On what leaders we get, the ones we deserve

Hobbes, I am reading Bill Bonner’s latest book Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets and to tell you the truth, it is a bit of a disappointment. Half way through it, I got tired of witch-hunting stories and Evita’s corpse.

However, in chapter 8 –Heroes of the Revolution– on mad do-gooders and dumb societies, Bonner and Rajiva raise the point of how millions of average intelligent human beings behave like docile cows on their way to the slaughter house. Stalin, Mussolini, Perón, Franco, Hitler, Mao, Fidel, Pol Pot, Mugabe, “Papa Doc” Duvalier, you name it, nobody got organised and raised against mass starvation, torture, political murders, genocide and the like. Offensive as it sounds, they’ve got a point:

[…] read the story of Mao; it makes you wonder. How could so many smart people do something so moronic that it would be flattery to call them stupid?

I have been thinking myself for a while about that. Watching the unofficially banned film The Believer starring Ryan Gosling, got me going. I remember a particular movie scene that made me wonder many things. I got part of the script from IMDb:

Daniel Balint: Billings, if Hitler didn’t kill six million, why is he your hero?… Concentration camps all over Europe, and he only gets rid of a measly two hundred thousand… He’s a putz.
[Some surprise that a Nazi is arguing against a denier]
Ancient Jew: Hitler was not a putz. Hitler was real. God created him to punish the Jews for abandoning God.
[the other survivors are embarrassed by this, but the Ancient Jew ignores them]
Ancient Jew: It is you who are putzes. Little pishas with your dreams of hatred and killing…
[Danny scoffs, gets up to leave]
Hate Counselor: Where do you think you’re going?
Daniel Balint: We have nothing to learn from these people. They should learn from us.
Ancient Jew: And what should we learn from you, Daniel?
Daniel Balint: Kill your enemy.

The film was the Sundance Festival grand-jury prize winner in 2001, but struggled to make it on the box office, only getting $400,000 in the US. Back then I was living in Tucson, AZ, so I ignore whether it even came out at all in Europe. If it didn’t and you haven’t heard of it, I recommend you to watch it.

What’s wrong with us? Once we are part of a group, we don’t react, we let our elected (or not elected, are you listening Mr Brown?) ‘leaders’ figure out what is or not good for us. ‘Kill your enemy’, Daniel says in the film. Reportedly between 4.2m and just under 5.8m European Jews were killed by Nazi Germany. I have been trying to find the number of German soldiers during WW2, but the only figure I have been able to find is close to what Wikipedia says:

The total number of soldiers who served in the Wehrmacht during its existence from 1935 until 1945 is believed to approach 18.2 million.

That figure stretches for 10 years and taking into account the empire-making effort, I am pretty sure that there was a chance of fighting back in a massive scale or just flee, run away. Even taking into account media manipulation or censorship, I would move out of an area that is becoming dangerous for my family and I. In many occasions I have raised my case controversy and discussion, but nobody seems to matter much about the holocaust or the great war, what makes the death of so many people even more pointless (as Bonner and Rajiva argue).

Why millions and millions of Russians, Chinese, European Jews, Germans, Cambodians and nowadays Americans (to a smaller extent) followed the ill-fated, catastrophically proved, and delusional ideas of their self-declared leaders? That , I do not know, but I am pretty sure that history, as always, will repeat itself.

It is all our fault. We get the leaders we deserve.



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