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  • Writer's pictureDean Dwyer

Totalitarianism and the common good

If modern society is anything to go by, it would appear that pharmaceutical companies believe that everybody on planet Earth is sick and in need of “treatment”. But although many would look upon a desire to cure a sick society as a benevolent and virtuous act, the history books tell us that those who proclaim good intentions often have devious plans hidden underneath.

Nazi theorists saw German society as a sick organism, its bloodstream supposedly contaminated by degenerate and undesirable elements. Among those “contaminating” Germany were the racially impure, physical disabled, mentally infirm, the criminally minded and the sexually aberrant. The Nazis believed that the State should intervene to improve the health of German society. Hmmm, where have I heard that before!? In their plan, the first step was to identify its contaminating elements, the second to restrict their growth and the third was to eliminate them. This required difficult and unpalatable policies, which the Nazis justified with eugenics theories and references to social Darwinism (ie the survival of the fittest).

Killing the unhealthy to protect public health was proposed as early as 1920 by two German writers, psychiatrist Alfred Hoche and philosopher Karl Binding. The mentally disabled, they argued, possessed only lebensunwertem lebens (“life unworthy of living”). Legalising euthanasia for these people would end the “burden for society and their families”. While many Nazis supported this, Hitler was wary of legalising euthanasia, perhaps because he well understood its capacity to generate public opposition. In 1936, Hitler told his inner circle that euthanasia was a policy that would have to wait until wartime when it could be introduced with less fuss.

Aktion T4 (as the program was known) was preceded by a vigorous propaganda campaign to prepare the public and lessen sympathy for its victims. Posters depicted cripples and lunatics as burdens on their family and a drain on the State. Apparently, according to military planners, they took up valuable resources needed for front-line soldiers and hungry children. Each disabled person, Nazi posters claimed, cost the State 60,000 Reichmarks – a burden carried by the German taxpayer.

The mistake that a lot of people make when reflecting on this period of history is believing that the eugenics policies were created by ignorant, evil politicians. That is far from the truth. The Nazi program was constructed and implemented by respected physicians and scientists who were professors at major universities. They were joined by legal experts, also at the top of their profession. What distinguished Germany from Britain or the US was that the political climate under the Nazis made it possible for them to put together and implement programs that could not be put forward elsewhere.

It is a fact that needs to be remembered for one important reason – the health and state of our democracy. In our current day, symbiosis between the government (both sitting and opposition), police, the medical fraternity and army is creating a dangerous and almost unstoppable beast. You see, not everyone in Nazi Germany was a radicalised madman. Many were intelligent people who wrongly believed they were doing the right thing by their nation. Now, I am not suggesting there are direct comparisons between our government and the Nazi party. What I am saying is that people can become extremely misguided when they believe they are acting for “the common good”.

So, the first step in murderous totalitarianism is to have the leaders willing to carry it out. The second, is to create the conditions for it and garner the approval of society. If you don’t believe we are well on our way to the second point, read this recent social media post concerning the situation in Florida: Just let the unvaccinated catch COVID and face the consequences and if that means some of them die, so be it. Let the process of natural selection/social Darwinism/survival of the fittest, however you want to refer to it, do its work. It’s not a bad thing. Hitler’s reign of terror relied on dehumanization of maligned groups. It seems once again that people believe death is part of “the common good”.

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