Springtime for Hitler (and other Leftist Liberals)
Yesterday was a beautifully mild day, so I made an impromptu decision to take my two resident vintage German air-suckers out for an airing. I refer to my 70s era Volkswagens, part of my personal motor pool of which I am inordinately fond for several reasons. Undeniably they remind me strongly of that period in my life when I felt full of youthful vigor, as a participant in the ‘exciting’ years of social ferment that constituted the late 60s and early 70s. They also, however, serve as a present day reminder of their origins in the Germany National Socialist turbulence of the 1930s, when Dr. Porsche and Adolf Hitler conspired to bring Henry Ford’s concept of an ‘everyman’ automobile to the German people in the form of the KdF-wagen, or ‘Strength through Joy’ car.
Fortunately for my small little gasoline powered, opposed four cylinder vehicles (a 1973 ‘Thing’ and a 1974 ‘Super Beetle’), virtually everyone today has totally forgotten (or could care less, as is the case with younger people) that the Volkswagen was originally and still is a political manifestation of the highest order. Although Porsche had dreamed of introducing a small, affordable automobile for the masses considerably before he fell under Hitler’s spell, it was the latter’s congruent vision of mass-produced, low-cost transportation for everyone that brought Porsche’s concept into what it eventually became: a distinctive landmark institution that even today, some 83 years after its inception, remains uniquely visible on our roads & streets.
But more on this subject after a bit. Meanwhile, having decided to give my old VWs a chance to stretch their rubber legs a bit, I started up and drove my VW ‘Thing’ down the street to the freeway onramp, intent on putting the usual, bi-weekly 9 or so miles on the clock before returning to home base. The engine had warmed up adequately in the 10 minutes it took me to reach the Freeway (we live quite nearby), so I accelerated up the ramp and reached the active merge, first looking aft to make sure the way was clear as I gained speed. You may have some difficulty imagining the HUGE lump I suddenly felt in my throat when I noted that bearing down on me in the right hand ‘merge lane’ was a colossal commercial 18 wheeler whose driver evidently either didn’t know about how notoriously underpowered old air-cooled VWs are, or (more likely) thought it was a 'good-ole boy opportunity' to scare the sweet bejesus out of me.
The driver of that truck was maintaining a steady 60+ mph, doubtless thinking he was driving appropriately, but unfortunately, not only is an older air-breathing VW unable to accelerate on a par with other 4-wheeled vehicles, its driver also desperately needs to hope for some kindly consideration from other drivers at such times (for example, ‘allowing’ other traffic entering the freeway to merge safely). Such altruistic regard is, of course, notably absent among today’s viciously self-centered and impatient drivers, but with regards to an encounter with a ‘Beetle’, the milk of human kindness decidedly doeth NOT floweth (as with the ‘quality of mercy’) like the ‘…gentle rains from Heaven’. This particular idiot truck-driver was either too absorbed in other distractions or had no concept of what it’s like to be in a sardine can on wheels that is about to be run over by a steam roller. As for me, I had run out of merge lane room and the situation was dire…either he let me in or I was so much potential dead-meat in a can. Thus resolved, I did what no sane female person would ever have done (women as a rule just don’t understand that today’s roadways require and in fact demand a certain amount of irrational bravado, just to get by) and bluffed my way through the encounter by making it figuratively clear that the truck-driver was either going to have to (justly) yield the right of way to me or he would shortly be having to answer in court for having callously caused the death of a harmless little old eccentric (me), out for a Saturday drive in his 42 year old ‘classic’ automobile.
Fortunately, he must have had a flash of sanity at the last split second before impacting my bumper and backed off just enough to allow me to get on the freeway without making it appear as if he had somehow sacrificed his righteous status as a full-blooded rogue male dimbulb. For my part, it was a sobering reminder not just of how today’s roadway manners have degenerated into gladiator style personal combat, but how WAY out of sync older vehicles like my classic little VW bugs are when it comes to being ‘safe’ to drive on modern public thoroughfares.
Being a very thin-skinned old geezer (geezerhood fosters not just a thin-skinned attitude of impatience for bad manners on the part of others, but interestingly finds a physiological approximation in the degenerative processes of the human skin that make the epidermis more fragile and easily damaged with advancing age), this near disaster irritated the hell out of me for the rest of the drive, as I continued to brood about how totally self-focused most people are in today’s American culture, and correspondingly how narrowly they view the world about them.
