Jojo Rabbit – growing up with the Hitler Youth

There is no shortage of films about resistance to repressive regimes during and slightly after the Second World War: Never Look Away, Alone in Berlin, The Book Thief: Some of them like, “The Death of Stalin” The Grand Budapest Hotel: are extremely funny.

Jojo Rabbit isn’t unique in making Hitler or Stalin into a comedy character.

But what is unique is the way Taika Waititi who wrote and directed the film does it. The main character Johannes “Jojo” Betzler, (played by Roman Griffin Davis) has an imaginary friend.

Many children have imaginary friends and Jojo is no exception. What is exceptional is that his friend should be Adolf Hitler.

This brings Hitler down to the level of a ten year-old child. And this is how Waititi makes Jojo Rabbit work. As Jojo’s special friend, Adolf must explain National Socialism to a 10-year-old , stripping away the empty rhetoric of the mass rallies.

By using this device Waititi enables Jojo to negotiate the terrors of the Hitler Youth and, in particular, the incident where he got his nickname, Jojo Rabbit.

The story of Jojo and his relationship with Yorki is one of main narrative threads of the film. It’s the naïve simplicity and basic humanity of these two children that allows them to survive the horrors of the Nazi system.

But for other characters in the film, Rosie Betzler, Jojo’s single mother played by Scarlett Johansson, Captain Klenzendorf, an Army officer who runs a Hitler Youth camp, played by Sam Rockwell, humanity and goodness is not enough and things end badly for them.

When we first meet Jojo, Adolf is preparing him for his first weekend with the Hitler Youth. He is dressed in his uniform and is desperately keen to fit in.

Jojo is looking at himself in the mirror]
Jojo: Jojo Betzler. Ten years-old. Today, you join the ranks of the Jungvolk, in a very special training weekend. It’s going to be intense. Today, you become a man.

We suspect that Adolf’s gung-ho instructions are going to be of little help either. And so it proves. The camp proves to be a total disaster, with Jojo blowing himself up with a grenade in an attempt to demonstrate his bravery.

It’s an accident which, ironically, serves to be his salvation. He is declared unfit to be a soldier and is tossed out of the Hitler Youth while his bespectacled friend Yorki (played by Archie Yates) is deemed fit for military service.

Part of the gentle humour of this film is the depiction of way the Nazi system treats these two misfits. JoJo and Yorki both desperately want to fit into a system in which they clearly have no place. When they meet as the allies closing on the tone,When they meet as the allies closing on their town, Jojo admires Yorki uniform

Jojo: It’s like paper.
Yorki: Hm, that’s what I thought at first too, but it’s “paper like”. It’s the lightest material invented by a top scientist. 
Jojo: Well, I’m impressed.

Later we see Jojo watching members of the Hitler Youth carrying grenades to defend the town against the advancing Russians tanks.

When it’s all over, and Jojo, who has very wisely being hiding in the cellar of a house, meets Yorki who has somehow managed to survive, Yorki says him with devastating childlike simplicity, “I’m going home to my mum, I think I need a cuddle.”

It is a fitting epitaph for the Hitler Youth.

More complex, both psychologically and emotionally, is the relationship between Jojo and Elsa Korr, (played by Thomasin McKenzie) a teenage Jewish girl who is being sheltered by Jojo’s mother.

When Jojo finds out, he is horrified, as is Adolf. As a good Nazi, Joj should denounce his mother, which he cannot possibly do. JoJo and Elsa strike a deal. In return for not turning her in to the authorities, Elsa agrees to help Jojo write a book about Jews which he does to impress Captain Klenzendorf.

Jojo’s book is full of Nazis stereotypes but it serves to deflect the attention of the local Nazis who come to search Jojo’s mother’s house. 

The tense scene is full of black humour when Elsa emerges to pose as Jojo’s dead sister and the German Captain Klenzendorf covers for her when she gets the dead’s girl’s birth date wrong.

But she knows her time is running out and the Nazis will be back. However, time and the Allies are on her side.

