Ask yourselves: Are we the bad guys?

Ask yourselves: Are we the bad guys? by R.Lesnoix for The Saker

One can fault the British for many things but not for their sense of humour. Some time ago I saw a sketch by the comedy duo Mitchell and Webb. They played two German soldiers, sitting in a fortified position at the front, enjoying the relative quiet of the moment. They were dressed in SS uniforms. In that typically British roundabout way of starting an awkward conversation one of them begins to talk about their uniforms. He has noticed something odd, something off-kilter. Their uniforms have skulls on them. So he asks the other one why that would be. In the following discussion they try to come up with positive associations with skulls. They try to find a valid reason why their uniforms would have skulls on them. When they fail to do so and can only come up with negative associations the first one looks the other in the eye and asks hesitantly “Are we the bad guys?”

It’s a funny sketch partly because with our knowledge and morality of today the idea of two SS-men wondering if they are the bad guys is almost grotesque. Off course they are the bad guys. “How could they not have known they were the bad guys?” Many will have this thought flash through their minds in some way or other. It is generally posed as a rhetorical question as it’s so obvious it requires no further deliberation. That is a mistake though. It’s a very serious question. It needs exploring because it goes to the root of why good men are capable of doing, or supporting, great evil. So let’s explore it. Why didn’t the Germans consider themselves to be the bad guys?

Let’s start with the skulls. Putting skulls on uniforms wasn’t unique to the SS. It had a long tradition in the German army and before that in the Prussian army. It was used by the hussars for example on their hats. One likely reason the SS used it was to tap into this history, to present themselves not as something completely new but as a new way of continuing old German traditions or if you like as one of different ways they tried to legitimize themselves as part of German society. Keep this trick of trying to look like something you’re not in mind. Nor were the Germans the only ones to use it, nor was it a purely military thing. If the skulls alone denote ‘evil’ what does that say of the Skull and Bones society which has many of Americas elite, even former presidents, among its members? Skulls have had many symbolic meanings throughout human history. Judging historical use with a narrow contemporary view will lead to wrong conclusions. So no, the presence of skulls on their uniform was not a dead give-away of being ‘the’ bad guys. Unfortunately this simplistic view, especially judging the ‘other’ with ones own limited viewpoint, is commonplace. Point to one very specific aspect that is easily identifiable as ‘bad’ from your point of view, ignoring context, and presto. You have your bad guys. Given that we are conditioned to view the world in absolutes that also gives you your good guys. If one side is bad, the other must be good.

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