Thursday, December 1, 2016

Follow My Leader

Negan, a post-apocalyptic Cult figure
With all apologies to Terence Rattigan, I have appropriated the title of one of his earliest and unpublished plays. This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for a long while, but other writing priorities kept cropping up.

In the anarchic apocalyptic milieu of The Walking Dead, the hit TV-AMC series, which I have ceased watching regularly, the few heroes who dominated the series for a few years and who were the main attraction (for me, at least) have been demoted from taking life-preserving actions and moral certitude to mere “guest appearances.” I have also stopped viewing it because a new element has been introduced, one that violates my own story-telling premises. Namely, giving evil center stage as the prime mover of the action.

The prime mover is Negan, in this instance, a kind of warlord who runs an army of thugs and killers out of his Sanctuary, raids peaceful communities of survivors, and demands half of what they have as the price of not slaughtering them. Negan brandishes a baseball bat wreathed in barbed wire.  In effect, those who submit – literally, Islam style – to Negan become his slaves. Beginning with the last episode of Season 6 and the brutal, raw beginning of Season 7, the glib malevolence of Negan is repulsive to me.

I won’t recap the story line up to this point. What has fascinated me has been how Negan’s army – the “Saviors,” obeys his every command and whim. And most of his army is armed, variously with spears (manufactured by a subject agricultural community), pistols, and automatic rifles. I often asked myself: Negan wields a mere baseball bat and maybe a pistol under his belt, and wields psychological hegemony over his followers. But his followers are armed and could kill him in a second. Why do they tolerate his head-bashing tyranny, when they could easily free themselves of his dictatorship?

I made this point but did not pursue it in another column, “Hillary and Negan: Parallels in Evil,” from October 2nd. I noted in it, and also in the continuation of that same column, “Parallels in Evil: Part II,”

Negan is a vile, evil character who debuted in April at the end of Season Six of The Walking Dead. Negan is a brutal tyrant who lords over an enclave of plague survivors and likes to smash victims’ heads with a baseball bat sheathed in barbed wire. He has a policy of extortion that requires other, productive enclaves to give him half of what they have in exchange for his not raiding, raping, enslaving, and killing their inhabitants and trashing their communities….

And here is…an uncensored version of how he terrorizes, humiliates, and taunts his captured victims. Please excuse the language. This version was recorded from a TV. I do not know its source. It is compelling because Negan expresses Hillary’s malevolence, and Negan’s foul language has also been captured elsewhere as Hillary’s.  Negan is the real Hillary Clinton’s fantasy surrogate. It is what she is at the core. Negan is artfully glib, almost poetic, as Hillary is consistently plastic and artificial.

What might mystify people reading a history of Nazi Germany or Red China is why uncountable millions would bow voluntarily and without hesitation to a single allegedly charismatic person such as Negan, Hitler, and Stalin, when a simple revolution would overpower the creature.

The answer is that these millions, once they have gotten over their fear and doubts, become comfortable with tyranny. Or they become so amenable to it that they remain clueless and ignorant of what else might be possible to them. Memory of their previous lives, as relatively free men, fades and vanishes. All that is left to them is to obey Negan because his looters policy allows them to continue living.

In one episode, Negan gives a hubristic speech to the mob claiming that his “Saviors” are saving civilization. His mob swallows that line with a collective straight face.

The Walking Dead Hitler in action
Of course, The Walking Dead (TWD) is, on the surface, a dramatization of emergency ethics. Emergency ethics is a temporary set of moral rules that can govern one’s decisions and actions. A nickname or metaphor for emergency ethics is “lifeboat ethics.” Unfortunately, the subject has been monopolized by left-wing environmentalists and other confusing writers. In this instance, the circumstances are the collapse of civilized society because most people become flesh-eating zombies while they are alive or after they die.

Garrett Hardin wrote 1974 about the concept of “Spaceship Earth”:

No generation has viewed the problem of the survival of the human species as seriously as we have. Inevitably, we have entered this world of concern through the door of metaphor. Environmentalists have emphasized the image of the earth as a spaceship -Spaceship Earth. Kenneth Boulding (1966) is the principal architect of this metaphor. It is time, he says, that we replace the wasteful "cowboy economy" of the past with the frugal "spaceship economy" required for continued survival in the limited world we now see ours to be. The metaphor is notably useful in justifying pollution control measures.

Unfortunately, the image of a spaceship is also used to promote measures that are suicidal. One of these is a generous immigration policy, which is only a particular instance of a class of policies that are in error because they lead to the tragedy of the commons (Hardin 1968). These suicidal policies are attractive because they mesh with what we unthinkingly take to be the ideals of "the best people". What is missing in the idealistic view is an insistence that rights and responsibilities must go together. The "generous" attitude of all too many people results in asserting inalienable rights while ignoring or denying matching responsibilities.

