Fintan O'Toole: We must all learn the art of political dentistry

Fascism has no safe dose – it is in ordinary conversations that toxic ideas are checked

Heinrich Böll in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, in 1971. Photograph: Gordon Standing

Heinrich Böll in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, in 1971. Photograph: Gordon Standing

These days, whatever walk of life we’re in, we all have to have a second job. It’s unpaid, often thankless, sometimes even a little dangerous. But it is utterly vital. It is the job of itinerant political dentist.

This strange-sounding profession was invented in, of all places, a pub in west Mayo in the mid-1950s. Its creator was a young German war veteran. He had been conscripted into the Wehrmacht in 1939, served in France, Russia, Poland, Romania and Hungary and been shot in the hand, leg, head and back. He had been part of the horrors his country had inflicted on Europe and did not want his compatriots ever to forget what they had done.

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