Monday, July 13, 2015

Roman Catholic and Nazi Rituals

National Socialism, the Germany party better known as Nazi, was a complex phenomena with many sources. It existed before Adolf Hitler joined, but he was the politician responsible for navigating the tricky route to power over the German people.

William Shirer was an American journalist in Germany starting in 1934, after the Nazis had gained power by a combination of electoral success and shrewd bargaining, including gaining the backing of Pope Pius XI and the German Catholic Center Party. As a basis of further discussion I quote from Shirer's Berlin Diary for September 5, 1934:

I'm beginning to comprehend, I think, some of the reasons for Hitler's astounding success. Borrowing a chapter from the Roman church, he is restoring pageantry and colour and mysticism to the drab lives of twentieth-century Germans. This morning's opeing meeting in the Luitpold Hall on the outskirts of Nuremberg was more than a goreous show; it also had something of a mysticism and religious fervour of an Easter or Christmas Mass in a great Gothic cathedral. The hall was a see of brightly coloured flags. Even Hitler's arrival was dramatic . . . Hitler appeared in the back of the auditorium, and followed by his aides, Goring, Goebbels, Hess, Himmler, and the others, he strode slowly donw the long centre aisle while thirty thousand hands were raised in salute . . .

In such an atmosphere no wonder, then, that every word dropped by Hitler seemed like an inspired Word from on high . . .

Hitler himself was Roman Catholic, so it should be no surprise that, like the Pope, he expected people to believe every thing he said. He and the Pope disagreed, both publicly and privately, on many occasions, but that was about who would be top dog. Hilter wanted a subserviant Pope, and the Pope wished for a subservient German dictator. On the whole they got along quite well, though later the Church did well at re-writing the history. And of course most people, including non-Catholics, swallowed that lie with ease.

Most German Christians were either Lutheran or Roman Catholic. All Nazi Party members had to swear they were Christian. Most atheists in Germany belonged to either the Communist Party or the Social Democratic Party, the main enemies of the Nazi's. So how did the Nazis get recast as atheists or pagans?

Pro-Catholic propagandists had the occasional sharp remark from Hitler to use, but since Mein Kampf was co-written with a Roman Catholic priest, using Hitler's own words requires a great deal of selectivity and is easily contradicted by his testaments to the Catholic and more generally Christian faith.

Instead they tend to use quotes from Hitler cronies. As far as I can tell some of them really did not believe in god, and certainly Alfred Rosenberg was a pagan. These cronies each, at times, attributed to Hitler their own beliefs. Now Hitler was a skilled liar, that is why he was such a good politiican and able to gather so many truly diverse Germans into his party. So his cronies may have believed Hitler secretly agreed with them, no matter what his public announcements.

Here's what Shirer has to say about these men. In this case Shirer is writing on December 1, 1941, after World War II started, when everyone still knew the fascist dictators Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco were all loyal Roman Catholics:

Goring, Himmler, Hess, Ribbentrop and Ley — comprise the "Big Five" around Hitler. They are called in for consultation. All but Goring give their advice very carefully and with some timidity. In every case the decision is always Hitler's.
. . .
Alfred Rosenberg, Hitler's mento in early party days and formerly one of the chief men in the party, has entirely lost out and today has no importance in the party or country. He was too much of a dreamer to be practical.

So why do people keeping lying about fascist religion? Clearly the Roman Catholic Church has reason to lie. They started World War II and lost it and want to hide that fact.

If historians are defined as people who teach History, then the answer is clear. Academia has its good side, but its bad side is bootlicking. You have to lick boots to get a PhD. You have to lick boots to get a professorship and tenure. You don't have to lick boots once you have tenure, but by then you are so mired in the boot-licking system that your ability to tell the difference between lies and truths is greatly diminished. In a nation like America, where Roman Cathocism is still the largest single denomination, historians seldom want to make their own lives uncomfortable by telling the truth about Hitler. Or about many other things.

More on Hitler's Catholicism

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What is there in Syria? Apocalypse

"Mesopotamia . . . yes . . . oil . . . irrigation . . . we must have Mesopotamia; Palestine . . . yes . . . the Holy Land . . . Zionism . . . we must have Palestine; Syria . . . h'm . . . what is there in Syria? Let the French have that." — Lloyd George during the 1919 Peace Conference, thinking aloud in the presence of Arnold Toynbee [Margaret MacMillan, Paris 1919, page 381]

What is there is Syria? Not Lebanon or Palestine. Both were traditionally part of Syria, but were partitioned off by the Great Powers (the old French Empire and British Empire) in the early 20th century.

How many people are left in Syria? Maybe 18 million. Note that Greece has a smaller population, about 11 million. So why are we so worried about a debt default in Greece, when the Apocalypse has already come to Syria? Because the Greeks owe the rest of Europe so much money. Syrians made the mistake of not borrowing vast sums of money from America and Europe.

Of course, to borrow vast sums of money from Europe and America, the Syrians would have had to give up much of their autonomy. They would have to undertake a pro-American and pro-Israeli foreign policy. And they would have to use the loans to make profits for the lenders, which was a little hitch the Greeks forgot about.

After the French Empire finished mismanaging Syria in 1945, it was left to the locals to mismanage their country. The French apparently trained the locals well.

At one point, when the two empires were dividing up what bits of the world they had not grabbed already before World War I, the city of Mosul and the area around it was supposed to be part of Syria. Mosul was already known to have oil. The French and British argued. They decided Mosul would be part of British Iraq, but that French oil companies would share the profits from Mosul oil, and would allow a pipeline to be built through Syria so the oil could be picked up on the Mediterranean coast.

