I’ve forced my way through a couple more chapters of Mein Kampf. It’s been a bit more of a struggle to wade through these last few. They delve into many of the underlying social and governmental currents of the time and despite frequent visits to Wikipedia, I’m having a hard time keeping up. My high school education was none too specific on all the conflicting undercurrents in Europe during the early part of the last century.
Frankly, it all makes me a little sleepy. At first, I tried to keep up on exactly what parts of government he was attacking but the resolution of his problems always seemed to turn to the extermination of the Jews or the exaltation of the Germans. It’s really hard to take anyone seriously when you know it’s all a nationalistic ploy to get rid of his proclaimed undesirables.
What’s weird about it is the fact that he’s very up front about the means he intends to employ in subverting the masses to his delusions. Hitler mentions the desire to utilize other forms of propaganda that have worked so well for other campaigns. He exalts those politicians that are great speakers, he talks about the importance of finding a common scapegoat for the people to rally against, he’s blunt about stating that if a race can’t defend itself, it doesn’t deserve to live, and on and on. He’s not trying to be underhanded in his tactics. Rather, he’s very upfront. And so many millions of people still bought into it.
Hitler bashes all available governments, yet has a strange love/hate relationship with the English Parliament, with which he at times admonishes and at other times, reviles. After he knocks down straw men from monarchies, parliamentary systems, the previous German Reich, other democracies, and a host of other alliances, he plants seeds of the importance of a dictatorship, but in much simpler terms. He talks of the fact that politicians have really nothing to lose by serving temporary terms and that the real, true leader, would have absolute control and would be responsible for his decisions, even with his life. There is no what-if scenario describing what could happen if such a dictator turned out to be a lunatic.
It’s not hard to point out weak points with any type of government. It is hard to offer reasonable alternatives. I can’t find a single reasonable alternative offered by Hitler. His solutions revolve around an increase in nationalistic pride and the extermination of any non-Aryan races. That’s about it. That’s his master plan.
Hindsight is 20/20, and we all know that this is how he followed through with his plan in the second World War. To read his plans and ideas in such raw detail years before they were put into action is somewhat surreal. It’s easy to spot the lunacy and misguided thought processes behind this monster now that we look back. Was it so obvious during his rise to Fuhrer? How was this nonsense so convincing to those who rallied to his side? How were people so susceptible? What would I have done?
It’s all too easy, now, to say that, had I been a German youth during those days, I would have been opposed to the rise of National Socialism. Anyone living in a post-WWII world would be obliged to say as much. But what does that really say? With all my education and knowledge today, of course I would be opposed to any of the nonsense put forth by Hitler. But the German youth didn’t have that insight. If Mein Kampf is any indication, they were raised with a heavy handed worship of nationality and a hateful outlook towards outsiders, especially those of Jewish descent. If you think about it coming from that frame of mind, the question of “what would I do?” becomes frightening to contemplate. I hesitate, myself.
It’s yet another reason why critical thinking and skepticism are such important tools. It doesn’t take more than a cursory glance at some lists of logical fallacies to bring up a slew of problems set forth by Hitler’s thinking in his magnus opus. The simple act of reading Mein Kampf and seeing Hitler spell out the specific ways in which he plans on deceiving the German masses in order to spur them into action should raise red flags all over the place. Hindsight is 20/20. Education is priceless.