Totalism - The Terrorists
We all have our enemies – from
playground bullies and
patronizing bosses to racists, to rapists and murderers. But there
is a line that separates the more totalistic individual from regular
people. Let’s say the playground bully of your youth was a short
kid with black hair. Most of us won’t live the rest of our lives
hating everybody who is short and has black hair.
The totalistic individual, however, has a hard time making that distinction… He
tends, instead, to see whole groups as "evil", to use them as a
scapegoat onto which he projects his rage at the unjust nature of the
|The totalistic individual characterizes himself
as the tragically, even heroically oppressed, and to blame and vilify
the defined oppressor.
contribute to the development of the "totalistic identity"?
Scholars such as Robert Lifton and his mentor Erik Erikson have
suggested that totalism is a solution to various hardships in
childhood, or to severe "identity confusion" in adolescence or young
Simply put, being confused about who you are
during these very important
developmental stages leads to the central question: Am I good?
If the person in question sees fault within, he will see himself as
totally bad, which he cannot afford. So he looks elsewhere to
find an "evil" group (the oppressor), and is able to see himself (the
oppressed) as wholly good when contrasted with the evil other.
His fractured identity comes together similarly to the way a divided
nation might come together when faced with an attack.
Whether you agree with
this analysis or not, what seems clear is
that when charismatic leaders express totalism as a solution to
widespread suffering, people tend to listen.
Hence the countless Nazi soldiers,
who, under Hitler’s hand, murdered millions of fellow humans.
Hence the terrorists who recently
|ploughed passenger-laden planes into crowded
centers of government and commerce.
It’s also clear that there are specific
psychological and sociological
characteristics present here, and in every situation where totalism has
showed its face. These specific characteristics, if interrupted,
would severely lessen the future effectiveness of charismatic leaders
such as Mussolini, Hitler, and Bin Laden.