Wednesday, August 22, 2012

1943 : Schindler's list versus America's non-list

wartime HOLOCAUST reports ignored by public
1993 : Fifty years after adult America first learned about the killing of millions of  European Jews - and did nothing about it - a new adult America was ready to turn a film about efforts to save some of those Jews into a massive movie hit.

Why not ?

 After all the vast bulk of those millions of film goers were under the age of 55* in 1993. In 1943, they were either tiny children or not even alive when their parents and grandparents first knew about the mass killing ---- but did nothing.

Their conscience, unlike those of their parents and grandparents, was perfectly clear and they felt free to watch the movie without severe attacks of regret and guilt.

If you were ten or older in June 1942, Schindler's List probably made you at least a bit uneasy....

But few Americans ( or Canadians or Britons, etc ) over the age of 55 in 1993 were so lucky.

They were old enough to remember the promises of Modernity before the events of Auschwitz, Hiroshima, and the Katyn Forest brought all those certitudes into question.

Modernity suffered a mortal body blow during WWII , in 1945 in particular.

But with most people over the age of 15 in 1945 in some way implicated in supporting the values of Modernity that had led to these events, only time and the deaths it produced, were likely to see Modernity seriously challenged .

The youngest people of Modernity were just starting to leave the workforce in 1993 and so Modernity's people were finally losing their hold on the reins of power.

Reduced it but did not eliminate it : as owners, authors, columnists, scholars, voters, they still did have a considerable but ever diminishing ability to impede a new hegemony, if no longer able to direct the old hegemony.

Today in late 2012, almost 20 years after the release of the movie, anyone under 75 is likely to watch Schindler's List without the twinge of personal conscience.

Pre-war Modernity still has its billions of fans - but they are not  there at the time, so they can only admire from second hand and I believe its hold on their emotions is thus correspondingly far less strong......

* I think anyone born in 1937 or 1938 or late , ie under the age of about 7 or 8 in the Fall of 1945  is unlikely to have read the wartime daily papers or follow the nightly wartime radio news, with their steady if very low key presentation of reports detailing reported mass killings of Jews and others.

By way of pointed contrast, young Philip Roth born in early 1933 and later a famous novelist, does remember those reports very well.

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