Some Thoughts on Art and Humanity and Hitler

February 10, 2016 Thoughts  One comment

I recently read The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human by Jonathan Gottschall. 

In Chapter Seven: Ink People Change the World, he writes about how a pivotal moment — in fact, maybe, the pivotal moment — in Hitler’s life was when, at sixteen years old, he saw a performance of Richard Wagner’s opera Rienzi, with his friend August Kubizek. 

Rienzi is the story of Cola Rienzi, the heroic Roman tribune of the people, unfolded in blasts of song.”

That night, Hitler believed his destiny had been revealed to him. To be a great leader who led his people “out of servitude and to the heights of freedom.” (Kubizek, August. The Young Hitler I Knew)

Over the course of his life, he saw parts of Wagner’s Ring Cycle over one hundred times. 

Hitler loved art. And was deeply moved by it. 

He wanted to become a great artist, but was told he didn’t have what it took to become one. He was rejected twice by the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. One can only wonder how the course of history could have been changed if he’d been accepted and studied there. Maybe he would have done a lot less harm. Or maybe, he would’ve been capable of so much more malevolence.

After all, art in Goebbels propaganda campaigns served as one of Hitler’s most influential weapons in obtaining, and maintaining control for as long as he did. 

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So, yeah, obviously the things Hitler brought to pass on this world was appalling and ghastly and nothing short of an atrocity. I am not, in anyway, making light or justifying him for the things he did. 

But, what I am saying, is that something very dangerous happens when we dehumanize him. When we say that he was “less than human”. 

Because when we see him as something other, something different than the rest of us, we forget that he was just a man. And it is by virtue of the fact that he was a man that he was even capable of such destruction and devastation in the first place. 

(To be fair, I’m not entirely discounting the possibility that he could’ve been a Vessen or some other form of supernatural creature.)

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Hitler was a Blutbad, according to Grimm

We like to think that humanity = compassion. But in actuality, to be human = the capacity for great compassion, but also, great evil. 

It’s only when we acknowledge that we are capable of both that we can move forward from it. 

We don’t like to talk about the fact that Hitler was a person. That he was an artist, a son, a husband, a friend. We don’t like to talk about the fact that he was likable or charismatic or highly intelligent. Because we’re afraid if we do so, it will somehow redeem him for the things that he’s done. (It doesn’t.)

But when we’re too afraid to speak the truth, this knowledge falls out of the light, and into darkness. And in the darkness, it festers. 

It’s when we stop talking about the fact that man is capable of both: creation (through art) and destruction (via death and mass killings), love and hatred, likable qualities and despicable, deplorable actions, that we open the doors to let it happen again. 

Hitler didn’t get to where he was without people liking him, trusting him, and believing in him. 

We want to dehumanize him so that we feel better about the fact that we might also be capable of such terrible deeds. But the fact is, that we are. The very fact that he was able to do any of those things at all proves that it is on the spectrum of human capabilities.

(Although, I won’t deny that it’s startling to me how many sadistic sociopaths there were in central Europe at that time — the doctors, scientists, SS, etc. Not necessarily the foot soldiers.)

It’s only by opening up and bringing things into the light to examine them, understand them, that we can have any power to do something about them. Even when those things are terrifying and brutal.

There is much debate on the Interwebs concerning Hitler’s Myers-Briggs personality type. Consensus seems to be either INFJ or INTJ, which are very similar. 

I am an INFJ. And so is Galadriel from The Lord of the Rings. 

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         “‘And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!’
          She lifted up her hand and from the ring that she wore there issued a great light that illumined her alone and left all else dark. She stood before Frodo seeming now tall beyond measurement, and beautiful beyond enduring, terrible and worshipful. Then she let her hand fall, and the light faded, and suddenly she laughed again, and lo! she was shrunken: a slender elf-woman, clad in simple white, whose gentle voice was soft and sad. 
         ‘I pass the test,’ she said. ‘I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.‘” 
excerpt from The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien

Galadriel is aware of who she is. Of the great and terrible deeds she is capable of. And it is only by bringing that truth into the light, recognizing it, that she is able to overcome it. 

(I have more thoughts on the influence of Wagner on both Hitler and Tolkien, but I haven’t quite sorted through them thoroughly. When I watch/read The Lord of the Rings, Sauron and his forces blatantly represent Hitler and the Nazi party — this sheer mass of dark, seemingly unbeatable power. But I can’t help but wonder if Hitler saw it the other way around — that he was the one leading the Men of the West to greatness by defeating the evil forces of the world.)

Whether Hitler was an INFJ or an INTJ or something else entirely, there is always a reason for the things that people do. The words Nazi and Holocaust conjure images of horrifying torture, starvation, sinister and heinous conditions, and death on a scale our minds cannot even truly comprehend.  Wicked, foul, atrocious, evil — are some of the words that come to mind. Just thinking about it makes our stomachs hurt.

And our instinct is to turn away. We don’t want to look at the images. We don’t want to deal with the heaviness of the truth.

But we need to bear witness. We need to be aware. We need to remember. So we can recognize when it begins to happen again. 

To Hitler, though, the Holocaust was all a means to an end. It wasn’t the plan, it was just a part of the plan — the Final Solution. He had a vision and he pursued it with ruthless, relentless, cold efficiency, no matter the obstacles that got in the way. Because what was the death of millions when the reward would be a healthy, prosperous earth for his people?  

“In his book Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics, Frederic Spotts writes that Hitler’s ultimate goals were not military and political; they were broadly artistic. In the new Reich, the arts would be supreme.” 

It would behoove us not to underestimate the lengths people are willing to go for the things they believe in. After all, Hitler thought himself a great white knight riding in to save the earth from ultimate doom and destruction, ensuring a thousand years of paradise. 

You can’t overcome an adversary until you understand it.

And you can’t understand it until you talk about it. 

Heavy subject, I know, but those are some of my thoughts. What do you think?

Until next time, farewell & may your life never cease to be filled with wonder and curiosity. 

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One comment to Some Thoughts on Art and Humanity and Hitler

  • M Hees says:

    Hitler would be a better course for the human race,
    than the coming New World Order, made by the elite jews.

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