In the 20s, the Weimar republic – post WW I Germany – had hyperinflation; wheelbarrows of money, widespread penury. The Allies had imposed vengeful and immoral reparations. Most people suffered. Austerity reigned. Suffering creates resentment. Resentment wants a target. It wants to hear that it was someone else’s fault. Who did this to us?
That target might become the Establishment, and most of the Establishment have a sense that that is a possibility. So they work to become an ally of the resentful, lest they turn their attention their way. They cause much of the misery, and wrap it in myth’ look over there, there is your villain.
But there is still resentment. A sense of a deeply unfair world. A lack of hope that things will ever get better. The Establishment must protect themselves by refocusing that resentment on to others, to those outside of society – outside the sense of ‘nation’ of those who suffer.
You can manufacture that idea of Nationhood, of ‘folk’. You can embellish the myths of foundation and destiny. A Great Nation that can be great again. Having an enemy is always good. Wave lots of flags. Put on parades. If you can, go to war; Orwell’s constant state of war in his 1984. Using such Nationalism to hold the people in check is always popular. Argentina goes to war over the Falklands when the Junta gets a bit wobbly. Invade Iraq – Operation Iraqi Freedom (nothing to do with internal politics or oil of course). Turn it into really bad movies.
Another tactic is scapegoating *within* society. Divide. Set the divisions apart from the Nation and Folk. Make it the fault of some ‘other’ part of society that you like to think is not part of *your* society – those outside yourselves – those with whom you do not identify. Separate them from the idea of ‘nation’. Depersonalise. Reduce them to ‘resources’ or ‘costs’. Those that are poor or sick, wrapped up in the myths that they deserve it because they are inferior. Those with different ethnicity or over the political border stones someone defined in our minds. Those in the towns and cities, or those in the country. Those over the river. Those who dare to be different and shine a spotlight on the truth through art. Those that worship differently.
And one of the best tactics as the Ring to Rule them All is developing a cult of leadership; a ‘Leader’ synonymous with ‘going forward’ and other vile clichés – with making your lives better. Surround the leader, Das Fuhrer, in a mystique of destiny and belonging and hope – because people call out for hope and belonging. Because we are social before we are rational, and reaction against a symptom is so much more satisfying and adrenaline pumping than actually considering, let along identifying and addressing, what is the root cause. Thinking is hard, and one of the first things the Establishment attempts to control.
Build a cult of Nation, Divide, and Lead. And so you get Stalin, Mussolini, Tojo and people named Adolph, and Donald, and our very own John.
There is a very great problem with this recurring theme of the subjugation and ‘othering’ of people and place. At some point, someone decides to invade a metaphorical Poland, the unraveling begins after a brief spurt of triumph, and you end up in a bunker or strung up from a lamppost in Milan.
It is a far better strategy in the long run to simply care about people, now and into the future. And to shine a light on the delusions of entitlement the Establishment can foment in their own minds.