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People and Politics Forum 07. 04. 2008

"Is there a basic human tendency to endorse rather than resist dictatorship?"


More information:

The Wave - A School Experiment and its Impact

In 1967, American high-school teacher Ron Jones performed an experiment on his own pupils. The aim was to demonstrate how democratic societies can become dictatorships. That experiment inspired a novel called The Wave, which was turned into a movie. Now, a new German production of The Wave is about to hit cinema screens. We find out what today's school students think of the film, and we ask whether there is any danger of present-day democratic societies becoming dictatorships.

Our Question is:

"Is there a basic human tendency to endorse rather than resist dictatorship?"

Charles Stieger in Lithuania says:

"Not everyone is vulnerable, but getting a two-thirds majority is usually enough to give a charismatic, populist leader, with seductive rhetoric, his opportunity...That's enough in times of economic agony, combined with weak politicians, to highten group pressure. The rest is taken care of by the ever-present tabloids."

Till Harck, Germany:

"I think everyone is prone to accept dictatorship because everyone needs a role model. And that is what's missing these days...When someone enters the stage with moral authority, offering something people think is worth striving for, then that person becomes the role model that the majority will indeed follow."

Simon Schultheis, Finland:

"The more people get fed up with politics the more they will lean towards dictatorship. In Germany, the gap has widened between the affluent and the poor, and radical parties have profited. German politicians need to regain their credibility to roll back radicalism."

Herbert Fuchs, Finland:

"A passive proneness for dictatorship already exists in the cradle, and it's quite possible that a person's upbringing - i.e. a negative world view - can turn this into active support...Every human being is basically a little dictator, and would like to change the world the way he or she wants it."

Vipul Pai, India:

"I think it is not the human tendancy but the human environment in which he or she is brought up that decides whether one endorses or resists dictatorship. A person brought up in a hard and struggling childhood would mostly endorse dictatorship as he was deprived of education, food or shelter earlier. In contrast, a person from a well-to-do family would mostly resist such things as he values human life and rights."

Lee Davis, in the USA, writes:

"It‘s human nature to choose the easy way to deal with any problem they face. It's much easier to go along with the majority. So you go with the flow."

Claus Stauffenberg, Australia, suggests that..

"..the path to totalitarianism is seductive to humankind. This cult of personality, that preaches conformity, superiority, and right-wing rationalism, allows individuals to (submit) themselves to an ideal that removes personal responsibility, moral equivocation, and the requirement to think for oneself. Our basic psychological need for social acceptance turns us into easy prey for right-wing ideology, particularly amongst those who are disenfranchised and uneducated."

Jorge G. Riva, Argentina, agrees:

"No matter the causes, it's easier for human being to rely on someone else, instead of assuming his own responsibilities. Today, we can talk about progress in different fields: science, technology, research etc, but human beings themselves have made no progress at all. Please remember Nietzsche and his theory of "Super Human Being" responsible for all his acts, his behavior, his conduct. There will always be sheep and shepherds!!!"

Paul Stadelmann, Venezuela, has similar views:

"Human beings are and will stay herd animals, and will therefore remain vulnerable to dictatorship. Examples are plenty..and you only have to see how easy it was for the Nazi criminals to gain popular control and power to understand that it can always happen again."

Jeane Eckert, Brazil, says:

"You need conditions like a poor country,economic woes and someone with the appropriate rhetoric and promises...History doesn't seem to change."

Gerhard Seeger, Philippines:

"Some people are immune, offering resistance. But children can be raised as recruits under a dictatorial regime. Adults looking for advantage will adapt. And don't forget the fear of what might happen if you don't, and there are also those, I 'm afraid, who enjoy living in a dictatorship, probably wishing for a strong leader, a "Führer"., and being the pillars of the regime."

Martin Burmeister, Venezuela:

"Young people,especially, are often easily influenced by charismatic,dictatorial leaders, at the expense of their personal freedom. For those who are older, personal circumstances and experience decides whether they will become the prey of populists."

Paul Thompson-Lenz, in Argentina, writes:

"You need to know the country and the politics and events
shaping that country to give an adequate answer.Generally,
most people these days are not vulnerable...but there are
still too many who are, especially when they feel hard-done

Rafael in Mexico says:

"We are all afraid of living in an authoritarian system. But I studied at a US military school, and it was really fascinating: indicating that it is possible to live under an authoritarian regime in a democratic society."

Stewart Sifakis, in the USA:

"The answer is "yes", and those who think they are immune to dictatorship are the ones who are not, especially numerous citizens in the US."

The People and Politics desk reserves the right to edit and abbreviate scripts.