[T]he whole world had become strange and unsettling. Apart from the fascinating rules I knew, the great game had clearly had other secret rules that I had failed to grasp. There must have been something deceitful and false about it. Where could one find stability and security, faith and confidence, if world events could be so deceptive? If triumph upon triumph led to ultimate disaster, and the true rules of history were revealed only retrospectively in a shattering outcome? I stared into the abyss. I felt a horror for life. (Defying Hitler, p. 27)
It's books like Defying Hitler that are essential if we, as a species, are ever going to learn how to remove ourselves from the seemingly endless cycles of affluence, ignorance, oppression and mutual destruction. Dry military histories, political memoirs, academic analyses, newspaper articles - all can provide some important details, but they miss the point. They miss the heart of the matter, the essence of the situation that makes it matter. In short, they lack psychological depth.
Economics, party platforms and policies, the political spectrum, major geopolitical events - these things are the facade that covers the thing toward which humanity has an almost instinctual fear and revulsion, but which they cannot name. It remains hidden, like those 'secret rules', in the abyss. And the events that we see unfold in the news offer only the slightest hint at what is really going on.
Here's how Haffner describes it early in his book:
Official, academic history has, as I said, nothing to tell us about the differences in intensity of historical occurrences. To learn about that, you must read biographies, not those of statesmen but the all-too-rare ones of unknown individuals. There you will see that one historical event passes over the private (real) lives of people like a cloud over a lake. Nothing stirs, there is only a fleeting shadow. Another event whips up the lake as in a thunderstorm. For a while it is scarcely recognizable. A third may, perhaps, drain the lake. (Defying Hitler, p. 7)
But events tend to progress in very definite directions if the causes behind them are not seen and understood, and if effective actions are not taken to steer them in another direction. Because those causes - those 'secret rules' - remain hidden in the abyss, we can do nothing but sit by and watch history unfold, perhaps grasping at symptoms we take for the disease itself. We may even see the pattern, but are hopeless to make any real change. Events pass us by - mere headlines in our newspapers and RSS feeds. That is, until we encounter the storm.
If we don't learn the secret rules of the great game, we will, like Haffner and countless others of his generation, passively watch the inexorable march of 'history', watch all those serene clouds coalesce, feel the first drops of rain, until we find ourselves beneath a massive thundercloud that tears our inner and outer lives to shreds. Haffner writes:
Those events [leading to 1933] have naturally left their mark on me, as on all my compatriots. If one fails to appreciate this, one will not be able to understand what happened later. There is, however, an important difference between what happened before 1933 and what came afterward. We watched the earlier events unfold. They occupied and excited us, sometimes they even killed one or another of us or ruined him; but they did not confront us with ultimate decisions of conscience. Our innermost being remained untouched. We gained experience, acquired convictions, but remained basically the same people. However, no one who has, willingly or reluctantly, been caught up in the machine of the Third Reich can honestly say that of himself. (Defying Hitler, p. 6)We are seeing the storm clouds gathering. They've been here for years. Now we are confronted with one of those 'ultimate decisions of conscience'. And we will not remain the same people, however much we think things will carry on as normal. They will not. This is how Haffner describes life in the storm:
With fearful menace the state demands that the individual give up his friends, abandon his lovers, renounce his beliefs and assume new, prescribed ones. He must use a new form of greeting, eat and drink in ways he does not fancy, employ his leisure in occupations he abhors, make himself available for activities he despises, and deny his past and his individuality. For all this, he must constantly express extreme enthusiasm and gratitude. (Defying Hitler, p. 3-4)
The Nazis constantly gained ground. What was no longer to be found was pleasure in life, amiability, fun, understanding, goodwill, generosity, and a sense of humor. (Defying Hitler, p. 92)If it sounds like something out of 1984, it's because this reality is the one Orwell was trying to expose and warn against. He had the literary skills, but he didn't have the precise terminology and knowledge of the secret rules. If you listen to the news, if you read the books written by the architects of modern Western geopolitical strategy, you'll likely know where this 'new reality' has the greatest potential of breaking out: authoritarianism in Russia and China, Islamo-Fascism in the Middle East and Africa. It couldn't happen here, in the 'civilized' West: North America, Europe, Australia.
Too bad, but they couldn't be more wrong. This new reality is already here, and the most striking example is in a place few would have predicted: Ukraine. Keep Haffner's description above in mind. Now read this, a letter written by a young woman in Kiev shortly after the coup in Ukraine last year:
My co-worker was beat in front of the entrance to her apartment for writing anti-maidan posts in her VK page. ... At school the other day, my neighbor's boy called his parents at the break using a mobile phone and spoke with them in Russian. His schoolmates took away his phone and broke it. They broke his bag, tore all his textbooks and note-books, and then beat him up. They demanded he speak only Ukrainian or "for the rest of his life be afraid because they will find and will cripple him". This is a boy in 7th grade.The following was written as a response to her letter:
From time to time on the streets it is possible to see this picture; As a person is approaching a group of people, the group asks questions: "Were you on Maidan? Do you support Maidan?" If both answers are "no" the group cruelly beats them and kicks them.
