|Home > East Asia >
Of Monsters and Men
Kaishin Yen & Erping Zhang
The Monster in the essay’s title is Reinhold Hensch, a young man of little talent who becomes one of the most brutal Nazi murderers primarily because he wants to “be somebody.” The Lamb is Peter Schaeffer, a brilliant political writer and analyst with The New York Times who was asked by the Third Reich to take over the respected newspaper Berliner Tageblatt in 1938. Well aware of the atrocities being committed by the Nazis, Schaeffer was nonetheless convinced he could influence them and prevent the worst, believing he was too savvy and too important to the Germans to be manipulated -- “I wasn’t exactly born yesterday. I’m a seasoned newspaperman.”
Schaeffer indeed arrived in Berlin to great fanfare and was showered with titles, riches, and honor. But the regime wasted no time using his appointment as editor-in-chief to show that all the stories about the Nazis and their treatment of the press that had appeared in foreign newspapers were just “dirty Jewish lies.” Articles began to appear immediately under Schaeffer’s by-line giving assurances that not all high-level Nazis were anti-Semitic or that news of brutality were just “isolated excesses.” For his services, the Nazis would contemptuously throw him a few goodies here and there, like allowing him to keep two elderly Jewish editors on as proofreaders, but then only for two months. And every once in a while Schaeffer would be allowed to write a short editorial criticizing some minor policy, like the tax on oleomargarine.
Two years later, both Schaeffer and the Berliner Tageblatt had outlived their usefulness, so, like a lamb to the slaughter, “they were liquidated and disappeared without a trace.” Hensch, the Monster, later committed suicide when facing capture by American troops. Precisely because both men were led to believe they were powerful, they allowed themselves to be made less than men.
In reading Drucker’s descriptions of the Nazi Party, it is hard to overlook many disturbing correlations to the workings of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). To say the CCP has been highly skilled in the art of mind control, of taking advantage of human weakness over the last 60 years would be, of course, an understatement. Mao ranked up there right along with Hitler and Stalin.
Unlike the Third Reich and the Soviet Union, however, the CCP still exists. For while Mainland China appears to be no longer Communist in the economic sense of the word, the ruling party has no real incentive to stop ruling with an iron fist. After all, look what happened to the Soviet Union when Gorbachev loosened his grip for just a brief moment. The CCP has learned it need only give the appearance of being more open. Inside the Politburo, the official line is to “loosen up to the outside but tighten up internally.”
Without economic growth, China is a third world country. With trade and foreign direct investment, however, the CCP not only gains international credibility, but can now also afford to purchase more weapons, build more labor camps, and do more harm.
In the 70’s, the US and the rest of the free world decided to open up ties with China in the name of encouraging democracy and freedom. It seems, however, the West has been so dazzled by the promise of vast markets and fortunes and connections to high places that what has really happened in the process is we are being changed by them.
Ethan Gutmann’s Losing the New China [Encounter Books, 2004] gives a whole array of eye-popping tales of underhanded deals and moral complicity between the American Chamber of Commerce, US businesses, and the CCP. Look, for example, at the 300 IT companies like Yahoo! that willingly signed a self-censorship agreement to have the privilege of doing business in China. Or the fact that Nortel, Sun Microsystems, and Cisco offered up proprietary technology to China so the CCP could build a Golden Shield firewall system to track and monitor people on the Internet. It is hard to know how many Web surfers and college students, have been imprisoned in the last few years directly as a result of the over-eagerness of US companies to trade. We only hear of a few innocents, like the Beijing student code-named “Stainless Steel Mouse” who was incarcerated for more than a year for subversion for her blogging.