While the book is being written, JoJo reads letters to Elsa from her boyfriend Nathan. In the first one, he writes that Nathan has found another girlfriend and wishes to break up. Jojo hears Elsa crying and quickly reads another letter saying that Nathan has changed his mind.

Jojo: Um, don’t open the door, but I actually forgot, there’s a second letter.
[reads from his fake letter]
Jojo: “Dear, Elsa, I just wanted to let you know that I don’t want to breakup with you now. I changed my mind, because I don’t want you to kill yourself over me. ….Thank God you’re being taken care of by that kid, who I must say, is a remarkable young man beyond his years, and great too. Yours, Nathan.”

When the Allies arrive, Nathan writes another letter

[Jojo reads another letter he’s written from Nathan to Elsa]
Elsa: He’s dead.
Jojo: Pardon?
Elsa: Nathan. He died the first year. Tuberculosis.
Jojo: [awkwardly] Well, that’s weird. 
[referring to the letters]
Jojo: He wrote these.

In a desperate attempt to keep Elsa, Jojo lies about who has won the war. But when they step outside, Elsa realises that Germany has not won the war and she is free.

Jojo: Look, me and fake Nathan have found a way for you to escape. Maybe you can trust a younger brother?
Elsa: Maybe.
Jojo: Okay then. Get your things together. We’re leaving.

looking at himself in the mirror]
Jojo: Jojo Betzler. Ten and a half years-old. Today, just do what you can.

More film reviews

Robert Grave poem “How it started” No 2 in “How poetry works.”

When I was undergraduate studying English literature Auckland University, I was often frustrated by lecturers who would spend much of their time explaining about the life of a poet, the time in which he or she lived and the intellectual and philosophical ideas of the poets we were studying. I remember the lectures on Pope being entirely devoted to Palladian architecture. The lecturer spent no time actually talking about Pope’s poetry.

This highlights two approaches to understanding poetry. The first is as I have described, understanding the context in which the poet was writing as an important element in understanding the poetry. The assumption is that this will help understand what the poet is has written on the page.

It is true that it is almost impossible to understand Milton’s poetry without understanding Greek and Roman mythology and having an intimate knowledge of the Bible. This is probably why Milton is pretty much an accessible to all but a small group of scholars today. 

The disadvantage of this approach is that it requires a large amount of study to be able to approach a lot of poetry that was written before the beginning of the last century. 

The second approach is to take the poem as it is on the page and to regard the primacy of the reader’s response as the only important consideration, ignoring any of the social, economic, intellectual contexts of the poems.

The disadvantage of this approach is that you will miss most of the point of the poetry of the English Romantic movement. But then, who reads English Romantic poetry nowadays.

Robert Graves (1895 – 1985) is English poet who with Yeats, Eliot and Auden is one of the four great English poets of the 20th century.

How it started

This poem, taken from his 1975 “Collected poems”, is typical of Graves’ love poetry. It is short, lucid and refers to events taken from his life.

The poem is divided into two parts, looking at two separate times. 

The poem, which is addressed to the poet’s lover, looks back on the time when their love affair first began. In the first part of the poem, the poet recalls the beginning of a love affair between an older man and a teenager.

It was at a party for the teenager held at the poet’s house. He was not invited, being too old. There is some hint of something clandestine, yet understood by them both, in relationship,

“in the circumstances I stayed away

until you fetched me out on the tiled floor

…… we both dance entranced”

The perspective then changes to the present:

“Here the narrator pauses circumspectly..

Recordable history began again

With you no longer in your late teens…

Yet that was where it started.”

The poet does not tell us what happened that evening in the garden nor what happened in the intervening years. The affair has continued which is what makes the poem so intriguing.

And which raises an interesting point about commentary and criticism of poetry.

Does it help to look at Grave’s life and enquire who woman might have been? I think not. 

Does it help to know that “two apple-seeds had sprouted” is a biblical reference to the fall of man and woman into sin and into a forbidden relationship that would come to fruition some later date. Well, it’s there in the poem and Graves would have been well aware of its significance.

