Keep in mind

I went looking for Adolf Hitler quotes to start a post on a totally different subject, but instead found one that I thought quite interesting. Adolf Hitler was a fool – an absolute regrettable fool that I wish was just a footnote in the pages of history as a failed politician and artist. However, we all know he wasn’t. And though a fool he may be, here is the poignant quote I found of his:

Demoralize the enemy from within by surprise, terror, sabotage, assassination. This is the war of the future.

I guess every dog has his days. Having been, really, the catalyst for change in warfare and battle, should I be surprised that he has accurately described what we call the War on Terror? World War One was a clash of the old with the modern – old tactics with modern weapons. And yet rarely was there adaptation and change – even when victories were gained when ‘new’ and ‘exciting’ approaches were taken to the battlefield. Come World War Two, Hitler and his cronies realised that the air force, the navy, and the economy all had their place in the theatre of war, not just land attacks – and all were used and attacked appropriately.

It was obvious that he had a great (albeit evil) mind for this. And then, sixty-odd years later, his words describe the conflicts the people of today are faced with. How did we get into the War on Terror? I’m afraid that I’m going to have to draw on another quote of his:

I use emotion for the many and reserve reason for the few.

Think back to when 9/11 occurred and the emotive language that was used. Reason was overruled by emotions. With good cause Afghanistan was invaded and conquered by the United States an its allies. Few, very very few, would argue that this was a bad thing. But with the emotions, the anger and the patriotism and the fear, we found our forces in Iraq in no time – with no credible cause (as we now know), no plan of action, and no way out.

Al Gore’s The Assault on Reason is a fantastic book on this topic. It’s pretty heavy with theory and smart rhetoric, but for someone who can stand that (my covert way of saying ‘for an intelligent reader’) then it’s a great read. It talks about how biologically, consciously, and subconsciously emotions (particularly fear) are the driving forces behind all actions – and the cognitive process of reasoning takes a backseat to the emotions within us. If these are exploited, as they have been in the past, then there’s no knowing where we may end up.

This wasn’t all a lead in to a shill for Al Gore (I don’t get paid to do that), rather it was just a post to point out that not everything is black-and-white, even when you look back through history. Hindsight is a great gift – but even that can be skewed. Everyone has heard Alex Haley’s quote about history:

History is written by the winners.

And that is the case – and it’s something to remember. It’s a very Orientalist/ post-modern approach to histor, but it’s what needs to be remembered not just when reading dusty books. Who is saying what, why, and for how long? We all know Hitler was a regrettable person to have existed – but what is he had written his own history? You can’t have a neutral ‘fact’ – and because of this (or perhaps regardless of this) Hitler is demonised. I hate him, but I acknowledge that he was able to build Germany up into a first-class nation that was able to conquer most of continental Europe. He built his country up from nothing, fostered a strong economy, and conquered nations. He was reprehensible in most of his other actions, and that’s really all we remember. And we should remember that, and we shouldn’t give him any credit what-so-ever, but we need to keep in mind.

Keep in mind, not just for history, but for the now and the future. Keep in mind where we have been, sure, but think about where we are going and who is leading us there. Why might someone be speaking in extremes and conjuring up your powerful emotions? To lead you to a place that is wrong? To a place where we don’t want to, nor should we, go? Or is a thought out, reasoned, and meditated course of action what we are doing? Thought and reason ought to guide us, as with the words of Napoleon Bonaparte:

If I always appear prepared, it is because before entering an undertaking, I have meditated long and have foreseen what might occur. It is not genius where reveals to me suddenly and secretly what I should do in circumstances unexpected by others; it is thought and preparation.

Thomas.

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