2015 Personality Lecture 13: Existentialism: Nazi Germany and the USSR

2015 Personality Lecture 13: Existentialism: Nazi Germany and the USSR


Okay, so, now we are going to talk about the
phenomenological, existential/phenomenological psychiatrists and their theories from the
1950s, and, as I mentioned to you before, a lot of their thinking was motivated by what
had happened in World War II. When I lectured to you last, I pointed out,
I described Nietzsche and Dostoevsky’s summation of the world’s situation and really the
world’s psychological situation at the end of the 1800s and that was that, our new modes
of thinking had undermined our faith, and our old modes of thinking –and that was
a problem, because people need something to stand on and orient themselves and to move
forward – so Nietzsche and Dostoevsky basically both prophesied that the consequence of that
disillusion would be, increased probability of nihilism, and everything that went along
with that. And Dostoevsky wrote about that actually quite
extensively in a book called “Notes from Underground,” which, if many of you are
interested, especially in clinical psychology, this is a book you should really read, because
this is one of the most brilliant psychological studies of a psychologically disturbed man
that has ever been written. It is very accurate, and there are sections
in “Crime and Punishment” that are like that too. I think they are unsurpassed in their representation
of psychological phenomena. I don’t know how he managed it – I mean,
Dostoevsky was epileptic, I don’t know if you know that, but he was arrested by the
Tsar’s men in late 1800s for being a student radical and they threw him in prison in Moscow,
and then, one day, they took Mao in front of a firing squad and shot him at 6 in the
morning, but they only used blanks, which, of course, he didn’t know about. That scared him so badly, he developed epilepsy
– that can happen, by the way – then he had the epilepsy for the rest of his life,
but he had this strange kind of epilepsy, which actually not all that rare, sometimes
when people have epilepsy they experience this phenomenon they call an aura, which is
an altered state of consciousness before the epileptic seizure heads, and they can be very
strange, these auras. I read a case once about a guy who, his aura
was that his hand was being possessed by devils from hell and he could feel the possession
move up his arm, and into his shoulder, and, once it hit his head, he’d have an epileptic
seizure. So there is another case, where this man,
his aura was that exact double had appeared behind him, but if he turned to look, then
he would have an epileptic seizure, but if he didn’t turn to look, then he wouldn’t. These brain disorders are very strange things,
because they’re, well, the system that is disordered is a lie, and is capable of any
number of extraordinarily peculiar misbehaviours. Anyways, Dostoevsky’s aura was a world revealing
aura and, so, what Dostoevsky would experience was that, the meaning of things got deeper,
and deeper, and deeper, and deeper, and deeper, and, then, just as he was on the verge of
discovering the secret to everything, he would have an epileptic seizure. But he said that the quality of experience
during the aura was so high, so overpowering, and so deep, that he would have traded all
of his normal experience just to have had those experiences, and he had them repeatedly. I really do believe that it was this broadening
of his vision and concept by his epilepsy that transformed him, among other things. He went through some pretty damn rough experiences
because he was in prison with rapists and murderers for a long time in Siberia, even
though he was kind of an aristocratic guy. He had a rough time of it, and I imagine that
that also broadened him tremendously, given that it didn’t kill him, but I really do
believe that the epileptic insight was key to his unsurpassed genius, and so, his aura
– and other people do experience epileptic auras, symptoms like that, by the way – and
some people are so enamoured of the aura that they would not take the antiepileptic medication,
because they don’t want to forgo the experience that precedes the aura, or the actual epileptic
seizure. And Dostoevsky’s experiences, they all are
an element of the aura, is also relevant to what we are going to talk about today, because
both Binswanger and Boss were very interested in how meaning revealed itself in the world. And they had opposing explanations. I actually think they are parallel explanations,
but, the meaning that Dostoevsky experienced is an amplification of the normal manner in
which meaning reveals itself in the world. And people experience that sort of thing in
various altered states of consciousness. Anyways, Binswanger and Boss, they worked
mostly in the 1950s, and as I said, they were very concerned with what had happened in World
War II. So Dostoevsky and Nietzsche basically predicted
that it was going to be nihilism, or ideological totalitarianism, and that is basically exactly
what happened, by the time the 1930s appeared on the horizon, the Germans had been, they
had gone through an absolutely brutal First World War. And then, they went through hyperinflation
of insane proportions. So, in the 1920s, Germany underwent this partly
because they had such heavy war debts to pay for World War I. The German inflation got to the point where
it was literally upwards of a hundred million Marks to buy a loaf of bread. So, they were taking wheel barrels full of
money to the grocery store. What happened was that their currency devalued
to zero, and, that actually happens to economies more often than you might think. The thing just hits zero and that is that,
and then it has to be rebooted so to speak. So, they had been… the war was dreadful
and hundreds of thousands of men were killed or brutalized. Then, their economy just absolutely fell apart. And, then, of course, at the same time – well,
a little bit earlier – the revolution had taken place in Russia, right at the end of
the First World War, and the communism had come to power, and the Communists were agitating
all over Europe, and in North America, and their goal was to produce a Communist revolution
that was worldwide and so, the Germans were all shorted out that the Communists were going
to take over the country, which was a perfectly reasonable fear, and, instead of that, what
happened was that Fascism rose, and was a form of state totalitarianism and I think
the Germans were so desperate for order by that point. And that is what the Fascists basically offered
them, at least in theory. Unfortunately, as it turned out, they offered
them a little bit too much order, or maybe a lot too much order, and things went dreadfully
