1997-01-29 - Re: East German Collapse (Was: Fighting the cybercensor

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From: Rich Graves <rcgraves@disposable.com>
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Message Hash: d82b8bd01845d503cab720edd0655245e37dce93f09baf7978633dcfde01d645
Message ID: <199701291456.GAA03370@toad.com>
Reply To: N/A
UTC Datetime: 1997-01-29 14:56:36 UTC
Raw Date: Wed, 29 Jan 1997 06:56:36 -0800 (PST)

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From: Rich Graves <rcgraves@disposable.com>
Date: Wed, 29 Jan 1997 06:56:36 -0800 (PST)
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Subject: Re: East German Collapse (Was: Fighting the cybercensor
Message-ID: <199701291456.GAA03370@toad.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

Hallam-Baker wrote:
> One point I had forgotten. The demonstration took place
> on the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht. This is one explanation
> as to why the border guards did not attempt to open fire with
> firearms or attempt to break up the demonstration with tear gas.

I think the timing was a coincidence. (And I'm told that Kristallnacht 
wasn't well advertised in East Germany; especially after the Soviets 
sided the United Arab Republic, the official story was that Hitler had 
been exterminating good Communists, not Jews.) While the final week was 
pretty spectacular, the demonstrations and defections had been building 
for months, as you say:

> The mass defections were taking place at their peak at a rate of
> tens of thousands in a day. Something like a quarter of the youth
> between 18 and 25 had defected. Bill if anything understates this
> point.

I wasn't there, but an East German friend of mine was 20 when the wall 
came down. He was doing his compulsory military service at the time. 
Even in early 1987, as he was being interviewed by the Stasi concerning 
the direction the state would allow him to take his life, he says he 
felt no real fear telling them, up front, "Sure, I'll carry a gun, and 
I'll go where you tell me to go, but I will not hurt anyone."

They gave him a gun and put him on the front, where he waved to his 
friends as they walked across the border.

I think a lot of the border guards were like Thomas.

> I think that the spending into bankrupcy thesis might be argued for
> the case of the USSR and more plausibly the US. The problem is that
> I don't think that the military spending in either case bore any
> relation to need, to the threat from the other side or to any
> rational determination. I think both budgets simply increased to
> the limit that the economies could support and beyond.
> There is a similar problem in the third world today. Many third world
> countries spend more on arms than they do on health or education.
> Much of the alledged "foreign aid" is in fact subsidies for this
> trade. The arms are primarily to suppress internal dissent. There
> are plenty of governments left in need of similar reform.

Yeah, yeah. Economics has soomething to do with it. But I think it comes 
down to "Sure, I'll carry a gun, and I'll go where you tell me to go, 
but I will not hurt anyone." Ideas matter.