Archives for posts with tag: Hitler

My previous post was about the parallel fate endured by those who had experienced nazism/fascism and/or communism.

My point being that nazism/fascism had been powered by the feelings of those attempting to regain their previous, higher, status while communism had been powered by the feelings of those not allowed to ‘move forward’ by the social constraints paralyzing their societies.

Currently, people are ‘confused’.
Some say communism had been better than nazism – for various reasons.
Others find various excuses for the way both regimes had treated the general population and, mainly, the ‘dissidents’. Or, specially for the nazi, the ‘differents’.
There is, though, a convergence point. Nominally, at least. All sides declaratively abhor the violence employed by both regimes.

To add to the confusion, after the 2007 financial meltdown, more and more ‘concerned individuals’ have fingered capitalism as the main culprit for all the tragedies experienced by humankind in the last century and a half.

For me, this is the straw which will break the camel’s back.

So.
Nazism/fascism – which is nothing but a ‘condensed’ form of corporatism, is bad.
Communism – a similarly centralized manner of social decision making, only differently sold to differently feeling masses, is also bad.
Capitalism – a decentralized manner of resource allocation, is considered to be more or less equivalent to both nazism/fascism and communism. All three of them have been declared equally criminal…

Then what?
What are we to do next? Hang ourselves in despair?
Reheat either fascism or communism?

Or look forward than our own noses?

Both those who had followed Hitler and Lenin/Stalin were feeling desperate. Desperation drives you to do stupid things. And there are plenty of unscrupulous people willing to profit from this kind of situations.

Do we really want to prevent ‘unpleasant’ experiences?
Then we need to go beyond blaming the likes of Hitler and Lenin/Stalin.
They should be dealt what’s rightfully theirs, no doubt about that.
But we also need to make sure that the ‘run of the mill’, the ordinary people who make things work in this world, no longer feel desperate.

How to do that?
Taking into account that contemporary capitalism seems to be faltering?

What was the common thing between nazism/fascism and communism?
The fact that decision making was concentrated in a very small number of hands? Which had led to both regimes ending up in abysmal failure?

What is the apparently unstoppable trend in our contemporary societies?
The apparently unstoppable wealth polarization?

Then let’s tax ourselves out … America worked fine during the ’50s and ’60, when the highest marginal tax was 91%…
Yeah, only those years had been followed by stagflation.
And let me remind you that communism can also be interpreted as ‘100% tax followed by a comprehensive redistribution’. And it also failed.

Then how about ‘libertarianism’? No taxes, no government…

But how about less extremism? Of any kind?

How about remembering that liberal capitalism has made possible all that we have today? Liberal as in free-market capitalism, of course.

Free market as in competition working both ways.
Entrepreneurs competing among themselves for clients AND resources. The workforce being, of course, a resource.
The ‘compensated’ workforce representing the bulk of the clients…

What we seem to have forgotten today is that the circle must be round. If we want the ‘show to go on’, of course.

If some of us concentrate too much control over the rest of us – either way, the circle becomes lopsided. And everybody has everything to loose.

No matter whether this happens as a consequence of nazism/fascism, communism or even capitalism.

At least, capitalism has proved to be manageable.
Let’s make it work, again.

Until we discover something better, of course.

As the only defendant at the Nuremberg Trials to admit to his share of guilt in the crimes of the Third Reich, Speer had been sentenced to twenty years in Berlin’s Spandau jail. He was released in 1966. Some ten years later, the Canadian high school in Lahr, West Germany, which looked after the education of our children, invited Speer to speak to the student body. I was invited to the dinner that concluded the evening. I found it more than a little humorous when Speer was asked bya very confident grade eleven student: “Mr Speer, how could a group of talented people like yourself be convinced to follow a madman like Hitler?”
Speer was quiet for a few seconds, giving the impression he had never been asked the question before. Then he responded, “young lady, probably because we were all trained as engineers!. We were pragmatic to the extreme, and we thought every problem could be solved by an equation or by adjusting the numbers. Not one of us had any education in the humanities – even Hitler fancied himself an architect, in spite of his lack of formal training.

Louis MacKenzie, Soldiers Made Me Look Good.

Well, there’s a small problem here.
While I agree with Speer about the importance of ‘humanities’ I also must notice that Marx had been another example of an individual convinced that the world can be ‘tweaked’ by following a ‘blue print’. He used the term ‘ideology’ instead but… And we cannot say that Marx was stranger to ‘humanities’.

But there’s another observation made by Speer. “We were pragmatic to the extreme”. While their ‘deficient’ education might have made Hitler’s job easier, I’m afraid it was their ‘nearsightedness’ which had been the catalyst.

It was their obsession with their immediate goal – transform the reality according to their own wishes, which had made them blind towards the future consequences of their actions.

It was not ‘humanities’ they lacked but ‘religion’.

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image” is not really about what you pray to as about what you convince yourself about. That the ‘image’ you have developed about your surrounding reality is good enough to be ‘graven’. For ‘future reference’ and for it to be imposed upon others. By force if necessary.

And why are we still trying to solve this riddle?

