Fall of Berlin Wall anniversary offers lessons for misguided millennials

Blogger next to Berlin Wall slab at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in 2018

By John Ruberry

Saturday was the thirtieth anniversary of one of the most profound events of the 20th century, the fall of the Berlin Wall. What began as a bureaucratic slip became a people power moment as oppressed East Germans stormed the wall checkpoints and with the help of West Berliners, literally began hacking away on what Winston Churchill called “the wall of shame.”

It was also a wall of failure. The smartest and most gifted people of communist East Germany were more likely to seek freedom and prosperity in the West. The brain drain threatened the stability of East Germany, so after receiving permission from his fellow dictator, the USSR’s Nikita Krushchev, Walter Ulbricht ordered construction of the wall in the summer of 1961.

Just a few days ago Dennis Prager explained on his show that there is a difference between a dictatorship and a totalitarian state. Augosto Pinochet’s Chile was a brutal nation in the 1970s, but if you didn’t like it, you could leave Chile. Not so in the USSR, until its final days, where my wife was born, or in the absurdly-named German Democratic Republic. East Germans who tried to escape to West Berlin would have to conquer not just the wall, but also beds of nails, attack dogs, and barbed wire, as well as avoid sharpshooters in watch towers. The number of people killed attempting to escape in the 28-year existence of the wall is disputed–about 200 is a common estimate.

Of growing up in the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic, Mrs. Marathon Pundit told me this morning when I was discussing this post, “We were slaves, really.”

Meanwhile, a YouGov poll released last week shows that over one-third of millennials approve of communism, which betrays the failure of our schools and universities that seem much more interested promoting the 56 genders and waving their fingers at guys like me over “white privilege.” Oh, the founders of the communist movement, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels were white dudes. As were the earliest communists in power, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Leon Trotsky. All five of them came from middle class or wealthy backgrounds. They had white privilege.

OK, millennials!

The lessons of the rise of Adolf Hitler and the evils of Nazism obviously should never be forgotten. But what is overlooked by schools and society are the murderous regimes of Stalin (20 million killed, maybe more), Mao Zedong (65 million killed, maybe more). and Cambodia’s Pol Pot (1.5 million killed and perhaps more, roughly 20 percent of that nation’s population).

Another 30th anniversary involving a repressive communist regime passed this summer–the Tianammen Square protests in China that ended in the slaughter of pro-democracy activists. For 24 straight weeks there have been pro-Democracy protests in Hong Kong. The more things change…

Ulbricht and his successors’ East Germany didn’t have the high death count, but it excelled in mental torture. Its KGB was the Ministry of State Security, commonly known as the Stasi, whose goal was to “know everything about everyone.” Two movies are essential viewing for millennials–actually for everyone–to learn more about East Germany. Both of them are available on Netflix, Karl Marx City, a documentary, and The Lives of Others, an Academy Award winner for Best International Feature Film. Fittingly, The Lives of Others is set in the year 1984.

Apologists for communism regularly point out that the reason these Marxist regimes failed is that the wrong people were in charge and “real communism” has never been tried. It is they who are wrong. People in power, for the most part, have one thing in common. They want even more power.

There are exceptions of course. King George III asked an American what George Washington would do now that he had defeated the British Empire. When told that the general would return to his farm, the king replied, “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.”

Is that lesson being taught in many American schools? I doubt it.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Review: Season 5 of Peaky Blinders

By John Ruberry

Earlier this month Season 5 of Peaky Blinders arrived on Netflix. If you haven’t heard of the BBC show, it centers on a Gypsy organized crime gang from Birmingham, England.

The Peaky Blinders are named for the razor blades the actual hoodlums,-they were an 1890s gang–wore in their flat caps.

The television Peaky Blinders, who usually refer to themselves as the Shelby Company, Ltd., are led by Thomas “Tommy” Shelby (Cillian Murphy), a World War I veteran. The first season takes place in 1919, Season 5 begins in the auspicious year of 1929.

Tommy, at the end of Season 4, is elected to Parliament as a member of the Labour Party.

A new season of course brings a new primary villain, this time it’s Sir Oswald Mosley (Sam Claflin), a minor member of the British nobility who also sits in the House of Commons. If you are American, it’s likely that you’ve never heard of Mosley, but he’s one of the most notorious figures of 20th century Great Britain. He didn’t go as far as Benedict Arnold did during the American Revolution, but had the Nazis defeated Britain in World War II, it’s probable that Mosley would have been prime minister—with Edward VIII restored to the throne. A 2005 poll of British historians determined that Mosley was the Worst Briton of the 20th century. Jack the Ripper took the title for the 19th. Mosley not surprisingly was a virulent anti-Semite.

Sir Oswald pursues Tommy as an ally while Winston Churchill (Neil Maskew) does the same. Maskew is the third actor to portray Churchill in this series. What’s up with that?

The Black Tuesday Wall Street Crash puts pressure on the rest of the Blinders, particularly Michael Gray (Finn Cole), who in the first episode of the season awakens from a stupor in Detroit to learn that the Shelby Company money he invested in America has evaporated. He wants a bigger say in the family business, as does his American wife (Anya Taylor-Joy). The family matriarch, Polly Gray (Helen McCrory), Michael’s mother, continues to struggle to keep the family from tearing itself apart, and their battles now directly effect her lover, Aberama Gold (Aidan Gillen). Tommy’s older brother, Arthur, continues to battle his “animal inside me.” While Tommy and Mosley, politically speaking, court each other, the Peaky Blinders face a new foe, the Billy Boys, a Scottish Protestant gang, who joyously sing their fight song, which is based on the melody of “Marching Through Georgia.” The Billy Boys hate Gypsies and Catholics–the Shelbys are both.

Peaky Blinders has always played loose with history. Lighten up, though, it’s fiction!

On the other hand…

As 1929 winds down, Mosely announces the formation of a new political party, the British Union of Fascists. But after leaving Labour, the real Mosley first formed another new party, called, well, the New Party. After that came his fascist party. I bring this up because in his introductory speech as leader of the BUF, Mosley, complaining about Indian competition forcing the closing of British textile mills, sounds a bit like Donald Trump, with a dash of UK Independence Party founder Nigel Farage thrown in. I’m not a fan of historical parallels with the present, particularly when it comes to individuals. And I get it, many people believe in “Orange Man Bad.” But sheesh, can TV scriptwriters give us a break from that for once?

I see Season 5, quality wise, as a step back for Peaky Blinders, but better than the Russian sinkhole two seasons back. But a Season 6 apparently is in the works, and maybe even a seventh. And perhaps we will see a couple of other men portray Churchill. The 1930s offers many plotlines as the world marches again to war. Still, even a below-par Peaky Blinders is worth your time.

Peaky Blinders is rated MA. It contains graphic violence, drug use, and overt sexual activity.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.