south. So, then, the whole world had to walk through
the horrors of World War II, and it was shocking, in a variety of ways, not only because of
the brutality of the warfare, but because of the genocidal actions that took place consciously
by the Nazis. And those actions were in many ways very difficult
to understand. I mean, here is why they are particularly
difficult to understand: there were certainly times where the brutality that the Nazis employed
in their eradication of their theoretical enemies, far surpassed the necessity for the
mere eradication. But even worse than that, so it went past
eradication into real torture, constantly, and, not only that, there are many situations
in which the Nazis, especially near the end of the war, they had to decide, really, whether
they were going to continue exterminating Jews and gypsies, and homosexuals, and all
the people they felt didn’t fit into their culture, or whether they were going to win
the war. There were decisions they had to make about
the distribution of resources. If they were going to pursue the homicidal
extermination, that would mean it would decrease the probability that they would win the war. And that happened a lot, especially at the
end of the war, the Nazis always continuing the extermination. Now, that is pretty damn interesting, because,
you can think, well, on the one hand, if they are serving a creed and the creed is world
domination, then this is the extermination processes are considered a step towards the
actual end point, which is the establishment of a world state, the Fascist world state,
or at least, the Fascist European state, then you would think that the extermination attempts
would be subordinate to that goal, if they were actually pursing the goal that they said
they were pursuing. But there is an old psychoanalytic idea, which
is really worthwhile, it is like a surgical tool, and I would say, that if you were going
to use it in your own life, use it carefully, because you don’t want to do unnecessary
surgery. And the rule is – and I think this is a
Jungian rule, but I can’t remember exactly where I read it – if you can’t understand
why someone is doing something, look at the consequences of their actions, whatever those
might be, and then infer the motivation from the consequences. So, if you see someone who seems to be doing
nothing except making everyone around them and themselves miserable, and you can’t
understand why, one of the hypotheses that you might entertain is that they are trying
to make everyone around them miserable, as well as themselves. And that is actually their goal. And it is hard for people to understand these
sorts of things, because when we see phenomena like the Columbine shooters, we always assume
that the reason that these people are doing these sorts of things, is for others reasons
than the reasons that appear to motivate them, or even the reasons they say they are doing
it, because the Columbine killers, especially the more literary one, he said exactly why
he was doing what he was doing. It is as clear as it could possibly be. All you have to do is go online, and read
what he said, and he tells what he was up to. But people don’t like to think that way
because they don’t believe that anybody could be consciously possessed of that much
malevolence without there being some other kind of cause, like he was bullied at school,
or he was an outcast, and, those things were only vaguely true and certainly they weren’t
more true of him than they were true of how many people in high school are bullied and
somehow outcast. It must be 10%, probably more like 30.That
doesn’t mean that schools are blowing up all over all the time. It is completely insufficient explanation. Anyways, for whatever reason, people turn
to possession by very, very strict ideological ideas. They were willing to be possessed by those
ideas to the point where they would undertake actions that you would think would be completely
impossible for theoretically civilized people. It turned out that those set of actions were
not only, were not impossible for civilized people, but that the people themselves, especially
in Nazi Germany, they pretty much knew what the hell was going on. You don’t take several million people out
of your population without rumor spreading let’s say, and so we should never forget
that Hitler was elected. He was elected by a large majority too. It was a landslide vote, it was the kind that
no modern democratic leader ever gets. So, although it is difficult to, it is difficult
for people to swallow, it is hard not to assign culpability for what happened in Germany to
the society at every strata. You can’t just dup it on the leaders and,
in fact, one of the things…here’s something to think about with regards to Hitler, because
one of the things you might ask is how the hell could he be so absolutely compelling
to his audiences. I will give you an explanation. Let’s make a few assumptions. The first assumption is: there are a lot of
modern resentful Germans kicking around. Why? Well, they lost the First World War, that
wasn’t so good, and then, there were a lot of brutal men left, because they had been
in the trenches, and they had been shooting and fighting and shooting at each other under
absolutely abhorrent conditions for like years, and years, and so there were plenty of utilized
men around. And then there a whole damn economy collapsed
because they were forced into signing what his stories regarded as a very punitive peace
treaty, so like…everything had fallen apart, to a degree that we cannot even begin to imagine. So, in the 1930s, the Germans were starting
to get back on their feet and when Hitler came to power, he started not only to rearm,
but to re-industrialize the economy, and he was actually pretty damn good at that. Now, Hitler was a good orator, but he, it
isn’t exactly clear that he was a coherent philosophical, theorizer, although to think
of him as stupid is completely missing the point. He was by no means stupid. I wouldn’t say that he was particularly
educated, but he had a very powerfully developed aesthetic sense, and he spent a lot of his
time designing the cities that would be built after World War II was over, and those cities
were generally conceptualized by him as places where the arts, or at least the Nazi version
of the arts, could flourish. So, there is no real evidence that what was
wrong with the Nazis was that they were civilized. There’s more evidence actually, I think,
that they were too civilized. I will talk you about that later. But anyways, you think: how did Hitler get
all these people under his spell? Well, here’s a hypothesis that is basically
derived from Jungian thinking. And I should let you know, by the way, because
Jung has been accused of being an anti-Semite, and there is various reasons for this, partly