In Kiev now the majority of Russians and Russian-speaking people, initially and after Maidan who did not support Maidan are compelled to remember the Soviet period when "even walls have ears" and to keep mum. Because we, unlike other regions [Donesk, Lugansk] have no chance of separating from Ukraine.
Kiev is completely split. Here associating with Russians is impossible. ...
All others are guarded and careful even with people they think they know. Russian and Russian-speaking people that haven't faced an atrocity as opponents of the Maidan simply try to be silent in public places. They try to not attract the aggression of madmen.
And those who already suffered from them or at least as much as I know about real cases, try hard to save their families and to be silent, silent, silent.
Therefore the "picture" of Kiev is quite safe, spring comes, and so on. Actually part (and not a small part!) of the city is in silent horror.
It is impossible to be silent. But the inhabitants of Kiev, who are Antimaidan, and faced atrocity won't write about it openly. It's the instinct of self-preservation
I read "The letter from Kiev". Everything is true... The author correctly wrote you can't drop everything and leave in one day. You won't get a new house and a new job in one day. It is necessary to simply hide. This is an absolutely awful feeling. It is necessary not only to remember that the walls have ears, but you have to remind yourself to look like you are in a good mood. Rejoice that the spring sun is shining for example. After Maidan it is unhealthy to do otherwise. People are watching and looking for those that did not support Maidan. Laws no longer work here. The people are absolutely defenseless and left to the mercy of fate.
The most ridiculous organization "stop censorship" first struggled with the dictator Yanukovych. Afterward they wanted every publisher that didn't agree with Maidan closed. No human rights activists or even "the reporters without borders" ever mentioned this, not one. I am feeling that is a dreadful dream the events.
Here openly I put it. It is fascism, ordinary fascism.
While the West champions the expression of democracy in Ukraine, those whom they support - the ones shelling, torturing, raping, and killing innocent civilians - are anything but 'democratic'. But perhaps we should stop using words like 'democracy' altogether. It is just another slogan, a buzzword meaning whatever the user wishes it to mean. It serves as an encapsulated emotion. Democracy is good. Maidan was an expression of democracy. Therefore Maidan was good. That is the emotional logic of the word. But it's not true.
A few examples: Andrey Biletsky is a former "Azov" battalion commander, a Ukrainian nationalist ideologue and Verkhovna Rada deputy (thanks to Victoria Nuland's pet, Arseniy Yatsenyuk). Here's what he had to say in an interview with Foreign Policy.
In 2010 he wrote an essay outlining his ideology for the Social-National Assembly, where we can find the following:Unfortunately, among the Ukrainian people today there are a lot of 'Russians' (by their mentality, not their blood), 'kikes,' 'Americans,' 'Europeans' (of the democratic-liberal European Union), 'Arabs,' 'Chinese' and so forth, but there is not much specifically Ukrainian... It's unclear how much time and effort will be needed to eradicate these dangerous viruses from our people.
The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the white races of the world in a final crusade for their survival. A crusade against the Semite-led sub-humans. The task of the present generation is to create a Third Empire.Ukrainian President Poroshenko honored this same Biletsky with the Order for Courage. Prime Minister Yatsenyuk is no better. Here's what he said on June 15 of last year:
They [Ukrainian military troops fighting in Lugansk] lost their lives because they defended men and women, children and the elderly who found themselves in a situation facing a threat to be killed by invaders and sponsored by them subhumans. First, we will commemorate the heroes by wiping out those who killed them and then by cleaning our land from the evil.Then there are the slogans heard throughout Ukraine:
- If you are not 'jumping', you are Moskal! [Moskal is a derogatory term for Russians.]
- Glory to Ukraine!
- One language, one nation, one homeland!
- Hang the Moskals!
Haffner offers some insight into this mob mentality:
[I]n its reactions the mass psyche greatly resembles the child psyche. One cannot overstate the childishness of the ideas that feed and stir the masses. Real ideas must as a rule be simplified to the level of a child's understanding if they are to arouse the masses to historic actions. (Defying Hitler, p. 16)Of course, children can express wisdom and compassion. They can also be selfish, ignorant and cruel. It is up to a country's rulers to decide which aspect of the child they will address, which they will encourage.
