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This CLASSIC is more relevant today than it was prophetic in the 1960s. Milton Mayer, sociologist and Quaker pacifist, interviewed ten German families shortly after WWII and found that none of them felt responsible for the NAZI disaster. They just participated because they had to, and were patriotic.
Today We ARE the Master Race! We are the only military superpower in the world! We can own the whole world, for their own good! The Germans were convinced, with expensive mass-media propaganda (motion pictures and radio were new at the time) that they should rule the world, and ruling aristocracies everywhere were glad to see them go at it, as long as they were fighting the Red Menace.
We had to mount WWII to stop the NAZIs, but that kind of warfare is obsolete. Imperial power is impossible in this millennium, short of blowing the whole world to HELL! Insurgencies will go on forever, thanks to our own revolutionary founders who showed that self-government is possible. That information is now accessible anywhere. We can be a dying empire and the rest of the world will pass us by. We should deal with other countries as equals, for mutual benefit.
But I'm afraid - WE are convinced, with expensive mass-media propaganda that glorifies greed, that we should rule the world as absentee owners of everyone else's resources and cheap labor. We should know better - investment for profit is only profitable where people can afford to buy what they produce, and a low-wage, high-unemployment economy is a perpetual depression.
And money talks, to buy political power, and put people in charge who can't comprehend the orders of magnitude. Nuclear Fission releases the order of a thousand times the energy of a chemical explosive, and Nuclear Fusion another thousand times. With thousands of weapons, with millions of times the power to destroy, we can make the world uninhabitable. Mutually Assured Destruction - MAD - is our official policy! We could put people in power who would do that out of frustration because our "conventional" military can't control the world!
But there's HOPE - for a cultural renaissance! We could wake up and use our democratic systems to take back Power to the People. We could develop an immunity to the swindles of commercial advertising and public opinion bending propaganda. We could take responsibility for our extraction of natural resources, and their effect on the world climate. We could appreciate the special value of public services because they are available, as needed, to everyone. Education, health care, transport and communication should, and can, be universal.
And the best things in life are free! We can afford culture as a participation sport when we're not scraping for subsistence all the time. The economy of digital data brings the world wherever we want it and multiplies our human capability!
Jan 23, 2010
Can't recommend this book highly enough to anyone who wonders about how fascism got a foothold in Germany in the decade leading up to the 2nd World War. It's a bit chilling to reflect on how easily it happened - and could happen.
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