• 2023
  • Feb
  • 11

A Fringe Minority

Saturday February 11, 2023

By Jenny English

I love Canada. I love the mountains, I love the coast lines, I love the islands, i love the forests, I love the rivers, I love the birds, I love the animals. And most of all, I love my fellow Canadians.

Something has been happening in Canada that I don’t understand. This country that I love and have lived in for over four decades is now more divided than I have ever seen her. Canadians are speaking to each other in ways they never would have dreamt of speaking to a stranger only 10 years ago. Accusations of racism abound, with proof of racism scarce to be found.

What I know for certain is that I don’t like where we are right now, and I don’t like the direction we are heading. Some of the wisest advice I’ve ever come across is as follows: Stop trying to love them, and start trying to understand them.

To help better understand my fellow Canadians, I’ve turned to Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland, by Christopher Browning. Browning does a deep dive into how Germans citizens were manipulated into doing things they would never have done even 10 years prior.

The Police battalion was chosen from ordinary, middle-aged, working class men. There weren’t many that were fanatical believers of the Nazi ideology. By the time they were putting together the team to carry out Hitler’s Final Solution, there weren’t many men left to choose from. At that point most of the young German men and ideological zealots were already fighting in the war under the Nazi flag. Most of the men chosen were working class, some were trying to earn themselves a spot on the regular police force, and most were just trying to make a living, and following the laws of the day.

When it came time for this new police force to start doing what they were organized to do, we found out a little more about these men. There was a very small minority, only a handful of men, that were unable or unwilling to participate in any killing at all. Most of the men stayed, they didn’t like what they were being asked to do and avoided it when they could, but did it when asked. And then there was another minority group that really enjoyed the ‘work’ they were given, even taking pleasure in it.

Watching Canadians respond to what their government asked them to do, it seems to me that we have seen a similar situation. There is a small but vocal minority of Canadians that like the government restrictions and are vociferously defending both them and Trudeau. There is another “fringe” minority that are refusing to take part in the government-imposed restrictions and are having to suffer government-imposed penalties because of it- loss of income, prohibited from entering public spaces including hospitals, loss of freedom of movement. And the majority of Canadians are doing as they’re told, sometimes willingly, sometimes begrudgingly.

Different groups within the battalion behaved in different ways. The ‘eager killers’-whose numbers increased over time- sought the opportunity to kill, and celebrated their murderous deeds. The smallest group within the battalion comprised the non shooters. With the exception of Lieutenant Buchmann, they did not make principled objections against the regime and its murderous policies; they did not reproach their comrades. They took advantage of Trapp’s policy within the battalion of exempting from shooting those who ‘didn’t feel up to it’ by saying they were too weak or that they had children.
~ Ordinary Men by Christopher Browning, page 215

I find it interesting that the fringe minority that did refuse to kill Jews never said it was because they thought it was morally wrong, but that they were too weak to do it. Maybe they were telling the truth, or maybe they were telling a version of the truth, something they concocted to try to make the men who stayed feel better about what they were doing. Maybe they weren’t certain if they did think it was morally wrong, they just objected to it on such a somatic level that they physically couldn’t bring themselves to do it. But my best guess is that it may have been an act of self-preservation. They were afraid that if they told the truth, that they objected to the killing on a moral level, they would find themselves on the wrong side of a firing squad.

The largest group within the battalion did whatever they were asked to do, without ever risking the onus of confronting authority or appearing weak, but they did not volunteer for or celebrate the killing. Increasingly numb and brutalized, they felt more pity for themselves because of the ‘unpleasant’ work they had been assigned than they did for their dehumanized victims. For the most part, they did not think what they were doing was wrong or immoral, because the killing was sanctioned by legitimate authority. Indeed, for the most part they did not try to think, period. As one policeman stated: “Truthfully, I must say that at the time we didn’t reflect about it at all. Only years later did any of us become truly conscious of what had happened then.” Heavy drinking helped: “most of the other men drank so much solely because of the many shootings of Jews, for such a life was quite intolerable sober.”
~ Ordinary Men by Christopher Browning, page 215

Most people just kept their head down and went along with it. My biggest takeaway from this paragraph is that the more blood on their hands, the harder it was on them. The more they dehumanized others, the less human they became themselves.

I think one of the most telling parts from this excerpt is “they felt more pity for themselves”. They were more concerned with what they were experiencing and how that felt for them than they were concerned about their victims- and part of the reason for that was that their government had trained them that their victims didn’t matter. They felt more pity for themselves, having to be the ones to kill Jews, than they felt for the Jews they were killing.

On page 216, Browning offered a multicausal explanation of motivation. “I noted the importance of conformity, peer pressure, and deference to authority”. I can absolutely understand how those pressures can lead a person down that path, and see how those factors played into the current situation. Humans have a need for belonging, and to speak out from the crowd, to go against what those in your social group can often mean exclusion- and that is a pain that is too great for most people to face alone.

