Should we compare Trump to Hitler?
Hitler is a real historical figure, but he is also a symbol, something we invoke perhaps a bit too often. Anyone disagreeable in government is called Hitler, as well as any act which smacks of authoritarianism is quickly branded, 'like Hitler'. So, it is not a surprise that the spectre of Hitler has been invoked, as Trump is unleashed on America. What is surprising is that this discussion is getting serious, with Liberals writing detailed comparison why it may be so, and indeed, an assortment of angry Conservatives denying any resemblance.
Some of this Conservative case is easy to make. Contemporary America has nothing in common with Weimar Germany, at least at the surface. It has an evolved Republican tradition - the oldest in the world, in fact - and history of stable governments, and do not compare with the Republic that lasted for slightly more than a decade and regularly saw Chancellors come and go. Germany was blighted by economic crisis - the hyperinflation of 1923, the Great Depression and the deflation that followed - and the American woes are nothing comparable to what Germans experienced. The Weimar life was marked by pitched street battles between private militias and violence, and a violent coup, though a few attempts failed in the initial years of the Weimar and was deemed ineffective even by Hitler, was never an impossibility. There was the persistent Communist threat and overbearing presence of Communist USSR, which made the German middle classes queasy with democracy. And, finally, Hitler - at least when seen through the contemporary lense - was a madcap vagabond, an inflammatory public speaker but not much else, against Donald Trump the billionaire businessman.
One could indeed draw some parallels, like the economic crisis, the unspoken but real presence of violence in American cities, and the threat of Islamic terrorism that might have made some Middle Class people vote Trump, but these parallels would be really laboured and overdrawn. There were many things that one could do in the 1930s - like thinking gay people are abnormal or Jews are the scums of the earth, and pretend to show scientific justification for it - which one can not do any more, at least publicly. And, besides, that all those factors brought Hitler to power is also too simplistic a view: Hitler was elevated to Chancellorship through an extraordinary act of palace intrigue, by people who thought Hitler would be 'normalised' once in power and who was really working to advance their own career goals. In short, it was a historical accident, which was unpalatable to some, particularly the Communists, but no one saw that as a historical event as it turned out to be. And, when Hitler did go after the groups - Communists and Social Democrats first, then the 'degenerates', then the Catholics, then the Jews (with overlaps and many things inbetween, but focusing on one 'public enemy' at a time) - the other groups mostly stood aloof, and even applauded. Till, indeed, the Gestapo came for them. So, Hitler was a non-event - more precisely, Hitler was not called out as The Hitler when he was elected Chancellor.
It is also important to realise the comparison with Hitler somewhat undermine the danger that Trump poses. Hitler was crazy but convinced that he was a man on a mission, the reincarnation of a German hero, and went about his terrible business with a righteous certainty that was mind-boggling. Trump on the other hand, is perfectly sane (despite all the ridiculous reports about his mental health) and cynical, though, admittedly, he surrounds himself with a few crazies of his own. He represents not the ancient German hero but the modern CEO, for whom the result matters and not the way, and for whom, power is a tool for personal advancement. And, add to that the realities of the United States - it is the most powerful country in the world and has the tools to enforce its will on anyone, something Germany could do only in Hitler's illusions. Trump is a far more dangerous leader than Hitler: He, as the American President has the ability to wreck the global order in a way a German Chancellor in the 1930s could not do (which Hitler ended up doing, but through stupidity and complicity of other leaders and countries), and could, like a CEO, can gamble his way to the precipice and then take everyone down with them.
And, this Trump-as-Hitler debate shows, if anything, how clueless the Liberal position has become. This comparison not only underplays the dangers, but also allows Trump some advantages. One could see this in the Conservative push-back in this debate. The Trump-as-Hitler metaphor has now been, conveniently, translated into Trump-vs-Hitler comparison, making Trump's actions look benign and the comparison outlandish. The nuances of hindsight, which apply to Hitler but exempt Trump, are important in assessing historical impact, and therefore, this is a false comparison that works in favour of Trump. Hence, for a completely different reason from those who are celebrating the victory of Mr Drumpf (that Trump is of German descent and his family name was Drumpf are obscure facts, but perhaps more plausible connection between Trump and German than the Hitler moniker), Trump should not be compared with Hitler but be called out for the dangers he poses on his own.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
A week into lockdown and things are beginning to change. Mornings are late, afternoons are lazier and evenings never end; meditations are filling out the time for Yoga routines and Netflix profiles are strewn with half-finished movies. This state-mandated, state-funded period of idleness is being likened to being called up to serve, but is nothing like that: Such a comparison is really an affront to the idea of service. Instead, this is just one long streak of panic; of the centre not holding and life not going on as usual. With the usual patterns and rules in suspended animation and business talk - and business - being rendered meaningless, space is opening up for unusual questions: Is Capitalism about to end? Is this the death of globalisation? Does it get uglier from here? My grandfather's generation would have scoffed at us. They saw through wars and pandemics. But, in fairness, we haven't had a life-ending crisis of our own. Notwithstanding the experiences of th
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.