A scene from the 1960 movie, "Village of the Damned" Youtube

Charles Lewis: Shadows of another time continue to haunt us

  • June 5, 2018

When I was a child I watched a movie called Village of the Damned. It was creepy and scary.

This was in 1960, decades before the fashionable zombie craze of recent times.

It takes place in the fictional English town of Midwich. A number of women find themselves pregnant after a six-hour blackout in which everyone falls unconscious. The children born of these women have neither conscience nor personality. When provoked, terrible violence ensues.

Thinking about all those dead-eyed children existing without a hint of emotion gave me the willies and the occasional nightmare.

Equally disturbing to me at that young age were the documentaries about the Third Reich that seemed to run over and over again on our black and white television. Those films of mass rallies, with hate spewing out of millions of mouths and those dead-eyed Hitler Youth boys screaming as one voice as they marched into a pitiless future, never ceased to shock.

Each of these Nazi youth could have been cast in that awful movie that frightened me so. In fact, I have since wondered whether the director of Village of the Damned, Wolf Rilla, had Nazi Germany in mind. He had been born in Germany, but fled with his family to England as Hitler was rising to power.

Nazism’s shadow was still present in Brooklyn when I was growing up. My father, uncle and great uncle all took part in the fighting, as did many of the fathers of my friends. As well, there were the children of Holocaust survivors whose parents had numbers tattooed on their arms and memories of families needlessly destroyed by real life human monsters.

As I look back on it now, what all these things had in common for me was the emotionless cruelty of those whose souls had been ripped out. It was chilling then and it is chilling now.

I am reminded of this every time I think how far along we in Canada have come in our dispatching of those who are weakened from sickness through legalized euthanasia. We are not witnessing torchlight parades and the systematic dehumanizing of Jews, but we have inherited some of that ethos of rating the usefulness of a life based on health and productivity.

The Nazi euthanasia program was promoted as a societal good. It put people in pain out of their misery. It was considered a mercy. It unburdened families whose lives were being retarded for caring with someone who was mentally or physically defective. It also made it clear that to be part of this new society of supermen no one individual should be allowed to hold back the group.

If the state was the new god, then no sacrifice was too great for its greater good — including giving up a son or daughter who would grow into a “useless eater.”

To carry out these deeds the state had to make sure that its citizens, especially its young, learned a new paganism: a pitiless religion in which physical strength must never be watered down by those who cannot keep up.

Most know that in the first 12 months of legalized euthanasia in Canada the system has killed 2,000 souls. Did doctors or families or friends plead with these unfortunates not to die? Did anyone say to them that regardless of your problems we would help you to live? Or has it already become a mechanical affair in which practicality trumps emotion?

After all, it is a lot less trouble to bury the dead than to care for the living.

This new environment we live in is rapidly replacing care with death. In order to take part in this culture of death some part of the soul has to be exorcised. Another part of the brain has to be made numb.

As I have warned before, our government is now studying extending euthanasia to the mentally ill as well as teenagers. Yet hardly a word of protest has arisen.

No, we are not living in a Nazi state. We are living instead in something new that has taken bits and pieces of the totalitarian ethos and created something nice on the outside but deadly on the inside.

Some day historians will write about and define the age we live in. I hope they judge us harshly.

And some time in the future some youngster coming of age will see a documentary about the times we live in and be hit with an awful case of the willies.

(Lewis is a Toronto writer and regular contributor to The Register.)

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