As it happened, the V-Dub I was in when this took place was my ‘Kubelwagen clone’, a 1973 VW Type 181 ‘Thing’, that is a more recent reincarnation of the World War Two German ‘jeep’ that inspired it. Designed at the outset as a utilitarian ‘soft-top’ military vehicle for rough terrain, it has absolutely no roll-over protection for its occupants in the event of a crash (although accessory roll-bars are available as an aftermarket option), and with only flimsy seat-belt restraints, it is not well advised to take this small ‘sport utility’ type vehicle onto the freeway for any extended use. I only do it owing to the fact that the freeway is nearby and it’s less arduous to get in a few quick miles on the clock this way than take a more leisurely (but time-consuming) rural ambulation, out of harm’s way. In addition to being not well designed for crash & impact safety, VWs are engineered for a top speed of about 65 mph (70 in a pinch and for brief periods), which is also their cruising speed, coincidentally. The overall result is that VWs, with their small displacement, air-cooled engines (typically about 1.6 liters, yielding about 46-54 horsepower only), are increasingly a type of vehicle that modern driving conditions have rendered unsuitable for everyday use. They are, consequently, increasingly becoming ‘toy’ or hobby cars, owned & operated (as recreation, mindful of the above backstory) purely as collectible vehicles and strictly for occasional fun.
After getting back to the house, following my near status as roadkill on a Semi-Truck’s grill, I put the ‘Thing’ back to bed and rolled out my other little air-sucker (a restored 1974 VW ‘Super Beetle’) for a similar dash out onto the hazardous, impatient and cold-hearted traffic lanes of the nearby interstate freeway. Damned if it didn’t happen a second time, with this time not a single huge truck bearing down on me as I tried to merge, but THREE of them traveling in a sort of convoy. It was like being enveloped in an aluminum canyon, with nowhere to go but straight ahead with as much haul-ass dispatch as possible. Again, the trucks, despite maintaining a reasonable speed of about 62 mph, apparently either misunderstood my potential dilemma or chose not to concern themselves with allowing my little bug to safely gain access to the highway. After the same state of near-panic on my part had passed (along with these monsters), I had a few miles of contemplation ahead of me in which to further regard the situation and it occurred to me that at least for those under the age of 30, there is likely no broad awareness at all that old vehicles like the classic ‘beetle’ are not and cannot compete with modern automobiles on a head-to-head basis (such as on a freeway). This lack of understanding is just as much due to the fact that younger people have no sense of history as it is to their lack of knowledge about vehicles from earlier epochs, or the advancement of technology. Many of them are habitually reckless in their own road habits, driving powerful late model cars, and undoubtedly think that smaller, older ‘classics’ like the V-Dub have exactly the same performance parameters as their own fast and efficient vehicles (Duh!)
Not that I would expect anyone on the roadway to manifest such acute discernment in the heat of the second-to-second encounters characteristic of todays’ high-speed thoroughfares, but I would expect them to at least be able to identify an old VW as belonging to a period of history far preceding the modern era (thereby demonstrating knowledge of the progressive advancement of technological knowledge; a status that has resulted in steady increases in power, speed & maneuverability that mark the modern personal road vehicle, but which have also made some older cars vulnerable to abusive manners) and give me a break. Again, this expectation is simply not realistic, given the fact that up until the age of about 40 to 50, it is characteristic of youthfulness to lack almost completely any vestige of what we in aerospace have for decades called ‘situational awareness’, or a strong sense of self in proximity to dynamic events & circumstances going on about one.
Situational awareness is a critically important survival skill that has fallen off considerably in inverse proportion to the rise of what we call the ‘welfare state’ or the ‘age of entitlement’, a lasting legacy of Wilsonian progressive liberalism from the early 1900s. In other words, the more the ‘state’ assumes responsibility for what were traditionally individual concerns, the more we are encouraged to simply blunder about in our affairs without the benefit of intelligent reflection in the conduct of our personal life pursuits. A good example of this may be found in the increasing technical sophistication of automobiles themselves, as automated safety systems take over and control the mechanical functions of automobiles that were formerly the utter responsibility of drivers. Instead of increasing overall safety of motorists, this trend to engineer ‘smart’ vehicles for the ‘average’ motorist’s use has instead resulted in motorists growing even more careless and unmindful of their actions on the road. One of the worst effects of this trend is the utter loss of critical driver skills that lie within the realm of functional dynamic proprioceptics (read: seat-of-the-pants feedback).
