THE INTRUSION BY TOTALITARIAN THINKING
In order to investigate the social forces at work undermining the free individual development of man’s mind, we have to look at manifold aspects of political life. As a clinician and polypragmatist, I don’t want to bind myself to one political state or current, but want to describe what can be experienced in social life everywhere. Where human thinking and human habits are in the process of being remolded, they are under the influence of tremendous political upheaval. In one country this may happen overnight, in others more slowly. The psychologists’ task is to observe and describe the impact of these processes on the human mind.
When once a nation is under the yoke of totalitarianism, when once its people have succumbed to the oversimplifications and blandishments of the would-be dictator, how does the leader maintain his power? What techniques does he use to make his countrymen docile followers of his bloody regime?
Because man’s mature self resists totalitarianism, the dictator must work and scheme constantly to keep his subjects in line and to immobilize their need for individual development, rebellion, and healthy growth. As we examine his techniques, we will come to a better understanding of totalitarianism and of the interaction between the dictator’s methods and the personalities of his subjects. We need this understanding desperately, for we have to recognize that the forces in Totalitaria that make humorless robots out of living men can also develop, albeit unwittingly, in the so-called free, democratic societies.
The Strategy of Terror
The weapon of terror has been used by tyrants from time immemorial to make a meek instrument of man. In Totalitaria, the use of this weapon is refined to a science which can wipe out all opposition and dissent. The leaders of Totalitaria rule by ntimidation; they prefer loyalty through fear to loyalty through faith. Fear and terror freeze the mind and will; they may create a general psychic paralysis. In the panic caused by totalitarian terror, men feel separated from one another, as by an impassable vacuum, and each man becomes a lonely, frightened soul. Even panicky hovering together could be suspected of being conspiracy against the state. Separated from any real emotional contact with his fellow men by his own inner isolation, the citizen of Totalitaria becomes increasingly unable to fight against its dehumanizing influences.
Totalitaria is constantly on the alert for social sinners, the critics of the system, and accusation of dissent is equivalent to conviction in the public eye. Insinuation, calumny, and denunciation are staples of the totalitarian strategy. The entire nation is dedicated to the proposition that every man is a potential enemy of the regime. No one is excluded from the terror. Any man may be subjected to it no matter how high his rank.
The secret police create awe and panic inside the country, while the army serves to create awe and panic outside. Just the thought of an outbreak of terror — of even a possible future terror — makes men unwilling to express their opinions and expose themselves. Both the citizens of Totalitaria and those of her neighbors are affected by this general fear. A clear example of how this fear paralysis operates in reality may be seen in the fact that as far back as 1948 western Europeans, who felt the shadow of anticipated totalitarian occupation, thought it safer to criticize and attack their American friends than to find fault with a totalitarian enemy who might sweep in suddenly and without warning.
In Totalitaria, jails and concentration camps by the score are built in order to provoke fear and awe among the population. They may be called “punishment” or “correction” camps, but this is only a cheap justification for the truth. In these centers of fear, nobody is really corrected; he is, as it were, expelled from humanity, wasted, killed — but not too quickly, lest the terrorizing influence be diminished.
The truth of the matter is that these jails are built not for real criminals, but rather for their terrorizing effect on the bystanders, the citizens of Totalitaria. Jails represent a permanent menace, a continual threat. They may put an almost insupportable strain on the empathy and imagination of those citizens who are, temporarily at least, on the outside of the barbed wire. In addition to the fear of undergoing the same cruel treatment, the fear of abasement, humiliation, and death, the very concept of the concentration camp rouses every man’s deep-seated fear of being himself expelled from the community, of being alone, a wanderer in the desert, unloved and unwanted.
There exist several milder forms of mass terror, for instance, THE STRATEGY OF NO POLITICAL REST. In Totalitaria man is always caught by some form of official planning. He is always conscious of control and surveillance, of spying, leering powers lying in wait to chase him and to punish him. Even leisure time and holidays are occupied by some official program, some facts to be learned, some political meeting, some parade. Quiet and solitude no longer exist. There is no time for meditation, for pondering, for reminiscing. The mind is caught in a web of official thinking and planning. Even the delights of self-chosen silence are forbidden. Every citizen of Totalitaria must join in the singing and the slogan shouting. And he becomes so caught in the constant activity that he loses the capacity to realize what is happening to him.
