Article by WN.Com Correspondent Dallas Darling
Even by the most primitive of standards, the rise of fascist leaders and Nazism that swept across Europe and the world in the early 20th century seemed to be a sign of irrationality.
As a result, the key to understanding Adolf Hitler’s success, as to why so many Germans and others supported the lies in the Nazi’s rejection of a rational, factual world, is in what Hitler believed.
The Führer himself, in the words of his biographer Joachim Fest, “was always thinking the unthinkable, and in his statements an element of bitter refusal to submit to reality invariably emerged.”1 This new irrationality was based on the hatreds, prejudices and the ideology certain groups of people should rule over others.
As in the days of Fascism and Nazism, some are now starting to embrace the unthinkable. In their statements of bitter refusal to submit to reality, their irrational exuberance is giving way to the pursuit of a dystopian world. Consider the attempt to call voting rights a “power grab,” or a Senate that wants to continue funding its most lengthiest and futile war. In addition to overthrowing more foreign leaders, another billionaire just announced his possible run for the presidency – something only late capitalism could achieve. Some leaders are also asking their foreign policy experts, “Why can’t we use nuclear weapons. This includes either bullying or making intelligence agencies lie about their assessments.
Justifying The Irrational
“In a free society” wrote Ayn Rand, “one does not have to deal with those who are irrational. One is free to avoid them.” The only problem is what if the leaders are irrational? Republican leaders consequently just denounced a new bill in the Senate to ensure automatic and internet voter registration and early voting, as well as prohibiting states from restricting a voter’s ability to cast mail-in ballots. It would’ve also entailed safeguarding voters from being purged from registration, and campaign finance reforms that would bar contributions from businesses that have significant foreign influences. This included forcing campaigns to expose donors who give more than $10,000.
The rejection of rationality during the rise of Nazism and fascism also went hand in hand with a rejection of the liberal, more reasonable age of Enlightenment. In fact, the cynical dishonesty of the Nazi’s propaganda, the dismantling of voting rights and civil liberties, received a significant boost from the cult of irrationality that drove their followers. It consisted of the hatreds, prejudices and superstitions that civilized Europeans thought belonged to a distant medieval past. The fascination with irrationality cropped up everywhere, even in disciplines like law and free speech. So much so that the function of a justice system and speech that was supposed to free people from fear enslaved them.
Irrationality – The Square Root Of Evil
Nothing defines a nation’s leaders more than their willingness to do irrational things in the pursuit of incredibly obtuse and deadly undertakings. It’s no secret the U.S. is trying to topple Venezuela’s government. This, despite that it’s advanced the living standards of Venezuela’s poor. Public healthcare has been expanded to more than 60 percent of the population, making it the UN Program for Development among the countries with the highest Human Development Index. It’s decreased infant mortality rates, heart disease and HIV/AIDS rates, too. More than 1.5 million affordable homes have been built, making Venezuela rank second for having the lowest rate of homelessness in Latin America.2
Hitler and Nazism was defined by their willingness to do irrational things in the pursuit of deadly endeavors as well. Pulling together deliberate deceit and propaganda, the concern with public irrationality was on display in the many years of fake news and false narratives against certain peoples. It emphasized gut-level hatreds and exaltation. Their emphasis on racial purity and superiority mirrors that of U.S. leaders – only in a nationalistic sense of exceptionalism. Since others are “unfit to rule,” let alone determine their own destinies, they must be the ones that rule. It led to preemptive wars followed by military occupations – and enormous amounts of carnage and death.
Driven By Irrationality and Psychopathology
Today, the list of irrationalities is endless. Donald Trump not only declared that Mexico and the U.S.’s southern border was worse than the Afghanistan war, mainly in defense of his border wall bid, 3 but he frequently asks policy experts: “Why can’t we use nuclear weapons?”4 The U.S. and Trump – who now has the
nuclear codes – have withdrawn from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, causing Vladimir Putin of Russia to do likewise. And while the Senate just voted to extend the wars in Syria and Afghanistan – the latter being America’s longest and most futile, Howard Schultz, another billionaire, wants to run for president. It’s like problems trying to fix the same problems.
Though there’s nothing so disastrous as an absurd agenda in an irrational world, one contemporary observer, Peter Drucker, was keenly aware of how the Nazi and fascist movements profited from their appeal to irrationality and the absurd. He thought Nazi and fascist doctrines had evolved in a general climate of loss of belief – not only in liberalism but socialism as well. Since there were no positive answers to any social problems, Nazism could only be “against” everything, even inconsistent things or things which seemed reasonable and practical. Nazism was then anti-conservative and anti-liberal, anti-capitalistic and anti-socialist, and most of all anti-moral and anti-Semitic.5
Irrational Beliefs Equal Culturally Accepted Delusions
This kind of anti-everything, including the loss of “total” belief – even in life itself, was just revealed when an officer from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) jumped to his death from a balcony inside Florida’s busiest airport. During the commotion, half the passengers rushed past the checkpoints. Others pulled out their phones to snap pictures of the gruesome and chaotic scene.6 This apparent suicide came on the heels of a report that detailed how the suicide rate tripled among U.S. Special Operation Forces in 2018. The Pentagon described it as a disturbing, unexplained phenomenon.7 But it should be clear: Repeated deployments in the name of a derelict, irrational nation that’s always at war. Wars, which are also absurd.
In a particularly sharp observation, Drucker also noted Nazism had succeeded not because people believed its messages, but in spite of the fact that they did not. Nazi successes, he pointed out, had been “witnessed by a hostile press, a hostile radio, a hostile cinema, a hostile church and a hostile government which untiringly pointed out the Nazi lies, the Nazi inconsistency, the unassailability of their promises and the dangers and folly of their course. No one should’ve been a Nazi if rational belief in the Nazi promises had been a prerequisite. Consequently, the Nazi’s only recourse was to accomplish its task through a kind of irrationality, a miracle and superstitious belief.
If this kind of irrationality sounds familiar, it should. The same can be seen today in the U.S. and Brazil, Hungary, Turkey, Poland and Austria. Since a loss of – and in – belief is a must for a contempt in truth – and facts, it plays well for the politically uneducated who do not know the correct things to do with the rights and powers that have been conferred upon them. Like Aldous Huxley warned: Human beings act in a great variety of irrational ways, but all of them seem capable, if given a fair chance, of making a reasonable choice in the light of available evidence. Democratic institutions can be made to work “only” if all concerned do their best to impart knowledge and encourage rationality.
Though history doesn’t repeat itself the exact same way, our age may very well be one of irrationality, as in the days of fascism and Nazism.
Dallas Darling (firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Dallas Darling is the author of Politics 501: An A-Z Reading on Conscientious Political Thought and Action, Some Nations Above God: 52 Weekly Reflections On Modern-Day Imperialism, Militarism, And Consumerism in the Context of John’s Apocalyptic Vision, and The Other Side Of Christianity: Reflections on Faith, Politics, Spirituality, History, and Peace. He is a correspondent for www.WN.com. You can read more of Dallas’ writings at www.beverlydarling.com and www.WN.com/dallasdarling.)
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