Just as one small example, reports are riff about motorists who get into trouble on slick, wet or icy roadways in their state-of-the-art SUVs equipped with intelligent (‘anti-locking’) braking systems, due to the fact that they rely utterly on these systems to keep them safe. This despite the fact that all such systems have their finite limitations and after some point is reached, driver skills are still a critical component of the overall responsibility of operating a car safely.
In aircraft cockpits the same effect has been well-documented by agencies such as the FAA, in noting that over-reliance on highly automated ‘smart’ flight control systems tends to lead to deteriorating piloting skills (the traditional ‘stick & rudder’ experiences that before the advent of high-tech avionics were a pilot's stock in trade). This tendency of the modern (American) era to foster absurd levels of consumer protectiveness simply encourages progressive helplessness on the part of everyone who willingly or not ‘buys’ into the paradigm.
Just as Wilsonian era progressive liberalism led to the rise of the left-of-center ‘socialist’ American society wherein the state assumes a sort of Supreme Mother status in enabling all members of society (whether capable of surviving on the basis of their inherent abilities or not) to thrive (as if fully equal), so too has the status of scientifically enabled technology increasingly assumed the role of relieving individuals from being responsible for key facets of their own lives (safety, welfare, health, et al). The basic underlying assumption, cherished by all ‘progressive liberals’, is one of human interventionalism: an unreasonable urge to 'protect' people from the consequencs of living their own lives. Think of it as reverse Social Darwinism, if that helps. In other words, the assumption that nature can’t take care of its own concerns without proactive help from humanity. In fact, the mere mention of the humorous catch-phrase ‘The Annual Darwin Awards’ would probably give your typical PC Lefty (progressive) Liberal apoplexy (or at LEAST make him stand up and say indignantly “That offends me!”).
Unfortunately, anything that discourages the active exercise of intelligent human reflectivity merely makes human beings more susceptible to (typically highly avoidable) adverse situations (whether that might consist of being more ‘easily’ predated upon by corporate advertising & marketing powers, or of getting into roadway accidents that just the slightest, smallest amount of situational alertness could have easily prevented). Automating systems, whether technological or doctrinal, does not make for safer anything, given the incipient nature of all human beings to be negligent whenever possible, but as pointed out obliquely above, this is again attributable in large part to the tendency of modern progressive liberalism’s effort to turn us all into selfish, egocentric, self-obsessed wards of the state (see below).
Leaving the subject of my beloved old V-Dubs (and my near brush with highway disaster) for a moment (but not entirely tangential), I would highly recommend to all of you an absolutely fascinating book that I quite by accident recently discovered while prowling about in a wonderful used book store in Gold Beach, Oregon. The title of the book (by Jonah Goldberg) is ‘LIBERAL FASCISM: THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN LEFT, FROM MUSSOLINI TO THE POLIOTIVCS OF CHANGE.’
For some odd reason, I missed this book entirely when it first appeared in 2007, published by Doubleday. In fact, it rather quickly went to the #1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list when it appeared and seems to have been well known by everyone except me, the former self-styled ‘left-of-center’ liberal Berkeley radical (who each week, back in the late 60s and early 70s, never failed to buy the latest issues of ‘The Berkeley Barb’ and the successive ‘Berkeley Tribe’). Ironic then that I totally failed to register the book’s appearance initially, but as I said, I ran across a hardbound copy of it a few weeks ago in Oregon. The bookstore there in the small & delightful South Oregon Coastal town of Gold Beach, by the way, is a wonderful find, consisting of two complete floors full of new & used books on everything imaginable. While not quite the ‘Cody’s Books’ or ‘Shakespeare’s Books’ I formerly haunted in Berzerkeley, ‘Gold Beach Books’ is a real find. I was visiting an old friend up there (from the late 60s) who has been trying to coax me into relocating to his neck of the woods for some time and of course, since I am highly subject to becoming completely mesmerized whenever I enter ANY bookstore, when he introduced me to Gold Beach Books I instantly turned into a quivering puddle of Brownian ectoplasm. They literally had to send in a search & rescue team in to haul me out, when my friend failed to dislodge me from the stacks I was lost in.
