By Libertatem Fidelium (read Part 1 here)
Totalitarian leaders may start off as good people, but once they taste unlimited power, they like it and they will do anything to keep it. Even if a totalitarian leader meant to do good things for the people, the things he ends up doing will not be good. Why? Because to keep a position of absolute, unlimited power, the dictator must do bad things, otherwise he will lose his power. And he does not want to lose his power.
In order to stay at the top, the dictator must allow no one to disagree with him. He must eliminate those people who do not agree with him. People cannot be allowed to have political preferences or biases for other people besides him. A totalitarian dictator may say: “When I’m in power, I will let the people have political power. I will let them vote and if they prefer another person to be their leader, great!” He may say that at the time, and he may even believe it as well. But in a totalitarian system of government, there is no way to ensure the promises he makes. Once he tastes unlimited power over hundreds of people, once he realizes that his word is absolute law, once he sees that he can control people with his words and actions, he will do anything to keep that power. He will change rules to keep himself at the top. He will take drastic measures against those who oppose him. He will learn that his power allows him to play with people’s lives. He sees himself as above everyone else, so he comes to think that he is better than everyone. He learns to place the value of citizen lives at very little. After time, he has no problem with waving his hand and commanding people he dislikes to be killed, put into work camps, jobs taken away from them, or otherwise disposed of. The totalitarian dictator must erase from his memory the commandment he learned from the Bible: “Thou shall not kill”.
For example, Joseph Stalin was constantly paranoid and afraid of being overthrown, so he had many high-ranking party members executed for treason without evidence. Anyone who seemed to be against him was eliminated. When you’re in a position of absolute power, you’re a big target for other people in higher positions and you must guard against that if you want to keep your job, because what person would purposely try to lose their job? What person would give up absolute power after having a taste of it? Very few. People who use power to do evil things did not start out as bad people. They just didn’t guard well enough against the love of power that corrupts human nature.
In order to keep everyone blindly following him, the totalitarian leader must distribute propaganda. He must promote himself in every way, even if the things he says are not true. He must feed the people upon lies and illusions. When a society is not founded upon truth, it cannot last. But the dictator must build his society on a lie in order to stay in power. He must unlearn what his mother taught him when he was a child: “Honesty is the best policy”.
In a totalitarian state, the individual becomes merely a means to serve the higher ends of society, and his life and happiness is completely disregarded. He becomes just another drop in the pond. The only thing that matters is the success of the state (a.k.a. The power-hungry dictator), and the individual gets blurred and blent in. Because the individual and the family are no longer the building blocks of the state, a few hundred or thousand of their lives mean nothing to a dictator. With the love of power in his heart and the loss of his morals, it is easy for him to control people’s lives with a wave of his hand. He comes to think nothing of it, and the lesser leaders with smaller power under him learn the same. It is through this way that Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and more were able to brainwash ordinary citizens to kill millions of innocent people.
Of course, one person alone can’t do much harm. Some would say that one evil totalitarian leader is harmless if the people he rules are constantly good and kind. And they are right. The catch is that one evil totalitarian leader can easily convince a lot of people to do what he wants them to do.
For example: A woman from Venezuela told me the story of how Hugo Chavez rose to power in her home country. This woman’s brother worked at a very high paying job when Chavez started to head more to socialism and totalitarianism. As Chavez promised more and more and spoke like a leader, he gained a lot of followers. People became very politically minded. Everything became about politics. People at his workplace started asking everyone: who is your political preference? And if someone answered someone other than Chavez, they were looked down upon. At her brother’s workplace, they started having political meetings and ‘revivals’. Her brother didn’t attend because he didn’t agree with Chavez, and people started to look down on him. Eventually he ended up losing his job because he didn’t agree politically with everyone else.
People like to feel that they belong within a group, and a totalitarian dictator offers them a place within a group, within a cause. Hitler’s Youth and the Chinese Red Guards gave people a place to act, speak, and punish others when they had before felt oppressed and silenced. These youth were easily hooked into reporting on their parents, harming others, and outcasting those who weren’t a part of their group. These people feel like they are part of the machine, and they are carried away by pride, power, and belonging until they are blinded to the fact that the machine they are part of is doing awful things.
Even after all of this, there’s more. It’s a fact of human nature that it’s easier to get people to agree on a negative action than it is to get them to agree on positive action. For example, you know how easy it is to get a group of friends gossiping about so-and-so than it is to get them to go outside and build something. It’s much easier to get the masses to agree on the hatred of an enemy or on the envy of the better off, than it is to get them to agree on any positive task. In a totalitarian state, this is always used to a terrifying advantage. The dictator wants the people to be unified, because if they are not, he is in danger of losing his power. And if the easiest way to unify people is by a common hatred, envy, or revenge . . . Do you now see how Hitler was able to unite millions of ordinary Germans in killing the neighbors they had known for years? For the dictator, it’s killing two birds with one stone. The people are united, following him in a cause of hatred, envy, or revenge, and then the dictator feeds that hatred by giving ordinary citizens the responsibility of killing off the people who don’t agree with him.
Every person has a good side and a bad side, a beneficent Dr. Jekyll and an evil Mr. Hyde. Well, you can’t have totalitarianism unless Mr. Hyde comes out, because the system is based off of him. Things that seem terrible to us now are necessary in a totalitarian system.. Totalitarianism causes the worst side to come out in every person. To actually make the totalitarian system function – to keep his power to himself – a totalitarian leader must be ready to forget every moral rule he has ever known to achieve the set end. The leader, in his grab for power, tells the people that the end justifies the means. The goal of a utopian society justifies all propaganda, genocide, and violence it takes to get there. That’s what the people must be told; that’s what they must believe; that’s what they must fight for. If lies are told over and over again, the people will start to believe, and with peer pressure on all sides, they will learn to do awful things. That is the inevitable destination of a totalitarian government: not Utopia; not a place where everyone is happy, because no happiness can come from lies, murder, and destruction. A totalitarian system cannot lead to good because it calls for the worst in human nature. It corrupts those with any amount of power, and leads them to use their power to tyrannically manipulate people’s lives. A totalitarian government is not a government for the people and by the people. It is the opposite: the people are for the government and their lives are directed by the government.
Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed by a kiss. Lies are always disguised with pretty ribbons and jewels, but on closer inspection, they are dangerous knives. Whenever someone tells you he has solved the problems of humanity and he knows a way for everything to just become perfect, question him closely. We will probably never achieve perfection in this world, but maybe that’s okay. Isn’t it better, instead of always longing for something else, to be grateful for what we already have? You, my friends, hold freedoms and blessings to which you don’t even know the extent of. Cherish them. Don’t ever let them go for the pretense of something better. Anything that takes away freedom of choice will never be better, even if it seems like it will be. Hold fast to what you have been given. It will be worth it in the end.