Does a Film Mirror America's Future? A Review of Barbara
The horrors of living in communist East Germany in the 1980s are subtly and exquisitely conveyed in the 2012 German drama Barbara, written and directed by Christian Petzold. Watching this film, I was reminded of Eva Hoffman's introduction to Exit into History, wherein she writes:
And if story is closer to history in Eastern Europe, it's also closer to moral drama-for it was another of the system's accomplishments that it forced people to make difficult, risky, ethical choices often and under considerable pressure.
Having been transferred because she filed an "Ausreiseantrag" expressing her wish to leave the German Democratic Republic, the doctor protagonist, Barbara, is sent by the state to a small hospital near the Baltic Sea, effectively ending her career at the prestigious Charite in East Berlin. The viewer sees the impoverishment of doctors who are forced to work for the state.
I wonder if this foreshadows the conditions of American doctors in a generation as ObamaCare envelops this country. Already "many doctors are cutting back on their workload or shuttering their practices." In fact "Obamacare will increase the national shortage of physicians, estimated at 14,000 in 2010, to 63,000 by 2015."
In Barbara, simply because they can, the Stasi punish the protagonist for the hours in which they cannot find her by raiding her house. Throughout the movie, I sat transfixed as the knock on Barbara's door, which she had to open without even asking who was on the other side, resulted in strip- and cavity searches upon her. Civil liberties simply do not exist as Barbara stoically but with "palpable feelings simmering beneath the surface" faces repeated humiliations and destruction of her meager belongings.
Am I wrong to consider the dire implications when I read that "Obamacare provisions are largely exempted from judicial review, [and] therefore, no legal recourse for disagreement can be brought"? Thus, in Section 3021, "[e]lectronic matching against Federal and State data, including vital records, employment history, enrollment systems, tax records, and other data determined appropriate by the Secretary" can be used, as the government now has complete access to all our private records. And how come the government can know my business when I cannot even see Obama's college records?
In this film about "watching and being watched," the distrust among everyone is palpable. Thus, in this "smart, tense film" distinguished by "[its] strange story turns, moral thorns, visual beauty and filmmaking intelligence[,]" Barbara can never let her hair down except as a means of being degraded. No one knows who is spying on another. To convey a feeling is, in fact, a betrayal.
Whether it is Hoffman describing how:
... [j]ust about everyone had to decide, at one time or another, whether he or she was for or against, whether to raise a hand at a meeting to approve someone's destruction or to leave it at one's side, thus approving one's own; whether to inform on a neighbor, sign a dangerous petition, stand by silently during an anti-Semitic campaign, or risk imprisonment by protest ...
...or Adeline Yen Mah's account1 in Falling Leaves in communist China -- how "a hu kou (residents' committee) was set up for administrative purposes [and] later these committees became government tools to control and account for the movements of every inhabitant in Shanghai" (89), I feel a creeping foreboding. In fact, "... committees intruded into every aspect of a citizen's private life. Nothing was too trivial" (197).
Hoffman asks, "How do societies go about overturning all their institutional arrangements at once?" Often it has been asked how the Germans could allow the evil of the Nazis. Why didn't they perceive the inherent dangers in governmental control of all aspects of their lives? Why were they mesmerized by the madman Hitler even to their own economic and political detriment? What is the appeal of fascism2 that men of goodwill -- i.e., artists and intellectuals -- choose fascism as their political creed?
Why are so many Americans willing to surrender their rights? Perhaps they need to visit the Museum of the History of Communism in Prague to learn "how the socialist ideals of Karl Marx inexorably lead to the brutal repression of the police state everywhere they are imposed."
Why are companies who refuse to violate their core beliefs scorned by media and punished by the government? Adherence to conscience is scoffed at as government widens its grasp. Why are Americans "who are uniquely privileged to have inherited the legacy of individual freedom, so eager to trade it away in search of the illusion of security?"
In the film, we see a glimpse of the hard labor camps for "so-called juvenile offenders" through the character of 16-year-old pregnant Stella. She dreams of raising her child in West Germany, yet she is forced to return to the detention center.
Overnight, they had been turned into class enemies, the force of whose potential threat to the Communists had just been demonstrated by the strength of their resistance to the Nazis.
Daily, I hear the president's cohorts, and Obama himself, rant about the rich. This hearkens back to the daily screed of all tyrannical governments as they attack the designated class enemies. C. Bradley Thompson explains in "Why Marxism? Evil Laid Bare"3 that "the first stage toward communism is the socialist phase, which is characterized by two policies: one, the dictatorship of the proletariat; and two, the abolition of private property, wage labor, the market price system, competition, division of labor, money, and profits." Under our current administration, consider that businesses are being deliberately held hostage to executive orders and legal restrictions that inhibit their growth.
Obama's redistributive ideology was elucidated with laser-precision by Victor Davis Hanson, who stated it clearly in August 2009:
When radical leaders over the last 2,500 years have sought to enforce equality of results, their prescriptions were usually predictable: redistribution of property; cancellation of debts; incentives to bring out the vote and increase political participation among the poor; stigmatizing of the wealthy, whether through the extreme measure of ostracism or the more mundane forced liturgies; use of the court system to even the playing field by targeting the more prominent citizens; radical growth in government and government employment; the use of state employees as defenders of the egalitarian faith; bread-and-circus entitlements; inflation of the currency and greater national debt to lessen the power of accumulated capital; and radical sloganeering about reactionary enemies of the new state.
How does Obama measure up to the above explanation? The president has:
- forgiven student debt.
- enacted double standards and incentives to push states to vote for his programs.
- increased the pressure to "push Congress to move quickly ... to include a path to citizenship for most of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country."
- constantly stigmatized the wealthy in this country.
- increased government employment.
- swayed union leaders to support his measures.
- engaged in bread-and-circus entitlements through Obamaphones and other "so-called freebies."
- created greater national debt to the tune of $16 trillion, with no end in sight.
- blessed radical sloganeering.
- not refuted the anti-Semitism of the Occupy movement.
If this isn't the Marxist line of thinking, what is it?
As Thompson affirms, "poverty is not simply the unfortunate result of Marxism -- it is the goal" and under Obama's onerous taxes, family income has already decreased and will continue the downward spiral.
Communism controls all aspects of a person's life. Ultimately "[i]t seeks to destroy the rule of law, constitutionalism, separation of powers, and civil rights." Douglas Hyde in his 1950 book I Believed: The Autobiography of a Former British Communist warns:
The new Marxist man, the 'steel-hardened cadre,' is terrifying in his potentiality for evil. The more the new Marxist society is brought into being the less it is liked, so that in time the communist regime must depend entirely for its survival upon false propaganda, the eulogizing of leaders made utterly unattractive by their Marxism and upon terror, open and concealed.
Can this generation of Americans come to understand the overarching power of the state and fight against it, or will they be swept away into a hideous system that has thwarted so many and destroyed so much? It is most opportune that the film Barbara is now available. It may help to shape Americans' understanding of the looming abyss.
Eileen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1Adeline Yen Mah. Falling Leaves: The Memoir of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter." New York: Broadway Books, 1997.
2Alastair Hamilton. The Appeal of Fascism: Why Men of Good W ill-Artists and Intellectuals -Chose Fascism as Their Political Creed, 1971.
3C. Bradley Thompson. "Why Marxism? Evil Laid Bare," The Objective Standard. Vol. 7. No. 2 Summer 2012, pp. 7-20.