[Ed. — Wow. I haven’t put anything up on this humble little blog since spring. What have I been doing? I couldn’t tell you, for the life of me. The time just sort of heaves and sighs, and poof! there are another few months gone under the bridge. Is this what we have to look forward to, as we age?]
You can see it in the slightest things, sometimes. Someone in whom a particular mind-set, a philosophy, a Weltanschauung is so stamped that it has become a part of who he unthinkingly is will sometimes do or say something and not realize that he has laid bare, to some degree, the most fundamental mechanisms of his soul. Reporters, the overwhelming majority of whom in Western societies are hard-core leftists, are especially prone to do such things. They’re so far to the left that they don’t even realize that they are leftists; that’s just how the world looks to them. And so they’re forever turning cards face-up on the table so that the rest of us can see what’s going on behind their eyes. They’re no more self-conscious about it than a dog licking his balls.
I recently ran across a splendid example of it, in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the newspaper I’ve used as my internet start page ever since CNN took to shilling for al Qaeda back in 2006. [Remember the snuff film they produced, of U.S. soldiers getting killed by snipers in Iraq? They made and released that film in an explicit, self-proclaimed effort to influence the outcome of the 2006 mid-term elections. CNN took that film, which its own makers had announced as an intention to subvert the American political process, and ran it, again and again and again. What would we have thought if the Germans had made a similar film in 1944 and then Movietone had run it with the newsreels before every showing of every film in the U.S?]
The article deals with a statute with a wonderfully German name: the Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz, or the Federal Education Improvement Law. With typical glee in abbreviation and acronym (the Gestapo’s nickname was also one: in truth its full name was the Geheime Staatspolizei) it’s universally known as Bafög. In round numbers it provides for federal level financial aid to German students who are attending university (and presumably the technische Hochschulen as well). The process starts with filling out a standard form, much like the FAFSA form here in the U.S.
At least, the Bafög provides that financial aid to students whose families aren’t well-off above a certain threshold.
The article’s title — “Unity and Justice and Bafög” is a play on the first words of the German national anthem: Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit, unity and justice and freedom. The point of the article is that our newly-minted Abiturient — the holder of the coveted Abitur, which allows you to attend college in Germany — looking forward to the freedom and Selbstbestimmung (self-determination) of adulthood, with the university years as joyful, stimulating, liberating, challenging, endlessly intriguing opening chapter, is in for a let-down when he sits down to fill out the Bafög application. You see, on page 3 of the form the student is required to state his parent’s income and resources. Too much and you don’t get any Bafög assistance.
Oopsies! Turns out the blossoming student isn’t viewed as being quite liberated from his parents, after all. More to the point, his ability to be a care-free student —
is materially affected by attributes of his family. Wait. Isn’t one of the Big Points of university exactly the separation of the student’s identity from that of his background?
The article correctly states the issue implicated: We are called upon to take a position in the “eternal conflict between freedom, equality, and justice”. You see, the problem with Bafög is that it is taxpayer funded. By all taxpayers. Including the baker whose son is doing an apprenticeship at the local machine shop, whose daughter is a waitress at the restaurant down the street, and whose wife is a nurse’s assistant at the hospital. His and their money is being taken from them to fund the heightened life prospects of our new student. Remind us again how this is just and equitable, if the student’s ability to launch himself in life with recourse to the resources of those who — at this point in life at least, before spouse and children appear — have the No. 1 Biggest Stake in his future prospects, is not to be taken into account. [Note that just making university “free” to everyone doesn’t address our baker’s objections. He’s still having to fork out to give someone else’s child a leg up in life, irrespective of the ability to help of that child’s parents.]
The article suggests that from our hypothetical tradesman’s perspective, it would be much fairer to require the student and his family to borrow the money and then pay it back from his presumably greater earnings. As they do it in America, the author points out. But what has been the result of that system in America, the author asks. “Mountains of debt” just at the outset of one’s career.
The other way to go is the Scandinavian model, in which everyone — including the children of millionaires — has a right to support from the state. To treat the children of the wealthy differently would be “not to take them in earnest.” Whatever.
And now, the tell. “The liberation from the oppressing bonds of background, which it [the money-for-everyone system] promises the student, has another hook. It only come as a package. In other aspects of life as well the state prefers to work directly, without disruptive intermediaries such as the family, with people.” It is a “großangelegtes Vereinzelungsprojekt” — a comprehensive atomization project — with “grave side effects.”
