Recently, I experienced the movie, "The Baader Meinhof Complex." It's a difficult movie to experience - a German language film, subtitled casually (meaning the German isn't always translated precisely) in English, with Bourne-style. thumping music and sharp, quick cinematic cuts, clearly meant to increase intensity.
The story, a true one, and seen fairly objectively although through the eyes of a screenwriter who seems somewhat sympathetic to the Baader-Meinhof cause, is of the radicalization of a group of young Germans as the new West German state hit its stride following World War II. In the opening scenes, the Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi, deposed and on the run, is seen in a parade in his honor. As with a world leader of any ilk, one group of people stand cheering the Shah and his family, and another boo their presence in Germany. But here, the well-dressed Shah supporters suddenly turn on the antis and attack them with what seem to be 2x4s. The scruffy antis beg the police for help and medical treatment. What ensues can only be described as a police riot, a la Chicago in 1968 and Newark several years prior to that.
Those of the scruffy, idealistic persuasion were yet too aware of the Nazi police state they thought they'd left behind - the brown-shirted SA goons attacking anyone who opposed their persuasion, then the same and worse from the SS and Gestapo. And, clearly, the average, curious Germans at that parade were all too aware of the SA-German police emotional connection, as the movie depicted wholesale support for these newborn radicals as they launched their first, symbolic guerrilla attacks against what the radicals saw as a repressive German state.
The 2-1/2 hour movie - interminable-seeming toward the end - implicitly depicted two things, both of which I'll call tandem factors of a radical rule of thumb.
* The symbolic bombings and associated threats, which were similar to those of the U.S.'s Weathermen sect of SDS in symbolism and intent, only stiffened the German political and legal backbone and these agencies' resolve to bring the radicals to heel. (Note: one person, supposedly Willy Brandt, I think, did espouse changing the socio-political conditions that led to this radicalization, but to no avail.) All of the original Baader-Meinhof group were subsequently killed or captured and jailed. This led to second and third generations of B-M radicals - much more violent and nihilistic than the first.
*As the violence escalated beyond the symbolic - particularly as those peripheral agents to such seeming repression died in attacks and bombings - the group lost the public's sympathy. Where at first, the gang found emotional support, safe houses, food, weapons, and the like easy to find, toward the end, these same allies and supporters were ratting the gang members out.
To attempt to be concise here, the lessons of the sixties' and seventies' worldwide radicalization can be termed as this: As radical acts increase, so do repressive countermeasures. As this equation's intensity increases, it quickly comes to threaten the well being and security of the average citizen. As this occurs, the larger public sides with the status quo, fearing radical anarchy more than the state's repressive tactics.
This should be a lesson to us all in pushing political and social reform. The public at large is a well-meant and accommodating bunch in the end, but when issues are pushed too far too fast for the public's comfort, they will always put the brakes on and yearn for what once was. This is something the progressives in the U.S. should keep in mind - if they push too fast, they'll only lend more credence to the "what once was" bunch, from Rush Limbaugh to John Boehner.
Slow and easy (but consistently), people, if you want to make this a better world to live in.
A footnote here: I'm glad I saw this move for a couple of reasons. Being fascinated with the nature of politics' radical fringe, this one filled in historical details previously unknown to me. Too, it makes me feel better about the underlying tenets of a novel manuscript I'm currently peddling, one I've titled, "The Ground Between Us."
Causes Bob Mustin Supports
Native American culture. Education. Creative writing.