because what happened during World War II, and partly because his theory drew heavily
from Christianity, although from many other sources as well, and he did believe that there
were differences in the psychology of people with different ethnicities. Now, whether that is racist or not, depends
on whether or not you like the person you are talking to. Because the leftists think that there are
cultural differences and they are important, but if you are talking about them in the wrong
way, then, you are racist. And the right wingers, they just think there
are ethnic differences to begin with. So, it’s a tricky issue. If there are differences that are important,
then who the hell cares about multiculturalism? It is not even worth preserving. If there are differences, you are stuck with
having to deal with the differences, so you are basically screwed either way. So, anyways, Jung has been the target of many
accusations of anti-Semitism, particularly by biographers who were resentful, and clueless,
and historically uninformed, and I would say malevolent, fundamentally. He worked as a CIA agent, it was just revealed
last year. He provided psychological reports to the American
government on an underlying psychological structure of the Nazi leaders for years. And he never told anybody about that while
he was alive, it only came to light, as far as I know, last year, perhaps the year before
that. So, anyways, the Germans they weren’t very
happy about the whole damn situation and so when they were aggregating on mass, you think,
what happens when all people get together in a group? We talked about last time when we talked about
Kierkegaard’s idea that, as soon as you get a bunch of people together, no matter
how truthful they are all as individuals, instantly, the crowd is not a truthful thing. There are real reasons for that, real psychological
reasons. There is the famous Asch experiment – I
hope that these are the right experiments, A-S-C-H – about line length. So, you draw two lines on the board, and they
are the same length, and you get the crowd to collaborate with you when you ask some
poor sucker who doesn’t know about the game to play, and you ask one person, and they
say “no, those lines are different in length.” And you ask another person “well, they are
quite different in length.” And another person says “yeah, sure, I can
see the difference in length.” And then you ask the poor pigeon “are they
different in length,” and then he says “yes.” And you can understand why. If all those other people are saying it, it
is either something wrong with all of them, which seems unlikely. Or he is the victim of a conspiracy, which
is a little on the paranoid side, but happens to actually be true in this case. Or, he is just not looking at it right. And you might think that the humble thing
to think is he is wrong. So, the fact that somebody might go along
with the crowd, you can blame that on their ability to be social and conventional, which
in many ways is a huge advantage, because if you were all antisocial and unconventional,
there would be a good chunk of you in jail and you certainly wouldn’t be having this
delightful, peaceful conversation that we are having. You don’t want to underestimate the utility
of conventionality to too much of a degree. Anyways, so, there is this funny story I read
once, I don’t think it is true, but it might be, where a psychology class got together
and decided they played trick on the professor. And the trick was that, he would walk back
and forth, and the trick was that they wouldn’t pay any attention at him at all if he was
on the left side of the room: they would talk and look up. And if he was on the right side of the room,
then they would really focus in and pay attention. The story goes that, by several weeks of this
little trick, they had him right lecturing right beside the door. He wouldn’t move from that spot. The reason I am telling you that is that it
is pretty obvious that people can respond to the cues that the crowd is delivering. A good speaker does a variety of things. One is they never talk to the crowd. You pick out specific individuals and talk
to them, and they’re reflective of the crowd. Then you can tell if everyone understands,
and the other thing that a good speaker does is pay attention to the responses of the crowd. If a lecture is really a dialogue, even though
the audience is only emitting the non-verbal elements of the conversation, those non-verbal
elements are important. You want to stay in touch with the non-verbal
communications. Now, Hitler, he is kind of a chaotic guy. He is very angry; he is angry in part because
he is a frustrated art student. He tried to get into art school four times;
so really the person to blame for World War II was the four person committee that wouldn’t
let poor Hitler into the Viennese School of Art. He really wanted to go and had some artistic
talent. He was a little on the conventional side by
all appearances, but I’ve seen some of his sketches, and he wasn’t a complete piker. H felt maybe it was okay to go to university
because he just been through World War I, and that wasn’t much fun. There is this story about Hitler where he
was out in the trenches, and he was there with all these buddies, and he wandered off
to do whatever he wanted to do, and when he came back they were all dead because a bomb
landed in the middle of them. You think that would do something to your
psyche because after an experience like that, you’re either going to think, “Oh man
things are pretty random and horrible” or “there is something pretty special about
me because I wasn’t killed by the bomb”. Maybe God has saved me for a higher purpose. You can be absolutely sure that if you went
through an experience like that, then something like that would be rattling around in your
mind. He won a medal for bravery, and after World
War I, he kind of wandered around like a lot of men unemployed and like a trap. He wasn’t very happy about that. No wonder, so anyways, he didn’t get into
art school. Now he didn’t really have a fully developed
political theory, but he was pretty good at speaking and there were a lot of people to
hear him speak because people were trying to figure out what the hell to do about all
the chaos. So then you think well what was Hitler good
at? Well, now I’m going to switch to a slightly
different story and get back to this one. I don’t know if you guys know about the
daycare scandals that were very common in the 1980’s. It was so horribly common actually, and this
infested many towns. Usually what would happen someone who was
a little on the paranoid side or a lot on the paranoid side would send his or her children
off to daycare. That was the new thing in the 80’s because
