Opposite the Maginot line in Germany lay the (second) Siegfried line, or Westwall. The network of concentration camps of Hinzert where I was last week stood right in the middle of it, the camp and sub camp system brought to life in 1938 specifically to use forced labour to construct and fortify large parts of this line, prisoners considered anti-social and in need of re-education.
The systemacy and institutionalisation of it all, setting up a system that equates a human being to a freely usable disposable entity measured merely by the work in man hours it can add to the cause, still baffles me to this day. Exploit. Discard when empty. Repeat.
In the city of Trier nearby there was also a Hinzert sub camp, Karl Marx was born there more than a century earlier, his ideas and thinking having a profound effect upon world politics. Class struggle. The political and cultural conditions of a society, shaped by its economic undercurrent. Marx was the foremost theorist on exactly the same exploitation happening in his country 100 years later, deeply understanding its meaning and unfortunate inevitable importance in society. And even later still came the many other brutal dictatorships claiming to be inspired by his ideas, having very little connection to the actual academic importance of his thinking.
I am testing a new old camera, a gift from a friend. Reflected in the ground glass I suddenly see myself looking at my hat. How often we wear hats instead of being ourselves.
Your image returns to my mind as I drive through a tunnel, soldiers compressed as the narratives they represent, a reality larger than every individual yet in part shaped by every individual.
And always that exploitation rearing its head in whatever mankind does. Time distorting as lights flash by, I’m fighting my fatigue driving. But I’m heading home, and there’s tremendous power and consolation in that thought.