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The Necessity for Enlightened Thinking
By Norman D. Livergood
We who live in the post-World War II period possess an
immensely valuable symbol, even if we don't understand
it or use it effectively: the example of Nazi Germany.
We've been conditioned to see
an unquestionably horrible example of dictatorial
tyranny and inhuman barbarity--and to see our present
American culture as completely opposite to that of
Nazi Germany. And we like to think that if a tyranny
such as that in Germany under the Nazi regime were
present and growing in America we'd unquestionably be
able to see it.
So it's a shock when we realize: most people living in
Nazi Germany didn't see the tyranny! They thought it
was the best time of their lives!
Milton Mayer's book, They Thought They Were Free,
concerns Germans still living after World War II who
had been members of the Nazi Party. Mayer came to know
them and studied their lives and attitudes. "As we
know Nazism, it was a naked, total tyranny which
degraded its adherents and enslaved its opponents and
adherents alike; terrorism and terror in daily life,
private and public; brute personal and mob injustice
at every level of association . . . "These nine
ordinary Germans [who lived in Nazi Germany] knew it
otherwise, and they still know it otherwise.
"An autocracy? [they say] Yes, of course . . . But a
tyranny, as you Americans use the term? Nonsense."
How could Germans living under Hitler's National
Socialism not have seen what it was? How did their
lack of social and personal awareness make them blind
to their reality?
How could Americans now possibly be living under a
creeping dictatorship and not know it? And how could
we not only not see a police state condition but
actually think we're living in complete freedom?
Because most of us don't WANT to know what's going on.
We've lost the ability to think critically about
political, economic, and social dangers confronting
If we have a job--as most people did in Nazi
stable--as it does in
"When [modern man] is completely infantile ... he does
not need and does not have an understanding of the
outer world. It exists for him merely as gratification
Walter Lippmann (1889-1973)
To the Germans in Mayer's study, each occasion of Nazi
violence was worse than the last, but only a little
worse. So they waited for the one shocking event,
thinking that they would join with others if or when
it happened. But as the violence escalated, no one
rose up to condemn the concentration camps and general
oppression. No one wanted to act alone, and when a
mass uprising failed to occur, the common people just
let events take their course. They progressively lost
the ability to understand the horror of Nazism and the
will to oppose it.
Similarly, we don't see the growing fascism in
and the world because we don't want to see it and
because it happens somewhat gradually, which makes it
almost imperceptible to those who don't think
critically. Everything in your society--Nazi
or twenty-first century
ordinary. The Progressive Loss of Freedom in the
(a few examples)
* The American people lost the right to elect their
president when the U.S. Supreme Court commited a coup
d'etat by approving the stealing of the presidency by
George W. Bush--in spite of major media companies
paying milions to contrive a "recount" which they
falsely claim proves Bush won the election
* The 11/14/01 announcement that any person designated
as a terrorist by the President is to be placed under
the control of the secretary of Defense and not
allowed the aid of US or foreign courts--a giant-step
in our march toward a total police state
* Persons are being held in American prisons without
being allowed to contact their attorney
* The consultations between persons in American
prisons and their attorneys are being monitored by
* Men, women, and children can be murdered without
compunction--as at Ruby Ridge and Waco--and the person
ultimately responsible for these "police-state"
atrocities will be promoted to become the head of the
agency guilty of these crimes.
* persons convicted of crimes are being appointed to
critical positions in the Bush administration
As 1930s Germans and twenty-first century Americans
wait, believing things won't get any worse--it's
finally too late. The imperceptible changes have
totally transformed you and your society into a
totalitarian state. Self-deception has infected almost
everyone. One of the Germans in Mayer's study was only
shocked into awareness when he heard his little boy
say "Jew swine" and he suddenly realized that his
whole society had degenerated into racism,
leader-worship, violence, and depravity. By 1939, when
Hitler had consolidated his power, most Germans
citizens were incapable of recognizing their society's
corruption, so few spoke out. Even fewer opposed the
By learning from the German Nazi tragedy, we can
see--in twenty-first century
easily wait too long. For example, we must look at the
interesting similarity of Hitler's use of the
Reichstag Fire to seize dictatorial powers and Bush's
use of the September 11 terrorist attack as his excuse
to move us to a police state where Bush can simply
"declare" that a foreigner is a terrorist and that
person's rights become almost non-existent. Without
any necessity of presenting evidence, the president
can now brand a non-US-citizen a "terrorist" and the
suspect is brought before a secret military tribunal
where the rules of evidence and prisoner rights are
Hitler was able to brand anyone he considered an enemy
and see that that person was summarily executed. How
long will it be before President Bush begins to brand
as "terrorist" any
The fact that ivy leage university professors and
other supposedly intelligent persons think Bush's
seizure of such police-state powers is okay, proves
that the fascist mentality is rampant in our society.
stop this escalating descent into total tyranny. We
can learn to face up to the political, economic, and
social oppression that is rampant; learn to think
critically about what our leaders are doing, and join
together 1 to safeguard and re-establish our freedoms.