‘Cause this is indeed a riddle…

Remember those metaphorical stories whose heroes end up having to find the answer to one in order to save themselves/the day?
Like Sophocles’ “What walks on four feet in the morning, two in the afternoon and three at night?”

A riddle, of course, being a question which cannot be answered until the individuals attempting to solve it stick their heads out of the box into which the riddle had been framed.

So. Individualism? Collectivism?

Having grown up under communist rule – supposedly the most collectivist social arrangement to date, I can testify that there is no such thing as collectivism without individualism nor individualism without collectivism.

Libertarians’ mantra is that socialism/communism – and even liberalism, as Americans understand it, is a form of collectivism. And, of course, that collectivism is bad for you.
Socialists, on the other hand, maintain that the current situation – which is seen as being bad, is the consequence of the growingly extreme individualism which plagues modern societies.

Interestingly enough, both sides are simultaneously right.
Communism is indeed bad for you and the bad aspects of today’s society are a consequence of callous selfishness.

On the other hand, all communist societies are composed of a huge mass of obedient subjects AND a small number of individual, and very individualistic, leaders.
Similarly, all developed capitalist societies – including those sporting huge discrepancies between the shrinking number of haves and the growing number of utterly destitutes, have reached the current level of sophistication because most of their members continue to share the belief that ‘all men have been created equal and that all of them have certain, nonnegotiable, rights: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness’.

“Share the belief…”
But wasn’t this the very definition of collectivism?
A social arrangement where the most important possession belongs to THE public?
Was there anything more consequential for what is currently known as the ‘Euro-Atlantic’ civilization than this shared belief? Other peoples have been in possession of way more abundant natural resources. Had reached ‘astronomical’ levels of civilization way before we were even able to wipe our noses… And yet…

Haven’t we, individual thinkers, figured out yet that unless we agree on ‘the basics’, we’ll be easy prey for the callous ‘snake oil merchantmen’ who have no qualms to use collectivist slogans to pitch some of us against the others?

Haven’t we figured out, yet, that there is no ‘political collectivism’ without fear? All collectivist social arrangements, both socialist and fascist/nazist, have been built using fear/contempt (of the other) to cement ‘the people’ into believing the lies proffered by false prophets. Lenin, Mussolini, Stalin, Hitler, Mao… Lies proffered by callously individualistic political agents… bent on satisfying their own domineering instincts and making ‘good use’ of pre-existing conditions.

Haven’t we figured out yet that individualism, the tame version developed along with the good aspects of the Western Civilization, is, by nature, the very beneficial consequence of the mutual respect which (still) exists among the members of our societies?

So, to answer the riddle, we need to understand that there is no real conflict between bona fide individualism and bona fide collectivism.
Just as there is no conflict between two perpendicular lines.

Since, by trade, I’m a mechanical engineer, I’ll use a very practical metaphor to illustrate this idea.
Consider a pressurized Oxygen tank. The more pressure inside, the more Oxygen you can store in it. The more useful the tank. Only if you ramp up the pressure too much, you end up with an explosion.
In this situation, you might consider ‘pressure’ to be in conflict with the ‘walls of the tank’, right?
Wrong. The conflict is only in your mind. Pressure is simply perpendicular to those walls. The more pressure those walls can withstand, the more useful that tank is for you.

But it’s your responsibility to determine the thickness and resilience of those walls. It’s your responsibility to choose how much to ramp up the pressure.
For the very simple reason that that tank is yours.
It is you who will suffer the consequences.


wind back history

Humankind is a vast and extremely diverse collection of human individuals grouped in various ‘nations’.
Each of these nations have evolved in certain geographical and historical circumstances and, because of that, is different from all others.

Still, there is one thing all of them have in common, one thing that has happened, in various degrees, to all surviving nations.

Statistically, individual members of all nations have constantly grown more and more autonomous.

True, this was not a linear development. Actually it was not even consistent, from time to time some nations have reverted, for longer or shorter periods, to states where individual autonomy was curtailed but on the whole personal autonomy has constantly increased.
And another thing. Those instances when the ‘march’ towards more individual autonomy was halted or reversed coincided with historical hiccups: civil wars, economic hardships, natural disasters, external aggression… things like that. Never in the entire history of man has this process been halted without that stop being caused by some forceful event, just because an individual or a collection of individuals have decided so.

Franco transformed Spain into a dictatorship only after being helped by external military forces.
Hitler became ‘Fuehrer’ in the special set of circumstances created by the inept way in which the allies treated Germany after WWI combined with the Great Depression.
Lenin transformed Russia into the biggest gulag on Earth helped by circumstances produced by the same WWI while Mao rose to power in the aftermath of WWII.

In our days Putin has been able to tighten, again, the screws on Russia mainly because of the corruption and greed that sapped from within the Russian society while the ‘Western World’ has become, almost overnight and completely against the natural course of nature, an immense Big Brother set only after some nuts declared war on the civilized world under the pretext of Islam.

What is going on now in Hong Kong is a first. An entire community, and not a small or insignificant one, is having its freedoms curtailed simply because some people gathered around a table have decided so.

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