Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'

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  • Published: Feb 23rd, 2009
  • Category: Society
  • Comments: 2

Traudl Junge

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There’s a rather serious comic from Subnormality – a webcomic site that usually does quite erudite vignettes when not enmired like the rest of us in narcissitic navelgazing – on the story of one Traudl Junge, a shockingly apolitical secretary of none other than Hitler during the war. It speaks to the point of why political activism is important, as the ability of such monsters to control the power and trappings of their offices is largely due to the apathy of their constituents, and thus is an obvious parable of, oh, say, the American political process, but I read another and somewhat more unsettling moral from it.

The story pits Traudl Junge against one Sophia Scholl, a political dissident who was not only her contemporary but also killed for treason, and argues that Junge had to live with her eventual shame while Scholl was true to herself until she died. A cynic (me) would point out that when all was said and done, Scholl died and Junge lived. This began, in my mind, to feel something of a broken aesop: The moral mutated into one whereupon facing an oppressive regime (as is constantly relived throughout all of history) the ones who survive both its peak and its fall are those who are complicit and can play dumb, and those who are cognisant and can lay low. That the first to peek his head above the crowd is the first to get it shot off.

I see either a call to martyrdom or a plea for fatalism – either way, that one will be exonerated long after one’s ashes have been lost to history. In our “pick your battles” sense of self-preservation, pleas such as this cannot but fall flat of their goal. This isn’t, I suppose, to say that resistance is always futile, but resistance without guns tends to get crushed.

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