Hollow Men Dept.


From the archives of Harper's comes a remarkably perceptive 1941 article, "Who Goes Nazi?" The premise is simple: those who go Nazi are people who feel, on some level, disenfranchised and dissatisfied. Levels of status or wealth have little to do with it; a frustrated sense of entitlement is everything.

Among the insights that Robert (Fifty-Minute Hour) Lindner gleaned from his studies of the members of mass political movements, one of them seemed universal: Proletarianism — the sense of being an underdog class — is a matter of attitude. You can be the richest man in the world and still feel like you're not running the show, even when you are. A fat wallet doesn't mean much when you have thin skin.

It makes sense, then, to see some of the richest and most powerful people we know complaining long and loud about how they get no respect. Why should they care? I keep wondering. With all that power, why all the dudgeon? Why, indeed — unless it's because their hurt feelings matter far more than their actual accomplishments (or lack of same). They demand respect, but only in the form of having their power feared, not in the sense of having their humanity acknowledged. They are the hollow men, heads filled with straw, alas.

When your heart is broken, nothing will fill it. Least of all other peoples' obedience or suffering.


Tags: politics psychology sociology




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