But we must not delay, we cannot simply do nothing or
we'll be plunged into the same terror that destroyed
Pastor Niemoller, a German clergyman under the Nazi
regime, later confessed that when the Nazis attacked
opposing groups such as the Communists, he was a
little uneasy. But, he said, after all, he was not a
communist, so he did nothing. When the Nazis began to
attack the Jews he was even more uneasy, but he still
did nothing. Then they attacked the Church, and
because he was a clergyman he tried to do something,
but it was too late.
We in the modern world are in exactly the same
situation as the German people in the early days of
Nazi totalitarianism. Daily, staring us in the face,
is the unmistakable evidence of brutality, economic
oppression, fear-ridden conformity, pleasure-deadened
mindlessness, ignorant know-it-allness, and unashamed
hatred of the "different," the "unpopular," the
But people totally blinded by their pursuit of
pleasure or engrossed in destroying some enemy (the
anti-abortionists killing their enemies,
killing Iraqi babies through embargoes to get even
with Sadaam Hussein) don't see the crises in the
The general intellectual incompetence of Americans at
present leads directly to a blindness to our current
catastrophic situation. Without the learned ability to
make decisive distinctions, people cannot discriminate
between, for example, "economic downturn" and
depression, or between "change of leaders through free
elections" and coup d'etat through monied interests
buying and selling presidents and congresspersons. Our
minds are so undeveloped that we lack the capacity to
discriminate between the essentials and the changing,
"There couldn't be a police state in the U.S.," says
Joe American, "because we don't see men in uniforms
with swastikas on their armbands goose-stepping down
our streets! "
"We can't be losing our freedoms," says Jane American,
because I didn't see anything about it in the New York
Times and Tom Brokaw said nothing about it on the
We like to delude ourselves that the 1930s German
citizen was some special case. 2 But Nazism didn't
arise because a few maniacs somehow got into power and
did something unique to the German people's minds.
Those myths have been exploded once and for all by our
more recent understanding that those same tactics have
been used and are being used to enslave the minds of
people in many different societies.
"'Fascism' is only the organized political statement
of the structure of the average man's character, a
structure that is confined neither to certain races or
nations nor to certain parties, but is general and
international. . . 'Fascism' is the basic emotional
attitude of the suppressed man of our authoritarian
machine civilization and its mechanistic-mystical
conception of life."
Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism
So our present "enemy" is our own conditioned lack of
enlightened thinking, our love of ease, our
unwillingness to dispel our social and moral
delusions, our headlong rush into the mindless
attitude that "everything is okay."
Even though our society faces a truly alarming
situation, people find ways to ignore the peril. One
way to do this is to assume that such an episode as
the 1930s-1940s Nazi terror is no longer a threat. But
we have a number of horrible examples of what happens
TODAY to a society when its people fail to develop
enlightened thinking abilities, the most ghastly
perhaps being that of the September 11th terrorist
Ever since this indefensible horror, few Americans
have had the ability to ask the critical questions:
* what was the cause of the September 11th attacks?
* was there prior knowledge of (or even complicity) by
* is there a hidden agenda in the war on
* is Bush setting up a police state?
Thus we return to the absolute necessity to learn how
to think critically. And perhaps now we can begin to
see why it is essential to our very existence.
Enlightened thinking is no longer an intellectual
option for the few; it is a necessary tool for
discovering what kind of people we have allowed
ourselves to become.
Through self-study and change we must find out just
what in us makes it possible for a new, more
sophisticated "Nazism" to now be taking control, a
more insidious brand of fascism, undetected because
the blatant symbols and familiar catchphrases are
indiscernible to our undeveloped minds.
We either learn to use enlightened thinking now, or we
can passively watch while the new, disguised
gas-chambers and death squads are prepared for us.
Are You a War Criminal?
You could, sometime in the future, be put on trial
for FAILING to fight against the crimes against
humanity that the Bush administration is now
perpetrating! You certainly are complicit in the Bush
administration's destruction of constitutional
freedoms if you fail to speak out against:
* their refusal of due process and habeaus corpus to
foreign detainees in Cuba and the U.S.
* their allowing the CIA, the FBI, and other
intelligence agencies to spy on American citizens
(tapping phone lines, seizing property based on
trumped-up charges, monitoring internet usage, and on
* their deliberate, unabashed destruction of worker's
rights and welfare in acting for big-money interests
(e.g. Enron, Halliburton, agribusinesses, Afghan
pipeline) in every arena
* their lying about not having been informed prior to
9/11 about Arab men training in American Flight
schools and planning to hijack large airliners
* their use of their own failure to act on the
warnings they had received to justify grabbing even
more power, at the expense of our civil liberties, by
deceiving Congress and the American people
In a democracy such as ours in America, it's the
responsibility of citizens to inform themselves and to
struggle against any encroachment of constitutional
liberties. If some people are too unintelligent or
morally deficient to see the tyrannous acts of the
Bush administration, if some people are too cowardly
to stand against those acts, it's still your
individual responsibility as an American citizen to
uphold the principles of democracy on which this
nation is founded.
