"If we forget, the dead will be killed a second time."
--- Elie Wiesel
"If we force them to remember before they are ready to remember, then we run the risk of being killed again and again and again."
--- Steve Schertzer
Ah, would you look at that. Isn't she adorable in her NAZI uniform?
Ah, and would you look at that; more NAZI school girls decked out in full sartorial NAZI splendor, including caps and swastika armbands. Aren't they just darling?
Ah, now we have the infamous NAZI flag, the inverted Buddhist symbol. Wow, what a show!
And now for the main event, "Dancing with the NAZI stars!" What rhythm. What syncopation. A reality show awaits them, I'm sure.
This show took place at a school in Chiang Mai Thailand on Friday September 23, 2011. The event was called "Sports Day and the story made the international press.
You can also ‘Google' the event; it's everywhere. If I may ask, what in the world are these kids being prepared for? The obvious answer to that would be "the real world", but maybe I'm just being cynical. But don't blame the students. They were just following orders: After all, "Befehl ist befehl." (Orders are orders.)
For those who have read the Daily Mail article, you may have come across this statement: "Stunned ex-pats were appalled. Surely the pupils were aware of what the Swastika and Nazis represented? Apparently not, as it emerged that not even the Thai teachers at the school understood what all the fuss was about."
Ah, ignorance; thy name is the Thai education industry. Actually, it's the name of the education industry, full stop. Notice I said ‘industry' and not ‘system.' For education is now an industry, (and has been for a long time); a full-fledged industrial complex of quasi-factories where students are trucked in by the thousands, fed nothing but a pack of lies about the world by ‘teachers' who know nothing about the world and couldn't care less about it, (and perhaps some fish and rice for lunch), and then trucked back home where they amuse themselves into a death-like stupor by watching music videos and ‘playing' Facebook. Yes, that is the modern day educational industrial complex and Nazism, with its entire attendant and innate destructive power, is the result.
Those who have read the article from the Bangkok Post may have come across this statement made by Khun Chanwit Tubsuphan, Secretary-General of the Office of the Private Education Commission (OPEC): "Mr Chanwit said lessons on the history of World War II have already been provided to the children and it was one of eight core subjects in social sciences designed by the Education Ministry."
Oh really? I mean, oh really! For those who may think that the students may have missed the lessons on Hitler and the NAZIS, or perhaps fell asleep during the lectures, I say the opposite: I say that these students in the photographs were probably very much awake and were mesmerized by all things NAZI. By the looks of things, they seem to have learned quite a bit.
So these photographs of young Thai soldiers, (ah, I mean students), don't surprise me: Shocking, yes; appalling, certainly; horrifying, most definitely; but surprising, no. It is not surprising if one takes into account the goals and objectives of the Thai educational industrial complex: If one of the goals is to produce ‘good little NAZIS', who will one day blindly serve the state, then these students, the school, and the Thai educational industrial complex deserve an A plus. Bravo! Well-done!
Reading some of the reaction to this in the comment section of the articles, the letters to the editor, and on certain websites, one of the recurring themes is the historical ignorance of the Thais and all things global and worldly. Fair enough. It is understandable that teenagers, their teachers and administrators, who have never stepped foot out of their cozy village life in Issan, are not well-versed in the history of World War Two and the horrors of the Holocaust: Understandable, yes; acceptable, no. The solution to this situation, I kept reading, is to educate the Thais to these horrors. Well, yeah, good idea but you can only truly and genuinely educate those who truly and genuinely want to be educated. We are not talking about math and science here; we are talking about mass-murder on a scale never seen and experienced before in the history of mankind.
That is not something you read to children like Aesop's Fables. This is not Goldilocks or the Three Little Pigs. This is something we must take very seriously. If Thai school children and their teachers (or any school children and their teachers) are not yet ready to hear of such horror, then we will do a lot more harm than good. Force democracy down people's throats when they are not yet ready to lead, and you end up with Iraq and Afghanistan with their terrorism and homicide bombers. Force serious and genuine education down people's throats when they are not yet ready to learn, and you end up with Thailand (and more than a few other countries in Asia) with its pathological nationalism, insular mentality, and Nazi-theme bars.
