The unbearable lightness of Nazis

I enjoy making fun of Kundera’s book because (sue me) I so very much did not enjoy reading it. I can’t remember if I read it due to a college class or self-infliction. Okay, now that that’s out of the way…

Recently, I attended a workshop on some new, proposed state environmental regulations that will impact the company I work for. Throughout the day, different stakeholders, both local government and private, repeatedly made the case that the proposed regulations would have fairly drastic economic effects on business operations. Each time the matter was brought up, the bureaucrats doing the presentation smiled sympathetically and said that their hands were tied. They said that, due to the fact that the new rules were dictated by federal level regulations, there was nothing they could do except interpret them accordingly. We, at the local level, would simply have to bear the financial burden, regardless of outcome.

That sort of interaction made me reflect on one of the typical attitudes of German government bureaucrats after the war. Time and time again, they would say, we were just following orders. We were just following directives from higher up. It was not our choice…

Those anecdotes always amazed me. My interpretation of the stereotypical German bureaucrat scenario was that it was due to the time and era, the social dilutions of the Weimar regime, etc. Now, however, I think I understand. There was nothing unusual about the German bureaucrat. Many of our American bureaucrats possess the same lack. They possess the same lack of gravity that, if present, would allow them to make choices independent of the corruption of group-think. They are, for all intents, unbearably light. My apologies to the Germans for so carelessly pigeonholing them.

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