Does it help to know that Graves was interested in, indeed preoccupied by, the White Goddess, the female Muse of Poets and that this woman was probably one of them? Possibly.

The more you read of Graves poetry more this haunting figure comes to dominate his love poetry.

Barnaby Joyce explains the LNP third policy option on climate change: God

In case the electorate was on any doubt about LNP policy on climate change, Barnaby Joyce has made it quite clear what we should be doing about climate change.

THE AGE He  has suggested Australians are “fools” who will “get nailed” unless they respect God’s plan for climate change.

Joyce was a leading campaigner against the former Labor government’s attempts to price carbon as a way to bring down Australia’s emissions, claiming doing so would send the cost of a Sunday roast to $100.

Joyce insisted the solution was to respect God, rather than impose a tax to limit emissions.

The member for New England at prayer on carbon missions

So here is Policy Position 1 (I call this No 1 because we suspect this has been the case all along)

“We’ve got to acknowledge is there’s a higher authority that’s beyond our comprehension – right up there in the sky – and unless we understand that it’s got to be respected, then we’re just fools, we’re going to get nailed.”

Policy Position 2

Nationals Leader, Michael McCormack, has said Australia must “absolutely” take more action on climate change.

which was immediately contradicted by

Policy Position 3

Prime Minister Mr Morrison who, on his return from his holiday in Hawaii. said Australia was doing enough on climate change

Last week, the head of the International Energy Agency said Australia’s climate commitments were amongst the worst the world.

On returning to Australia, Scott Morrison shows he was completely out of touch with the Australian public

The first thing that Morrison did on returning to Australia was said he was sorry if he had caused Australians anxiety.

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Our bushfire options this summer
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Australians were not anxious because he was away. They were angry that he should be on holiday.

But they won’t also realised that his being here would’ve made no difference. It was the firefighters who are making the difference. And his caretaker government was being of no support whatsoever.

Morrison had totally misjudged the mood of Australia and when he returned this misjudgment only made matters worse.

What also made matters worse was that when he returned, he only seemed to be able to talk about himself. It was all about him.

Then, he said he would be no change in the government’s climate policy.

Another massive misjudgment. The issue for Australians, during bushfires, had been the fact that the mass of sacrifices of the firefighters had been stark contrast to the indifference of the holidaying Prime Minister.

It is also becoming increasingly obvious that the resources of the firefighting forces are not sufficient for the task. The fires are simply of the scale now that they overwhelm the existing capabilities of the firefighting services.of the firefighting services.

Much greater and more affective resources are going to be required.

On his return to Australia, the Prime Minister simply did not address this critical problem.

The immediate problem is not climate change. The immediate problem is the resources that will be devoted to fighting the bushfires this summer.

In a thoughtful article published in The Age today Anthony Bergin and Paul Barnes discuss the role of the defence forces in firefighting

“It’s time for a rethink on how defence could be better deployed in domestic natural disasters. Our defence forces have a blind spot for domestic civil assistance beyond counter-terrorism roles. In some ways it’s surprising. The Australian Defence Force has a strong culture of assisting other nations in need and is often praised for this humanitarian and aid effort.

The US Air Force has recently been contracted to install fire retardant delivery systems for seven C130s being transferred from the US Coast Guard to the US Forest Service.”

It’s clearly time for the government to consider upgrading the capability of the RAAF C-130 Hercules aircraft the to provide greater strength for the firefighting services water bombing capacity.

Australia needs a 24/7 aerial water bombing capability

The Royal Australian Air Force has operated forty-eight Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport aircraft. Apparently they can be converted reasonably easily to aerial water bombers

No one seems to have pointed out that it is futile that firefighters with hoses are trying to stop the cataclysmic fires that are sweeping through Northern New South Wales and Queensland.

Firefighters are dying, civilians are dying and houses are being lost and bushfire season starting. We are getting a taste of what is to come this summer and we are losing the battle.

What is actually needed is for these types of aircraft to be flying non-stop missions over the bushfire areas dropping water on the fires.

