Erich Fromm wrote an afterword for George Orwell’s 1984. In that afterword, Fromm pointed out that “doublethinking” exists not only in the Soviet bloc, but also in Western democracies that support totalitarian regimes as long as they are friendly to the West, while how those regimes treated their own people is just another issue for another day.
That is sadly true. It is especially true in today’s mess. This administration has vowed to change Bush’s foreign policy. Shutting down Gitmo is one example. As far as I can remember, the reason behind this is this simple principle called “holding on to your principle”, namely that even in extreme times, measures that violate due process should not be imposed. If you buy this logic, then you should agree that “extreme times call for extreme measures” is no excuse for compromising the core value of this country, namely liberty, freedom, and democracy. This is a good move which I cannot agree more.
But look at this story: Hillary Clinton said, during her visit to China, that human rights should not intervene with economic and environmental issues. Let me point out that she made this speech at a time when China basically owns the US on the face of the humongous US foreign debt. Let me also point out (or argue) that without the protection of human rights, such as the right to free speech, only the crazy few who are willing to head to jail would play the role of whistle blowers, who are an indispensable part of the health of economy and environmental protection anywhere in the world. A time of financial crisis is indeed extreme time. But does that justify extreme measures, such as accusing human rights for “intervening” in the fight against this crisis? I never heard Bush talk about human rights while he was in China. I know he purposefully avoided it to appease China. That’s cowardly; but not as cowardly as saying that China has been right all along: human rights is indeed BAD!
This is why I agree with the author of Maus: the world will never learn the lesson from Hitler. And 1984 is sadly a book too brilliant for the cowardly politicians, the indifferent mass, and the humanity on the whole.