SUNDAY MARCH 30, 2003
ALL THAT GLITTERS
"Despite the really exemplary discipline, strength and restraint which National Socialists preserved in their revolution, we have seen that a certain portion of the foreign press inundated the new Reich with a virtual flood of lies and calumnies. It was a remarkable mixture of arrogance and deplorable ignorance which led them to act as the judges of a people who should be presented as models to these democratic apostles -
"Whoever disturbs this mission is the enemy of the people, whether he pursues his aim as a bolshevist democrat, a revolutionary terrorist or a reactionary dreamer. In such a time of necessity those who act in the name of God are not those who, citing Bible quotations, wander idly about the country and spend the day partly doing nothing and partly criticising the work of others; but those whose prayers take the highest form of uniting man with his God, that is the form of work.
"I had a right to turn against everyone who, instead of helping, thought his mission was to criticise our work. Foreign nations contributed nothing apart from this spirit, for their spirit was tinged by hate or a spirit of knowing better than we knew."
I have this little experiment for my creative English students. I read them excerpts from famous speeches and ask them to identify the speaker. After deleting relevant and tell-tale words, of course. It is amazing how many times the students fail to come up with the right names.
The above excerpt I have quoted, for instance. Words like really exemplary discipline, strength and restraint. And the attitude of the opponents with their virtual flood of lies and calumnies against this disciplined lot. The speaker brings in God and the spirit of missionary zeal, while his detractors are idle critics who carp at the divine task of nation-building. The speaker claims the right to turn against all critics. The need of the hour has been spelt out unequivocally and anyone who raises a dissenting voice is an enemy of the people. What a virtuous man this must be! How strong he stands against the destructive forces that threaten to erode his noble aims!
Of course, I'm going to give no marks for guessing who made that speech because, in this case, I haven't deleted the tell-tale words. But the spirit of the speech is so lofty that it could only belong to the repertoire of the most selfless, courageous, exemplary leader of his people. Unfortunately, it belonged to Adolf Hitler.
An uncle who visited Germany during those times used to tell us of the time he followed a milling, highly-charged crowd through the streets of Berlin, not knowing where they were off to or why they were so excited until he saw posters of the man with the familiar spot moustache pasted generously on every wall in the area. He followed them almost in a daze. The crowd trooped into a large stadium and waited patiently to listen to the Fuehrer speak. He came. He spoke. The crowd rode hysterically on the passion and grandeur of his words. If they'd been told that God had descended that very moment upon the earth, they would have had no doubt about whose body He was occupying. My uncle came back almost convinced about Hitler's ideals - though he didn't even know the language! That is the power of self-righteousness, the power of the properly-wielded word, the power of mass mesmerism.
Okay, you say, this may happen in a tyrant state, this may happen in one country for a limited time, today this may fool some of the people but surely not everybody. And then, you continue, this will never happen in a democratic liberal state, and since we have all become citizens of the global village, no dictator can last long till his retribution.
Wrong! It can happen. If the right person uses the right language, has the right friends and wields the right stick, if that person appropriates for himself the mantle of a world saviour and honestly believes that he has the right to discipline the world, then it definitely can happen. Those who demur are his enemies and they must be punished. If a higher authority tries to restrain him then he will bypass that authority. Nothing can stop such a man. Of course it can happen.
And it is happening.