How was it possible for ordinary people (banal people at Hana Arendt) to be led to absolute evil and become bearers of the fiercestfascist atrocities? N.M raises a question that all kinds of scientists, politicians, and laymen have over the last 70 years. Attempting to answer this question, the author explores this in depth, taking as a starting point psychological thinking, but also looking ahead at the economy, politics, history and ethics.
What is important in the book is that fascism is not defined as the “egg of the snake” that some evil spirit implanted in the womb of a healthy society. Fascism is our own child. It is a child of our own society.
In my opinion, the most serious issue which concerns us under the present circumstances is the economic-political and socio-psychological conditions that preceded the emergence of fascist leaders and the establishment of fascist regimes. The author says:
“When the fear of economic annihilation comes to the threat of extinction or fragmentation, particular psychological processes occur in unconscious level … In intense stressful situations, where fear is complicated by anger, rage, hatred, frustration, dependency, the mature ways of managing such emotional states are giving way to more archaic mechanisms … Competition, exploitation and social Darwinism contradict and alter friendship, trust, love and affection.”
Such an afraid subject, in order to be able to exist, necessarily needs support or identification. The non-existent or weak self “automatically” chooses to identify with a person or an ideology that expresses “power and greatness,” so he will participate in a “collective delusion of grandeur” – referred to as to Sandor Ferenczi’s concept of identification with the aggressor and Melanie Klein’s concept of paranoid-schizoid position, “from the false to the split self”.
British psychoanalyst Donald Meltzer spoke of a kind of narcissistic identity, which is called Adhesive Identification. This is an identification process that is carried out through imitation, with shallowness, through “devouring” without psychic space, where time is not comprehended as four-dimensional, it seems motionless, leads nowhere, and the child is not actually growing up. Aging is perceived as a kind of accident, a result of bad planning or negligence or the result of the aggression of other people. According to Meltzer, this confusion regarding time has to do with the inability of one to enter into Melanie Klein’s depressive position, a transition from self-centeredness and preoccupation with self, security and settlement, to a primary concern for his objects own good. One can imagine that in a “monological world”, autism is no longer purely a concept of individual psychopathology, a psychiatric diagnosis, but is a “matrix” for the symbolic construction of human relationships and, one might say, the dominant culture in a given era (Meltzer, 1971).
These thoughts remind us of Michael Haneke’s film “The White Ribbon”, which shows how in a small German Village shortly before the start of World War I, the inhumane savagery of pedagogical type father, led a group of children to become killers and to imagine how they themselves will become, 10 years later, under the strains of S.S. and the guards of Buchenwald and Dora.
But the relationship between the above and the current Greek reality creates new thoughts that link the past to the present, and contributes to the understanding of the emergence of fascism: the current situation in Greece has brought unprecedented images of social life and human relationships. We all are “someone else”, unknown to each other and to ourselves. A large body, as if coming from the depths of an ocean, emerges and dives, screams and trembles, collapses and roars. It is a sea monster, which the decomposition of the social and institutional framework has blown up.
By reading NM’s book, we reflect deeply on our current environment, all kinds of relationships (family, professional, friendly, political) and not only can we make important conclusions to understand them, but also gain insight into future consequences and possible ways of deterring them.
Nikos Marketos’ book is a book that confronts us with the concept of individual responsibility that is absolutely important to us, and we thank the author for this contribution.