We should also be asking the American air force, which has the largest fleet of these aircraft in the world, if they are prepared to lend us some to help with the bushfires. 

The federal government should also be prepared to provide subsidies to state governments to provide the infrastructure to ship water to the air fields to support the firebombing effort.

We need this more than this to Morrison telling us how sorry he is that he might of given offence to people for going on holiday.

Scomo “Where the bloody hell are you?”

It’s ironic that the phrase coined by Scott Morrison in his tourist marketing days has come back to haunt him.

Keeping his holiday location secret from the public while he was overseas holiday when the general public opinion was that he should’ve been in Australia during a time of great crisis was a huge political blunder.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

And remaining overseas while what will be the worst bushfires in Australian history devastate northern New South Wales and Queensland only made the situation worse.

Now, in response to death of of two volunteer firefighters in NSW as they battled a bushfire Prime Minister Scott Morris will return from a family holiday “as soon as can be arranged”.

Not immediately but as soon as can be arranged.

All that expensive empathy training doesn’t seem to have made much of an impact.

Everyone’s been very careful not to criticise Scott Morrison absence including Anthony Albanese because Scott needs an opportunity to take a holiday with his  children

But former Fire and Rescue NSW commissioner Greg Mullins summed up the situation perfectly, “Look, everybody needs a holiday. frankly at the moment, the federal government’s not doing much in this space anyway. So I don’t think it really matters.”

Morrison’s criticism of Victorian police Commissioner Christine Nixon for going out to dinner during the Black Saturday bushfires has also received wide public media attention. It’s funny how long it takes for things to come round to bite you on the bum.

Morrison’s apology for being overseas

“I deeply regret any offence caused to any of the many Australians affected by the terrible bushfires by my taking leave with family at this time,” Mr Morrison said.

has drawn widespread condemnation on social media.

This will probably be one of the defining moments of his primeministership

Just turn the graphs upside down, Angus. That will solve the emissions problem.

All this talk about emissions credits has confused the issue. Now imminent economist Ross Garnaut has warned that this misses the point. Nonetheless it’s a complicated argument and a spurious one.

Using Kyoto credits to meet Paris agreement ‘misses the point’: Garnaut

So if we are going to prove that Australia is going to meet its emissions targets, it’s actually much more simple to turn the emissions graphs upside down.

This is the real graph of what Australia’s omissions are doing on the right with the upside down graph next to it on the left.

Simple really.

The only problem is, that like the argument for using rollover credits, it bears no relation to the actual level of CO2 in the atmosphere and avoids the argument about tackling the problem of carbon emissions and climate change.

And the difficulty with this kind of discussion and argument is that it further removes any pressure on the climate deniers to address the serious issues that are currently consuming the bushland of Australia.

US water bombers won’t be available for the Australian bushfire season. But that is not worrying Scott Morrison.

Independent MP, Andrew Wilkie asked PM Scott Morrison to adapt some specialised RAAF capability for firefighting.

Wilkie made the point that aircraft from the US won’t be as readily available now that the northern and southern hemisphere fire seasons overlap. Australia’s C17 Globemaster, C-130 Hercules and C-27 Spartan could all deploy roll-on, roll-off tank systems for water bombing, Wilkie said.

The massive RAAF Hercules C – 130s could be used as water bombers during the fire season but PM Scott Morrison says “No”

“Prime Minister, as the country deals with a shocking bushfire season, will you now direct Defence to develop a heavy firefighting aircraft capability?”

Morrison and Littleproud, amid a flurry of compliments and thanks to the RAAF and the firefighters, said no. The reason was that the fire chiefs had advised that they had enough assets already.

The fires that are burning in Northern New South Wales and Queensland are of unprecedented ferocity and size.

This is a map prepared byeNick Evershed and Andy Ball of The Guardian

The bushfire season is just starting and Australia will be without the water bombers normally supplied by the Californian firefighting service.

