The lovely people

Nice people made the best Nazis

Naomi Shulman

Naomi Shulman once wrote, “Nice people made the best Nazis.”  She was writing about the people who weren’t really into politics. These were the people who still exist today. The people who take pride in their stubborn refusal to take any interest in the world beyond their workplaces, their families and their favourite sports or streaming box-sets on Netflix. As Shulman put it…

“they were lovely people who turned their heads as their neighbours were dragged away.”

These are my neighbours. They’re the people who close down any serious discussion of the state of our nation with tired old tropes about not talking about religion or politics. Yes they’ll acknowledge, even laugh about scandals like partygate but take no interest in serious attacks on our democracy like Patel’s Police, crime and sentencing bill or Johnson and Rees-Mogg’s attacks on the legal system.

My polite, unassuming, docile, deliberately ignorant neighbours would have been fantastic Nazis. My modern neighbours think that because they can’t see the jackboots kicking in doors in their pleasant, middle or even working class neighbourhoods it’s not happening and never will happen.

They ignore the evidence of racism in our land.

They pour scorn on those who try to highlight the issues by having the audacity to do terrible things like taking a knee before football matches – the bastards!

They make excuses for the government that deliberately put our most vulnerable citizens, those the Nazis described as ‘useless eaters’ in harms way with covid, leading to the highest death rate in all of Europe and the 7th highest in the entire world.

They conveniently ignore the massive corruption that saw billions of pounds of their money squandered on spurious covid contracts for government ministers, for the tories’ friends and for tory party donors.

These are the lovely people who don’t rock the boat, who never stop to think about where our nation is heading, about the implications of abusive policies toward immigrants and refugees, about the motivations of those who tell them blatant lies about the economy and whose pre-election promises remain unfulfilled and even, in many cases actively undermined by this very same government.

These lovely people never bother to look behind the headlines and media pronouncements, never noticing that yesterday’s lies are simply forgotten by the media today once they’ve served their purpose. They don’t notice that Rishi Sunak’s best policies are the same ones the press, and the tories themselves described as naïve, unworkable, even Marxist when first suggested by those the press didn’t support. Remember what the papers did to Jeremy Corbyn.

They confidently repeat the lie of Corbyn’s anti-semitism whilst ignoring the reality that the United Nations agree with him on the issue of Israel’s apartheid regime in Palestine and even published a special report saying so as far back as 2017. Funnily enough very few British newspapers mentioned that report at all.

These lovely people are leading the charge of ignorance as we sleepwalk into neoNazism. Their lives are so full of petty parochial concerns and cheap reality shows that they have no time left to notice what’s going on all around them.

They don’t notice the crippling poverty of their neighbours because they’re alright.

They forget the principles of fairness, of human rights and equality they once held dear and they even support the government policy of further impoverishing the most vulnerable whilst giving vast tax breaks to the already wealthy.

These lovely people who never rock the boat have already found a way to justify to themselves the appalling treatment of those who for one reason or another are not like them. They assume unemployed people are just lazy, that disabled people are all skivers and that Muslims are universally hostile to the British way of life.

They ignore the fact that black Brits are over-represented in our prison system, not because they have committed more crime but because their sentences tend to be harsher then their white counterparts. They disregard the racial profiling that means black people in UK are many times more likely to suffer the indignity of public stop and search because they, like me, another white person have never been stopped and searched themselves.

And yet they’ll gleefully repeat the rhetoric of hatred and division that so threatens our democracy. They’ll dismiss everything that the newspapers tell them to and support whatever the papers demand, even though those same newspapers change their minds on a disturbingly regular basis. These lovely people never stop to wonder what motivated the change of heart from their favourite columnist or even to notice that it has happened.

And when they finally do notice the destruction of their rights, along with the rights of those other people they naively thought were the real targets, they’ll genuinely be surprised and wish that there had been some way of knowing what was going on. They’ll bemoan the ‘fact’ that there was nothing they could have done to prevent it and, just as now, they’ll studiously avoid any risk of awareness of their own responsibility, their own dereliction of their civic duty when they could have prevented it.

The following words come from an anonymous German resident who had just been taken by allied troops to view the carnage at his local concentration camp…

“Suddenly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or, more accurately, what you haven’t done, (for that was all that was required of most of us: that we do nothing).

You remember the occasions in which maybe if you had stood others would have stood too. You remember everything now, and your heart breaks. Too late. You are compromised beyond repair.”

They Thought They Were Free (1955)

The Germans 1938-45

University of Chicago Press

These lovely people, the ones who think they’re simply enjoying a quiet life without getting involved in politics will be just as guilty as the likes of Patel and Farage who have brought about these abuses both politically and socially. And they will be just as compromised.

Will you?

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