Not at all. I'm recognizing that huge groups of people spread out over vast distances in similar circumstances, forced upon them, each individually decides that surviving by going along is the correct decision. If you don't mind, I'd like to switch this part of the discussion from Germany to China, just because I know the details much better.
Of course the experience of every individual is different. Some are farmers, some are urban, some are wealthy and some are poor. Central to my point is the fact that at some point in time, despots have put the same shackles onto all of these people (other than their chosen supporters). If you were in China during the Cultural Revolution, it didn't make very much difference whether you lived in Shanghai or in the mountains somewhere. Every person in that vast nation (one made up of many different cultures, it's worth pointing out) was forced to submit to Party Rule.
That submission involved performing the actions that you were told (down to performing a ridiculous dance in honor of Mao), saying the things you were told to say. Above all, you needed to avoid any appearance that you were not another person struggling for Communist progress. Because others needed to prove their own allegiance, you always needed to take pains not to allow the slightest excuse to be denounced.
It's absolutely legitimate to generalize the experience of these people. I've concluded this not just from reading history books, but from intimate conversations with dozens of people who actually experienced it (and hence, no citations you can look up; sorry). So I can assure you that in at least the Chinese case, I'm not generalizing from crappy books: I'm getting the story directly from a diverse group of first-person observers.
It didn't matter that there was other politics going on with Jiang Qing, or that the movement itself was a maneuver to consolidate power over other officials like Deng Xiaoping. The fact that those other people in positions of power had their own interests was of absolutely no concern to the Chinese masses. There was, indeed, a single party line that everyone must follow.
Getting back to Germany...
I have less in the way of first-person reports from those fleeing Germany. Honestly, I can only think of one non-Jewish person (if you want to leave them out of the discussion for some reason) meeting the description. But in my conversations with him, he makes it clear that pre-war Germany was not a nice place to live.
So I don't think I'm guilty of reifying generalities, when so much of what I'm think is coming not from generalities, but from individual specifics delivered by the actual participants.
I don't understand your counter-argument re Germany. I said that most people had absolutely no motivation to go against the Nazis because they were benefiting from their rule.
This is simply false. In some ways the people did benefit from Nazi rule. The chaos of Weimar hyperinflation was checked, they had renewed nationalistic pride. But there are countless reasons for Germans to be motivated to oppose the Nazis. But, for example, the economic success came at the price of throwing women out of work, and requiring men to perform national service. Later in the '30s it became mandatory for Aryan young people to join the Hitler Youth. And, of course, there's the simple moral objection to seeing one's neighbors -- the Jews, Communists, homosexuals, etc. -- treated so badly. There were innumerable reasons for Germans to dislike Nazi rule.
"Most people" don't care about minorities like Haffner. Look at the immigration issue in the US today.
Are you saying that the widespread anti-immigration sentiment in the USA shows that people don't care about minorities? If so, I find that difficult to believe. I see little evidence that many people object to those racial minorities that already live and work with us here in America. The objection appears to me to be more related to (a) economic ignorance and the belief that immigrants steal jobs, etc.; (b) the opportunity for abuse of the welfare system; and (c) the incorrect belief that immigrants, not having achieved stability, are more likely to commit crimes.
To tell you the truth, I grudgingly half-agree with you that most people don't care about minorities, at least here today in the USA. While most people give lip service to ideas like universal human rights, that seems to be little more than hot air. If people really believed it, there would be much less grumbling about free trade, outsourcing jobs and manufacturing, etc.
In fact, people use the same logic as you have to question "why is nobody resisting Obama?"
I'm having trouble reading this in the same context as your comments about immigration and minorities, since I don't see that Obama has done very much with the status quo in those areas.
Perhaps you mean that sentence to stand on its own, in which case I agree with you (and would also agree with you had you applied the same question to GWB). Indeed, a more generalized writing of that question is what I'm trying to ask. And I can provide generalities of an answer, regarding the relative values and risks to the individual's utility function overall. But I'm interested in more specifics, about where the lines between abstract values and material values get drawn.
Let me put that into perspective for you:
Are you saying that the widespread anti-Jewish sentiment in Germany shows that people don't care about minorities? If so, I find that difficult to believe. I see little evidence that many people object to those French and Slavic minorities that already live and work with us here in Germany. The objection appears to me to be more related to (a) economic ignorance and the belief that Jews steal jobs, etc.; (b) the opportunity for abuse of the banking system; and (c) the incorrect belief that Jews, not having achieved stability, are more likely to commit crimes.
> I'm having trouble reading this in the same context as your comments about immigration and minorities, since I don't see that Obama has done very much with the status quo in those areas.
No, but a lot of freedom-loving concerned citizens still want their country black, errm, back: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkmxTIUq4L0 Cheers to them for standing up to oppression.
> But I'm interested in more specifics, about where the lines between abstract values and material values get drawn.
Again, let's put things into perspective with a personal example. Why are you not at #OccupyWhatever right now? (check one or more):
* the current system works ok
* I'm too busy
* all the #Occupy people are stupid hippies
* it's not going to change anything
* don't want to get maced/arrested
* I have a job to go to/kids to feed