women were moving into the workforce like mad. They were handing their infants (kids below
three) to total strangers. For some of them that set off a fair bit of
worry, like it still does, and sometimes that worry got out on the hand, especially those
who were predisposed to paranoia and schizophrenia and maybe some had previous episodes. The kid would come home and the mother would
observe something or note something particular about their behaviour and would fantasize
about what that was. Was the child being touched in any particular
way? She would keep this up for a good length of
time. Soon the child would start having nightmares,
and then the child would start to tell the mother what the nightmares were and that would
freak her out so she would ask deeper questions, and soon her children were telling her that
horrible things were happening to them at daycare. Then she would go to the police, and they
would look into her psychiatric background. The police would start to interview other
children, and if they interviewed them properly, the other children would develop other stories. How did that happen? Well, a bunch of ways. The first is the police would ask leading
questions, like did anyone touch you? Well of course someone touched the kids, everyone
touches kids. Did anyone touch you there? Well that’s not a question, that’s a piece
of information. The piece of information is that if someone
touched me there, then an adult would be really interested in that, right? What is a child doing when the child is answering
the adult’s questions? What do they know? They’re three-years-old. They can hardly organize their story. If you’re talking to a kid, and you want
them to give you an account of their day, you have to really guide them through the
organization of their memory, and partly what they’re doing when you’re doing that is
that they’re looking at you trying to figure out if they are telling you the right things
which is what they should be doing because what they are trying to do is tell people
things in a way that they’ll understand. This makes the child very responsive to the
nonverbal and verbal cues of the adult. Think about how fast those little rats try
to pick up language. It’s really fast and no one really teaches
them; they’re just they’re paying attention like mad. You get a bunch of cops who are on an adventure
that they think there is some serial sexual perverts in their midst. They interview 15-20 kids; they do it a lot
with these little dolls, and they do it a lot. Sooner or later all the kids start having
nightmares, and then start telling the cops these terrible things happened like they’re
being taken down to an under cabin and take their clothes off and forced to play leap
frog. You can’t believe it. It’s all documented in a book called Satan’s
Silence, which was written by a social worker and a lawyer. It’s mind-boggling. The longest prison sentences in American history
were handed out to a series of middle-aged women who were taken care of little kids. The FBI even came up with a whole new criminal
category: Late Onset Female Sexual Offender. Why didn’t that category exist before? It’s simple; there are no late onset female
sexual offenders. That’s why we didn’t need to category. Once all these accusations came up, you needed
some category for these women. Some were thrown in jail for 350 years, which
seems a bit excessive seeing as they’ll only last 40. They get 12 consecutive life sentences. There is actually a situation where one town
went so far as to start digging underneath the town to find these underground satanic
layers where all these weird rituals would be going on. Along with this was not one shred of concrete
evidence. The eventual conclusions, and this affected
thousands of people. The eventual conclusion was that there actually
isn’t anyone whose satanically torturing children in daycare centres. Why am I telling you this? Well, what the children were doing, if you
think about it, how did they come up with these weird ideas? You should know that the children are not
stupid, and they can also dream up about the most horrible things. They have an imagination that is capable of
extending itself out into the terrifying. Everyone knows that because all you have to
do is remember you are a kid when you were hiding under the covers because there were
horrible things in your dark room. You could populate the darkness with monsters
with no problem, and you should be able to because there are monsters in the darkness. Even though your parents might tell you they’re
not. There might not be any monsters in that particularly
piece of darkness and that’s a perfectly reasonable thing to tell your children. Darkness as a whole, that’s a different
story. The children aren’t stupid. Now the adults start to question them and
the back of the kid’s brain, the imaginative part what do these people want? They throw them out a little bit of information,
and the adults will perk up, and they will focus on that piece of information. Maybe it’s a cop who really hates child
Satanist doctors which is perfectly reasonable stance. So when the child offers any information about
the existence of such a thing, the cop will perk up, and the child will say something
related is occurring. Their imagination is working. How do I model the reality that’s being
presented to me? That’s when the dreams start to kick in. By speaking in the appropriate way, you can
get all sorts of things churned up in the unconscious minds of your listeners. By watching them as well, you can extract
out their unconscious desires. Now I am speaking to you all, and you’re
all are irritated because your life has been really awful for 15 years. I’m saying this and that, and then I say
something initially dismissive of Jews. You’re all mad, and there are two or three
people who go “yeah”. I think that’s an interesting response,
and then I lay out a couple more ideas and some don’t get any response and others people
perk right up. And I am not stupid and I am trying to get
the bloody attention of the crowd. And, if I do that fifty times, the crowd is
going to tell me an awful lot about what they want, especially if I am willing to follow
them. And I can do that easily, especially if I
start to work the crowd a little bit, because I can capitalize on their emotions and the
display of that emotion, and I can learn to play that, and then that turns into a positive
feedback loop. And, so, Hitler is informing the audience
and the audience is informing Hitler, and that is why Jung believed Hitler embodied
the shadow of the German people. So, that is another reason why you should
be careful what you say, why you are saying it, and why you are looking for attention,
and all of those things, and naturally what is motivating you, and actually what is motivating
