If one wishes to understand the nature of freedom, aside from searching inward to the wild yearnings of your own soul, I would suggest attempting to understand the nature of imprisonment. Totalitarian societies have fascinated me since I grew enough hair on my balls to understand that most human beings throughout history to this day have cherished their own chains more than anything else in life. Since I was a teenager, I've dreamed of traveling to those places most culturally and legally prohibited in the US: Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Russia and Saudi Arabia, not so much to see how, precisely, they wallow in the mud of their own authoritarian social realities, but to confirm my suspicion that the shades of their various socio-political-economic systems merely reflect a degree or two of muddy difference from our own institutional shit-holes.
Unfortunately, I read more about the nature of state authority and power rather than investigating them for myself. (I'm too old to risk another arrest.) The nonfiction I'm diving into now includes Michel Foucault's Madness and Civilization and A.N. Wilson's Hitler. I just finished the latter, still hastily devouring the former for dessert. Despite its brevity, Wilson's biography of Der Fuhrer is a joy to read as an introductory note on how a failed artist became one of the most powerful men in the 20th century.
Now, most people these days would flash you a look of offended, confused disbelief were you to claim at a cocktail party fundraiser for raising carbon footprint awareness that Hitler won WW2. That's been my personal belief for a while now, and I'm used to the straights looking at me with raised eyebrows and flushed red cheeks--how did that guy get into the party? You should be used to it, too. But maybe you're not convinced of the assertion either. Fortunately for us, A.N. Wilson explains in clear detail why, despite what common sense and the self-inflicted bullet that killed his brain tell us, Hitler lives. I've reprinted Wilson's explanation here for the rest of the world. Enjoy!
"In the end, Hitler is a mystery that cannot be plumbed, whether you use the tool of the economist, the political analyst, or the psychiatrist. But two things are perhaps worth saying in conclusion. They are, apparently, contradictory things. Perhaps Hegel would think of them as a Thesis and an Antithesis. They are that Hitler was both very ordinary and completely extraordinary.
He was ordinary in the things he believed. And in most of the things he believed, he was a pioneer of the modern age. This is something which most people find extremely hard to stomach. They want to make him into a Demon King. Ever since he died by his own hand in the bunker, the civilized world has been on the run from his dangerous ideas. His belief that race explained everything, one of the only old-fashioned beliefs in the Hitlerian Creed, has been replaced by the belief--now all but universal throughout the civilized world--that discriminating between peoples on racial grounds is a wickedness. Yet, one of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's reasons for returning to Germany, where he intuitively knew that he would die a martyr's death, was because, when living in New York, where he could have stayed as an academic, he went with a friend to a restaurant and was not served because the friend was black. It is easy to treat history as a pantomime with heroes and villains, and to heap all of our guilt about our own beliefs, or those of our grandparents, on to a few maniacs strutting about with swastikas on their arms. But the truth is that Hitler, in his racial discrimination, was simply being normal. The United States and the British Empire were both racist through and through. Nor, even, did Hitler's anti-Jewish policy figure in the Western powers' reason for going to war with him.
Because we still regard him as the Demon King of history we think that if we say the opposite of what Hitler said, we shall somehow be living a better life. Hitler was a racist, so we shall be anti-racist. Hitler made homosexuals wear pink triangles, so we shall have gay marriages. Hitler was the ultimately Incorrect person, so we shall invent Political Correctness, a system of thought which is in fact dominated by the unmentioned memory of Hitler and by being his opposite in all things, things to purge his baleful influence from earth."
(Continued on the next blog post.)