On June 6, France’s Eutelsat will be poised to cancel a contract they have with New York’s New Tang Dynasty TV for a satellite signal that has successfully broadcast over southern China for the past year. Eutelsat has admitted to pressure from the CCP, for which the control of information coming in and out are crucial to its very survival. Incidentally, Eutelsat has also entered into a new and very lucrative business agreement with CCTV for certain broadcasting rights for the 2008 Olympics. It’s understandable that companies find themselves hard pressed to stand up to these carrot and stick tactics. But unless they do, they may one day wake up to find they’ve inadvertently participated in things they would normally want no part of.
For individuals, sometimes the situation is subtler and more insidious. How many Western scholars feel compelled to self-censor in order to ensure they may be granted a visa to travel to China to do research there sometime in the future? How many journalists in China feel the pressure to tread carefully so they may be allowed to keep their press passes? What does a foreign reporter do when given a show tour of an obviously sanitized labor camp, just as the Nazis did with their concentration camps, so that they may dispel “rumors” of mistreatment? It is up to free will, then, what kind of article will be written about the experience. The situation is difficult because these journalists and academics can serve a very good function observing and commenting on the many changes that are occurring in China today. And yet to keep doing so, they can jeopardize their ability to continue that valuable role.
Some European and American corporations justify their actions by saying they are actually helping the development of China by turning a blind eye and keeping quiet about the violent repression of millions going on right below the surface. Some claim their money, their technology, or perhaps their very presence in the country will bring freedom and democracy to China.
There is perhaps a hint of Peter Schaeffer’s hubris in their protestations, though. Because ultimately, the CCP doesn’t care what the foreigners do. An entity that has taken the lives of more than 80 million in the last 60 years will do what it chooses. The estimated US$990 billion that has flowed in from foreign investments over the years has been useful, but the corporations and individuals that willingly played by the CCP’s rules will be kept around for as long as they are useful, and no longer. China will spend that money wherever and however it wants to. So the real Monster in this story may very well be this red dragon that has grown fat on the offerings of other nations and on the labor of its citizens. Would we really be surprised, though, if it were to turn around and bite the hand that feeds it?
For the horror of the CCP lies not necessarily just in its brutality, but in the very nature of the beast -- that it feeds on human weakness. It looks for fear and temptation and mind control. Why, for example, are Falun Dafa practitioners told they can leave the labor camps if they just write a “repentance statement?” The practitioners have committed no actual crime to speak of, so they are incarcerated and tortured not so much as punishment but as a means to break their will. The signing of the statement is a pledge that they have given up their beliefs and values and will now say whatever the Party wants them to say – anything to stop the mental and physical torture. Strange that a signature is all it takes, like the signing away of one’s soul. A little Faustian, a little 1984. The moral compromise, it seems, is the goal.
There is a third kind of man that Drucker mentions in his essay. The Nazis take over the University of Frankfurt in the 1930s and at the first faculty meeting, the new commissar lashes out in profanities and announces that Jews would be banned from university premises. He threatens that everyone will either do what he says or be put in a concentration camp. In shock, the professors look to a distinguished and outspoken biochemist in their midst to respond. All the biochemist says is: “Very interesting, Mr. Commissar, and in some respects very illuminating. But one point I didn’t get too clearly. Will there be more money for research in physiology?”
And here is Drucker’s point:
“…because evil is never banal and men so often are, men must not treat evil with evil on any terms—for the terms are always the terms of evil and never those of man. Man becomes the instrument of evil when, like the Hensches, he thinks to harness evil to his ambition; and he becomes the instrument of evil when, like the Schaeffers, he joins with evil to prevent worse…But maybe the greatest sin is neither of these two ancient ones [the lust for power and hubris]; the greatest sin may be the new twentieth-century sin of indifference, the sin of the distinguished biochemist who neither kills nor lies but refuses to bear witness when, in the words of the old gospel hymn, ‘They crucify my Lord.’”
We live in complex times. Do we choose to be men and women of character, or do we allow ourselves to be diminished by a little bit of fear, a little bit of self-interest? May we all have the courage to speak out in support of the truth, on behalf of our fellow man.
|© Copyright 2002-2007 AFAR|