I have already argued that we should be developing our own fleet of Elvis helicopters rather than be reliant upon the Americans

The bushfire debate: What we need to be talking about is our own fleet of Elvis helicopters

But it seems that the Prime Minister is unaware of the quantum leap in the intensity and severity of the bushfires this season and the difficulty that firefighting forces are going to have over summer.

Unfortunately, the Prime Minister seems to be stuck in some kind of ideological bind. By some perverse logic, it appears that if he acknowledges the severity of the bushfires, he must then accept they are linked to climate change.

And then the whole fiction of his defence of the coal industry comes crumbling down and that would never do

Scott Morrison has got it wrong: merging departments will increase congestion, not bust it

If you want to make government departments more responsive and to decrease the amount of red tape then you make them smaller not larger. However, when you do this you relinquish a certain amount of control.

If you wish to be able to maintain control over your departments, you make them bureaucratic, that is large, dependable, impersonal, reliable departments. There is nothing wrong with bureaucracies. Governments have been using them for hundreds of years. They ensure that everybody gets a fair go. That government is free from corruption and influence by individuals such as members of Parliament because they are governed by rules and regulations.

Conservative politicians like to label this red tape but in fact it is a protection that the citizens have against the processes of government being corrupted.

Bureaucracies such as those in Canberra have a number of characteristics

  1. Task specialisation (Specialization and Division of Labour)
  2. Hierarchical of authority
  3. Formal selection
  4. Rules and requirements
  5. Impersonal (Impersonality and Personal Indifference)
  6. Career orientation

Max Weber wrote this in 1905.

Max Weber

Each one of these is underpinned by sets of rules and regulations also known as red tape. The larger the bureaucracy to more rules and regulations, i.e. the more red tape

In deciding to increase the number of government departments from 18 to 14 Prime Minister, Scott Morrison is moving in exactly the wrong direction if he wants to speed up the processes of government

Increasing the size of the bureaucracy is not the way to decrease the amount of red tape.

The larger the department, the more coordination, more communication, the more layers of management, the more rules and regulations are required. The larger department is the slower it is to make decisions and to get things done. This means looks as if it is being slowed down by red tape.

Smaller departments make decisions more quickly because the processes work faster.

Someone needs to go back and do Management 101 or where ever it is that they teach bureaucratic theory and the ideas of Max Weber.

Massive backwards step: Australia to no longer has a Federal Arts Department

Scott Morrison has announced the arts department will be rolled into a department that will also oversee roads and rail.

Mr Morrison talked up the changes and mergers.

“Having fewer departments will allow us to bust bureaucratic congestion, improve decision-making and ultimately deliver better services for the Australian people,” he said.

Morrison’s round of “congestion busting” changes may have exactly the opposite affect Image Crikey

“The new structure will drive greater collaboration on important policy challenges”.

This is part of a major overhaul in Canberra. Eighteen departments are being reduced to fourteen and five departmental heads are losing their jobs. There will be massive mergers of bits and pieces of various departments. If there is a rationale for this, Scott Morrison did not explain it.

It is difficult to understand how merging a department that is charge of the arts: music, drama, ballet, painting et cetera with the department that is charge of building roads is going to streamline decision-making and communication. This is blatant nonsense.

What it will do is submerge a relatively small department into a mega department where it is likely to be overwhelmed by the internal politics and where its struggles to maintain its budget may become increasingly difficult to the detriment of the Arts in Australia.

This can only be seen as a retrograde step and one wonders why the Morrison government decided to do this and on whose advice.

One can only expect that funding to the arts will decline in the future and that the smaller community and regional groups that are reliant on federal funding will wither and disappear.

While the Prime Minister may think that these mergers ” will allow us to bust bureaucratic congestion, improve decision making and ultimately deliver better services for the Australian people,” there is no guarantee of that.

In fact, absolutely the opposite is likely to happen.

Anyone who has been through the merger of a large organisation will tell Mr Morrison what will happen in the new merged organisations.

There will be months, if not years, of internal struggles as battles for budgets and political power are fought out. During these periods much of the real work of the organisation comes to a halt.