The premise of this book by Goldberg is that due to the events of historical revisionism and doctrinal spin-mongering largely fostered by the post-war (WW2) political schism that developed between American Capitalism and Russian Communism, the term ‘fascism’ is today inappropriately (and near inexorably) linked to the political right-wing (principally as represented today by the American Republican Party), when in fact fascism is more appropriately tied to the fin-de-siècle political movement of Progressive Leftist Liberalism of Woodrow Wilson’s era. Frankly, this premise initially struck me as quite a leap of faith, until I began to plow into Goldberg’s fascinating and extremely well-written book on how the American Populists and Progressives early-on embraced what we have (in our modern world) subsequently identified (incorrectly) as fascism. Further, as he points out (correctly), Hitler’s National Socialists were most definitely NOT fascists. Mussolini, on the other hand, most definitely was a fascist, but in the intervening decades and thanks largely to clever distortions of meaning and definition by the Communist socialist left, it has today become popular to use the term ‘Nazis’ and ‘fascists’ almost synonymously. It has also, again largely thanks to the Communist ‘redefining’ dogma of the post-war era, to regard the American Conservative right as somehow an archetype of fascism, when in fact any vestige of fascism (and Goldberg dedicates nearly 500 pages towards documenting this) that may exist in America today is still largely hidden conveniently out of sight under the broad brushstroke of ‘Leftist Liberalism’ (and conveniently ignored by the same, who refuse to acknowledge their Woodrow Wilson/Theodore Roosevelt/Franklin Roosevelt ‘Progressive’ antecedents!).
I would highly recommend Goldberg’s book to any of you who have somehow failed (like me) to register awareness of it prior to this time. Reading the book has been a near-epiphany for me, raised as I was as a left leaning liberal with a soft spot for radicalism of the late 60s. But even further, it has been illuminating to find that terms & meanings we have in our most modern times come to regard as fixed and invariable have actually retained all the semantic consistency of a chameleon over the past 100 years.
And as for that plague we all suffer from these days known as ‘political correctness’, how refreshing it has been to learn that one of the reasons we have had this infuriating and nonsensical political ‘PC’ theology rammed down our throats is that the ‘fascist’ tactics of the Left’s progressive liberals have been so very effective in achieving their smotheringly altruistic aspirations. Although no Leftist worth his Nancy Pelosi Fan Club card would ever admit to this dark & largely hidden aspect of the rise of today’s PC entitled welfare state (or to its Wilsonian Progressive heritage), the facts waiting to be discovered in Goldberg’s excellent and highly absorbing work are absolutely stunning to a conventional mind like mine (with its pretensions to low-grade intellectualism). If you have an IQ of only 130 or below (like me), you WILL find it singularly mind-expanding.
I am reminded here that someone once brilliantly joked that nature has it all wrong: Instead of being born young & ignorant and growing older & wiser, the reverse status should obtain. That is, we should all be born old & ignorant and grow younger & smarter. Sadly enough, there's great truth in this since, as many of us are loathe to discover (those of us who still have ‘open’ minds, that is), there is far too much knowledge and awareness to come into possession of and far too little time allotted to us as living, sentient creatures to absorb even the smallest fraction of it.
Should any of you not feel motivated enough to put out the cost of purchasing Goldberg’s book to discover this all for yourself, take heart in learning that there is a downloadable PDF file copy of the full 500 page text available on-line. If my exhortations aren’t sufficient to motivate you to buy the book, by all means download the PDF version and read some of it. I guarantee that it will impress you with what it has to say about certain fixed sociopolitical/economic attitudes and concepts we have far too long accepted as gospel (without bothering to do our homework first).
Goldberg is, by the way, a highly respected and extremely articulate academician, author, and journalist for several acclaimed & reputable publications & newspapers. In other words this isn’t just another ‘Flush’ Limbaugh or Glenn Beck type rant, but an intellectually astute, well-informed, balanced and thoroughly documented investigation of subject material that involves all of us on a daily basis, as America continues to blunder blindly along on its chosen path as savior of the entire modern world.
You may find & download the PDF version of this seminal book here: