Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Reflection on warnings from the past...

Last night, I finally got a chance to watch a film I've been meaning to see for awhile now, Downfall.

It chronicles the final moments of Adolf Hitler and his immediate advisers in the final moments of the F├╝hrerbunker. It is taken from a wide variety of sources, including his secretary, Trudl Junge, whose interview takes place right before the start of the movie.

An amazing performance by all involved. In reading up on the background of the film, they address the touchy subject of making a movie where Adolph Hitler is not portrayed as a raving, screaming, larger-than-life evil madman at all times. He is being portrayed as being kind to his dog, kind to his soon-to-be wife, etc.

He is portrayed as being almost resigned to carry out his extermination of the jews and betrayal of the protection of the German people as part of the "laws of nature", with the weaker being destroyed by the stronger, and thus not fit to live in his vision of a rebuilt Germany.

It's amazing that those who don't want history to repeat itself demand he be portrayed as someone with no balance. They want to see a characterization of him as someone who was vicious all the time towards everything he touched.

This is dangerous because it leaves others to wonder why anybody would follow such an obviously deranged character. They then carry on their lives feeling themselves immune to such shenanigans because they are under the mistaken notion that anyone that evil will be as easy to spot as movie villains.

I realized that in order to learn the lessons of the past, you have to take all sides of the man. One reviewer put it succinctly: "We know from all accounts that he was a very charming man —a man who managed to seduce a whole people into barbarism."

Please don't get me wrong. He was an evil, evil, evil man, and I don't advocate anything of his means, or his ends. Sun Tzu said in "The Art Of War" that: "It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles"

What jumped out at me, however, was the amount of hero worship that everyone displayed. Even until the end, people were blindly putting their Hope in him, waiting for him to pull off a Change They Could Believe In that would save Berlin, save Germany, and save his vision of a third Reich.

The message of the movie seemed to say that blindly following someone simply because they seem inspirational is dangerous, and can send you down some really bad paths you won't realize until it's too late.

It's a good thing that we here in the US don't suffer from that at all.

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