The emphasis on more production by individuals, factories, and agricultural enterprises also can become a weapon of increased control and terror. The Stakhanovite movement in Russia, urging a constant increase in production norms, became a threat for many. The workers had to increase the pace of their labor and production, or they would be severely punished. The emphasis on pace and speed makes man more and more a soulless cog in the totalitarian wheel.
Terror can almost never stop itself; it thrives on compliance and grows in a vacuum. Terror as a tool means a gradual transfer into terror as a goal — but terror is actually a self-defeating strategy. Man will ultimately revolt even under an absolute dictatorship. When men have been reduced to puppethood by Totalitaria, they will finally have become immune to all threats. The magic spell of terror will finally lose its force. First the citizens of Totalitaria will become dulled to the terror and will no longer consider even death a danger. Then a few will initiate a final revolt, for Totalitaria’s government by fear and terror fosters internal rebellion, in the few who cannot be broken down. Even in “gleichgeschaltet” Nazi Germany a resistance movement was active.
The Purging Rituals
Cleaning out the higher echelons of government is an old historic habit. The struggle between fathers and sons, between the older and the younger generation, became ritualized far back in prehistoric times. Frazer’s classic, “The Golden Bough,” has told us a great deal about this. The ancient priest of the heathens acquired his high post by killing his predecessor. Later in history, the newly proclaimed king offered criminals instead as sacrifices to the gods on the day of his anointment.
In Totalitaria, the killing and purging ritual is part of the mechanism of government, and it serves not only a symbolic but also a very real function for the dictator. He must eliminate all those he has bypassed and double-crossed in his ruthless climb to power, lest their resentments and frustrated rage break out, endangering his position or even his life.
The purge reflects another characteristic of life in Totalitaria. It dramatizes the fiction that the party is always on the alert to keep itself pure and clean. Psychiatry has demonstrated that the cleanliness compulsion in neurotic individuals is actually a displaced defense against their own inner rage and hostility. It plays the same sort of role in communities, and when it is elevated to the level of an officially sanctioned ritual, it reduces the citizenry to infancy. It makes the inhabitants of Totalitaria feel like babies — still struggling to learn their first cleanliness habits, still listening to their parent’s reiterated commands to be clean, be clean, be clean, be good, be good, be good, be loyal, be loyal, be loyal. The constant repetition of these commands reinforces each citizen’s sense of guilt, of childishness, and of shame.
The totalitarian purge is always accompanied by an elaborate confession ceremonial, in which the accused publicly repents his sins, much as did the witches of the Middle Ages. This is the general formula: “I confess my doubts. Thanks to the criticism of the comrades, I have been able to purify my thinking. I bow in humility to the opinion of my comrades and the Party and am thankful for the opportunity to correct my errors. You enabled me to repudiate my deviational questions. I acknowledge my debt to the selfless leader and the government of the people.”
The strategy of public expression of shame has two effects: it serves, like the purging rituals themselves, to provoke feelings of childish submissiveness among the people, and, at the same time, it offers each citizen a defense against his own deep-seated psychological problems and feelings of guilt and unworthiness. Somewhere deep inside him, the citizen of Totalitaria knows that he has abdicated his maturity and his responsibility; public purgings relieve his sense of shame. “It is the others who are guilty and dirty, not I,” he thinks. “It is they who are constantly plotting and conniving.” But the very things of which he suspects others are also true of himself. He is afraid others will betray him because he cannot be sure in his own mind that he will not betray them. Thus his inner tensions increase, and the purge provides a periodic blood offering to his own fear and to the god of threat.
The very fact that this ritual of coercive confession and purge must be repeated again and again indicates that man develops an inner mental defense against it and that the more it is used, the less effective it becomes as a means of arousing guilt and terror. Just as the citizen of Totalitaria becomes hardened or dulled to the terror of constant official intrusion into his private life, so he becomes almost immune to the cries of treason and sabotage.
