Five Days To Autocracy

February 7, 2011
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DIE WELLE, a German movie with contrastive bright colors, started a story in a clean and light classroom. Led by an innovative and enlightened teacher, a group of animated students started an active organization called The Wave in fives days, on an embryonic stage of Nazi.

In fact, the movie was adapted from a real incident. In America of 1967, A high school junior in California asked his history teacher Ron Jones Why the ordinary Germans like farmers, bank employees, teachers and doctors claimed that they didn't know the tragedy of massacred Jews. Soon Jones realized that his boring sermon obviously couldn't match a personal experiment, and boldly decided to make an experiment - to make a miniature class of Nazi. What he designed wasn't that smart actually: to wear uniforms, practice collective strides, tag stickers of the organization anywhere, make a gesture of allegiance, supervise each other and encourage snitches, protest the opponents against the organization, everything was under the control of Jones. However, the Nazi wave took over the school in barely five days, and unfortunately Jones was unable to stop even though he wanted to. Having come to the last extremity, Jones showed the students a movie on the atrocity and inhumanity of Nazi. As expected, the students felt incredible that they were under the administration of autocracy unconsciously and could hardly accept the reality. DIE WELLE, which changed the background of America in 1967 to German in 2008, was unbelievably astonishing.

What on earth is it that transformed the animated students of innocent age into fanatics enthusiastic about autocracy? As far as I'm concerned, it is the coercion of collectivity and conformist mentality. Within a community that denounces different personalities, the activities of collectivity equal to that of a member, the honour of collectivity equal to that of a member, the success of collectivity equal to that of a member. In a powerful and stable collectivity, losers without specialty can find self-esteem and satisfaction, cynics without belief can find the meaning of life, collectivity equalises all the members. Furthermore, those who haven't yet joined the collectivity relied on it so as to fortify themselves and get transformed sooner or later. As for those who campaigned against the collectivity are overrode and trampled by the cruel oppression of the collectivity.


Then who conducts the collectivity? It's the autocrat. When his will becomes the will of everyone, his action becomes the the action of everyone, numerous tragedies took place - not to mention Adolf Hitler, Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin, Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein. The fanaticism raged over the whole country like plagues, even the most agreeable and modest gentlemen can easily turn to executioners.

Long-term value has imparted us that only villains will do the villainy, but few of us can realize that we're even so close to the fanaticism. In a group psychology experiment conducted by Milgram experiment, no one tried to stop the electrocution experiment towards the wrongdoers before the voltage reached 300, 65% of participants chose the highest 450 voltage to electrocute the wrongdoers due to the obedience to authority. Later in the Stanford Prison Experiment Project discovered that ordinary people entitled guards tended to take abusing prisoners as a pleasure, which was entirely different with their tranquil lifestyles before. There's a vicious Lucifer lurking inside the heart of everyone, to some extent, we're all beasts in dress.


Taken a step further, in the Cultural Revolution, Cambodia massacres, maltreating-prisoner event in Abu Ghraib, executioners were simply doing their job in honour of authority. Those events which we regard as horrifying and atrocious, are nothing more than performing duties from authorities in the view of executioners, but can we conclude that they can be acquitted of crimes referring to this. Absolutely no. Every one's only responsible for him own deeds, and obeying to authority doesn't necessarily mean doing the villainies, even if not obeying directly leads to self-sacrifice. Still I firmly believe sacrifice is a part of struggle, resist the autocracy when you're alive, and resist by making the sacrifices when there's no choice but to obey the autocracy, like the chief in the movie ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, who was tortured enough by the sick systems of hospital, broke the window before the light of dawn, and ran to the run barefoot.

Conforming to the collectivity without principles only leads to fantasticism, but keeping an independent mind is really hard. Dating back to America in 1967, when the Civil Rights Movement was surging there, America was trying to explore a new way to gain democratic rights through legal mass movements. And as a ally against fascism, America has earlier begun the propagandize the campaign against autocracy. But within five days, only a history teacher could spark the wave of autocracy in the whole school, let alone Germany, the place of the World War II origin. I constantly think of the worries Shakespeare expressed about humanity, will this ancient but strong power lead us to self-destruction one day?

On the road of conscience, we probably don't know the next crossroad shall direct to the road of slavery, straight to autocracy in five days.





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Axel said...
Jan. 18, 2012 at 2:10 pm
Since this essay is on a incredible level,I could choose no english words to descirbe my feelings.Simply I'd like use chinese:Fan jie wei wu!!!!
 
MiguelW said...
Mar. 23, 2011 at 12:53 am
Fascinating article!
 
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