It is all well and good to say, "let us educate these people", but we are forgetting the 800 pound gorilla in the room; in fact, we are ignoring several 800 pound gorillas in the room. Foreigners in Thailand, especially English teachers, see the gorillas everywhere, but conveniently ignore them. And while I welcome a certain level of shared horror at what transpired at the school in Chiang Mai; while I love the philosophical and ecumenical debate, only us Jews can be "Jewishly" horrified at seeing a group of high school students dressed as NAZIS. Gentiles in Thailand and elsewhere cannot be expected to know what many of us Jews know instinctively: That a steady diet of Hitler sandwiches and NAZI pork chops to those not yet ready for serious study and true learning will only turn many of those 800 pound gorillas into 1,200 pound gorillas in a matter of months; and then we are all in trouble.
These gorillas do not have the mind necessary to digest all of this. They have neither the ability to introspect nor the capacity to analyze this historical tragedy called the Holocaust. They lack both the intellectual and analytical skills and the essential psychological ingredient called compassion to fully comprehend the plight of another people's historical tragedy and thus suffer along side them.
We often hear people say to others who have gone through some tragedy, "I can't imagine what you've been through." My question is, "Why not?" This lack of compassion, this lack of any ability to imagine the sufferings of others (for they are not that different from our own suffering) can, and often does, lead people to do inhumane acts. So the Thai inability to think independently, creatively, and ‘outside-the-box' combined with their unwillingness to truly suffer with another people, (for that is the true meaning of compassion), can and will lead them to only one conclusion: That Adolph Hitler was one cool dude.
Don't believe me? Read this letter to the editor of the Bangkok Post sent in by ‘Wolfgang' on October 1, 2011.
"Curious as the Thais are, nearly everybody asked me about my country of origin when I first came to Thailand many years ago. When I said Germany, their standard answer was: 'Ah, Hitler.' When I asked why Hitler came to their mind first, they said that ‘he had the guts to challenge the whole world.'"
Ah yes, that cool dude had the guts to challenge the whole world. Isn't that what Asians love, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, Genghis Khan, Ho Chi Min, Chairman ‘F**king' Mao? Those who challenge the world, challenges America, threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Everyone loves an underdog, and no more so than Asians who feel that they have been pissed on long enough by the West.
One of the many problems with Asian nations is that, because of the way they are structured, they have become little more than self-fulfilling prophesies of cultural mediocrity and social stagnation. What that means is that the older these people get, the dumber they become. Once they reach a certain age, they stop listening to others; once they stop listening, they stop learning. So the young are taught by those who have stopped listening and learning years earlier, and the vicious cycle of cultural mediocrity and social stagnation continues.
This incident at raises a very interesting philosophical and theological question: Are Thais inherently evil? The answer: No more or less evil than the rest of humanity. If humanity is inherently evil and needs to be taught to be good, then it needs culture and education more than ever. If humanity is inherently good and learns to become evil, then what is the true function of culture and education? If people are inherently good, then culture and education become superfluous and can actually interfere with self-development.
For those who actually thought that Fascism, Stalinism, Maoism, and Nazism went by way of the Dino the dinosaur, I quote British-Jewish writer Howard Jacobson from his novel ‘The Finkler Question': "These things just don't go away. There is nowhere for them to go. They are indestructible, non-biodegradable. They wait in the great rubbish tip that is the human heart." It is all too easy and perhaps politically convenient since World War Two to split the world in two: Those who want to forget the evil and wanton destruction of the NAZIS, and those, who for other nefarious purposes, are inclined to remember the NAZIS. In good times it is the former that takes priority; in bad times, the latter.
This is not the first time that Nazism has reared its ugly head in the Land of Smiles. According to the Bangkok Post article "a similar parade took place in 2007 at a school in Bangkok involving 200 students and, more recently, the Thai rock band ‘Slur' donned Nazi regalia in a music video.
Taken outside a clothing shop in Bangkok
From a Thai-language comic book (translated from Korean) in which adventurous school kids embark on a zany quest to find Nazi treasure. Translation: "Even though most of the gold has been found, those who knew the hiding spots have already died ... so I shall search for Hitler's gold!"
"Apologies followed outrage in Thailand as the Louis Tussaud's Wax Museum billboard, showing the German dictator giving a Nazi salute, appeared alongside the slogan 'Hitler is Not Yet Dead', and written in Thai.
