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Dietrich Bonhoeffer's letter against facism, excerpt

onesteptwostep

I'm smart and stuff.
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#1
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian and pastor who went back into Nazi Germany during WW2 because he couldn't bear the thought of leaving his countrymen during the moral and political chaos during that calamity. He was actively against the Nazi party and eventually he was captured and later executed on April 8th 1945, just a month away from VE Day, May 8th.

Before he was captured, in 1943, a year before, he wrote a letter on Christmas to friends on fascism, which was entitled "After Ten Years". In it, there's a section called "On Folly", which is seemingly very relevant to our day in age. I'm not sure where the thread will go, but I thought it would be interesting to share.

On Folly said:
"Folly is a more dangerous enemy to the good than evil. One can protest against evil; it can be unmasked…. Evil always carries the seeds of its own destruction, as it makes people, at the least, uncomfortable. Against folly we have no defense. Neither protests nor force can touch it; reasoning is no use; facts that contradict personal prejudices can simply be disbelieved - indeed, the fool can counter by criticizing them, and if they are undeniable, they can just be pushed aside as trivial exceptions. So the fool…is completely self-satisfied; in fact, he can easily become dangerous, as it does not take much to make him aggressive. …we shall never try to convince a fool by reason, for it is both useless and dangerous.

If we are to deal adequately with folly, we must try to understand its nature. This much is certain, that it is a moral rather than an intellectual defect. There are people who are mentally agile but foolish and people are slow but very far from foolish. …We notice further that this defect is less common in the unsociable and solitary than in individuals or groups that are inclined or condemned to sociability. It seems then, that folly is a sociological rather than a psychological problem, and that it is a special form of the operation of historical circumstances on people, a psychological by-product of definite external factors. If we look more closely, we see that any violent display of power…produces an outburst of folly in a large part of manking; indeed, this seems actually to be a psychological and sociological law: the power of some needs the folly of others. …the upsurge of power makes such an overwhelming impression that men are deprived of their independent judgement…. The fact that the fool is often stubborn must not mislead us into thinking that he is independent. One feels in fact, when talking to him, that one is dealing, not with the man himself, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like, which have taken hold of him. He is under a spell, he is binded, his very nature is being misused and exploited. Having thus become a passive instrument, the fool will be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil.

But at this point it is quite clear, too, that folly can be overcome, not by instruction, but only by an act of liberation; and so we have come to terms with the fact that in the majority of cases inward liberation must precede outward liberation, and until that is taken place, we may as well abandon all attempts to convince the fool. In this state of affairs we have to realize why it is no use trying to find our what 'the people’ really think and why the question is so superfluous for the man who thinks and acts responsibly…. The Bible’s words that 'the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ tell us that a person’s inward liberation to live a responsible life before God is the only real cure for folly.

But there is some consolation in these thoughts on folly: they in no way justify us in thinking that most people are fools in all circumstances. What will matter is whether those in power expect more from people’s folly than from their wisdom and independence of mind."
This of course was meant to point to Hitler, but in today's age, it could point to anyone who are bottleneck-fed information on the media. If "folly" is a sociological issue, isn't the internet exasperating it?
 

Animekitty

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#2
The Bible’s words that 'the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ tell us that a person’s inward liberation to live a responsible life before God is the only real cure for folly.
One feels in fact, when talking to him, that one is dealing, not with the man himself, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like, which have taken hold of him. He is under a spell, he is binded, his very nature is being misused and exploited.
So to control dumb people we need to give them religion. Christian slogans, catchwords instead of fascist slogans, catchwords.

The majority of churchgoers do not comprehend the Bible in modern nor historical context. Church is there to suppress the fools from harming society.

Society is preserved by dumbing down the Bible for the fools to become complacent.
 

onesteptwostep

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#3
That part I think is more awaking the spiritual, moral side of the human being, and not trying to sign up someone for bible study to recruit them into certain political rallies and so on. The catchwords and slogans themselves mentioned there lack the very substance Bonhoeffer thinks will lead to inward liberation, i.e. that they lack morality, that they are amoral. Of course certain religions could be well within the amorality Bonhoeffer mentions, but here I think here he is pointing to folly at large. There were certain denominations in Germany who supported Hitler afterall, some who even wanted to cannonize Mein Kampf.
 

Cognisant

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#4
I have a lot of respect for what I call a good priest, like Alexei in "The Brothers Karamazov" someone who is compelled by the values of their faith to make the world a better place. That being said from my existentialist perspective faith is as much folly as the sociopolitical folly Dietrich Bonhoeffer was speaking against.

Imo fascism itself was really was the problem, the core philosophy of fascism is essentially strength through unity as symbolized by the fasces which itself stands for the parable that where one stick is easily broken a bundle of sticks is strong. This philosophy is foundational to many modern institutions from military and police forces to workers unions, ecological conservationists and human rights activists, basically any group that relies on uniting people to achieve a goal is essentially a form of fascism.

Uniting a majority to persecute a religious/ethnic/foreign minority is Nazi fascism, or Catholicism, actually considering the Nazis were Catholics...
 
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