In the same way, as the purge becomes less effective as a taming tool, the tyrant uses it more frequently to soothe his own fears. History provides us with many examples of revolutions which eventually drowned in a bloody reign of terror and purge. Some of the most devoted heroes and leaders of the French Revolution met their death on the guillotine of the republic they helped to create.
Wild Accusation and Black Magic
Wild accusation and black magic, like all the other taming tools of Totalitaria, are nothing new, but in primitive civilizations and in prehistoric times the craft of black magic was rather simple. The shaman had merely to destroy or mutiliate a small statuette of the accused criminal, to point or thrust a special stick at the man himself, or to curse and berate him with furious words and gestures in order to bring his victim to collapse and death. In his blind acceptance of the magic ritual, the victim was possessed by fear, and often he gave himself up to the spell and just died (Malinowski).
This magic slaying of the foe has plural psychological implications. The victim of the magic spell was often looked upon as the representative of the tribal god, the internalized authority and father. He must be killed because his very existence aroused guilt and remorse among his people. His death may silence the inner voices in every man which warn against impending downfall. Sometimes the victim comes from a different tribe than that of his accusers. In this situation, the stranger is an easier scapegoat, and punishing him serves to still the clash of ambivalent feelings in the members of the killing tribe. Hate for an outsider checks and deflects the hate and aggression each man feels toward his own group and toward himself. The more fear there is in a society, the more guilt each individual member of the society feels, the more need there is for internal scapegoats and external enemies. INTERNAL CONFUSION LOOKS FOR DISCHARGE IN OUTSIDE WARS.
In Totalitaria, the air is full of gossip, calumny, and rumor. Any accusation, even if it is false, has a greater influence on the citizenry than subsequent vindication. Bills of particulars, made out of whole cloth are manufactured against innocents, especially against former leaders, who have been able to develop some personal esteem and loyalty among their friends and followers. Trumped-up charges made against us always revive unconscious feelings of guilt and induce us to tremble.
In our analysis of the psychological forces that lead prisoners of war and other political victims to confession and betrayal, we saw how strongly the sense of hidden guilt and doubt in each man impels him under strain to surrender to the demands and ideologies of the enemy. This same mechanism is at work constantly among the citizens of Totalitaria. Accusations against others remind him of his own inner rebellions and hostilities, which he does not dare to bring out into the open, and so the accused, even when he is innocent, becomes the scapegoat for his private sense of guilt. Cowardice makes the other citizens of our mythical country turn away from the victim lest they be accused themselves.
The very fact that character assassination is possible reveals the frailty and sensitivity of human sympathy and empathy. Even in free, democratic societies, political campaigns are often conducted in an atmosphere of extravagant accusation and even wilder counter accusation. The moment the strategy of wild accusation, with all its disagreeable noises of vituperation and calumny, begins, we forget the strategic intention behind the words and find ourselves influenced by the shouting and name calling. “Maybe,” we say to ourselves, “there is something in this story.” This, of course, is just what the slanderer wants. In the minds of the politicians the illusion still persists that the end justifies the means. But campaigns of slander produce paradoxical results because the very fact that an unfounded accusation has been made weakens the moral sense of both listener and accuser.
In Totalitaria this vicious circle of vituperation reaches its fullest flowering. Drowned in a reign of suspicion, the citizen of Totalitaria suffers from a terrible delusion of persecution — “spy-onoia,” the spy mania. He is continually on the alert, watching his fellow men. His good neighbor may at any moment become a saboteur or a traitor. The citizen of Totalitaria hardly ever looks for confusion or flaws in his own soul, but projects them onto scapegoats — until he himself finally becomes the victim of someone else’s spyonoia. Every citizen is constantly trying to search out everyone else’s innermost thoughts. Because one’s own hidden thoughts are projected on one’s neighbors, thinking in itself becomes the enemy. This great fear of the inner thoughts of our fellow men is related to a general process of paranoica re-evaluation of the world as a result of fear and totalitarian thinking. In the denial of human loyalty and in the constant delusion of treason and sabotage are expressed the whole infantile mythology of Totalitaria and its repudiation of mature human relationships.