The billboard, which carried Thai writing which translated as: 'Hitler is not dead,' had been up for several weeks on the main road from the capital Bangkok to Pattaya and was meant to promote the museum's planned opening next month." (From the Daily Mail, October 19, 2009) You can read the full article here.
Yes, Adolph Hitler is definitely not dead. In fact, he never went away and is still welcomed in many places.
Thailand is not the only Asian country with a fascination for all things NAZI. Japan, South Korea and India have also exhibited a NAZI fetish in recent years.
A restaurant in Mumbai India: I love the sign; "From small bites to MEGA joys." I hear the Hitler sandwiches and NAZI pork chops are to die for.
And who can forget the "Hitler Techno Bar and Cocktail Show" in Busan South Korea? It's conveniently located just above a 7/11 just in case the NAZIS are overcome by a case of the ‘midnight munchies.' This wasn't the only Hitler bar in South Korea. There were several others, like this one.
Love the caricature of the ‘Fuehrer' with the pitcher because, as we all know, there's nothing more satisfying after a long hard day of killing Jews, Gypsies, Russians, intellectuals, the physically handicapped, and the mentally retarded than an ice-cold beer! These pictures (not the commentary) are courtesy of my friend Rabbi Google and this website.
Let's not leave out Japan, for she might get jealous.
When one of the girls was asked if they knew what the NAZI uniforms represented, they replied, "No, we just like the colors and the cool design."
Where are her whips and chains, I wonder?
Have you noticed that it's only girls who are dressing like NAZIS? Where are the boys? I have been talking about the female NAZIS in this part of the world for years, but no one has been listening.
There is a reason why those signs at the zoo are large and clear.
And, especially, do not feed them Hitler sandwiches and NAZI pork chops when they are not yet ready to digest them. It is a warning; and we all know what happens when we do not heed warnings.
I am not the only one to suggest a NAZI streak or mentality in the Thai national character. This too is another 800 pound gorilla in the room that just about everyone can see but no one wants to talk about. Two very prominent and respected columnists for the Bangkok Post have suggested the same, Khun Sanitsuda Ekachai and Khun Voranai Vanijaka under the respective and very apropos headlines, "Nazism in our brainwashed upbringing" and "Nip Nazi mentality."
World War Two and the horrors of Nazism are not the only historical subjects that the Thai Educational Industrial Complex seems to be keeping from their students. Most Thais are also not aware of their own recent history such as the democracy movements of the 1970's which saw hundreds of student activists and demonstrators held against their will and killed. The October 6, 1976 anniversary of the protests at Thammasat University was remembered recently by the Bangkok Post in this column by Voranai Vanijaka.
As the column states, "The events of Oct 6, 1976 are not a part of the history curricula of schools except at the university level and even then only at select institutions."
Most Thais are also not aware that the three most southern provinces in Thailand were once part of Malaysia; that in 1832, Thailand annexed the independent Muslim sultanate that is now Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat provinces. So I suppose that most Thais think that the violence germinating from the south has simply sprung out of nowhere. Thais also do not know (and will never admit) that traditional "Thai dancing" is really "Apsara", a classical dance originating from the Khmer Empire, now Cambodia. In fact, depictions of Apsara dancers are carved into stone walls of 12th century temples at Angkor Wat. As for Thai kickboxing, or Muay Thai, that also originated from the Khmer Empire in the ninth century and is called "Brodal Serei." But don't tell the Thais that. With all that important history not included in the Thai national curriculum, one must wonder what the Thai students are really learning.
So what is the solution here? The solution for every teacher is to teach your students think for themselves. There is a reason why a holocaust or genocide occurs in places like Cambodia or Rwanda. There is a reason why a Holocaust or genocide cannot and will not happen in Canada, the United States, Australia, or England. Mass slaughter on a scale like the Holocaust cannot occur in countries where its citizens are able to think for themselves and are well-steeped in world history. Where people are taught properly and where there is a high regard for remembering past atrocities, thoughts of genocide will never be allowed to fester or flourish, let alone become a reality. Teaching students to think for themselves, before feeding them Hitler sandwiches and Nazi pork chops, is essential. Teach them history; real history as it truly happened. Teach them to ask the essential questions in life. Teach them to ask "Why?"
