Friday, September 19, 2008

Aren't we glad we no longer have a Hitler Problem?

According to Ian Kershaw in Hitler, 1889-1936, Hubris, Hitler was telling the Germans what they wanted to hear. Kershaw writes, “By the time he was levered into power, the ‘redemptive’ politics which Hitler preached – the overturning of the defeat and revolution of 1918 at their heart – had won the support of over 13 million Germans, among them an active base of well over a million members of the various branches of the Nazi Movement. Hitler embodied their expectations of national salvation. The pseudo-religious strains of the cult built up around him – in an era when popular piety was still strong – had been able to portray him as a secular ‘redeemer’. A lost war, national humiliation, profound economic and social misery, lack of faith in democratic institutions and politicians , and readiness to look to a ’strong man’ able to overcome through force the apparently insurmountable acute political chasms prevailing in a comprehensive state crisis, had all contributed to drawing large sections of the masses towards seductive slogans of national salvations.”

Charles Taylor (Sources of the Self, The Making of the Modern Identity) in his taking up one philosopher after another that deals in any way with “the self” shows how beliefs ponderously move from one idea to another. The original Deists were Theists. They believed in God. Those coming after the Deists used some of their arguments to support non-belief in God. Spinoza was once a renegade and Hume was once quoted as saying there were no other atheists, but the climate of opinion has changed and Spinoza and Hume are now seen as representing the truth. Today it is easier to be an atheist than a Christian in Europe, and it is getting that way in the U.S. as well. There is a global warming and it seems we can do nothing about it but go along.

So rather than imagine whether we would be among those who tried to assassinate Hitler, think of the difficulty of bucking the German climate of opinion that Kershaw describes. Now think about the present climate of opinion in the U.S.

I find myself debating Leftists on a regular basis – whole packs of them, howling, tearing, snapping and snarling – figuratively, of course. But I’ve observed that many who share my views hang back and lurk because of the Leftists’ coercive force. The lurkers don’t want to endure what I endure. They have their reasons: Why put up with that sort of abuse? Why subject yourself to their idiotic illogical arguments? Why argue with a pack of fools? Lawrence, you get yourself worked up for nothing. What good does it do you? You aren’t going to change their minds. Why do you do it?

What would it have been like in Nazi Germany in the 30s given my self-destructive penchant standing against an ideology that promises change and favoring a centralized government led by a strong charismatic leader? I suppose I mean to ask how I would have fared. Not well, I suspect.

Lawrence Helm

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