For the metaphor of a spaceship to be correct, the aggregate of people on board would have to be under unitary sovereign control (Ophuls 1974). A true ship always has a captain. It is conceivable that a ship could be run by a committee. But it could not possibly survive if its course were determined by bickering tribes that claimed rights without responsibilities.

Bowing to Satan or to Negan or to Allah
Does it matter which to a cultist?
See what I mean? Go ahead and parse the passage. I won’t.

Aside from fighting off “zombies” or “the walking dead,” the core group of survivors in TWD must also deal with marauding looters and killers and the irrational foibles of members of its group.

Ayn Rand wrote about emergency ethics in The Virtue of Selfishness that:

An emergency is an unchosen, unexpected event, limited in time, that creates conditions under which human survival is impossible — such as a flood, an earthquake, a fire, a shipwreck. In an emergency situation, men’s primary goal is to combat the disaster, escape the danger and restore normal conditions (to reach dry land, to put out the fire, etc.). [Currently, the unlimited immigration of illegals and Muslims into the U.S., which certainly qualifies as an “emergency” because on the one hand, Muslims adhere to an ideology hostile to American values, which ideology requires the subornation and overthrow of the Constitution and the institutionized violation of individual rights, and on the other hand illegals who come to attach themselves to the welfare state and who have no allegiance to America as a free, unbalkandized  country].

By “normal” conditions I mean metaphysically normal, normal in the nature of things, and appropriate to human existence. Men can live on land, but not in water or in a raging fire. Since men are not omnipotent, it is metaphysically possible for unforeseeable disasters to strike them, in which case their only task is to return to those conditions under which their lives can continue. By its nature, an emergency situation is temporary; if it were to last, men would perish.

It is only in emergency situations that one should volunteer to help strangers, if it is in one’s power. For instance, a man who values human life and is caught in a shipwreck, should help to save his fellow passengers (though not at the expense of his own life). But this does not mean that after they all reach shore, he should devote his efforts to saving his fellow passengers from poverty, ignorance, neurosis or whatever other troubles they might have. Nor does it mean that he should spend his life sailing the seven seas in search of shipwreck victims to save . . . .[Italics mine]

Emergency ethics are not normal ethics by which to live.

The U.S. has no moral duty to help strangers of whatever character, be they refugees from the Mideast or from south of the border. But our government, and that of many European nations, has inversed the altruist ethics vis-à-vis emergency ethics to invite the ethically lame, the barbarously halt, and the primitively savage to engulf their civilized societies with the consequence that the “immigrants” not only imperil indigenous citizens, but form political blocs to alter the political structures of those countries. Taking the suicidal altruistic inversion further (altruism, straight up, shaken not stirred), the code commands the governments to protect the invaders based on their “needs,” and not its own citizens and to punish or penalize citizens who resist or criticize the destruction of their values and societies. To become “Islamophobic” or “illegalphobic” is deemed a wrong not to be countenanced or tolerated.

Why do whole populations – or armies of “Saviors” – submit to the commands of their dictators? The answers – and there have been numerous answers – are various. One student of the phenomenon, Geotz Aly, a lecturer at the University of Frankfurt, posited that Germans warmed up to Hitler because he was a “good provider”:

To do so, he gave them (Germans) huge tax breaks and introduced social benefits that even today anchor the society. He also ensured that even in the last days of the war not a single German went hungry. Despite near-constant warfare, never once during his 12 years in power did Hitler raise taxes for working class people. He also — in great contrast to World War I — particularly pampered soldiers and their families, offering them more than double the salaries and benefits that American and British families received. As such, most Germans saw Nazism as a "warm-hearted" protector, says Aly, author of the new book "Hitler’s People’s State: Robbery, Racial War and National Socialism" [TC: I cannot find it on U.S. Amazon, try this German link] and currently a guest lecturer at the University of Frankfurt. They were only too happy to overlook the Third Reich’s unsavory, murderous side.

Financing such home front "happiness" was not simple and Hitler essentially achieved it by robbing and murdering others, Aly claims. Jews. Slave laborers. Conquered lands. All offered tremendous opportunities for plunder, and the Nazis exploited it fully, he says.

