I have been developing a (not remotely original) thesis that the real problem with politics in America is that it lacks a sense of tragedy: people tend to focus on advancement and progress, indeed, people tend to assume both as facts of the world, and therefore tend to assume that political decisions are about fairly apportioning from the ever-expanding pie. (Case in point: if you just followed the ads in the swing state I call home, you'd think that there were two groups, "the rich" and "the middle class," the latter of whom is in perpetual danger of not receiving enough. Groups never mentioned: "the poor.") No one should ever have to sacrifice anything, and things going wrong are always completely preventable. All of which is, of course, nonsense: there are always people who will make out poorly no matter what the arrangement of political and social institutions, and that's something we need to be aware of.
That's a long introduction to say that one can see this sanitization process happening in remembered history as well, of which there exists no better example than the Holocaust: so much literature, film, etc is devoted to the exceptional cases of survivors, people who fight back, etc, that it's quite easy to forget that if you happened to be Jewish in Europe, then things went badly for you indeed, and that this required the active and passive assistance of the majority of the population.
Labels: political theory