One thing I find particularly fascinating is analyzing historical figures and events and observing the trends that have lead humanity to its highest and lowest points. Delving into the psyches of historical figures and investigating major events can be a highly intriguing and rewarding process because it allows us to contextualize the present and observe the development of humanity’s ideas. Recognizing how we have reached this point in history is essential to breeding tolerance and maintaining a reasonable perspective.
I thought it would be interesting to discuss the problem of power. In my opinion, the desire for power is the greatest cause for conflict the world has ever known. More specifically, the desire to exert one’s will upon someone else is what inevitably leads to trouble. This makes sense, too. When one person tries to impose their will onto a group of people, that person is looking for control, for power. Undoubtedly, the subjects of such a ruler are not going to be satisfied because their will is being devalued. Today, the advancement of human rights has lead to the institutionalization of equality for all, at least in the United States – we have finally realized that exerting power over another group will eventually lead to an uprising by that group and conflict will result. It is unfortunate that we had to kill each other so much in order to figure that out.
Countless means by which to achieve power have been used and manipulated throughout the course of history – slavery, imperialism, colonialism, sexual exploitation, government corruption, etc. However, as I am being currently influenced by a class on World War II, I find one influential figure as quite intriguing: Adolf Hitler. Hitler’s rise to power is fascinating because of his success in polluting the ideology of an entire nation and building a military that backed this ideology and who defended it with blind ferocity and striking effectiveness. His success, though, was eventually cut off – a testament to the poison that renders the inevitable downfall of the power-hungry.
Hitler was able to claim his power by sweeping into the German public eye at the peak of their vulnerability. Being a convincing and powerful public speaker, he preached German superiority and roused his people with a dangerous sense of nationalism. Coupled with the sense of vengeance that Hitler provoked regarding World War I, the Germans had fallen into a hypnotizing trap, united in a sense of German pride projected as hatred onto its neighboring enemies for robbing them in World War I treaties.
Once in power, Hitler’s vision of an Aryan race took center stage in the European world. In order for his cult of ideal humans to prosper, they needed space, which provoked him to seize his neighboring European countries, and, with a highly trained, disciplined, and prepared military achieving unprecedented success, his objectives appeared reachable.
What is most interesting to me is the psyche of Adolf Hitler. What motivated him to commit such atrocities? It is my belief that, as an obsessive-compulsive person will stop at nothing to ensure the absence of germs on his/her body and in his/her environment, and itches for a sense of utter cleanliness, Hitler, as a result of several troubled events of his past, yearned to eliminate what he viewed as the filth of the world (Jews, homosexuals, etc.), and polish it with his ideal Aryan race. His narcissistic vision required an enormous amount of power to come his way. Catastrophically, it did. He fooled a vulnerable population into embracing his ostensible strength and confidence, and proceeded to spread his message of hatred and bigotry throughout the world. Unlike other corrupt, murderous dictators who eventually were overthrown in response to their imposed oppression, Hitler united his people into a disturbingly powerful machine and garnered the support of most of his people. Enthusiastic about his ideology, the Wehrmacht (German army) fought with a distinctive passion and ferocity.
Had Hitler approached his goals with a bit less of a temper, he might have actually succeeded. However, here is where he reveals the inevitability of failure of those who feed off of power and prioritize it among all things. It was not for lack of military prowess that Germany lost WWII; rather, it was the impulsive, power-blinded strategical mistakes that Hitler made, which cost Germany the war. His decision to invade the Soviet Union and the United States thereafter created the two-front war that he had been trying to avoid all along. Additionally, his blitzkrieg combat strategy was bound to fail against the Soviets, whose population was so immense that they were capable of replacing fallen soldiers in monumental heaps. The Germans did, in fact, experience initial success against the Soviets, just as they did in Belgium, Norway, and France, but the Soviet manpower negated the Germans’ combat superiority and Hitler was not prepared to fight a prolonged war – his only hope was to destroy the Soviets in one grand sweep.
Further more detailed mistakes contributed to the demise of the Nazis, but the point I am getting at is that power was the poison that eventually defeated Hitler. When you try to assert your will upon too many people, eventually, the others will gang up and overthrow you. This has been showcased time and time again throughout history; every great empire, seeking an all-powerful dynasty, has eventually fallen, as the masses have risen up and taken it down. Rome may have been the greatest empire to ever exist, but its expansion became so great that they had no choice but to militarize their states, and eventually, their attempt at total power fell out of balance and the empire deteriorated. The ultimate failure of the powerful probably heavily influenced the constitutional ideas of the United States and France in the late 18th century. Equality and liberty stood at the forefront of these ideals, taking power away from the government and putting it in the hands of the people. The incredible success and sustainability of the United States is a testament to the notion that if a nation is going to sustain itself, it needs to minimize the power of the government to the extent that it can effectively protect the people’s rights and ensure their security. It is encouraging to see the world beginning to recognize these ideals, that contradict power of any one person or group, and instead encourage equality. When power, being such a venomous evil, is set aside in favor of a collective equality, conflict depletes and productivity and prosperity follow, as people are able to work cooperatively without the threat of oppression and without the resentment that ascribed status causes among the unprivileged.