One of the most effective ways of feeling this is to
view the 1961 Academy Award-winning film, "Judgment at
be considered as one of three classes of war criminals
depicted in the film:
¡? Nazi villains such as Goering (though not
depicted in this movie, the
included Goering's trial and conviction as a war
¡? Ordinary criminals such as the German
judges who took advantage of the Nazi tyranny to
feather their own nests
¡? Germans who prided themselves on upholding
the nation's principles, such as Emil Janning, former
German secretary of justice (portrayed in the movie by
Burt Lancaster) and the widow of a convicted German
general executed for ordering the execution of
American POWs (portrayed by Marlene Dietrich). These
kinds of people were shocked when they found that the
world held them responsible for what had happened in
Abby Mann's brilliant screenplay "Judgment at
cannot afford to overlook:
* We're responsible for being aware of of what's going
on in our society; we can't plead ignorance. In the
movie, the defense attorney argued strenuously that
all those who supported or tolerated Nazis were
guilty, not just those individuals then being tried.
* We must make sure we're aware of what kind of
criminal trampling of our constitution and war crimes
our government officials may be involving us in.
* American leaders (especially the Bush family),
Britain (open letter to the "Times" by Winston
Churchill in 1938 praising the strength of Hitler),
the Vatican (corcordat with the Nazis), and others
were all complicit in creating the Nazi horror, as the
defense attorney in the movie pointed out.
* We cannot legitimately try to excuse ourselves with
catch-phrases such as:
* "My country right or wrong"
* "I'm only following orders"
* "We don't make the laws, we merely carry them out"
* "I'm only agreeing with the ideas of our leaders"
* "If I'm critical of my country's leaders, I'm a
The Bush administration is currently, and was
previously, involved in war crimes in Afghanistan and
is complicit in encouraging Israel's war crimes
against the Palestinian people (just as the Arab
states are encouraging Palestinian terrorists to
commit war crimes in their suicide bombings).
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger says he's
too busy to answer a subpoena ordering him to appear
Kissinger-backed Pinochet regime in
Former President Bush and other
leaders committed war crimes against
following the Gulf War) and
invasion of Kosovo) and are still under indictment
with the International War Crimes Tribunal.
It's possible that American leaders at any level could
at some time in the future be brought before an
international war crimes tribunal for those criminal
acts. None of the excuses above (the catch-phrases)
would be allowed as mitigating circumstances. In the
movie, the defense attorney argued in support of
mitigation the fact that all German judges during the
Nazi regime were forced to swear to the Civil Sevant
Loyalty Oath of 1934.
Bush, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, and the other members
of the current administration are trying to frighten
Americans by telling us that we are traitors if we
criticize their actions. On the contrary, they are
traitors to the American practice of democracy in
trying to suppress honest citizens' thought and
dissent. It's possible the tables may be turned, as in
post-World War II Germany: the leaders who forced
obedience to criminal acts may be put on trial for
crimes against humanity!
"Imagine if you can a world in which truth is one
general and something we will call blindness is the
opposing general. These two simple factors one must
choose between. There are no neutrals. We are frankly
for or against and hold our positions by the force of
the effort we put forth. The great struggle is not
only to conquer our opposing forces, but to reclaim
and form them into fighters for the truth."
Stewart Edward White
You are not so much struggling against the Bush
administration or any other form of tyranny as you are
fighting for the inalienable democratic principles
which make this nation free:
* The individual does not receive government and
authority from a deity who gives his secular sword to
princes and magistrates to rule by his divine right.
* The individual does not have a subordinate place in
a divinely inspired hierarchy, in which kings,
nobelmen, political leaders, and corporate executives
are placed above him as 'your highness.'
* Government is voluntarily established by free
individuals through a willful act of contract,
individuals rationally consenting to limit their own
freedom and to obey civil authority in order to have
public protection of their natural rights.
* Government's purpose is to serve the interests of
the people, to enable individuals to enjoy peacefully
their rights to life, liberty, and property.
Using enlightened thinking, we Americans must wake up
now to the dangers facing us and begin to take back
our country from the leaders who are misusing their
1 "Building a Unified Activist Citizen Taskforce"
2 Molly Harrower (1976). "Were Hitler's Henchman
Mad?", Psychology Today, July, pp. 76-80. Also see the
review by Richard L. Rubenstein in the same issue of
Psychology Today of the book, The Nuremberg Mind.