There are teachers who walk into class with an agenda. I am proud to say that I am one of them. Then there are teachers who step into class with a banjo or a ukulele and sing "Tiptoe through the Tulips." I am proud to say that I am NOT one of those. As a teacher backed up by a caring and educationally-minded principal, you can either teach your students what they truly need to know, or you can become an "edutainer" and do your best Tiny Tim impersonation. I made my choice and the reasons are as clear to me as they are time-honored and socially significant.
So what I do in the classroom, much to the dismay of many students, jealous teachers, and envious and fearful principals is step into the classroom with more than just a textbook. I walk in with poetry; I walk in with philosophy; I ask "What do you think about this?" "What does this mean to you?" "How can man improve himself?" "How can we prevent another Pol Pot for coming to power?" "Why?" "Why do you think this is so?" "Why do you think this happened?" "Why? Why? Why?"
Students who cannot answer these questions are, in the words of farmers, "ripe for the picking." They can, and often do, end up marching side-by-side with the next Adolph Hitler or Pol Pot. There are far more Adolph Hitler's in the world than there are Mother Theresa's; thousands of Pol Pot's waiting in the jungle for their time to come. The only thing saving humanity from completely destroying itself is the human propensity to make babies faster than we can kill each other.
Why do I do this? To paraphrase Eli Wiesel, the award winning author and holocaust survivor, we are on this earth for two main reasons: To bear witness (to life's atrocities) and to accurately document them for future generations to learn from. It is frightening to me, unbearably frightening, how not one student stood up to any teacher or administrator at that Chiang Mai school and said, "I am not wearing that NAZI uniform and you can't make me! This is wrong!" Not one student. Sixteen year old students who wear the NAZI uniform at a "toy parade" can easily grow up to be 26 year old adults who wear NAZI uniforms (or ‘Red Shirts', after all, they were just following orders too) at the next Beer Hall Putsch. That's another thing many of us Jews know instinctively.
So for obvious reasons I like to take some time out of a busy English Language Learning curriculum of songs, dance, games, and amusing the children to death, to teach what is truly necessary and essential so that the next generation of students can look the next Adolph Hitler or Pol Pot in the eye and say, "F*ck you Adolph, I am not goose stepping with you on any more killing sprees! No more killing of Jews or Gypsies! I know the history. I know why it happened. Never again! F*ck you Pol, or is it Pot?! I am not marching with you to torture and kill any more Cambodian babies! I know the history. I know why it all happened. I had good teachers and asked the proper questions. No more killing fields, never again!"
The Italian-Jewish writer and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi said of the NAZI era, the gas chambers, the inhumanity, and the horror of it all: "No propitiatory prayer, no pardon, and no expiation by the guilty, which nothing at all in the power of man can ever clean again." The holocaust, the gas chambers, the death camps, the horror, the inhumanity of it all is one huge stain on the corpus of humanity that can never be wiped clean.
I dare say this: Whenever Asian school children wear NAZI uniforms to play in their little parade; whenever some stupid person in Asia brainlessly decides to open a NAZI-theme bar; whenever some ignorant punk-rock band decides to goosestep in a video mimicking Hitler, all this simply adds to the huge stain on the corpus of humanity that can never be cleansed. The NAZIS did not only kill men, women, and children; they also killed God. They put God in the gas chambers and gassed Him too. Anyone who puts on the NAZI uniform, regardless of the circumstances, kills God again.
As educators, this is what we are all responsible for: Teaching others through history and essential question-asking how to defend themselves against would-be tyrants, dictators, and mass-murderers anywhere in the world. If we do not do this then we have all failed. These students who donned the NAZI uniform did not fail history or math or science or English. These students are failing the most important subject of all: Life. They are failing life, and so are their teachers and citizens.
One final message to Thailand:
How could you put on the NAZI uniform and parade your teenaged students through your streets. How could you! That it was a "toy parade" is all the more insulting. How could you mock and trivialize one of the largest mass-executions and genocides in human history? How could you don the uniform of one of the largest and most brutal killing machines in history and still have the balls to call yourself a civilized and peace-loving people. How could you tell foreign teachers how to teach your children, when many Thai teachers themselves are clueless as to how to properly educate its own. How could you!
I will close by quoting another author and Holocaust survivor, Victor Frankl. Frankl warns us to always be alert because
"Since Auschwitz we know what man is capable of."
And history teaches that when we chose to ignore these warnings, they are repeated.