Books You

Out of Control
by Zbigniew Brzezinski.

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:

  1. Twentieth Century politics has been one of "organized insanity."
    Failed attempts to create coercive utopias--totalitarian experiments--have resulted in massive murders.
  2. "The political awakening of mankind on a truly global scale" (xii)
    There is a "growing tendency in the advanced world to infuse the inner content of liberal democracy with a life-style that I define as permissive cornucopia. The priority given to individual self-gratification" (xii).
  3. The United States currently stands as the only truly global power.. but one which is "not guided by a globally relevant set of values [and therefore cannot] for long exercise that predominence" (xiii).
  4. "America's difficulty in exercising effective global authority... could produce a situation of intensifying global instability" (xiii).

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.

The list of dead:

World War I Young men in uniform
Civilian casualties
World War II Young men in uniform
Civilian casualties
Combined other wars, including Mexican,
Paraguay-Bolivia, Spanish Civil War, Italian
invasion of Ethiopia, India-Pakistan partition,
Korean war, Nigerian civil war, Vietnam War,
Irag-Iran war
Young men in uniform
Civilian casualties
Plus Mass Murder as Policy...
Hitler and Nazis Jews
Polish intelligentsia
Soviet prisoners & civilians
Yugoslavian prisoners et al.
Elsewhere in Europe
Lenin The Russian People 8,000,000
Stalin The Russian People 25,000,000
Russia German WWII POWs
Pole POWs
Other POWs
Mao--Communist Revolution
in the 1950s
The Chinese People 29,000,000
Chinese cultural revolution
in the 1960s and 1970s
The Chinese People 2,000,000
Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, North Korea,
Vietnam, Cambodia and Cuba
Total deliberately killed in cold blood

"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

Simplistic slogans

Desire to make life better

Ethnocentricity; tribalism

Uneducated gullibity

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

by Colby Glass, MLIS.

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