Belief and tribalism.

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Glover, Humanity, Part VI

For this week’s Discussion Board please choose ONE of the following options and write a three to four paragraph response making sure to refer to the text.  Please also write a short (one paragraph) response to one other student.  In every case, be sure to demonstrate that you have done the assigned reading. 

  1. Explain and analyze Glover’s argument regarding the core of Nazism.  What sets Nazism apart from Maoism and Stalinism?  (see especially p. 327, last two paragraphs).  State three reasons Glover offers in defense of his view that Nazism overwhelmed the moral resources by a combination of Belief and tribalism.

2. In Chapter 38: “The Willingness to Believe,” Glover argues that “To resist propaganda people need the ability to think critically” (360).  Glover’s idea is that there is a fixed point of belief, and that because all beliefs exist in a web of other beliefs, the fixed point of belief causes alteration of all other beliefs (despite evidence to the contrary).  So, for people to maintain the fixed belief (for example, the idea of a Jewish conspiracy to weaken society in order to dominate society), many other obviously false beliefs become unassailable (Social Darwinism, Racial Hygiene, Anti-Semitism) no matter what the evidence to the contrary.   The basic intellectual virtues (healthy skepticism, willingness to look for evidence which may change one’s beliefs) must be abandoned in order to maintain the fixed belief.  Using Glover’s Humanity Part VI as a source (especially chapter 38), construct and explain a Nazi web of Belief.  Identify what you think functions as a fixed point in this web, and why/how that belief anchors the system.   

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Glover’s argument regarding the core of Nazism is a belief system that mixed “Social Darwinism and ideas from Nietzsche,” (Glover, 317) and was inspired by the tribalism that originated that “sense of resentment at Germany’s defeat in the First World, War,” (Glover, 318).Glover explains that while the resemblance to the regimes of Stalin and Mao in terms of “withholding respect and sympathy from their victims,” (Glover, 327), what sets Nazism apart from the other two dictatorships is that the “Nazi belief system was effective in making people internalize them,” (Glover, 327). People were not only afraid of disobeying orders, but they also thought it was wrong to do so (Glover, 327). Glover also separate them in philosophical terms — Mao and Stalin’s regimes as “twisted forms of consequentialism,” (Glover, 327) where “hardness and inhumanity were defended, implausibly, as the supposed means to a more humane world,” (Glover 327) while Hitler’s regime is described as a “a tested deontology: hardness and inhumanity were seen as desirable in themselves, aspects of an identity that expressed “the will to create mankind anew”,” (Glover, 327). However, I would say that there is a similarity in terms of the Maoism / Stalinism’s consequentialism in which “hardness and inhumanity were defended…as the supposed means to a more humane world,” (Glover, 327) — the manipulative and yet creative justification by doctor Fritz Klein who described himself as a doctor who wanted to preserve life and that how, out of respect for human life, he would remove “a gangrenous appendix from a diseased body. The Jew is the gangrenous appendix in the body of mankind,” (Glover, 325). This sounds like a twisted consequentialism to me — the Nazis (erroneously) saw the consequences to their actions as producing the grater good for society — they wanted a master race that would be free from physical imperfections / weakness (these are seen as draining the pooled national resources). Nazism overwhelmed the moral resources by a combination of belief and tribalism that involve scapegoating Jews for being viewed as “breeding “rootless cosmopolitanism”,” (Glover, 319) which was experienced as being in stark opposition to the Germans’ woodlanders, the sturdy and genuine people of the woods as described in Tacitus’s Germania from 98AD in which he “praised the rough, brave warrior tribes who lived in the inhospitable German forests,” (Glover, 319). This simple life was “set against the foreign influences of technology and industrial capitalism,” (Glover, 319)Nazi tribalism had the backing of a “supposedly “scientific” system of beliefs,” (Glover, 321) that was crucial in “turning resentment into genocide,” (Glover, 321). Social Darwinism helped along by racial hygiene in order to “improve and protect the gene pool of the race,” saw a variety of monstrous Nazi policies enacted in a bid to eliminate undesirable people. Euthanasia to “kill people who did not fit the biological blueprint,” (Glover, 324) and compulsory sterilization to prevent those with hereditary defects from having children (Glover, 324). These ran parallel to Heinrich Himmler’s Lebensborn program that “aimed at more births of the ‘right’ children,” (Glover, 324). These beliefs postulate that “the only transmission from one generation to other generations is genetic,” (Glover, 322) however, “like Darwin’s scientific discoveries,” (Glover, 322) knowledge is not genetically passed on, but it is preserved and transmitted in the culture (Glover, 322). According to Glover, “overlooking cultural transmission was a mistake shared by both Stalinists and Nazi racial theorists,” (p. 322). Overall, Gloves believes that “the moral resources were overwhelmed by pressures to believe, to obey and to conform,” (p. 327) and that there was a thoroughness of assault on moral identity by Nazism. Glover pulls Nietzsche in again several times in this section to blame his philosophy for the evil of Nazism this time. Inspired by the Austrian philosopher’s belief in self-creation through hardness, Glover believes that the Nazis “worked to replace sympathy with hardness,” (Glover, 327) and that through Nietzsche’s advocacy for creative reinvention, “there was to be a new Nazi identity, rooted in an outlook actively hostile to the responses which constitute our humanity,” (Glover, 327). However, just as Marilyn Manson was not responsible for the Colombine High School massacre of the early Nineties even though Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were fans of his music, I find the implication that Nietzsche’s philosophy may be held responsible for the evil of Nazism a little too far-fetched. 

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