Irrationalism Essay, Research Paper
From the ontological, epistemological, and ethical Irrationalism to the psychological and social irrationalism of individual psychology, manipulation of the masses has always gone hand in hand. During the infantile stages of its discovery to the full blown power seen in today’s world, nothing alone has contributed more to the near total destruction or utopian existence in humankind’s evolution than time itself. And with that I will briefly recite my perceptions of the latter.
For the most part, the Age of Reasoning saw its rewards on a recovering Europe. The reverberating affects the French revolution caused throughout the world left Europeans void of accustomed routines and allegiances. The ideals of the Enlightenment led to massive reorganization of leadership enforcing new social values in most every country. Many of the conventionalities the lower class population had become so dependant on were literally wiped from their lives, leaving huge voids in belief and purpose. This is notably pointed out in such observations as Friedrich Nietzsche’s analogies of humanity’s removal from tradition. With the
church being secularized in most cases and feudalism crushed, the comfort found in the routine of their dominance was lost while, in general, a nationalist pride was invoked as a replacement.
It was also a time of technological prosperity, enhanced by this flourishing nationalism, that the emergence of yet another industrial revolution began, bringing such new technologies as electricity, huge advances in mass media, transportation and a barrage of other inventions fueling this great transformation. Mass education was rampant and the literacy rate rose dramatically. Populations doubled and even tripled with an influx of people moving into the cities to survive. Industrialization became the order of the day as supply and demand dictated expansion.
With the emergence of many different newspapers and mass communications throughout Europe, there came a “collective free press” and world conscious to those who isolated themselves in total observation and study of the ongoing changes around them. This helped lead to an uncertainty in Europe’s future and a weakening in confidence of Enlightenment ideals. Opposition to scientific reasoning and the rational reforms of society usually emerged in over-exaggerated or misleading assumptions and expressions, which rarely gained much support until after the Great War, as the Age of Reasoning began to see its demise. Existentialists such as Fyodor Dostoyevsky lashed out at the rational-scientific traditions of the Enlightenment in his writings, most notably expressed in “Notes from the Underground”. The increasing attacks on this rational-scientific tradition by intellectual scientists, philosophers, writers, and artists gave way to insights into human nature of society which contributed to the rising chaos and insecurity of the times. Coupled with the desperate necessity for governing bodies to gain strong political alliances from the masses, in order to survive, and the need for personal involvement in industrial competition, human nature became the focus for developing comprehensive standards which could be used to effectuate a means for their support. This gave a socio-political fervor of diversity, exploiting the basics of human instincts to enthrall the sense of national pride critical in accommodating many of the European States’ expansions through imperial endeavors. Contention reaped prejudices everywhere, whom Abb E. Wetterl , a deputy at the Reichstag and in the Alsace-Lorraine Chamber, summed up quite commonly: With supreme “cheek,” my colleagues of the Reichstag applied to all foreign nations nicknames that crystallised their hatred and disdain. The English were “the shop-keepers of London,” the Montenegrins “ram-thieves,” and the Serbians “rat-trap dealers.” Even the Allies of the Empire did not escape this mania for giving insulting names to everyone who had not the honour of belonging to the lordly race. The Austrians were commonly called “heros in slippers” (Pantofelhelden) and the Italians “the riff-raff of the triple Alliance” (Dreibundshalunken). Never did Erzberger employ any other terms to designate those whom he tried to win over, at the beginning of the war, to the cause of his country. Ah! If only the Italians had known how they were detested and despised in Berlin. As to the Spaniards, the Pan-German Press incessantly stated that theses poor “orange-eaters” had reached the last stage of idiocy.
These types of attitudes fueled the flaunting national-image and with the never ending thirst for economical success, the disastrous horrors of WW I were guaranteed.
Although the philosophical questioning and analytical observations of the Enlightenment ideals by intellectuals such as Gaetano Mosca, Vilfredo Pareto, Gustav Lebon during the close of the 19th-century was relatively unpopular, it should still be viewed as the pivotal point in the political development of Europe. The ambiguous concepts of effectively using the masses as a means of influence and for power became a movement so emphatically impressive that it eventually was incorporated in one form or another in nearly all aspects of government and business throughout Europe. With the advent improvements of the rotary press, cinema, radio and other means of mass media, later in the early 20th century, appeal to the irrational instincts of humankind in an effort to succeed politically had become a reality.
What better exemplifies the power of this knowledge than the Nazi Germany? Adolf Hitler with persuasive speeches and endless ceremonies, plus Paul Joseph Goebbels, the great master of “irrationalism” in propaganda. Understanding irrationalism as a movement and harnessing its power has given way to the modern society which we live in today.
In closing, a lot can be said of all the negative sides that affect us every day of our lives because of mankind’s journeys into the irrational aspects of itself. But, it also should be noted that not everything which plays on our emotions, aspirations, or desires for a purpose is wrong. On the contrary! Then, as even now, it was and is sometimes necessary for the good for the greater. Now where have I heard that before? And what became of the men and women who mesmerized the Weimar Republic with their overwhelming energy and spirit of innovation? Over half emigrated to the United States, especially Los Angeles, which among emigr s was often jokingly referred to as “Weimar am Pazifik.” What part of their understanding and use of irrationalism has played a part in America or the world? Think about it.
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