There you have it. The socialist system rests upon what is in substance an unlimited claim upon the individual humans who make up society. It cannot and will not tolerate any other locus of power or independence.
First and foremost is the nuclear family. It is no accident that among the earliest “reforms” of every socialist dictatorship (and they all are, even the Scandinavian ones with the smiley face) is a programmatic subversion of the nuclear family. Divorce laws are loosened, the legal privileges of married status are withdrawn. Children are removed, sometimes by force (membership in the Hitlerjugend or the Young Pioneers was not optional), and often by enticement (universal “free” day-care, anyone?) from their parents’ supervision. The adults from whom they receive their daily, drip-drip-drip of influence are no longer the parents (or grandparents, or older siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, and so forth) but rather government functionaries, teaching lessons, values, and self-understanding chosen by the state. Children are encouraged to spy and report on their parents. Those who do (or who are said to have) are celebrated, publicly.
Churches come into the cross-hairs for the same reasons. From the liquidation of the hierarchy under the Bolsheviks to Hitler’s co-opting the German churches — kudos to Bonhoeffer and the other organizers of the Confessing Church movement in Germany; they weren’t going along to get along — there is a remarkably consistent pattern in the subversion of religious organization by socialist government.
The Cultural Revolution was more of the same. A couple of years ago I read a fascinating biography of Chairman Mao, and of course that period comes in for some close examination. Traditional Chinese society is, of course, exactly that: deeply and abidingly traditional. Although the Reds had completed their formal conquest of the country by 1949, and even though they had starved — very intentionally, by the way — somewhere between 45 and 60 million people — mostly peasants — to death during the Great Leap Forward (the link is to the Wikipedia article, which give a high of 42 million and a low of 18 million; on the other hand, this history gives the 45-60 range), Chinese society still remained in many of its core organizing principles the same traditional society it had been. Mao realized that he had to smash, irretrievably, that hold which tradition had, because in traditional Chinese society the state, as such, played so small a part in everyday life. Hence the Cultural Revolution’s targeting of everything which traditional China revered, first and foremost the teachers.
It was Mussolini who made famous the formulation: Everything within the state; nothing outside the state; nothing against the state. This is the first and basic credo of the socialist. You can pretty it up and say, “Government is just the name for the things we all do together,” but it’s the same thing. You can stick a label on it — Gleichschaltung — so you can speak in catch-phrases. You can even attempt to replicate it, to some degree, in the context of a free association, in such things as labor unions, with their ladies’ auxiliaries, athletic teams, children’s groups, and so forth. But that doesn’t really work, does it, without coercion. Witness what happened in places like New Harmony: Without the coercive power of the state, the experiment in an all-encompassing socialism flew apart under the stresses of its own centrifugal forces.
Which is why, at bottom, if the premise of socialism is this unlimited claim upon the individual lives of the people, its essence is violence, physical coercion.
But how does this fascism-with-a-smiley-face play out in wonderful Scandinavia? Let’s go back to that FAZ article for a reference to just one of those “grave side effects”: “There are for example few lands in which so many people as in Sweden die completely alone, without any connection with their family.” Or we can look at the WHO data on alcohol-related disorders: For males, the rate in the U.S. is 5.48%. In Sweden it’s 6.32%; in Finland 6.39%; in Norway (you know, that place we’re all supposed to be like) it’s a whacking 9.05%. Here’s a link to an article in The Washington Post about the prevalence of diagnosed depression. In the U.S., according to the map at the link, the rate appears to be in the 4-4.5% range. It’s hard to tell from the map (there’s a further link to the underlying study, if Gentle Reader wants to read that far), but it looks like Sweden comes in at 4.5-5%, and Finland and Norway at 5.5-6%. Those don’t sound like terribly bad numbers, until you consider that the jump from 4% (the U.S. low-end) to 5.5% (the low-end in wonderful Norway) is a 37.5% leap.
It looks, in other words, as though whatever else the intrusion of the state into every nook and cranny of its citizens’ lives is working for the better, it still seems not to do a very good job of avoiding your dying drunk, depressed, and alone.
Cheer up, Comrade.