Note: The following are notes from the above book. I found the book seminal, eye-opening, life-changing. I recommend that you buy and read the entire book. Only by reading the entire book will you get the whole picture. The following quotes, I hope, will whet your appetite. --Colby Glass
Central premise of the book:
"..ultimately it is ideas that mobilize political action and thus shape the world." (ix).
The argument of the book:
What went wrong in the Twentieth Century?
"The onset of the twentieth century was hailed in many commentaries as the real beginning of the Age of Reason." (4).
This "century experienced unprecedented scientific breakthroughs in... medicine, nutrition, modern communications.. Human life expectancy increased by 30 to 50 percent in many parts of the world" (4).
BUT, the twentieth century turned out to be mankind's bloodiest century.
|World War I||Young men in uniform|
|World War II||Young men in uniform|
|Combined other wars, including Mexican, |
Paraguay-Bolivia, Spanish Civil War, Italian
invasion of Ethiopia, India-Pakistan partition,
Korean war, Nigerian civil war, Vietnam War,
|Young men in uniform|
||Plus Mass Murder as Policy...
||Hitler and Nazis
Soviet prisoners & civilians
Yugoslavian prisoners et al.
Elsewhere in Europe
||The Russian People
||The Russian People
||German WWII POWs|
in the 1950s
|The Chinese People
||Chinese cultural revolution|
in the 1960s and 1970s
|The Chinese People
||Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, North Korea, |
Vietnam, Cambodia and Cuba
THRU POLITICALLY MOTIVATED CARNAGE
"That is the approximate equivalent of the total population of France, Italy, and Great Britain; or over two-thirds of the total current population of the United States. This is more than the total killed in ALL previous wars, civil conflicts, and religious persecutions throughout human history" (17).
"...the failed effort to build communism in the twentieth century consumed the lives of 60,000,000 human beings, making communism the most costly human failure in all history." (17).
"To this day, the former Soviet Union is dotted with enormous secret graveyards, usually located on the outskirts of big cities... Just next to Minsk (a city of less than 1 million inhabitants in Stalin's time), a burial site containing some 200,000 executed victims was uncovered in the late 1980s. Subsequently, similar sites have been found throughout the entire land, next to every major city.
"Most of those killed were executed in the most perfunctory, almost impersonal manner. To the Bolshevik leaders, the process involved was one of class cleansing, in which the society was purified by the "liquidation" of entire categories of enemies. Documents unearthed from the Soviet archives (following the collapse of the Soviet Union) reveal an attitude toward killing... [as] a bureaucratic function.." (12).
The author's answer is that nation after nation was galvanized by "grand transcendental fictions-- what [he] calls METAMYTHS" (19).
"A grand transcendental fiction is to be understood as an irrational but compelling blend of the religious impulse to seek salvation, of the nationalistic self-identification as being superior to outsiders, and of utopian social doctrines reduced to the level of populist slogans. Permitting escape from unsatisfactory reality through a commitment to an imaginary reality yet to be achieved, metamyth served to galvanize and channel mass passions" (19).
"All modern dictators depended on simple slogans, which provided superficially convincing but fundamentally simplistic formulas capsulating the frustrations and aspirations of the.. masses... Reliance on, and exploitation of, political Manichaeanism [good vs. evil--very simplistic].. for explaining.. the meaning of otherwise complex political realit[ies]" (21).
|Religious impulse to seek salvation|
Nationalism.. superior to outsiders
Utopian social doctrines
|Desire to make life better|
Desire for easy answers to complex problems
"Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Lenin synthesized into coherent and appealing wholes the various strands of political thought and, even more, of political emotion that survaced during the preceding century... Both Hitler and Lenin personified and preached totalitarianism, based on terror and justified by dogma. Each strove to shape a coercive utopia in the name of ideals... Each was adept at depersonalizing the enemy, thereby making the act of killing into an impersonal mass production process." (30).
"Hitler and Lenin were able to activate a following of fanatical true believers, tapping the masses' instinctual hatreds. It is no exaggeration to characterize the outlook of their followers as highly susceptible to primitive, quasi-rational but highly emotional appeals: escapist from reality, Manichaean in explanatory terms, and extremely sophistic as well as self-righteous in attitude" (31).
In other words, they took advantage of the fact that most people were
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