If you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will of course frantically try to clamber out. But if you place it gently in a pot of tepid water and turn the heat on low, it will float there quite placidly. As the water gradually heats up, the frog will sink into a tranquil stupor, exactly like one of us in a hot bath, and before long, with a smile on its face, it will unresistingly allow itself to be boiled to death.
These are the words Daniel Quinn used in his novel The Story of B. This metaphor is a warning for people to pay attention to small changes around them so they can avoid catastrophic consequences. This “boiling frog syndrome” is also a warning to governmental and business leaders to introduce change slowly so people will accept it. Whether a real frog will allow itself to be boiled to death or not, this story illustrates the dangers with gradual, almost incremental change going unnoticed and the dangers with dramatic change getting noticed.
Modern business journals and blogs are filled with examples of this. History has even more examples of people not realizing what is truly happening around them and rising up when change is too dramatic. I have been vocal in my support of teachers, both in public school and in my religious education. One of the many reasons for this is both sets of teachers taught me at a young age the cliché of “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. Thus we spent a lot of time discussing Nazi Germany in the 1930s and how reasonable people could let that happen. Why didn’t anyone stop it? It ultimately came down reasonable people kept deluding themselves that it wasn’t happening. They could not believe what they were seeing. Maybe the good and just people transferred themselves to the wicked men. While it may be true the thief thinks everyone steals, the good man also hopes everyone else is just.
As the 1930s progressed and the Nazis took group after group there was little resistance. As they eliminated more and more groups, no one stopped them until it was too late. After the war, a German pastor, Martin Niemoller, wrote about his experience being put in a concentration camp for “not being enthusiastic enough about the Nazi movement" when in reality the reason was he was the leader of a group of clergy opposed to Hitler.
First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.
I have seen many versions of this before; this is version I copied from Wikipedia. As stated in their analysis of it, “His statement, sometimes presented as a poem, is well-known, frequently quoted, and is a popular model for describing the dangers of political apathy.”
As with many of the lessons my teachers taught me, I never forgot the learning from History. Today’s current events are our children’s and grandchildren’s “history”. Future generations must never look back at our generation and ask why we didn’t stop it. If we do not look around us and notice the warming water we would have learned nothing from History, because the unthinkable can happen if we let it.
Last Thursday, the Camden County Freeholders held a public meeting in Magnolia where they moved forward their county-wide police plan. Attendees at the meeting reported the Freeholders were rude, belligerent, and even mocked citizens who spoke out against the plan. They also stacked the room with politically connected people to speak in favor of it. From those in attendance, it was clear the Freeholders had already made up their mind. They are going forward with this plan even though (as of when I wrote this): they have not published the details of this plan, they are not letting the people of Camden City or Camden County vote on it, they already have multiple county policing units, and they even admitted at the meeting this will NOT result in a cost savings, which is usually the reason for consolidation. This forced take-over of the Camden Police is not about the beneficial effects of consolidating the multiple layers of government. This is a power grab by the Camden County Democrat Machine looking to extend their control.
They did not hatch this plan in isolation. In my opinion, the leadership in Camden has been systematically and recklessly mismanaging the police to artificially create an emergency so the County can step in to solve it. Camden police offers are telling their personal stories about the truth, and I believe them. If you doubt me, why does Camden City force nearly 90 police to work overtime at a concert, leaving just 12 officers for the rest of Camden? What did the leadership think was going to happen when the city laid off a large part of its police force? Of course crime is going to spike! How could they do this to the people of Camden who just want to live in peace?
If anyone thinks the Freeholders will stop at the Camden Police, they are deluding themselves. Next comes the local police of the other 36 municipalities in Camden County (I have gotten unsubstantiated rumors two towns have already secretly agreed to sign on to the plan, and the headquarters for the county police is rumored to be located in Gloucester Township). Following the police they take the Fire Districts. Then they take the EMS and ambulance squads. Once they control all of public safety county wide, do you really think they are going to stop? Who do you think their next target is going to be? The Freeholders would have successfully busted the police, fire, and EMS unions. Who is the next? With a successful union busting model in place they will be ready for the 800 pound gorilla of NJ politics: the NJEA. With so much centralized, does anyone seriously think the people or the teachers will be able to stop the Freeholders from laying off 51% of the teachers and replacing them with minimum wage rookies as they are going to do with the police? With the apparent arrogance shown at the Magnolia meeting, can you imagine Police, Fire, EMS, and our Schools being run by this machine?
If Martin Niemoller lived today as a teacher, maybe his poem would read like this:
First they came for the police, and I didn't speak out because I wasn’t a cop.
Then they came for the fire districts, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a fireman.
Then they came for the EMS, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a medic.
Then they came for the schools, and there was no one left to speak out for me.
We teach our children to learn from history, why can’t we? The Camden County Democrat Machine became omnipotent in this county because we let them. We did not notice the temperature on our own pot increasing. They got this power on the backs of the public sector union support. Now the machine is going after their jobs and their family’s financial security for the machine’s own benefit. They want to replace the veteran policeman and fireman who know our neighborhoods with a minimum wage rookie. They are not going to stop until they replace the experienced teachers with minimum wage as well. It is time the people of Camden City and Camden County jump from this pot of water before all of our towns boil to death. These are the men and women who chase the bad guys for safer streets, who run into a burning building to save our lives, who race our injured to the hospital, and who teach our children so they can succeed in life. These public workers are the heart of our communities. Who will protect the protectors? Stop this half-baked power grab now! It is time for all of us to do the unthinkable: stand up to the machine on this issue and if they will not yield then get the machine out of office. If you do not stop them now, there will be no one left to speak when they come for you.