Through interrogation, character assassination, humiliation, mental terror, and demoralization — such as happens in individual and collective brainwashing — man can be so utterly demoralized that he accepts any political system. He is nothing any more; why should he oppose matters? In Totalitaria there is no open policy, no free discussion, no honest difference of opinion; there is only intrigue and denunciation, with their frightening action on the masses.
The strategy of wild accusation is used not only against Totalitaria’s citizenry, but also against the rest of the world. Totalitaria needs the images of outside enemies — imaginary cruel monsters who spread plague and disease — to justify its own internal troubles. The remnants of the individual citizen’s conscience are calmed and held in check by a paranoiac attack on the rest of the world. “The enemy is poisoning our food, throwing beetles and bacteria into our crops.” This myth of an imaginary world conspiracy aims at bringing the fearful citizens of Totalitaria into a concerted defense against nonexistent dangers. It conceals, at the same time, internal failures leading to diminishing crops and lack of food.
Projecting blame onto others reinforces each citizen’s sense of participation in the totalitarian community and stills the nagging internal voice demanding that he act as a self-responsible individual. The myth of external plotting also increases the individual citizen’s feeling of dependence and immaturity. Now only his dictatorial leader can protect him from the evil world outside — a world which is described to him as a vast zoo, inhabited by atomic dragons and hydrogen monsters.
The Strategy of Criminalization
As we said before, the citizen of Totalitaria may be able to fulfill some of his irrational, instinctual needs in return for his submission to totalitarian slavery. Hitler Germany taught us the accepted pattern. The citizen (and party member) is encouraged to betray his friends and parents, something the angry, frustrated baby in him has often wanted to do. He may live out in action his deeply repressed aggressions and desires for revenge. He no longer has to suppress or reject some of his own primitive impulses. The system assumes the full burden of his guilt and hands him a ready-made list of thousands of justifications and exculpations for the release of his sadistic impulses. Flowery catchwords, such as “historical necessity,” help the individual to rationalize immorality and evil into morality and good. We see here the great corruption of civilized standards.
In his strategy of criminalization, the totalitarian dictator destroys the conscience of his followers, just as he has destroyed his own. Think of the highly learned and polished Nazi doctors who started their professional life with the Hippocratic oath, promising to be the helping healer of man, but who later in cold blood inflicted the most horrible tortures on their concentration-camp victims (Mitscherlich). They slaughtered innocents by the thousands in order to discover the statistical limits of human endurance. They infected other thousands as guinea pigs because the Fuhrer wanted it so. They had lost their personal standards and ethics completely and justified all their crimes through the Fuhrer’s will. Political catchwords encouraged them to yield their consciences completely to the dictator. The process of systematic criminalization requires a “deculturation” of the people. As one of Hitler’s gangmen said, “When I hear the word ‘civilization,’ I prepare my gun.” This is done to consistently arouse the instinct of cruelty. People are told not to belive in intellect and objective truth, but to listen only to the subjective dictates of the Moloch State, to Hitler, to Mussolini, to Stalin.
Criminalization is conditioning people to rebellion against civilized frustrations. Show them blood and bloody scapegoats, and a thousand years of acculturation fall away from them. This implies imbuing the people with hysteria, arousing the masses, homogenizing the emotions. All this tends to awaken the brute Neanderthal psyche in man. Justify crime with the glamorous doctrine of race superiority, and then you make sure the people will follow you.
Hitler knew very well what he was doing when he turned the German concentration camps over to the unleashed lusts of his storm troopers. “Let them kill and murder,” was the device. “Once they have gone so far with me, they must go on to the end.” The strategy of criminalization is not only directed toward crushing the victims of the totalitarian regime, but also toward giving the elite hangmen — the governing gang — that poisonous feeling of power that drags them farther and farther away from every human feeling; their victims become people without human identity, merely speaking masks and ego-less robots. The strategy of criminalization is the systematic organization of the lower passions in man, in particular in those the dictator must trust as his direct helpers.
