The Die is Cast

January 19, 2011
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How is it that over Eighty million people followed behind a man who many believe to be the most evil in history? What is it that caused the population of Germany in the 1930’s to 1940’s to turn a blind eye to what was happening around them, and embrace fully, the ideas of a Fascist leader? What caused a Democracy to turn around and become a Dictatorship?
These are questions many people ask as they look back at German history, to the time of Hitler’s rule. It is shocking, to think that one person, one man had the power to turn a country onto itself, and was able to lead almost all of its citizens into a time of ignorance, fear and oppression of the worst kind. Oppression of self.
In this essay, three factors that lead to this behaviour will be studied; Situation, Human nature, and Devices. These three factors play a key role in almost every single version of an Autocratic system, and if studied properly, will give clear decisive points that may be able to help answer the underlying question: How could a Dictatorship Autocracy form in the 21st Century?

The first of these points to cover is Situation. In Die Welle, Ranier Wenger – the teacher of the Autocracy unit—asks the students to create a list of what circumstances would lead to a Dictatorship forming. The students come up with an Ideology, Control, Unhappiness, and a Figure head or central figure. It is interesting to point out that much of this is found in your normal high school. In a sense, if a school is not already classified as a dictatorship or Autocracy, it is well on its way. With it teachers, figure heads to be respected with no question, Control of how every student behaves and learns, an Ideology to ‘create’ you to be the best you can be, and an underlying sense of happiness. If you stay, you feel oppressed, that you have not reached any potential, and if you leave, society acts as if you have failed the whole group. All in all, a very poor atmosphere, one that could lead to a revolt. Yet many students stay with the old system, and trudge through it, because this is ‘the way it is’ and there’s no way they can change it.
This fact lends itself in both pre Autocracy and post Autocratic society. Very quickly, do we find that humans develop a pattern, and diverging from that pattern seems foreign to them after a while, even though they have done it before. It is known that a human being has to do to something 21 times for it to become a habit. With a sudden change, humans are more than ready to create a routine and order. After all Homo Sapiens are creatures of habit. And the school setting only helped fuel this small fire. Just like the Situation in Germany helped create a path for Hitler.
The fact that Germany was in debt to much of the world in this time created a very grim situation. Marks were worth next to nothing, inflation had risen out of control, and many Germans were without a job, food, or shelter. The little man with the funny mustache and a gravelly voice was starting to become popular, with his rage fueled speeches that had many people demanding a change. Democracy had failed them, it was time for the German people to be treated equally, and for the country as a whole to rise up and be proud. And when Hitler was given the power he was looking for, he played it well, making sure that the people thought that he was trying to do complete good. With a swift change here, and a Rallying speech there, Hitler gave the German people what they wanted, jobs, security, and pride. Most likely because of that, they either turned an eye or cheered as trains rolled away with the ‘scum of Germany’. They were safe, they were warm, they were happy, let the man who had given them this do what he wanted. It is this situation that let Hitler go unchecked for as long as he did, and a similar situation that let the class project in Die Welle to go as far as it did. The Majority was happy, and happiness is something humans will always fight for.

It’s because of this, that another key fact for creating an Autocratic system is involved with Human Nature. We have always been, and most likely always will be, group animals. Why do you think that solitary confinement works so well? All the way down to our very Genes is telling us that to be alone means death. To belong, to feel as if you are a valued member of the group, that you are needed, is something we have always craved. And what better a setting to show this than in a school setting, where every day seems to be a battle to belong.
This is probably one of the things that appeal to us the most about Autocracy and Dictatorship, the fact the every member of the system is needed, and every piece is of the same importance. In Die Welle, many of the students are separated into small groups, cliques, and some are even alone. When Ranier separates those groups, and makes everyone sit beside someone they are not familiar with, basic instinct comes into play, and the students bond with anyone and everyone, simply so that they are not alone anymore. And then the feeling of community is built upon, strengthened and expanded outside of the classroom setting. The students feel united, and work together for a common goal. They do not worry about themselves, because everything they want is tied into the group want. This community, this family, becomes everything, because you do not want to be left alone again. The group mentality takes a hold of you, and nothing makes you really want to go back. To leave the group means death. To keep the group together, to make sure that it thrives and prospers, means that you are protected and safe. Give up your identity, put it all into the group, and you will live on.
Add this mentality to the fact that with Hitler in power, many German citizens now had a job, could feed themselves, and were starting to think that maybe there would be an end to all of this, and you have people more than willing to follow the leader. The group needs to be maintained, and once you get a taste of the good stuff, why leave?

