The Nuremberg Defence

Though not Jewish, Irish or Black
I nonetheless would refuse
To drink in a pub that proclaimed:
‘No Irish, no Blacks and no Jews.’
Everyone has the choice to make
Principled or expedient:
To comply with discrimination
Or civil disobedience.

The Yellow Star, ‘whites-only’ bar,
Countries where women are veiled
Detained ‘illegal aliens’
Julian Assange in jail —
Existed and exist because
(And with their passive assistance)
Those to whom they do not apply
Tolerate their existence.

At Nuremberg the judges declared
A principle of jurisprudence:
When enacting illegal laws
‘Obeying orders’ is no defence.
The deferral of our freedom
To a higher authority
Does not relieve us of our own
Moral responsibility.

Three-quarters of a century on
We face the same situation
From three-hundred and twenty-five
Coronavirus Regulations:
But now the shop or pub that’s shut
To those banned by ‘health restrictions’
It’s not for nation, race or creed,
But political conviction.

The church that tells parishioners
‘Carols may be hummed but not sung’;
The college that volunteers students
For mass-screening of the young;
The school that tells parents to keep
Their healthy children quarantined;
The hospital that only treats
Patients with COVID-19;

The employer that forces staff
To choose between unemployment
And breathing through a plastic mask
While maintaining ‘social distance’;
The planes and trains and museums
That to their price of entry
Make vaccination a condition
And call it ‘voluntary’ —

All are painted with that white-washed star
By hands moving without sense
The Quick Response digital code
Now saluted at every entrance.
But willing or unwillingly
Compliance with Regulations
Is by default your given consent
To penalties and prosecutions:

The protester who’s arrested
For demanding right of assembly;
The policeman who kicks down your door
On suspicion you’re being friendly;
The nurse handcuffed for rescuing
Her own mother from a care home;
The family stopped from seeing
A loved one left to die alone.

Doctors banned from discussing
PCR-test inaccuracy;
Oxford professors ridiculed
For explaining herd immunity;
Newspapers paying scientists
To denounce ‘conspiracies’
While faithfully quoting as fact
Pharmaceutical companies.

The fixed-penalty notices
To ruin all but the wealthy:
Fining the poor ten-thousand pounds
For the ‘crime’ of holding a party;
And six-thousand five-hundred pounds
For not wearing a face-covering
For which no trial shows a benefit
Except to normalise muzzling.

A public encouraged to snitch
On family, friends and neighbours;
COVID-marshals paid to inform
On people denounced as ‘murderers’;
Government thugs in uniform
The armed and armoured TSG
Assaulting the public to protect
Our ‘public health security’.

Advisors paid by Government
To terrorise the nation;
International billionaires
Investing in health regulation;
A Parliament licking the hand
Of a Government by decree;
‘Emergency Regulations’
Bringing the country to its knees.

A few drudges of providence
Who borrow all their qualities
From our own folly and wickedness
Which gave them birth and nursed them.
Dupes of this deep delusion
We dote with a mad idolatry
And who will not yield them worship
Are deemed enemies of their country.

Sixty-eight million people
In a legal state of exception
Living under house arrest
Justified through mass deception.
Where each new statute erases
Our rights and civil liberties
Under a sentence of ‘lockdown’
Renewed in perpetuity.

In this British oligarchy
The biosecurity state
A kingdom united in fear
The ‘New Normal’ agglomerate
On every screen can now be read
On every window, every door,
This statement of our servitude:
‘We’re sorry, but it’s the law.’

But citing law when the law is wrong
Through history to the present
Is the last resort of cowards
Obedient to any tyrant.
The choice is unavoidable
And it’s ours alone to speak:
Hail dictators or loud declare:
‘There is some shit we will not eat!’

— Simon Elmer

* The lines in the thirteenth stanza are taken from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem, Fears in Solitude, written in 1798 ‘during the alarm of an invasion’, when Coleridge’s criticisms of the British Government led to his denunciation as a traitor.

8 thoughts on “The Nuremberg Defence

  1. Dear Simon,
    While I have admired your work and analysis regarding housing, gentrification and related issues, I’m sad to say that your approach to the pandemic is completely off the wall. The capitalist type of state that we live in/under has many sinister and authoritarian aspects. And dangerous precedents are indeed being created concerning attacks on basic rights. But we are not living in a fascist state. Some measures enforced by the present state are actually beneficial: financing a universal health service – despite all its grave defects, immunising children against measles and other diseases, seat belts, Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, driving on the correct side of the road, education etc etc.
    So I am going to unsubscribe.