Under the pressure of totalitarian thinking, nearly every citizen identifies with the ruling gang, and many must prove their loyalty by murder and killing, or at least experssing their approval of murder and killing. The boredom of Totalitaria’s automatic patterns of living leads the deluded citizens to welcome the adventure of war and crime and self-destruction. Each new act of torture and crime makes new bonds of fidelity and unscrupulous obedience, especially within the leading gang. In the end, driven by crime and guilt, the ruling members have to stick it out together because the downfall of the system would bring about the downfall of the entire gang, both leaders and followers. The same thing holds true in the criminal world. Once a man has taken the first step and rejected the laws of society and joined the criminal gang, he is at war with the outside world and its moral evaluations. From that point on, the gang can blackmail him and subdue him.
In Totalitaria, the vicious circle of criminalization of the citizenry, in which the means become ends in themselves, grows into a cynical conspiracy covered with the cynical flag of decent idealism. The country’s leaders use such simple words as “the universal campaign of peace,” and the citizens rejoice and take pride in these words. Only a few among them know what deceptive deeds lie behind the flowery phrases.
These perversions are also incorporated into a great nationalistic myth — the Third Reich, the New Empire, the People’s Republic — and the citizen’s desire to do something heroic becomes identified with doing something violent and criminal. Blood becomes a magic fluid, and shedding someone else’s blood becomes a virtuous and life-giving deed.
Unlimited killing, as it is practiced in totalitarian systems, is related to deep, unconscious fears. The weak and emotionally sick in any society kill out of fear, in order to borrow, in a magic way, their dead victims’ strength and happiness — as well as, of course, their material possessions. The killing of millions in the Nazi gas ovens was part of this ancient mythology of murder. Perhaps the members of the master race thought that slaughtering the Jews would ensure that the Germans would endure pain for as many centuries as had their victims! It is part of an old primitive myth that through killing one fortifies and prolongs one’s own life. Let us not forget that forces of reason and understanding in man are rather weak. It is difficult to control the fire of explosive drives, once they are lighted.
Totalitarianism must kill, slaughter, make war. Totalitaria preches hatred, and the totalitarian mouthpiece is a lonely, deluded, tough “superman,” calling for hatred and injustice and arousing intensified fanaticism unhampered by any moral feeling or remose. His battle cry reinforces the dictator’s hold on his subjects, because each citizen, in and through his guilty deeds, learns to hate his victim, whose very suffering arouses even more the criminal’s deeply buried sense of guilt.
Verbocracy and Semantic Fog — Talking the People into Submission
After the First World War, we became more conscious of our attitude toward words. This attitude was gradually changing. Our trust in official catchwords and cliches and in idealistic labels had diminished. We became more and more aware of the fact that the important questions were what groups and powers stood behind the words, and what their secret intentions were. But in our easygoing way we often forget to ask this question, and we are all more or less susceptible to noisy, oft-repeated words.
The formulation of big propagandistic lies and fraudulent catchwords has a very well-defined purpose in Totalitaria, and words themselves have acquired a special function in the service of power, which we may call verbocracy. The Big Lie and the phoney slogan at first confuse and then dull the hearers, making them willing to accept every suggested myth of happiness. The task of the totalitarian propagandist is to build special pictures in the minds of the citizenry so that finally they will no longer see and hear with their own eyes and ears but will look at the world through the fog of official catchwords and will develop the automatic responses appropriate to totalitarian mythology.
The multiform use of words in DOUBLE TALK serves as an attack on our logic, that is, an attack on our understanding of what monolithic dictatorship really is. Hear, hear the nonsense: “Peace is war and war is peace! Democracy is tyranny and freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength! Virtue is vice and truth is a lie.” So says the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s grim novel, “1984.” And we saw this nightmare fantasy come true when our soldiers who had spent long years in North Korean prison camps returned home talking of totalitarian China with the deceiving cliche of “the people’s democracy.” Pavlovian conditioning to special words forces people into an AUTOMATIC THINKING that is tied to those words. The words we use influence our behavior in daily life; they determine the thoughts we have.