And because these people are in a state of mind that they want to be a part of something better, the Dictator, ruler or whoever ends up at the head of the group, has an easier transition. But it’s not perfect, and because of this, many Devices are need to make sure that the power of the Head is complete, and there will always be people who question it. Die Welle, mirrors many techniques that were used in Nazi Germany, and also uses ones that do not seem to come up. Wenger starts the class off by stating “If you don’t want to be here then go,” creating a group of people who are willing to at least try it. This means that you now have a class full of people willing to try what Wenger is going to do. He then starts to be the leader who cares about you. Do this, and see how great you feel. I want us all to succeed, so it’s okay to cheat. You are really great at this, so please do this for me, and make the group better. Everyone becomes involved, and the group dynamic continues to grow and form. And… the students are out of the rut. This is new, and because of that we are more than willing to try and see what we can do to make this new system work for us. And the new rules go without much question. People who fight back are hurting the group, so the students are more than happy to see them go.
What else do the leaders of these groups do to make sure that the group focuses on the group? Create common goals, develop activities, and make symbols that everyone can share. The last one is something that happens everywhere. Hand signals, symbols, phrases and certain ways to dress are all things found in our day to day lives. They create a sense of belonging, of community; something autocratic leaders are more than willing to take advantage of and use. Hitler used a technique similar to this, but it contained more hate emotion than that of friendly unity. Hitler created an empire of distaste for the Communists, anger for the Jewish, and an overall disgust for anyone else that did not fit the selective group that was Nazi Germany. Like one poem said “First they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.” Hitler was welled schooled in how to create Scapegoats for the people to be united against, until there were no people left. This blind anger technique varies heavily from the tactics used in Die Welle, but worked never the less in this situation.
And these two were only a taste of the devices used in both scenarios to control the people. What else was needed? Propaganda, deceit, lies, cover ups. Ways of showing the people that change was happening, even though it was hardly making an effect. And the ultimate feeling that this was better than what we had. If the majority of the people are happy and blind to what is happening, you are safe. If the others are too scared to voice because they know what will happen to them, you are secure. If the overall body stays united, whether it is with Anger, Joy or fear, you are solid in your position.

It is right that the movement in the movie is called The Wave. After all, there is nothing that can stop a wave… except for itself. No walls, no piers, no levee’s can stop a wave. It simply redirects and comes back at you again. You cannot stop it; only divert the energy into something else. The only thing that can stop a wave is itself, as the structure collapses in, and creates havoc in the forward energy of it. This itself is a well thought out symbolism of an Autocratic system. Get the right energy, and very little can stop it. The problem is finding that energy.
Hitler created a wave of anger, energy that was abundant in that time. To have that same hate for certain groups of people is not truly tolerated in today’s world, and because of that, a different type of energy must be found.
When you find it, you must be able to keep it on track, and no grow to fast, or you will have the whole system collapse onto itself.
So what is it? What is it that lets an Autocratic system develop in this world? The sense of unity, the want of a group, which is hammered into us at day one. This holds wonderful energy for Dictatorships, and is easy to direct. We are all willing to work for the common good. We are all willing to feel as if we are making a difference, to feel as if we are making it better.
Because of this… Dictatorships are quite easy to create in this time and era. We should not laugh at our own Human Nature, it is what Drives us. We should not ignore our own situations, it’s what creates us, and we should not be blind to the devices of others, it is what binds us.

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