    1. I’m glad that my attempt at a poem has had such a strong effect on you. By listing the violence and disproportionality of the restrictions we will be living under for the rest of our lives, my intention was to demonstrate the absurdity of believing they have been imposed to combat a virus with the fatality rate of a bad season of influenza. If you’d read the numerous articles I’ve published this year that are the basis to this text, you’d know that the vast weight of evidence for what I say can’t be dismissed with your accusation of being ‘off the wall’. My poem doesn’t refer to ‘fascism’ but to a ‘British oligarchy’; but Mussolini defined fascism as the moment when a cigarette paper can’t be passed between government and corporate power. That, to my ears, more accurately describes the UK biosecurity state than your references to the state benefits of measles vaccinations, seatbelts and universal health service.

      It’s a testimony, however, to the power of government and corporate propaganda that your only response to this challenge to your collusion with this violence is to stick your fingers in your ears and remove yourself from the danger of hearing anything further. But then poetry, as Auden wrote at a similar moment in history, makes nothing happen. Rather, it’s a way of happening, what he called ‘a mouth’; and for as long as I can, I will continue to use mine to try to open ears even as closed as yours.

    2. The Coronavirus Act 2020 is an act which has removed parliamentary debate and allowed Matt Hancock, and others, to dictate government policy with no opposition from the opposition, and also allows the government to take children away from their parents for disobediance of these dictates. Yes, we are declining, if we have not already declined, into a fascist state. Without the repeal of the Coronavirus Act 2020 there is no hope of returning to any kind of normality, I am sorry to have to say it helenecaroline but you, and others like you with their heads in the sand, are the real danger. The majority in Germany supported Hitler’s policies. Unfortunately it’s the same here now.

  2. SO
    SO
    SO
    TRUE…….an indictment of how society has been reduced to ‘servile’ compliance….the truth always wins…..!

  3. I am so sorry to see the comment from Helen – it feels like we can’t express convictions and speak with seriousness without being privy to this treatment. Getting this everywhere and with so little concern for how we come to our convictions amounts to abuse. I am from a religious extremist sect and this is exactly how people behave there: they repeat jingoistic lines mindlessly and relish their conformity and the moral high ground it gives them, even while they often have completely hardened their hearts and taken the path of least resistance and paid no price for their ‘moral triumph’. When the collective acts like this, they shut down those who have different views and the situation gets very dangerous.

    I think our world situation now is incredibly dangerous. The public is primed to support anything. I think the best hope is to give each other courage to speak out so that others who see the absurdity but keep their heads down can speak up too. So I find your unwavering courage very meaningful and hope you take care not to get too beaten down.

    1. If you managed to escape a religious sect, Frieda, you have far more courage than I, and you have my respect for finding the strength to do so. But I agree with the comparison. I think we’re in a moment of deep religious resurgence, and like all religious power it is founded on fear, the selling of salvation in return for obedience, and the censorship of rational thought by the state.

      In the UK, the Government has given up even pretending to base its actions on reason. It’s learned that, the more it terrorises the public, the more the public believes its lies. The rise of Islam as an ideological force over the past few decades has heralded a return to medievalism; but the facade of rationality capitalism has pulled over its Protestant origins has been torn down by this crisis, and the temple, as the Bible says, rent from top to bottom. Western liberals who have sneered at the rise of fundamentalism, whether Christian, Islamic or Jewish, have been revealed to be just as irrational, just as susceptible to the fearmongering of priests, as long as they wear a stethoscope around their neck.

      I also agree that we’re in a moment of great danger. But there is still hope, and if you could escape the clutches of religious extremists so can the rest of the world. Thank you for your concern, Frieda, but I’m not even close to being beaten down, least of all by comments by the COVID-faithful. In fact, I’m just beginning to stand up, as I think a lot of us are. It’s not before time. Happy New Year from London.

  4. Remove the greatest difference among humans—race/color—and left are less obvious differences over which to clash, such as sub-racial identity (i.e. ethnicity), nationality, religion and so forth down that scale we tumble.

    (Add, say, a contemporary deadly disease to the ugly equation for a really hateful fire.)

    Therefore, what humankind may need to suffer in order to survive the long term—indeed from ourselves!—is an even greater nemesis (perhaps a multi-tentacled ET?) than our own politics of difference, against which we could all unite, attack and defeat—all during which we’d be forced to work closely side-by-side together and witness just how humanly similar we are to each other.

    I’m no Stanley Milgram, but I hypothesize that if the U.S. and Canada were to (God forbid) revert back to a primarily-white populace, if not some VDARE whites-only utopia, the stereotypically thick Slavic-accented Eastern Europeans would inevitably again become the main target of the dominant Euro-Canadian ethnicity.

    (Frank Sterle Jr.)

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