the people who are listening to you, because God only knows where you might go if you are
not careful. Actually, we do know where you go if you ae
not careful, and it is not pretty, that is for sure. And to think that we have learned anything
from that it’s like no, that is not right. We haven’t learned a damn thing from it. So, because we don’t want to understand
it. Now these guys are not concerned with that
sort of that thing, they are highly concerned with it. Now, Binswanger and Boss, they both had been
influenced by Freud and by Jung. You can see in the bottom right hand corner
there, that is Bass with Jung, and that is Binswanger on the left, and Bass at the top
there. So, they are pretty thoughtful looking guys
and they were pretty damn smart, and they were quite philosophically oriented, and they
had both studied Heidegger and Husserl, who were German philosophers. Heidegger actually got tangled right up in
the Nazi movement, and his philosophy has been cast under a cloud of suspicion – perhaps
a well-deserved cloud of suspicion – as consequence of his cooperation with the Nazis. So, it wasn’t only stupid people who got
tangled up in this. It was pretty much everybody who got tangled
in it. And one of the things you might think about
is: if you were there, for any one of you, there is a 90% chance that you would have
got tangled up in it. You wouldn’t have been a person who rescued
the gypsies, forget that. Unless you think that you are heroic far beyond
the average, and I would be very, very careful about assuming that, you could assume instead
that you have been swapped along with the crowd, just like everyone else, because everyone
else was. Part of what these guys were trying to figure
out is: in some sense, there were two things. There was the function and structure of belief
systems; and then, the nature of that which transcends the belief system. So, what transcends the belief system is what
you don’t know if you use the beliefs, because there are things outside of your belief system
and they have a nature as well. Usually, you run into those sorts of things
when you make a mistake, and things don’t happen the way you want them to, or desire
them to. So, and then the other problem you are trying
to solve in some sense is: what is the appropriate mode of behaviour for an individual in relationship
to belief systems and to the world that transcends the belief systems? And the reason they were interested in that
it is because they thought “well, maybe it would be a good idea if our belief systems
didn’t get so damn pathological.” Because, if they do, then, six million end
up in ovens, and a hundred twenty million people end up dead in battlefields. That doesn’t count the Stalin massacres
or Mao who made Hitler, in a sense look like an absolute amateur. Stalin starved 6 million people to death in
the Ukraine in the 1930s, and he was just warming up. How many of you have heard of the Ukraine
famine? How many of you haven’t? Yes, well think about that, how many of you
knew Mao killed a hundred million people? How many of you didn’t? You might think about why you don’t know
that. You know about the damn Nazis, but you don’t
know about the horrors that the Communists perpetrated. It is worth thinking about why, because the
communists, especially the Maoists, those people were brutal. It is really important, of all the things
that you can possibly learn psychologically from the twentieth century – and it is what
these characters in the ‘50’s were concentrating on. Things can go powerfully sideways, it is a
great shock to everyone because, in some sense, everyone was pretty thrilled that beginning
of the 19th century that religion, classical religion beliefs, had crumbled. The Marxists said the damn religion was there
to depress the poor and depressed anyways, and to keep the priests in aristocracy in
power, I am sure you learned plenty of that in your classes, that sort of thinking, power,
economics-related thinking and it is typically of
intellectually manipulative left-wing thinkers. That is basically their routine. They reduce everything to a single damn motivation,
and it is usually economics or power, then they explain everything from that perspective. It is so boneheaded, it should be illegal. The Marxists were happy that religion had
collapsed because they thought that that would eliminate an entire strata of oppression. And, you can see that, it is not like the
Catholic Church was free of corruption. In many ways, it is a corrupt enterprise,
and you can read it as solely a corrupt enterprise. And the hell with it, it’s good that it’s
corrupt. And, the Freudian basically thought the same
way and so did most intellectuals. Freud thought that religion was nothing than
a childish delusion that people identified with because they were afraid of dying. It was a defence against death anxiety. Look, the Marxist argument in and the Freudian
argument those are bloody powerful arguments, because you can see it: do people use their
religious beliefs as a defence against things they are too terrified to confront? Obviously. Does the church oppress people, did it engage
in conspiracies with people in power across centuries? Obviously. The question is “well, what do you make
of that?” Well, partly you make of that all sorts of
structures do that. You can’t just damn one structure and think
the others are going to know. It is like, the right wingers they always
go on about big government, how terrible that is, and the left wing they always go on about
how big corporations are terrible. Well, bank is terrible, doesn’t matter if
it is government or corporations, because things tend to tilt towards corruption across
time, and that has to be taken into account. So, the Freudians and the intellectuals, and
the Marxists were all pretty happy when the religious streams started to come apart and
they believed that the new edifices that they were going to construct: fascist and communist,
would be so much better than what they replaced that everybody would be drowning in utopia. And, it is too bad this isn’t how it turned
out, but it certainly is not how it turned out. How it turned out was: Sometimes, when you
tear something down, even if you think it is terrible, you end up constructing something
on its roots that makes the previous terrible look like the work of an amateur, and that
is certainly what happened in the twentieth century. I mean, no matter what you say about the Catholic
Church and its basic barbarism, especially when they were involved in the witch hunt
in the Middle Ages. Those guys…they are amateurs compared to
the Fascists and the Communists. They recount their victims into tens of thousands,
not in hundreds of millions. So, anyways, things didn’t go so well. And, by the 1950s, especially because the
