To be conscious of unfreedom, one must have a concept of what freedom and respect for life are.
A person who has never experienced this as a child, who has only know and been exposed to extreme violence, brutality, and hypocrisy, without ever having come across a single helping witness, does not demonstrate for freedom. Such a person demands order and uses violence to achieve it, just as he or she learned as a child: order and cleanliness at any price is the motto, even if it is at the price of life. The victims of such an upbringing ache to do to others what was once done to them. If they don't have children, or their children refuse to make themselves available for their revenge, they line up to support new forms of fascism. Ultimately, fascism always has the same goal: the annihilation of truth and freedom.
People who have been mistreated as children, but totally deny their suffering, use the mottoes and labels of the day. They thereby meet the approval of others like them because they are also helping to conceal their truth. They are consumed by the perverse pleasure in the destruction of life that they observed in their parents when young. They long to at last be on the other side of the fence, to hold power themselves, passing it off, as Stalin Hitler, or Ceausescu have done, as "redemption" for others. This old childhood longing determines their political "opinions" and speeches, which are therefore impervious to counter-arguments.
As long as they continue to ignore or distort the roots of the problem, which lie in the very real threats experienced in their childhood, reason must remain impotent against this kind of persecution complex. The unconscious compulsion to revenge repressed injuries is more powerful than all reason. That is the lesson that all tyrants teach us. One should no expect judiciousness from a mad person motivated by compulsive panic. One should, however, protect oneself from such a person. [italics from the original, breaks in text added]
We have to show them that what was passed off on them in childhood as "a good upbringing" was a base, mendacious and idiotic ideology in which they had to believe in order to survive, and that they now wish to recirculate at the political level. And we have to show them that the people who cheated them, who engendered their misery, their hunger for power and destruction, were not Jews or Turks or Arabs or Gypsies, but their very own parents--clean, orderly citizens, God-fearing respectable churchgoers.
Alice Miller, like many other psychiatrists, wondered why so many good Germans went along with or joined in on the horrors of the Nazi regime. She determined that people obeyed horrific orders because they had been taught to do so at a very young age. They were taught to ignore mistreatment from their parents, by their parents, and carried on that practice of obedience in the face of abuse in the church and under the government. In time they denied they had been mistreated at all, because who can admit that their parents were not able to love them? Children don't see parents as damaged people, they see them as powerful and wise, and they want their parents' love more than anything else in the entire world. So they deny their own feeling and eventually the feelings of others. They find intellectual reasons to support these emotional reactions, but it's all denial, all an attempt to avoid emotional pain.
These past few days we've seen reports of one American atrocity after the other--our soldiers' frenzied joy at shooting guns at and murdering random people, our president declaring that we are all the prospective enemy of our own government, the persecution by the government of whistle-blowers, the admittance by our military that our known atrocities are just the tip of the iceberg. We have proof, and we still deny that we are a menace to the world, our wealth is based on murder and theft, our noble heritage and innate superiority a vicious lie. We deny and will continue to deny no matter how many people have to die to preserve our illusions. Worse of all, we fight to preserve our culture of death and destruction, handing over yet more money to the thieves because we can't admit they stole from us. Electing more presidents who coolly watch us and our enemies die while preaching brotherhood and equality. Telling ourselves to change from within, elect more Democrats, hold more fundraisers, gain more power. All in the service of denial.
The only way to gain more power is to give it away.
Parents who share power and responsibility with their children are teaching their children to respect themselves, to trust and believe in themselves. Societies that share power don't suffer from the social upheavals that inevitably result from power (and therefore economic) inequality. Nations that share power don't waste resources in wars. But we won't share power, because it is something that is taken in our society, not given, and jealously guarded and preserved.
All this guarding and preserving means we will commit atrocities as a matter of self-preservation, as we see it. And we will deny what we are doing every step of the way. What to see how it's done? Fortunately, I have a fine example right here at my fingertips. But that's a different post.
Jeez, reading ArgleBargle's comment section is even worse than reading her. What a group of stupid & nasty chumps. As sickening as the actual video (which they say is "ambiguous" or "doesn't show anything wrong".
It makes me ashamed. McArgle excuses and defends these things for money and 'fame'. Huh.
I think there's another very important element to authoritarianism and people who submit to it - fear. A lot of Germans that knew about the camps during World War II said nothing because they also knew if they did, they'd wind up inside of one. Most people don't want to rock the boat or won't speak up for their priniples because they aren't willing to make the sacrifices that come with it. They'd rather sit back and quietly go about their lives and risk nothing, allowing others to suffer.
Most people are afraid to disobey authority for no reason--I'm sure many went along since they had very good reasons to do so. But some others conquered their fears to fight back, in small or bigger ways.
We are not afraid of our government and yet we do nothing while they kill and torture people who are out of sight. They are too few, too far away. People tolerated the persecution of Blacks in their own towns because they didn't care enough to do anything about it--too callous to feel for others' suffering. I think that if the US became fascist most people would just go along because they would find excuses to support the leaders. Look at McArdle's commenters, at the Catholic Church defenders. It's not so bad, it's not so many, they wanted it (because of the gay angle), the critics are all liars--some of us are very good at excusing away atrocities and would do so under any circumstance.
Susan, have you seen The White Ribbon yet? I wrote a review not long ago, but it's German art house flick that touches on many of these issues as it tries to explain the roots of Nazism. It's not for everyone, but you may find it interesting.
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