For this week, our discussion returned to Europe to discuss how populism and authoritarianism have begun to rise again in some Eastern European states. We discussed several reasons for this, such as the states choosing to undertake “decommunization” instead of seeking real justice for the crimes committed.
However, the reason that stunned me the most was how some in the population were nostalgic of being ruled by an authoritarian. The dancing bear metaphor profoundly stuck with me. It reminded me just how fragile democracies can be because of how fragile people are. Poles are only willing to believe that Poles were not involved in the Holocaust willingly because they do not want to think that their ancestors were evil. So they elect the government that disavows Polish involvement in two horrendous massacres of Jews. It’s convenient to say that they had nothing to do with it.
There lies my fear. It is convenient for people who lived under authoritarians in the past and were not prosecuted for wanting that life back. They fear change, and so they flock to the politicians who promise that everything will return to normal. So, it is convenient to overlook the anti-semitism if it is a means to return to a better time. The only question is can this occur to countries with legacies of democracy?