January 23, 2012

Your So-Called Superior's Superiority Complex

"Superior" sign seen on West 25th Street 
by the Avenue of the Americas in NYC.
Photograph courtesy Pak So and Anna Tan

Excerpt from The Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Cenury by Edward Dolnick, first published 2008 by HarperCollins Publishers:

It was in a conversation with Gilbert in (Hermann) Goering's jail cell, on the night of April 18, 1946, that Goering offered what became a famous observation on mass psychology:  "Why, of course the people don't want war," he said. "Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship."

Gilbert remarked that in a democracy the people have a say in the decision to go to war.

"Oh, that is all well and good," Goering replied, "but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.  That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

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