Tag Archives: bystander society

A Nation of Bystanders?

Bystander Society’ describes how or why vast numbers of otherwise decent citizens became implicit in the Nazi regime and the descent into World War II.  Historian Mary Fulbrook’s analysis of events in the 1930s extends to observations of the long aftermath (and after-myths) – a gradual and reluctant process of facing reality.  

Mary has produced a good book – a work that is surely relevant to a far wider audience than academics and historians.  Readers will demand that we heed the warnings and invest in the health of our democracy and its key institutions.

When data journalists present graphs that show decades of small incremental decay followed by rapid deterioration (whether concerning Climate or the NHS or the Poverty Pandemic) it is tempting to quote Orwell on institutional collapse – but the mere observation of tipping points does not clarify root causes.  The only immediate benefit lies in the shock value – exposure of our collective complacency.  As a Canadian poet wrote (hopefully) in the aftermath of WWII, ‘We rise to play a greater part’.

The Horizon, Grenfell, and sewage scandals (and countless other ‘canaries in the mine’) remind us that you can outsource systems, but you cannot outsource responsibility.  The enthusiasm for ‘small government’ and privatisation over the past five decades has weakened trust in institutions.

Posted in Op-eds | 9 Comments
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