Syria may not have much, but people want it all the same. It was building up a respectable tourist industry before the current civil war began. So of course President Bashar Assad and the political and economic elite wanted to hold on. It's not like they were in the position to grab anything else. They could not even grab the Golan Heights back from Israel.

Every system, no matter how democratic or how authoritarian, has its outsiders who would like to become a new part of the old elite, or a new elite. Assad and friends had made enemies, and for all I know some of their complaints might have been justified. In any case protest turned to civil war in 2011.

Civil war is usually a bad choice. Maybe the legally elected regime could have compromised more and averted the war, but I doubt it. The Syrian civil war was always about Islamic radicalism. Sunni Arabs account for about 60% of the population, yet Assad is Shia and the government is dominated by the Shia minority. Politically the government is dominated by the Baath party and its allies in the National Progressive Front, which includes many Sunni Arabs.

Some people just never modernize. They think religious platitudes are actually fact-based. They don't want to tolerate anyone who does not believe in the same fairy-tales as themselves. Apparently there were plenty of these people in Syria, because they flocked to the rebellion. Then the I-am-more Islamic than you game got some momentum. Al Qaeda became prominent, then its even-more-radical offshoot the Islamic State.

Syria may not have anything the British Empire wanted after World War I, but when you have nothing, even Syria may be attractive. The Islamic State wants Syria, and since the U.S. has an irrational hatred of Assad and the Baath Party, it won't be a big surprise if the Islamic State gets what it wants.

Wither then? Turkey? More likely Jordan. The difference is that Jordan has long been a U.S. client state. Whoever is President (of the U.S.) at that point will probably try to get Saudi Arabia or Israel to defend Jordan. But likely at that point, if they are not needed somewhere else in the world, U.S. troops will be deployed in earnest.

Even when you are better armed and better trained, fighting fanatics is not a job any sane person wants. They just keep coming at you. You begin to feel like you are a minor character in the Walking Dead series. You can't let your guard down for a moment. Ask any Vietnam Veteran.

It kind of makes me wish we had just let the old U.S.S.R. have Afghanistan and a free hand to convert the lot of them to atheism.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Hot Shower before the Apocalypse

More to save on the electric bill than on California's water, I habitually have showered only twice a week for years. I can get away with that partly because I work at home. You can't smell me over the Internet.

I was brought up to bath or shower once a day, and I do enjoy a hot shower. I enjoy it especially when I think about how the Apocalypse could come any day. No, I am not expecting the return of Jesus. He said he would return during the lifetimes of his Apostles, and he didn't.

By Apocalypse I mean all the ways the civilized world as we know it could fall apart.

I am a child of the Atomic Era, so my earliest apocalyptic worries were about Atomic War. Apparently that came pretty close to happening several times both before I was born (in 1955) and on up until the end of the Cold War. It still could happen. Even a single atomic bomb going off in New York City, Washington, London, or perhaps Moscow could bring on a kind of lesser economic apocalypse that could turn hot showers into luxuries.

I live about a half mile from the San Andreas fault, so a major earthquake is a real possibility. That could bring on a local apocalypse, but would not effect people outside of California much.

Some people think storms will get worse due to global warming. But I see storms as just temporary apocalypse lite events. If it takes a long time to repair the electricity lines I would long for a hot shower.

Famine might leave us with hot showers, but hungry. It is hard for Americans to grasp how bad a famine could be. Most post Civil War hunger in America has been due to screwed up economic priorities, not due to an actual shortage of food. But look at the recent egg shortage. What would happen if the corn and wheat crops failed in a major way two years in a row? We don't have a lot of food in storage in the U.S. any more, not like we had during the Cold War. People would fight over food, with the relatively rich probably getting most of it.

I live in the country, but not in a food-producing region. My soil is lousy, it required fertilizer to produce anything edible. The only thing I typically have a surplus of is apples. Apple trees love it here. I know how hard it is go grow enough food on a small scale to do more than just supplement food that comes from professional large-scale agriculture. Don't kid yourself. A suburban backyard garden won't keep you from starving to death (if you can't get food from outside), it will just slow down the process. Assuming your water supply is even working.

But the most likely and scary form of apocalypse would be economic and social collapse. I don't see that coming until we have another bubble of some sort first. Even then if people have done some saving in the meantime and keep their heads, we might muddle through. My main concern as an analyst is the National Debt. It has become a balloon, and if interest rates rise enough, it will balloon so fast it could take down the government and economy.

Sometimes people just go nuts. Enough nutty people and the economy tanks, the government falls, and the next thing you know food does not get distributed, and neither does electricity, and so: the end of hot showers.

Or it could be a combination of things. Like when people walk out on a balcony with wood rot. Dry rotted wood can be surprisingly strong, but put enough weight on it, and at some point it reaches the snapping point.

A sudden jump in the rate of global warming, a tightening of world food supplies. A war in the Middle East spilling over into India or Europe. Too much debt. Too much political gridlock. Too many people unwilling to give up their oversized piece of the pie for the common good. A blight striking down grain crops, or perhaps knocking down a good proportion of the human population. Plans based on growth suddenly up in smoke, defaults on loans, low tax receipts, a default on the federal debt, Dr. Strangelove firing off a nuclear missile thinking that, somehow, will make things better.

Of course the Apocalypse might kill you, or me, but I enjoy thinking about surviving it.

Enjoy your next hot shower. It is not likely to be your last, but it could be.