08 May 2017

It Can't Happen Here: Pride, Power, Exceptionalism, and the Smoking Chimney

"Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow.

The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness...

The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists.

The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil."

Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

"It seems that under the overwhelming impact of rising power, humans are deprived of their inner independence and, more or less consciously, give up establishing an autonomous position toward the emerging circumstances.

The fact that the foolish person is often stubborn must not blind us to the fact that he is not independent. In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with him as a person, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like that have taken possession of him.

He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being. Having thus become a mindless tool, the foolish person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. This is where the danger of diabolical misuse lurks, for it is this that can once and for all destroy human beings.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers From Prison

"One of the primary characteristics of narcissists is their exaggerated sense of entitlement. It's hardly surprising then that so many politicians somehow think they 'deserve' to game the system. After all, from their self-interested perspective, isn't that what the system is for?

In their heavily self-biased opinion, if they want something, by rights it should be their's. So, nothing if not opportunistic, they take from public and private coffers alike whatever they think they can get away with. And given their grandiose sense of self, they're inclined to believe they can get away with most anything.

Exploiting their privileged position in such a manner hardly leaves them plagued with guilt. In general, guilt isn't an emotion they're prone to. How could they be if they feel entitled to the objects of their desire? In their minds their very ability to attain something must certainly mean it was merited."

Leon F. Seltzer

"On Wall Street he and a few others—how many?—three hundred, four hundred, five hundred?—had become precisely that ... Masters of the Universe."

Tom Wolfe, The Bonfire of the Vanities

"Power will achieve its murderous potential. It simply waits for an excuse, an event of some sort, an assassination, a massacre in a neighboring country, an attempted coup, a famine, or a natural disaster, to justify the beginning of murder en masse."

R. J. Rummel

“Each day we are becoming a creature of splendid glory, or one of unthinkable horror.”

C. S. Lewis

"The essential characteristic of a good and healthy ruling elite, however, is that it views itself not as a function of the monarchy or the commonwealth, but as its very meaning and highest justification, and that it therefore accepts with a good conscience the sacrifice of untold human beings who, for its sake, must be reduced and lowered to incomplete human beings, to slaves, to instruments.

Their fundamental belief simply has to be that society must not exist for society's sake, but only as the foundation and scaffolding on which the best type of being is able to raise itself to its higher task and to a higher state of being..."

Friedrich Nietzsche

People do not wake up one morning and decide to be monsters that will be reviled by all civilized people throughout history.

No, they go down that path one small step at a time, one seemingly harmless and practical decision after another. They are just being reasonable, practical, realistic— merely following the advice of their betters, just repeating the stories and slogans that 'everyone knows.'   We cannot afford to pay a living wage to this one, or to care for that one.

And besides, look at them. They surely have done something to deserve their misery.

And so people find the one who will nullify rather than forgive their sins, and allow them to put their humanity, and indeed their own souls, aside for the sake of the system. Who can argue with success? And they find safety and relief from conscience in the great mass of the unquestioning and the compliant.

I do not wish to to sway or persuade you on some political topic or controversy of the day. For most people it quickly becomes depersonalized, just a kind of game. What clever slogans and high sounding arguments can one memorize, what authorities and books will one reference and quote, and finally, what emotional resolve can a person muster to stubbornly go back and defend the position which they have taken, which most likely has little or nothing to do with arguments or reason?

Having freed ourselves from constraints of truth and morality, we live in a truly cynical age.

No, my purpose is simply this— to show us what we are becoming, to expose the face of that which we truly love and serve without any illusions.  The rest of it will be up to the individual, one way or another, to decide.  In the end that is the only choice that matters, that is the purpose of your life: to choose whom you will serve by your actions, because that is whom you will love.

"And then he prompts you what to say, and listens to you, and praises you, and encourages you. He bids you mount aloft. He shows you how to become as gods. Then he laughs and jokes with you, and gets intimate with you; he takes your hand, and gets his fingers between yours, and grasps them, and then you are his."