Tears welled from a place so deep that the breath caught in my chest and my heart heaved upward. There was a moment of contemplation of stepping away, stopping the scene to allow the body to calm, but the mind forced forward wishing to know just how she was to die.
Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity. ~ Kant
Kant writes that this source of immaturity is not so much lack of understanding, but the courage to use it. His words echoed in my head tonight as I watched Sophie Scholl.
Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why such a large proportion of men, even when nature has long emancipated them from alien guidance (naturaliter maiorennes), nevertheless gladly remain immature for life. ~ Kant
Sophie Scholl was neither lazy nor a coward. I knew nothing of the her story, or that of “The White Rose” , until tonight’s viewing of Sophie Scholl. It was rather last minute, so you can imagine the chill when they flashed the date at the end – February, 22 1943 – in a few days it shall be 70 years since the execution of this young woman who dared to stand up to the Nazi’s for her convictions, for her conscience.
For it is very harmful to propagate prejudices, because they finally avenge themselves on the very people who first encouraged them (or whose predecessors did so). Thus a public can only achieve enlightenment slowly. A revolution may well put an end to autocratic despotism and to rapacious or power-seeking oppression, but it will never produce a true reform in ways of thinking. Instead, new prejudices, like the ones they replaced, will serve as a leash to control the great unthinking mass.
I think of Kant’s words and grapple with the power that Hitler was able to have over the masses. What allowed such control? Sadly, Americans are not well versed on World History unless that is an area of study at University. I do not know enough of the power structure of the German government pre-Hitler to address it in historical context.
As credits rolled naming many more from “The White Rose” who paid dearly for speaking out against the Nazi regime, I couldn’t help but wonder what is the good of philosophy if it cannot prevent such atrocities. Despite all our knowledge, our understanding of freedom, there are still small factions around this globe that are without freedom as society. Perhaps Rousseau was not so far off when he wrote:
It likewise follows that moral inequality, authorised by any right that is merely positive, clashes with natural right, as often as it does not combine in the same proportion with physical inequality: a distinction which sufficiently determines, what we are able to think in that respect of that kind of inequality which obtains in all civilised nations, since it is evidently against the law of nature that infancy should command old age, folly conduct wisdom, and a handful of men should be ready to choke with superfluities, while the famished multitude want the commonest necessaries of life.
Rousseau seems extreme in his discourse that man is no longer free once removed from nature. Yet the freedom Kant promises seems false if we obtain freedom via embracing our enlightenment.
Sophie Scholl was enlightened and acted upon that knowledge freely because of her conscience. Her freedom was not her own, however, for to speak out was to defy her government. Perhaps it now comes down to what it is to be free, to have freedom … but not now, it is 2AM ~