Ordinary Men was first published in 1992. Twenty-five years after publishing, Browning made an addition to the book, with the added perspective he’d gained over that time. Browning wishes he had more explicitly emphasized the legitimizing capacities of government. In my opinion he is absolutely right about that. I have been trying to explain that our government isn’t working in our best interest to many of my fellow Countrymen over the last year, and I’ve come to understand that for many Canadians, they believe it is impossible for tyranny to happen here. The possibility that their government may not be working is in their best interest is a possibility that they won’t even consider.

It’s easy to understand why so many Canadians would believe that. Canada’s track record is a very peaceful one. A peaceful track record that I am proud of. And not just Canada, but for most Western countries- there aren’t too many people living in the West today that have ever seen anything but peace.

Unfortunately this long peaceful history has lulled us into a sort of trance of complacency. Small threats are amplified and big threats are minimized as conspiracy theories.

It is important to remember nothing lasts forever. Without regular upkeep, things fall into chaos.

We have a government that isn’t leading for its people, we have a government that is leading for its ideology. There is a big difference between an idea that sounds good in your head and an idea that actually works in real life. Just because someone thinks the world would be better off without Jews, that doesn’t mean it’s true. Likewise, just because someone thinks they know the best way to handle a coronavirus, that doesn’t mean they do. With the benefit of hindsight, do you think isolating healthy people, crippling our economy, prohibiting the unvaccinated from public spaces and coercing Canadians into getting an experimental medical treatment- not to benefit themselves, but to benefit other people and if they don’t you say the rest of their family shouldn’t invite them to Thanksgiving- led to a better Canada, or a worse one? It seems to me that a lot of government policy was intended to punish people for not doing as they were told. A government that thinks its role is to punish the citizenry when they disapprove of medical choices that they have made is a government that has proven it cannot and should not be trusted.

Leonard Newman has some insights into how a person’s behaviour can change depending on the situation, and internal justifications a person makes when making small compromises on their values:

Leonard Newman notes; a dynamic relationship between persons/dispositions and situations. If attitude can shape behaviour, the opposite is also the case. According to cognitive dissonance theory, discomfort occurs when people are engaged in activities that contradict their beliefs and attitudes. Particularly when people are in a position that makes it difficult to alter their behaviour, they tend to reduce the discrepancy between action and belief by altering the latter through devising justifications and rationalizations for what they are doing. People are more susceptible to this when in a position of “induced compliance” (through subtle pressures like conformity and comradeship) rather than outright coercion.
Particularly when the behaviour in question involves harming others, the harm-doer is likely to perceive the victim as deserving of punishment- a psychological response known as the “just world phenomenon.” This process in turn creates a vicious circle in the form of an escalation in cruelty and brutality in harm-doing and dehumanization/devaluation of the victim. Through “fundamental attribution error” people tend to ignore the impact of their own actions on others and attribute the degraded and miserable status of the victim as further proof of the victims inherent inferiority of even sub-humanity.
~ Ordinary Men by Christopher Browning, pages 233-234

‘Just World Phenomenon’ seems to me like an attempt at distancing themselves from the victim to help themselves feel safe. “The reason this is happening to this person right now is because he deserves it, it could never happen to me” might go the unconscious thought. Never do lies sound so sweet as when we really want to believe them. “You made your choice, now live with the consequences!”

In addition to the fact that behaviour can change attitude, another aspect of the dynamic relationship between disposition and situation is that situations themselves are not static or objective but rather subjective, because they are perceived, construed, and interpreted by the people in them. In Particular, Newman notes that through a phenomenon he calls “pluralistic ignorance,” numerous individuals could conform to an “illusory norm” that almost every one else in the battalion endorsed the killing of the Jews, even if most individuals would never have harmed Jews acting on their own. The collective behaviour of a group is not simply the sum of its individual dispositions but is shaped by how group members perceive the group as a whole, as well as one another and the situation they collectively find themselves in.
~ Ordinary Men by Christopher Browning, pages 233-234

Or in other words- if everyone else around them is complying, they tell themselves that must be the right thing to do, so they do it too. If mom were close by, she might ask, “if all of your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump too?”

For those questioning why someone might bring a Nazi flag to a Freedom rally, you might find Harald Welzer’s work to be particularly interesting:

Harald Welzer, combining a case study of Reserve Police Battalion 45 with social-psychological theorizing and historical background, posed two big questions: how and why did the ‘normative frames of reference’ in Germany change so quickly and totally after 1933, and why were almost all ‘ordinary men’ in units like RPB 45 willing to kill, even if they did so with varying degrees of enthusiasm, indifference or distaste? For Welzer, the centerpiece of the Nazi revolution was the redefining of the community of obligation, from one of Enlightenment notions of humanity to one of exclusion based on racism and anti-Semitism. This radical restructuring of membership in the German community was possible in part because the exclusion and denigration of Jews inherently provided the psychic gratification of enhanced status as well as opportunities for material gain for all included in the Volksgemeinschaft, “racial community,” even for those from the lowest rungs of the social ladder. For Welzer, 1933, not 1939 or 1941, was the key turning point for establishing these new social norms. The degree to which everyday social practice (beyond any conscious acceptance of Nazi ideology and propaganda) incorporated exclusion of the Jews from the community of human obligation meant broad acceptance of a new “Nazi morality.” The key elements of this “Nazi morality” were that it was “good and meaningful” to solve the Jewish question, even through radical means, that “work” in that direction was difficult but rewarding, and that the ultimate goal was the creation of a community without Jews. However unimagined at the beginning, in the end this exclusion allowed ordinary Germans to decouple the dispossession and murder of Jews on the one hand from any sense of criminality or immorality on the other.
~ Ordinary Men by Christopher Browning, pages 238-239

This doesn’t sound unfamiliar. Redefining the community of global obligation- that’s a 10-dollar phrase to say “the people that matter” and in Trudeau’s Canada, the only people that matter are the ones that got vaccinated.

