Ruled by Fools Like Hitler and Trump

Eric Voegelin: Hitler und die Deutschen (English translation: Hitler and the Germans) ISBN 978-3-7705-3865-2 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ In 1964 the political scientist Eric Voegelin gave a series of lectures in Germany about the Germans’ relationship to Hitler before, during and after his reign. Voegelin’s main idea: Social, religious and philosophical elements characteristic of the German society of the 19th century led to the rise of Hitler. These essential traits of the German society can be summarized as an utter intellectual depravity and survived the fall of Hitler and constituted in the eyes of Voegelin a latent threat even after World War II. The lectures were meant to show students alternative ways of thinking and acting.

Voegelin’s style is incomparable. He is incredibly well-read, and his ideas are easy to understand if you have a minimum knowledge of history, philosophy and religion. His arguments are logical and well illustrated. His language is vivid and deliberately provocative. Intellectual and rhetorical excellence mark this work.

Voegelin’s reflections about the Germans and Hitler remain relevant to this day. There are so many parallels to the Americans and Donald Trump: The man’s intellectual limitations, his disdain for science and truth, his vulgarity, his total lack of savoir-vivre. His addiction to adulation, his hubris – and the narrow-mindedness or outright falsehood of those who voted for him.

Voegelin’s distinction between first reality and second reality anticipates the present-day issue of “fake news” and “alternative facts” that may shape the future of entire nations. Many Germans fell for Hitler in the 1930s, many Germans fall today for the right-wing party AfD. And many Americans will fall a second time for Trump next year. That’s my prediction. If the fool twists the facts and presents this reality long enough as the only reality, ordinary people will become fools in their own right and do foolish things. Foolishness is contagious and there is no antidote.

Don Quijote was a first-rate fool, guided by wishful thinking and his fantasies. Jordi Savall has recorded the most wonderful music popular during Cervantes’ lifetime:

Riding with Don Quijote on a Medieval Tune