Negan – like Hitler – had to ensure the loyalty and obedience of his Saviors by distributing the loot from others to sustain their relatively above-bare sustenance existence (safe places to sleep, food, other “necessities,” and diversions). Ian Kershaw, the prominent historian, on the other hand, noted that submission to Hitler was not by all means universal.,

 The referendum that followed on 19 August 1934, to legitimize the power-political change that had occurred, aimed at demonstrating this identity. "Hitler for Germany -- all of Germany of Hitler" ran the slogan. As the result showed, however, reality lagged behind propaganda. According to the official figures, over a sixth of voters defied the intense pressure to conform and did not vote "yes." In some big working-class areas of Germany, up to a third had not given Hitler their vote. Even so, there were one or two tantalizing hints that Hitler's personal appeal outstripped that of the Nazi regime itself, and even more so of the Party. "For Adolf Hitler yes, but a thousand times no to the brown big-wigs" was scribbled on one ballot-paper in Potsdam. The same sentiment could be heard elsewhere.

Beneath the veneer of Führer adulation constantly trumpeted by the uniform propaganda of the mass media, there are numerous indicators that Hitler's appeal remained far less than total, even in what later memory often recalled as the "good years" of the mid-1930s. One example of strong criticism leveled at Hitler can be seen in a report from the Gestapo in Berlin in March 1936. Hitler's toleration of the corruption and luxury life-style of the Party big-wigs at a time when poor living standards still afflicted most ordinary Germans was, the report noted, heavily criticized. "Why does the Führer put up with that?" was a question on many people's lips, noted the report, and it was evident "the trust of the people in the personality of the Führer is currently undergoing a crisis."

The wholesale surrender of Germans (and of Italians to Mussolini, and of Argentines to Peron, of the Chinese to Mao, etc.) to Hitler can be ascribed in part to a pathological absence of individualism among the masses, and a dire absence of any kind of self-esteem among them as volitional men, that is, of the view that individuals were responsible for their own beliefs and actions, and not a dictator or a strongman like Negan.

Mass submission to a “leader” also incorporates the psychological phenomenon of a cult, in which individuals see their salvation and mental and material contentment in the form of an irrational obsession with a “leader,” who can solve all problems and work astounding miracles. It would be easy to picture Hitler or Negan as infallible, and not to be questioned or criticized, and not just from fear of him. Islam treats Mohammad that way; Mohammad is seen by Muslims as infallible, and their relative mental and material well-being depends on their dependence on that infallibility. As many Germans became psychologically dependent on Hitler, and would resist or refuse to question his actions even when they were disastrous, so the Saviors refuse to question the “practicality” of looting or destroying the productive who made it possible for them to eat and thrive.

The mass surrender of Americans to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election is another case in point. Even though it is virtually common knowledge that she is corrupt and is a congenital liar and that her policies would, like Obama’s, leave them impoverished, and also in danger from ISIS, they’re obsessed with her, and won’t let her go. Their identities have substance only in reference to her image, to her icon. The fruitless and pointless Jill Stein recount effort is demonstrable of that obsession. Clinton is a kind of cult figure, as well. The violent Social Justice Warriors and her meeker followers are not so much for her as against everything she isn’t.

They wish to follow their leader into oblivion like a million lemmings.


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  2. A postscript: Another unsettling thing about The Walking Dead is that the character of Negan has become popular with its watchers, almost as a cult figure. While viewing of TWD has reportedly declined since the debut of Negan, a sizable portion of its remaining viewership finds Negan a “draw.” They are fascinated with issues such as when he will shave, how many women are in his harem (in the same way an Islamic caliph, his refusal to kill Daryl whom he captured and has imprisoned , his “back story” of what he was before the apocalypse, and so on. It used to be in our culture that fans of a popular hero (such as Superman) would want to know the biographical history of the character. But there are no heroes anymore to admire and become healthily “obsessed” with.

    What explains the fascination with Negan? Why have so many Americans become obsessed with an evil character to the point that they look forward to seeing him in action again, and able to humiliate and subjugate the nominally “good” characters without repercussions? Whereas in the past, an evil character was always defeated and overcome, and seen (implicitly, at least) as metaphysically unimportant, Negan, to countless fans, is metaphysically significant and potent. This is a worrisome and unhealthy mindset, a phenomenon that was not observable in the past. It can help to explain the obsession with an amoral power-luster such as Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Given that Clinton, for example, is demonstrably evil, why would so many of her “fans” cry and become visibly and emotionally distraught over her defeat in the recent election? These people are psychologically dependent on the triumph of an individual who is a liar and who is, in turn, dependent on others “liking” her. There has always been a co-dependency between tyrants and their subjects. The subjects may “like” a tyrant (for various reasons, first and foremost from fear), but tyrants as a rule despise their subjects, and put on false faces of camaraderie with their minions. It is a mark of pathetic self-delusion among a tyrant’s fans that their “leader” cares about them.

    Does it matter which deity or tyrant or cult figure head the cultists bow to? Hitler, Allah, or Negan? Not really, in the end, because the cultist/worshipper bows in confidence that his submission will result in the figurehead “taking care of him,” and sparing him the effort of independent thought