentieth century by anyone who has the slightest knowledge of the facts. But that said, it would be foolish indeed to say, as some do, that full-blown Nazism ‘can’t happen here’. Have you ever heard someone say that Hitler rose to power because the German people are gullible and easily led? I have, many times, and I think it’s dangerous nonsense. Please God it won’t ever happen here, but it could happen in any human community – if the conditions are favourable to it.
Under any such tyranny children suffer most, for their inexperienced hearts are readily open to persuasion and their whole lives can be ruined by early radicalization. Hitler quickly learned to put the innocence of German children to work.
We are skating on thin ice. Here are some worrying trends in modern western societies:
- Adults are increasingly shirking their responsibilities as leaders and educators, passing the buck to schools, yet not supporting the schools when hard disciplinary decisions have to be made. Indeed discipline is a very unpopular word.
- Systematic history teaching has almost disappeared from schools, having been replaced by a gormless sort of ‘social studies’ curriculum. Children are profoundly ignorant of current events and the background to them. Fanaticism thrives on ignorance.
- Children’s views are being taken too seriously by adults who woo them by pandering to their opinions, however ill informed. Witness movements to lower the voting age to 16, and the eagerness with which world leaders fell over themselves to give an audience to Greta Thunberg!
- The mushrooming of demands for sexual re-assignment, and the willing acquiescence of adults in allowing minors to undergo radical therapies is being extended in some jurisdictions to give pre-pubescent children the authority to make decisions in defiance of pastoral and parental advice.
The great weakness of adults who have lost their moral compass, who are drifting in a world that is losing all sense of objective truth, exposes us to considerable danger. There are few signs that the danger is easing. We desperately need more and more people of courage to buck the trend, people who have the hardihood to laugh in the face of the cowardly twittersphere, and shrug off its calumnies.
Here are some pieces you might find interesting:
THE EMPTINESS OF ‘CANCEL CULTURE’
On the Moral Void at the Heart of Cancel Culture. An opinion piece by Kevin Donnelly.
DOES SUFFERING HAVE A PURPOSE?
Can suffering be good for us? ‘A Society devoid of meaning naturally self-destructs’ claims Freya India. This piece by a young Gen Z writer will either outrage you or have you cheering!
MISINFORMATION ABOUT THE VACCINE?
We don’t take a position on this, but how is one to make sense of any issue when dominant media label minority opinions as ‘misinformation’ and suppress them? For a bold alternative view read this piece by an Israeli Rabbi. Christians are the usual suspects when it comes to pig-headed resistance to ‘common sense’; it is good to see somebody else willing to take the bullet!
THE POWER OF ‘AMAZEMENT, WONDER AND AWE’
This article by Prof Margaret Somerville offers a gracious diversion from the bickering of the ‘culture wars’, and perhaps a pathway to harmony and resolution.
RAMSAY CENTRE SCHOLARSHIPS
Please pass this message on to anyone you know who could be interested:
‘Are you contemplating the transformative experience of studying abroad at some of the world’s best universities? If you have been accepted into a graduate program at Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard or another world-leading university you might be eligible for a Ramsay Postgraduate Scholarship worth up to AUD$85,000 p.a. Applications are open now. To find out more visit: ramsaycentre.org/scholarships-courses/postgraduate-scholarships/’
With best wishes always,
FOR YOUR DIARY
Our annual conference originally scheduled for 2020 will now take place on 25–26 June 2021. The theme will be secondary education, with a particular focus on the development of the spiritual and religious dimension of human nature. Most of those who originally offered papers have confirmed that they are still available after our year-long hibernation with Covid! I shall shortly send out a save-the-date notice and booking form.
The following speakers have so far re-confirmed their availability for the colloquium:
Mr Kenneth Crowther
Dr Kevin Donnelly AM
Mr Fadi Elbarbar
Dr Gerard Gaskin
Dr David Hastie
Ms Cheryl Lacey
Mr Eamonn Pollard
Rev Dr Peter Robinson
Mr Karl Schmude KSG
Dr Wanda Skowronska
Mr and Mrs Ben Smith
Mr Robert van Gend