In Totalitaria, facts are replaced by fantasy and distortion. People are taught systematically and intentionally to lie (Winokur). History is reconstructed, new myths are built up whose purpose is twofold: to strengthen and flatter the totalitarian leader, and to confuse the luckless citizens of the country. The whole vocabulary is a dictated set of slowly hypnotizing slogans. In the semantic fog that permeates the atmosphere, words lose their direct communicative function. They become mrerely commanding signs, triggering off reactions of fear and terror. They are battles cries and Pavlovian signals, and no longer represent free thinking. THE WORD, ONCE CONSIDERED A FIRST TOKEN OF FREE HUMAN CREATION, IS TRANSFORMED INTO A MECHANICAL TOOL. In Totalitaria, words may have a seductive action, soothing or charming their hearers, but they are not allowed to have intrinsic meaning. They are conditioners, emotional triggers, serving to imprint the desired reaction patterns on their hearers.
Man’s mental laziness, his resistance to the hard labor of thinking, makes it relatively easy for Totalitaria’s dictator to bring his subjects into acceptance of the Big Lie. At first the citizen may say to himself, “All this is just nonsense — pure double talk,” but in the very act of trying to shrug it off, he has become subject to the power of the inherent suggestion. That is the trick of double talk; once a man neglects to analyze and verify it, he becomes lost in it and can no longer see the difference between rationale and rationalization. In the end, he can no longer believe anything, and he retreats into sullen dullness. Once the citizen of Totalitaria has accepted the “logic” of his leaders, he is no longer open to discussion or argument. Alas, in our Western world, we often meet this evasion of semantic clarity. Let us not forget that the battle for words is part of the ideological cold war in our world.
Something has crept into our mechanized system of communication that has made our modes of thinking deteriorate. People too casually acquire ideas and concepts. They no longer struggle for a clear understanding. The popularized picture replaces the battle of the pros and cons of concepts. Instead of aiming at true understanding, people listen to thoughtless repetition, which gives them THE DELUSION OF UNDERSTANDING.
Communication has an even more infantile, magic character for the citizen of Totalitaria. Words no longer represent intelligible meanings or ideas. They bind the citizen of Totalitaria to utter dependence on his commander, much as the infant is bound to the word pictures of his parents.
Byfield points out in his pamphlet on logocide that words are commonly used as instruments of social revolution. Politicians seeking power must coin new labels and new words with emotional appeal, “while allowing the same old practices and institutions to continue as before . . . The trick is to replace a disagreeable image though the substance remains the same. The totalitarians consequently have to fabric a hate language in order to stir up the mass emotions. We have all experience how the word ‘peace’ doesn’t mean peace any more, it has become a propagandistic device to APPEASE the masses and to disguise aggression.”
The VERBOCRACY in totalitarian thinking and the official verbosity of demagogues serve to disturb and suffocate the free minds of citizens. We can say that verbocracy turns them into what psychology calls symbol agnostics, people capable only of imitation, incapable of inquisitive sense of objectivity and perspective that leads to questioning and understanding and to the formation of individual ideas and ideals. In other words, the individual citizen becomes a parrot, repeating ready-made slogans and propaganda catchwords without understanding what they realy mean, or what forces stand behind them.
This parrotism may give the citizen of Totalitaria a certain infantile emotional pleasure, however. “Heil, heil! — Duce, Duce!” — these rhythmic chants afford him the same kind of sound-enjoyment children achieve through babbling, shrieking, and yelling.
The abuse of the word and the enshrinement of propaganda are more obvious in Totalitaria than in any other part of the world. But this evil exists all over. We can find all too many examples of it in actual conversation. Many speakers use verbal showing off to cover an emptiness of thought, to stir up emotions and to create admiration and adoration of what is essentially empty and valueless. Loud-mouthed phoniness threatens to become the ideal of our time.
The semantic fog in Totalitaria is thickened by the regimentation of information. The citizens of our mythical country have no access to sources of facts and opinions. They are not free to verify what they hear or read. They are the victims of their leader’s “labelomania” — their judgments are determined by the official labels everything and everybody bears.
