This is my personal blog. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the congregations or presbytery I serve.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


The philosopher, Ken Wilber, suggests that something like 70% of the people on the planet are “Nazis.” By that I think he means that a large majority of us are liable, under stress, to fall into the kind of ignorance, paranoia, hysteria, bigotry, rage, and violence that took over Germany in the 1930’s and threw the world into a ghastly orgy of mass murder. Hitler and other demagogues cultivate, exploit, exacerbate, and otherwise fan sparks of fear, rage, and hatred that just seem to be always at least dormant in the human heart. A Rwanda, Cambodia, or Yugoslavia, that is, a time of mindless and uncontrolled violence between different human groups is something that can readily happen. If we are not very careful, vigilant, restrained, and diligent, we become a lynch-mob. It doesn’t take much.

It is these the way someone aggravates and exploits these negative, fearful, and violent qualities, not superficial things like giving stirring speeches or favoring national health care, that make a leader comparable to Hitler. Different people may have different views about, say, the role of government. But ignorance, paranoia, bigotry, hysteria, rage, and violence, are what make us similar to the Nazis. If we wish to identify the most dangerous people and movements today, look for these characteristics. Look for conspiracy theories and scapegoating. Look for bands of armed, angry, and wildly misinformed young men. Look for fearful people mad about losing their privileged status in the world, people who will think, say, and do anything, no matter how violent, to reverse this trend.

Ignorance means a blatant disregard for verifiable facts, like when we invent or wildly misinterpret history. Paranoia has to do with imagining threats and playing on fears. It is connected to bigotry because we are told to be afraid of other people, people not like us. For Hitler, of course, it was Jews, Communists, socialists, liberals, gays, Slavic and Roma peoples, the disabled, and some Christians. Fears stoked with misinformation can easily be fanned into hysteria, an irrational and hyper-emotional attitude which cannot even hear contrary views or data. The more people are force-fed misinformation about their own supposed victimization and injustices they have had to endure, the angrier they get, and the more likely they are to turn to violence.

The Nazis began begin as hysterical, paranoid, bigoted, ignorant, and violent grass-roots organizations. Nationalism, racism, militarism, and the idolatry of economic growth where their main ideologies. Like all totalitarianisms, they were regurgitated up from the dark regions of the soul of the people. They imagined themselves to be idealistic. They thought they were defending and restoring a glorious past. Other totalitarianisms think they are the vanguard of a glorious future, like Communism. But they are revealed by their hatred and willingness to place blame on others and to kill them in what they think is righteousness.

This is nothing to mess with. This is not a matter of entertainment or being ever more outrageous in order to gain market-share. Too many people have suffered and died because of this way of thinking. We need to find a way to shun it and expose it for what it is: a system of lies which pokes at the worst in us, and leads inexorably to mass-murder.

1 comment:

Beloved Spear said...

I knew there was a reason I wasn't supposed to watch Fox News.