Cold War started and the day that Second World War, and it ended with the atomic bomb in
Japan, and the Russians had the damn atomic bomb tomorrow, fundamentally, and both the
Russians and Americans had the hydrogen bombs by the early 1950s. And I don’t know if you know this: do you
know that a hydrogen bomb uses an atom bond for its trigger? So, in the hydrogen bomb, the atom bomb stands
in relationship to a hydrogen bomb, like the ignition cap on a shelf stands in relationship
to the gunpowder. The atomic bomb blast just gets the explosion
going. So, hydrogen bombs, they are like way, way
more explosive than atomic bombs. So, by the middle of the 1950s, we pretty
much put ourselves in the position, where they were building some mighty big bombs,
I mean really, and unbelievable, unbelievably big bombs, four hundred times as big as the
one that wiped out Hiroshima. Huge, huge bombs, and they get pretty damn
good at it. By the mid-1950s, it was like, we developed
enough fire power on both sides of the Atlantic, along with the missiles necessary to deliver
them, which the Nazis had basically invented in World War II. It was all Nazi scientists to invent rockets,
and they were all taken by the Americans after World War II, the work on the American space
programs, basically. And, so, by the 1950s, we had the missiles
deliver the damn things too. So, not only were the psychologists who were
thinking about things sort of shortened out about what happened in World War II, for good
reason, and then of course all the Stalinist horrors were starting to be revealed at that
point. Although it took Western intellectuals like
thirty years before they gave them any credence at all. I think Jean-Paul Sartre was still a member
of the Communist Party up until 1970. It was very common, particularly among French
intellectuals, even though the news was getting out. Careful observers like George Orwell had pretty
much figured out by the late ‘30s that not all was right in the paradise of Stalin. People thought he was a right-winger, and
didn’t listen to him much, even though he was a left-winger. These existential phenomenologists, they’re
trying to figure out “okay, we’ve got a big problem here: the belief systems are
seriously going sideways.” There’s some indication that there’s some
individual responsibility for that, of some indeterminate nature. If you live in a country where everyone has
turned into a fascist murderer, is that your fault? Well, it’s not obvious that an individual
should be held responsible for the action of an entire country, but then again, the
country is made up of individuals so it’s a very difficult problem to solve. One of the tenets of Western law is that you
don’t hold an individual responsible for the actions for the group even if he or she
happens to be a member, willingly or unwillingly, of that group. But you can’t ignore the fact that all these
things were made up of people, and then you also can’t ignore the fact that it was individuals
who were doing the terrible things that were being done to people. In Auschwitz, for example, one of the little
tricks that the guards used to do was to bring the Jews off the freight cars— a lot of
them had died in the freight cars¬ because they were packed in like ‘this’, so lots
of them would suffocate, or the old ones would die, or the little kids would die and that
was okay. Then along the outside of the freight car,
especially if it was winter, it’s 20 below and the ones on the outside would freeze but
you’re going to get rid of them anyway so that was just convenient, mostly. Then, you’d take them to Auschwitz and they’d
all spill out, speaking different languages, torn up from their family, as miserable as
people can possibly be. One trick was to have someone who was not
quite dead enough pick up a sack of wet salt, so that’s 100 lbs., and carry it from one
side of the compound to the other– and then back. One side and then back. You don’t want to be thinking about these
camps like a football field; these bloody things were cities. They were big: they held tens of thousands
of people, and so there’s some guard and he thinks that’s a pretty good joke. It’s not just a few people who are like
that. We found out from the Stanford Prison Experiment,
which every psychologist likes to think of as immoral because we actually discovered
something with it, that if you gave ordinary people the opportunity to be fascist barbarians,
in 6 days, 30% of them would be. What we learned from that is social psychologists
shouldn’t run the Stanford prison experiment. That’s not the right conclusion to draw. These phenomenologists were all concerned
about this, thinking “what the hell should we do about that?”. They’re starting to think about how belief
systems are constructed. The first proposition that they make is that
we should treat the reality that we’re dealing with, as psychologists; we should treat human
experience as that reality. The reality, for you, from a phenomenological
perspective, is that everything you experience is real, and they also assume that you can’t
get more real than that. Your consciousness, whatever that is, is real,
and your dreams are real, and your emotions are real, and your pain is real– which is
a really useful thing to think if you want to make sure that you’re not going to hurt
people. You kind of have to think that maybe pain
should be treated as a fundamental reality instead of as an epiphenomena of some material
substrate. That’s their first perspective. They took that from Heidegger because Heidegger
thought that Western philosophy had gone off on the wrong track 3000 years ago because
we didn’t really concentrate on being itself as the fundamental mystery. The fundamental mystery is: why the hell is
there anything? Since there is some experiential being, what
are its fundamental elements? That’s the phenomenological stance; it’s
not the same a scientific approach because it starts with a different presupposition. The scientific presupposition, roughly speaking,
is that the objectively real elements of things are the most real elements. There’s no sense complaining about that
because it’s an approach that works tremendously well for many, many things—including making
hydrogen bombs, for example. But it’s also reasonable to think that it
might not be the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Maybe you could also suspect that the fact
that we can manufacture hydrogen bombs might indicate that there’s something a trifle
off with our fundamental belief systems, scientific though they may be. That was certainly something that concerned
Heidegger, even though he got all tangled up with the Nazis. The phenomenologists were trying to take apart
