I just read an article on Ayn Rand’s influence on many in the Republican Party, and it brought the following to mind. I know most people have knee-jerk aversion to the mere mention of Hitler and comparing him with others, but sometimes it helps to take notice when accurate comparisons exist. Like Rand and her ideological heirs, Hitler also despised the weak and any effort to help the unfortunate. Among those he considered unworthy of life because he thought them “weak” were hospital patients, orphans, pacifists, homosexuals, anyone “asocial” and any groups that might uplift the poor such as labor unions. He believed might makes right and justified his views using Darwinian and Machiavellian terms.
In Nazi Germany: A New History, Klaus P. Fischer says Hitler once said to Hermann Rauschning: “Everything weak must be eliminated. My Ordensburgen (Castles of Order) will mold a youth from which the world will shrink in terror. I want a brutal, domineering, fearless and cruel youth . . . They must endure pain; they cannot be weak and tender.” In The Splendid Blonde Beast, Christopher Simpson quotes Hitler’s talk with his commanding generals on the eve of their invasion of Poland in 1939: “Our strength is in our quickness and our brutality. Genghis Khan had millions of women and children killed by his own will and with a gay heart. History sees him only as a great state builder.”
I’m not comparing Rand to Hitler in any other way than their shared contempt for the “weak” and for governmental help for people they considered unworthy. There are key differences between their attitudes, among them Rand’s individualism clashed with Hitler’s rabid nationalism and, of course, she didn’t advocate killing the “weak.” But since Rand’s admiration for raw power and contempt for tenderness and helping others has gained such a strong foothold here, especially among so many Republicans, it’s noteworthy that the same basic worldview (magnified and more physically brutal, but still essentially the same) was a key part of the cultural mindset that permeated and allowed for Hitler’s Germany. Even the virulent anti-Semitism was rooted in the belief that the “strong” (Germans) had the right to first show contempt for and then eliminate the “weak” (among them the Jewish people).
Isn’t that mindset always at the core of any one individual’s or any one nation’s willingness to exploit other people, animals or the environment; to plunder the earth and to wage war? History is littered with examples of the destructive nature of cultures dominated by individual and collective disdain for compassionate action and dedicated instead to the idea that “might makes right.” We can avoid the pitfalls of those views by remembering where they can lead and by noting why gentleness and caring are the real strength in any individual life and in the larger world.