And why was Trudeau able to find so many people who were willing to go along with Trudeau’s vision of a divided Canada? Because excluding the unvaccinated from public spaces provided “the psychic gratification of enhanced status…even for those from the lowest rungs of the social ladder”. They went along with it because they enjoyed the unearned rise in status that getting vaccinated gave them.

This next part is probably the scariest line: “For Welzer, 1933, not 1939 or 1941, was the key turning point for establishing these new social norms.” He explains that acceptance of Jews as “lesser than” was not a conscious decision for most people, but a quiet acceptance of all the measures put into place around Jews- excluding them from public spaces, forcing themselves to be identified with armbands, dispossession- either money, source of employment, or land stolen. However they personally felt about these things when they were first instituted, over time they came to get used to them. By the time the gas chambers came around, most German people had been trained to believe they no longer needed to concern themselves with what happened to Jews, making the next step, the final solution, less of a stretch. That coupled with messaging “it is good and meaningful to solve the Jewish question” and “work in that direction was difficult but rewarding, and that the ultimate goal was the creation of a community without Jews”. One of the problems with humans- if they hear a lie again and again they start to believe it.

Hitler wanted a Germany without the Jews, and Trudeau wants a Canada without the unvaccinated.

Welzer then examined how “ordinary men” in reserve Police Battalion 45 became willing killers. Welzer argued that the perpetrators, when confronted with their killing task, did not have to overcome moral scruples or inhibitions, because they had already internalized the new “frame of reference” that decoupled the killing of Jews from criminality. Their killing actions were essentially a reflection of the beliefs they had adopted in previous years. But they still had to become acclimatized to what they were doing. Here he invoked both situation and process. These men, when confronted with the task of the mass murder of Jews, passed through a professionalizing and normalizing process that transformed mass murder into “work”. Many of them considered their “work” unpleasant but nonetheless a necessary historic task about which they did not feel guilt either then or later.
~ Ordinary Men by Christopher Browning

Having read Ordinary Men, what have I learned? I think the most important thing to do when thinking about this kind of thing is to imagine what role you may have played had you been there. Knowing what I know about myself, I think the key to how I could have been manipulated into committing a genocide would have been the way they framed it as ‘work’. I pride myself on being a hard worker. Knowing that if I were to walk out, there would be more “work”, and not just normal work, but terrible, draining work for everyone else to do - I can’t tell you that I would have left. I probably would have stayed, and done my fair share of the work.

And you know what I hate the most about this? Being a hard worker is one of the things that I am most proud of about myself. And that’s how the devil does things. He will use some of your best traits against you. You don’t want to be selfish, do you? Only selfish people don’t get the shot.

I am thankful for the lessons that humanity was given the opportunity to learn from the atrocities that happened during Nazi Germany. There were two minorities in Hitler’s Germany. There was a minority that were fervent Anti-semites, that enjoyed taking part in the killings and the advanced social status that gave them. There was another minority as well, one that didn’t take part in the killing, but did nothing to detract from it either.

In Trudeau’s Canada, there are two minorities as well. There is a minority that like the government-imposed restrictions put into place - or, more accurately put- a minority that wasn’t adversely affected by government-imposed restrictions. And then another “fringe” minority that doesn’t like the restrictions, and are doing everything they can to detract from them.

Filmed by Raging Dissident on February 9, 2022. Click here to see more…

Being a member of this “fringe” minority is the best thing that has ever happened to me. The Freedom Convoy gave me the courage to finally decide that what I think is more important to me than what the people around me think. I’ve struggled with my mental health for most of my life, but as soon as I started speaking up, the fog was lifted. I’ve learned that when I have something that I need to say and I don’t say it- that thought doesn’t disappear, it stays in my head and gets bigger and bigger. I wonder if that’s not at the root of our current mental health crisis- people aren’t speaking up about what’s bothering them, and they are letting those thoughts fester.

I have only been a part of this community for a year- which is not a lot of time. But in this short amount of time I have had the opportunity to meet so many other people that are just as committed to a better Canada as I am, and it has given me so much hope for the future. I have felt love and acceptance from this community. Thank you so much to my wonderful freedom family- you have given me so much and I will be eternally grateful and forever proud to be fighting along side each and every one of you.

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  1. Chris S

    Saturday February 11, 2023 - 20:48:18

    That was so well written. Jen, this is my favourite of all the essays … even mine. I liked how you used the parts from the books so seamlessly. Bravo!

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