Signiﬁcant transitions within nations can he subtle and often unnoticed, especially by a distracted citizenry. Also, as decent individuals can behave poorly, in a hostile crowd, many of good moral persuasion may act similarly in a nation that inﬂuences them with pernicious schemes and policies.
Ancient Rome, deliberately distracted its citizens from their dystopian lives with huge stadiums, seating as many as 250,000 and providing 159 holidays for entertainment. Violence in the stadiums was customary and the young were nurtured in this context. Of course, millions of Americans hardly need the packed stadiums or numbered holidays. They can receive the same distracting optics in their homes, year long, via TV, or anywhere, with cyber devices.
In the 1930s, Germany was coping with the Depression and its people were experiencing hardship and discontent. A convincing speaker, absent other creditable attributes, was able, nonetheless, to eventually transform Germany’s democracy into a fascist state. He accomplished this by improving the economy through a military build-up, aided by industrialists and a sociopathic cadre. This was done by March 1933, despite his party receiving only 37% support in 1932.
Using legislative emergency powers, similar to our president’s executive orders, he was able to retain that power permanently through the Enabling Act (1933).
He alone could now alter their constitution and enact any law he wished, which would take effect the following day.
Germany had become an autocratic, one-party, militaristic government that gloriﬁed war and displayed a belligerent nationalism. Most citizens were passive acolytes, but aggressively intolerant toward the weak, “unworthy” and dissenters.
It was an atmosphere in which strength, force and violence was inculcated into a whole generation of young Germans, from 1933, onward. Despite their war conquests, including torture of millions, the Germans began to suffer and, in the end, experienced a miserable fate themselves.
Torture is a new consideration for Americans. That decision was made for us and evidence exists it was carried out in at least 20 “Black Sites,” all out of country, for almost a decade until prohibited by an executive order in April 2009. Torture conducted so secretly and for that length of time should be disconcerting.
During World War II, our nation engaged in war to defend our allies from Germany and ourselves, after an attack from Japan. After the war, we improved our infrastructure and began correcting social needs with good leaders, who also provided international care to war-torn countries, including Germany and ]apan.. Much has changed, however, with powerful ﬁnancial motivations for all sorts of military action that President Eisenhower warned us about, now including growing military security services businesses.
Powerful methods of indoctrination also seem to be more operative, including words and terms to unleash them, similar to those used in Germany in the 1930s.
- The hailed cheers of “Shock and Awe” from the White House promoters for the assault on Iraq, loses its glory in the context it occurred. Now, deemed unwarranted, this pre-emptive attack, the ﬁrst in our 214-year history, violated international law and fell outside the values of our nation.
- The word soldier is no longer adequate, apparently being replaced by the argot ‘warrior, ostensibly having more pictorial value. The achievements of the soldiers identiﬁed in the Charles Province poem, “lt is The Soldier,” were accomplished by bravery, not nomenclature.
- A portrayal of a compassionate or kind act, has for years, been summed up in a power context by a TV newscaster as “America strong,” presumably to render it more valuable. Recently, a newscast replacement described it as “kindness matters.” Hopefully, she replaces him more often.
These miasmic steps will remain viable with so many who are distracted or abetting the process. A superlative study [John Jost, 2003) involving 23,000 people from 12 countries, employing psychological tests, found some very inclined toward authoritarianism, a form of fascism. A study in London using MRIs (2010) had results supporting Jost’s conclusions.
Anyone who casts a wise vote is part of a pillar of democracy. Always, the discerning voter is essential for the survival of democracy.
This seems especially true today with so many citizens distracted (only about 57% vote in presidential elections) and an unknown number receptive to authoritarianism who will be lured by think tanks against their own best interest.
A final caveat seems timely: “Those who can make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” (Voltaire 1765)
Lloyd Holmberg resides in Onalaska.
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