After the Kapp Putsch, interest in politics flagged among us boys. All parties had been compromised and the entire topic lost its attraction. ... Many of us sought new interests: stamp collecting, for example, piano playing, or the theater. Only a few remained true to politics, and it struck me for the first time that, strangely enough, those were the more stupid, coarse, and unpleasant among my schoolfellows. They proceeded to enter the "right sort" of leagues, the German National Youth Association or the Bismarck League (there was still no Hitler Youth), and soon they showed off knuckledusters, truncheons, and even blackjacks in school. They boasted of dangerous nocturnal poster-pasting or poster-removing expeditions and began to speak a certain jargon that distinguished them from the rest of us. They also began to behave in an unfriendly way toward the Jewish boys. (Defying Hitler, pp. 44-45)Stupid, coarse, unpleasant. What a fitting description for the type that would eventually go on to become SS officers, or today, members of Ukraine's Right Sector. But there's a more accurate, clinical description of these types of individuals: psychopaths. That's the 'big secret'. Psychopathy is the hidden cause lurking beneath 'political parties', 'geopolitical events', ideologies, causes. It is that 'deceitful and false' something that disturbed the young Sebastian Haffner.
Because psychopathy, by its very nature is deceitful and false. It presents a mask of reasonableness, affability, intensity, persuasion that is difficult if impossible to uncover if one doesn't know to look for it. Because underneath the friendliness, the reason, the reassurance, there is only the unstoppable instinct of power: domination, control, and the unemotional will to do or say anything to get what it wants, no matter how many bodies, bank accounts, or bonds of family and friend are broken in order to get there. They just don't care. Some of them even enjoy it.
Pathocracy is even less of a socioeconomic system than a social structure or political system. It is a macrosocial disease process affecting entire nations ...And the way psychopaths get to that point is by using, manipulating and perverting humanity's best feature: its conscience.
Opinion makers carefully shape what we come to believe - the convictions that move us to support or reject some policy or decision, or to engage in some form of action. And they do it by appealing to our conscience, our sense of right or wrong, our sense that some things are simply better than others. Value systems are unavoidable, and politicians know it. We are irreducibly 'moral' reasoners: some decisions are better than others (for certain reasons), some statements are truer than others. The yardstick by which we measure is our conscience -- our awareness of certain values like truth, beauty and goodness -- in concert with our reason, which actively compares, contrasts, analyses and synthesizes data according to those values.
So we naturally come to see our political opinions, our judgments of goodness, necessary and unacceptable evils, as grounded in conscience. We support this latest piece of legislation because there is a problem that needs solving. We have certain opinions about certain people because they pose a threat. We need to engage in this or that action because the alternative would be so much worse.
But there's a catch. Conscience is simply not conscience if it is not based on truth. I cannot in good conscience support a murderer over his victims if he is in fact guilty. And I cannot condemn a person or group of people if they are not in fact guilty. And that's where the opinion makers make their living: convincing people that things are one way, when they are not, in order to gain their support for decisions and actions that are based on complete lies (no matter how plausible they may appear on the surface).
Remember, pathocracy is by its very nature deceitful and false. Just look at Ukraine and the endless stream of lies that pour out of the mouths of Kiev's politicians and media. On the other hand, stability and security, faith and confidence -- those things Haffner so desperately sought -- need truth. There's no way around it. If we're not aware of that, and if we don't actively seek the truth, we will simply be caught up in the thunderstorm. Germans did it in the 1930s. Humanity is doing it today.
Daily life also made it difficult to see the situation clearly. Life went on as before, though it had now definitely become ghostly and unreal ... Strangely enough, it was just this automatic continuation of ordinary life that hindered any lively, forceful reaction against the horror. ... [This reaction] was hindered by the mechanical continuation of normal daily life. How different history would be if men were still independent, standing on their own two feet, as in ancient Athens. Today they are yoked to the details of their work and daily timetable, dependent on a thousand little details, cogs in a mechanism they do not control, running steadily on rails and helpless if they become derailed. Only the daily routine provides security and continuity. Just beyond lies a dark jungle. Every European of the twentieth century feels this in his bones and fears it. It is the cause of his reluctance to do anything that could "derail" his life -- something audacious or out of the ordinary. It is this lack of self-reliance that opens the possibility of immense catastrophes of civilization such as the rule of the Nazis in Germany. (Defying Hitler, pp. 137-138)How little things have changed... Even when events of extreme importance are going on around us -- even affecting our lives in certain subtle ways -- we tend not to take action. It's usually only when something that really matters to us is taken away that the fire within is lit and we're ready to take action. By that time it's usually too late.
So what can humanity do? Well, we can start to extending the reach of what matters to us personally. To realize that we are part of a greater whole. We need to see the horror of what is happening on this planet as if it is a matter of life or death. Because in the grand scheme of things it is. Conscience. Truth. Without them, nothing will change. They will only get worse.