the experience as such, and they made some hypotheses, and then some observations. The first is that: we’re going to assume
that your experience– that experience itself– is real. Now, just because dreams are real and pain
is real, and objects that we can all perceive are real, doesn’t mean you should put them
all in the same category. My dreams are not in the same category of
reality as this table because you don’t have access to my dreams, and you have access
to the table. But that doesn’t mean that my dreams and
my pains and my emotions aren’t real. They’re real. That’s the first, and you should note that
this is a proposition. What they’re saying is: let’s act as if
that’s true and then work from those premises and see what happens, see where we can get
with it. That’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do
because at the bottom of a theory you always have to put an assumption. Otherwise, your theory would be one hundred
percent right, and would cover everything– and it doesn’t, so you have to throw an
assumption somewhere in there at the bottom and say “okay, we’re not questioning that,
that’s the starting point.”. You have to do that because you’re ignorant,
you don’t have a full theory. They (the phenomenologists) don’t like the
idea that mind can be reduced to matter, they’re not playing that game. They’re not playing the game that the subject
is only epiphenomenal and the object is real, they’re not playing that game either. It’s partly because, as Boss says, “Without
a subject, nothing at all would exist to confront objects and to imagine them as such”. True, this implies that every object, everything
objective, is merely objective in being merely objectivized by the subject, is the most subjective
thing possible. It’s a radical claim, but here’s something
to think about: when I look at that coke can, you might say I perceive the object and then
make inferences about its use, and then I evaluate it and then I use it. That is not actually what you do. In fact, it’s not obvious at all that what
you perceive are objects. If you think about it, people weren’t perceiving
scientific objects until about 1500, 1450 A.D. There was no “objective object” before
then. Obviously whatever we were perceiving was
not precisely that because we would have been scientists right off the bat. George Kelly claimed that people were natural
scientists, that we’re always investigating hypotheses and trying to disprove them and
so on. It’s an interesting theory and it’s right
in a sense but fundamentally, it’s wrong. We are not natural scientists, we’re natural
engineers. When we look at the world, we don’t see
objects and then infer their use, what we actually see is the use. For example, when I look at that coke can
my visual system activates my motor cortex directly. It can do that without me seeing the damn
can consciously– to some degree. There are people with blind sight, I’ve
told you about those people, they say they can’t see but if you ask them which have
you have held up they can tell you. They might not be able to see, but they can
map patterns from their visual system onto their motor output. That’s basically what Piaget said we do
when we deal with the world. We’re embodied creatures, so what we see
when we look around aren’t “objects”, they’re things we can use and things that
get in our way. That’s a theory that was derived originally
from J.J. Gibson, who wrote a great book on that called
The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception, and his science was a brand of pragmatism. Pragmatists basically claim that things including
theories and perceptions have a limited range of truth, and the limited range of truth is
determined by the match between your actions and the outcomes. So, I think this is a coke can. Is that what it is? No, but it’s good enough for me if I want
to drink a bit of coke out of it. God only knows what it is. If you go into Communist China and you start
advertising these things, then what are they? This thing tells a story– what’s the story? Really, do you need Coca Cola? No. It’s a bit of frippery; it’s an unnecessary
luxury. It’s not even very good for you, but it’s
kind of fuzzy, and it’s sweet, and you get to buy it. Why is that? No matter how stupid you are in your nutrition
choices, as far as our society goes, you have the right to poison yourself in whatever way
you think best befits you. And so, when you send this little coke can
off to communist China, this thing screams stupid individuality all over. And God only knows how it undermines the state. And if you are not thinking about that, you
are not thinking. Think about what happens when we export cars. What does a car say? it says “hey, you can go wherever you want
whenever you want, you don’t need to tell anybody at all, and you can do it in a really
dangerous, high speed manner.” It is like, you want a political statement,
wrap it up in metal and ship that thing off, and everybody goes like “I would really
like to get one of those.” And, puff, communism disappears with that. There is nothing that says individuality and
capitalism like a personal automobile. You even get to pollute the atmosphere and
ruin the planet with the damn thing, but if you have to drive to the corner store and
pick up your damn coke, the hell with the atmosphere. So don’t be thinking that what appears in
front of you are only objects, because they are not. I started thinking about this for example
when I was thinking people going down Graceland to look at Elvis’ guitar. You think: what exactly is that it makes a
guitar Elvis’ guitar? It is not exactly the guitar, because it is
just sitting there, like any object does, and maybe you could be able to think about
it. You could take that guitar out and put a guitar
just like it, and it would still be Elvis’ guitar because they wouldn’t know. So you might think that this is not really
Elvis’ guitar. That is a funny thing because you would only
think that if you thought that Elvis’ guitar was the thing that was made out of material
that was sitting right in front of you. And that isn’t what it is. That is only one tiny little bit of it. That bloody thing is a part of an incredibly
layered reality. I mean, the people who want to go look at
that, they are looking at it in some sense because of the magic that is emanating from
it, but the magic is actually real. The magic is the effect of that guitar, let’s
say, on the entire culture. And those effects are the damn guitar too. And it is weird, because when you go look
at Elvis’ guitar, you are not looking at the guitar, you are looking at the magic. And, weirdly enough, the magic is actually
real. Well, you can’t think that way if you are
a materialist, because you think the thing is the material, it’s like “yeah, right.” I can tell you another story: When the Americans