The urge to attach too much meaning to the label of an object or institution and to look only casually at its intrinsic value is characteristic of our times and seems to be growing. I call this condition labelomania; it is the exaggerated respect for the scientific-sounding name — the label, the school, the degree, the diploma — with a surprising disregard for underlying value. All about us we see people chasing after fixed formulas, credits, marks, ranks, and labels because they believe that if one is to have prestige or recognition these distinguishing marks are necessary. In order to obtain acceptance, people are prepared to undergo most impractical and stylized training and conditioning — not to mention expense — in special schools and institutions which promote certain labels, diplomas, and sophisiticated facades.
Not long ago a psychiatric colleague worked in a clinic where a different terminology was used, and the ideas of his former teachers, because they were expressed in terms other than those of the clinic, were criticized and even vilified. My colleague was a good practical therapist; yet he came to need psychotherapy himself, to counteract the utter confusion resulting from daily contacts with aggressive adepts of a different terminology, just as much as some of our soldiers released from the Korean prison camps.
There is something essentially unpleasant in the need to express and judge all opinions and evaluations in accepted cliches and labels. It implies a devaluation of the work or of the idea involved, and it denies the subtle human differences between people and the phenomena their words describe. In Totalitaria, man is so anxiety-ridden, so fearful of any deviation from the prescribed opinions and ways of thinking that he only allows himself to express himself in the terms his dictators provide. To the citizen of Totalitaria, the acknowledged label becomes more imporant than the eternal variation that is life.
As words lose their communicative function, they acquire more and more of a frightening, regulatory, and conditioning function. Official words must be believed and must be obeyed. Dissension and disagreement become both a physical and an emotional luxury. Vituperation, and the power that lies behind it, is the only sanctioned logic. Facts contrary to the official line are distorted and suppressed; any form of mental compromise is treason. In Totalitaria, there is no search for truth, only the enforced acceptance of the totalitarian dogmas and cliches. The most frightening thing of all is that parallel to the increase in our means of communciation, our mutual understanding has decreased. A Babel-like confusion has taken hold of political and nonpolitical minds as a result of semantic disorder and too much verbal noise.
The Apostatic Crime in Totalitaria
Totalitaria makes the thinking man a criminal, for in our mythical country the citizen can be punished as much for wrong thinking as for wrongdoing. Because the watchful eyes of the secret police are everywhere, the critic of the regime is driven to conspiratorial methods if he wants to have even a safe conversation with those he wants to trust. What we used to call the “Nazi gesture” was a careful looking around before starting to talk to a friend.
The criminal in Toatlitaria can be an accidental scapegoat used for release of official hostility, and there is often need for a scapegoat. From one day to the next, a citizen can become a hero or a villain, depending on strategic party needs.
Nearly all of the mature ideals of mankind are crimes in Totalitaria. Freedom and independence, compromise and objectivity — all of these are treasonable. In Totalitaria there is a new crime, the apostatic crime, which may be described as the obstinate refusal to admit imputed guilt. On the other hand, the hero in Totalitaria is the converted sinner, the breast-beating, recanting traitor, the self-denouncing criminal, the informer, and the stool pigeon.
The ordinary, law-abiding citizen of Totalitaria, far from being a hero, is potentially guilty of hundreds of crimes. He is a criminal if he is stubborn in defense of his own point of view. He is a criminal if he refuses to become confused. He is a criminal if he does not loudly and vigorously participate in all official acts; reserve, silence, and ideological withdrawal are treasonable. He is a criminal if he doesn’t LOOK happy, for then he is guilty of what the Nazis called physiognomic insubordination. He can be a criminal by association or disassociation, by scapegoatism, or by projection, by intention or by anticipation. He is a criminal if he refuses to become an informer. He can be tried and found guilty by every conceivable “ism” — cosmopolitanism, provincialism; deviationalism, mechanism; imperialism, nationalism; pacifism, militarism; objectivism, subjectivism; chavinism, equalitarianism; practicalism, idealism. He is guilty every time he IS something.
The only safe conduct pass for the citizen of Totalitaria lies in the complete abdication of his mental integrity.