Martin Amis the Gynocrat

All is Connected

At a literary festival in Paris, Martin Amis announced, 'There's nothing to heat the blood in British politics today.' What parliament needs, he added, is more women. Always a literary genius, often politically unpredictable, Amis has lately become, in his own words, a "gynocrat." To him perhaps this means: Men are bad. Women are good, with their gentle ways. It's not a word he'd get away with around me. 'Gyno-what? Get back to your luminous prose.' (Was Mrs Thatcher the elephant in the Gynocrat's theoretical room? Perhaps he remembers her as soft and kind.) Meanwhile, I didn't agree. In politics, there can never be nothing to heat the blood. Because all is connected.

In my sister Margaret's garden in London we were talking about Albert Speer. As Reich Minster of Armaments, he became one of the most important in Hitler's inner circle. He was handsome, charismatic, often described as a genius, the only sane member of the grotesque, intellectually banal Nazi elite. Was Speer, as Hugh Trevor-Roper described him, the greatest criminal of them all? He was the one who should have known better, yet he turned away. He held himself apart as a technocrat, believing politics didn't matter, and, as atrocity went on around him, he did nothing. By the time he realised politics do matter, it was too late.

We looked at photos of Speer and Hitler touring conquered Paris. I remembered our mother describing one of my teachers as a Gauleiter. I said, 'Our parents were shaped by the Second World War, by Nuremberg and the later Nazi trials. They always question authority; they have a Never Again mentality.' Margaret, who's an editor, said, 'We were talking about a quote at work: When a society is brought up with unquestioning obedience to authority, the end result is Nazi Germany. And Toby (her boss) said, 'Hmm, there's a book in this. We could call it, From the Naughty Step to Hitler.'

The next day Margaret had lunch with A.N. Wilson. He told her, 'I was shaped by the Second World War.' He talked about the Nazis marching into Paris. Meanwhile I was loitering in Whitehall, watching an Israeli demonstration. A placard read: 'Gilad Shalit has been illegally imprisoned in Gaza for three years!' The door to number 10 opened. To my surprise, David Cameron emerged. Eyeing him (that distinctive hairline, the pink, bursting, shininess that has Steve Bell rendering him as a cock) I thought, And has anyone else been illegally imprisoned in Gaza? Only the whole population. The Israelis, to whom evil was done, are doing it in return. All is connected.

In Rome, a giant picture of Gilad Shalit hung in a sun-baked square. But the Cock had flown to Turkey and called a spade a spade. Israel's illegal blockade must be lifted, Cameron said. Gaza was 'a prison camp.' I travelled on, through boiling summer Europe. Speer envisaged the EU, which would make today's Eurosceptics snarl – his Eurozone would have been controlled by the Reich. In Munich airport there are square chambers: the Marlboro lounge, the Camel room. The walls are clear; people move soundlessly behind glass. German engineering ensures the space does not fog with smoke. In these chambers there are no children, and few people are very old.

Reinhard Heydrich dreamed up the gas chambers after researching how Ancient Egyptians dealt with their pyramid-building slaves. I mentioned this to a friend. He said, 'The Nazis made the Jews the enemy within. Now, with the War on Terror, it's Muslims.' It's true; the War on Terror is a campaign in Goebbels style: smoke and mirrors, fear, swarthy hordes, and the government working to keep you from harm. War on terror, war on international Jewry. War on capitalism, reds under the bed. What wreckage they can end in, these campaigns to keep us safe. Berlin 2010 was renewed, all leafy and summery, with its memorials and parks. But its history was a grid map of blood and suffering, and few buildings were very old.

Back home, the news was all crime. Garth McVicar was fingers to the bone, keeping us safe. I sifted through my photos of Berlin: the streets where the Russians fought their way in, the SS museum, the place where Hitler killed himself as Berlin was blasted into dunes of brick. The Fuehrer made war on the world; at home Himmler's SS kept the German people safe from the Untermenschen, the sub-humans. Down here in New Zealand we're so remote. No need for vigilance, for politics, you might think. It's safe to turn away. But it's never safe to turn away. There's too much to heat the blood. Because all is, and always will be, connected.

First published in Metro Magazine NZ August 2010