and Europeans came to the South Pacific Islands, the South Pacific Islanders, because there
weren’t that many of them, they didn’t have a highly technical society. So, if you were like Joe, dominant guy, in
the Pacific Island culture, you might be able to have stone ax, la well-made stone ax. Go make a stone ax, and see how long that
takes you, that is a bit of work. So, if you are a high status guy, if you really
worked your whole life to be at the top of the pyramid, you maybe get two axes, it is
like a red letter day. You’ve got two axes, which is more than
any other animal has, by a lot. So, it is not trivial. And then, the damn missionaries come in, and
they set up a shop, and what do they bring? Steel axes. That’s kind of a downer, you have worked
your whole damn life to get these stone axes, and that makes you head tribesman, and then
your kid goes down to the local missionaries, and they say “we have an extra steel ax
here, why don’t you take that back home”? And it is so shocking, because not only did
the missionaries have this thing that was so much better than the steel ax, it is like
a jet plane compared to a wheel cart, like they are really, really different. But the missionaries, they don’t even notice,
that is the horrible thing about t. They give away this thing that virtually has
this infinite value, because it is okay, we have a couple of those in the store room,
we are just willing to hand them out. It is a little demoralizing. It is a little demoralizing for the Pacific
Islanders. And, so, what, was it an ax that missionaries
gave away? It wasn’t. You’d think that if you were a Westerner
and you’d have a bunch of axes, you would think “yeah, right.” It is a lot more than an ax, a lot more. It is a weapon that can bring down a whole
culture accidentally. One of the things that the phenomenologists
claim, this is a cool claim, I didn’t know they claimed this. It took me quite a long time to figure this
out, because I thought I figured it out on my own, but it turns out that it is very difficult
to figure out anything on your own. So, when I was doing my investigation about
how the brain works from a neuropsychological perspective, and that was informed a lot by
Jeffrey Gray, who we are going to talk about later, one of the things I noticed was that
you don’t actually see things when you first see something. In fact, when you first see something, you
don’t even see it, you react to it. You react to it with your body. So, I can give you an example. So, here you have a partner and you have a
trusting relationship, and then you find out that, they tell you or you figure out from
their phone or something, they are having an affair. And you look at them, and you think: what
do you see? No, you don’t, you do not see the person,
that is wrong. What you see is a huge pit that you are going
to fall into, and you don’t even know you see it, but your body knows, as if your blood
pressure goes through the roof and your heart starts pounding and you sweat. And the reason for that is: your body sees
what you can’t see and what it sees is something that you can seriously not understand, it
does not understand it. It sees the territory behind the map, because,
when I look at you, for all intensive purposes, really what I am looking at is my presuppositions
about you and because you are polite and well-behaved, you are gracious enough to act in accordance
with those presuppositions, so I don’t even really have to look at you, and thank you
very much for that. Because it is very difficult to look at people,
because they are horrifying and profound creatures. And so everyone walks around behaving so we
don’t terrify the hell out of each other all the time. Now, when someone betrays you, it is like
poof, presuppositions gone. Okay, what is there? God only knows. And that is what your body reacts to. And that is partly why the phenomenologists
said that we react to meaning first, we don’t react to objects. It takes a long time to see the damn object. So, for example, let’s say that this person
has betrayed you. Now, you think you knew who they were, and
you thought you knew who you were. Guess what, you are wrong! You don’t know who they are, and, because
you are such a moron, it means you don’t know who you are and that you can’t trust
any memories with that person, and maybe none of your memories in any intimate relationships
at all. Plus, what about the future? Well, so, when you look at the person, what
do you see? You see all that, like chaos. That is what you see. And that chaos is the meaning behind your
presuppositions and that is why the phenomenologists would say: meaning shines forth. And that is the primary thing we encounter. It is like: that is smart. And you know what is really weird? That is how your damn brain is organized. And that is weird because you, let’s think
about it: how do you define reality? Now, that is a tough one. I would say most of you define reality like
you are Isaac Newton. Or maybe you are like Democrates, who was
the first person who hypothesized atoms. And so, in a Newtonian world, it is like a
billiard ball, everything is made out of billiard balls and they bang together in a causal way
and you can predict the consequences of their banging together, and, if you extend it enough,
you can conjure up an entirely deterministic world. A happens, causes B, B causes C, always the
same way, and everything runs like a giant clock. That is Newton’s model. And it was a clock model, because, back at
that time, clocks, those things were pretty damn impressive. Clocks got the whole industrial revolution
on their way, and medieval cities were put an awful lot time and work into their clocks
and they thought those damn things were really cool. They could keep track of where the planets
were moving. That is a big deal, a clock, and if you want
to think about an invention that changed the world, it is like, the clock is a big one. Now, we can measure time. In the same way, everyone can measure time. It is a big deal, so the idea that the universe
is like a clock, given that the clock can predict the universe, it is a pretty damn
powerful idea. It turns out that it is wrong, because, causality
is a mess, no one really understands it, and there are levels of analysis at which causality,
in the way we experience it, doesn’t seem to apply at all. You go down to the subatomic level, it is
probabilistic, you can’t predict single events and I don’t believe that you can
predict the future. You can predict parts of the future in an
extremely limited way, for some purposes, for some span of time, and you can’t even
predict how long that span of time is going to last. And some things seem to be more stable, across
more situations, and across more times than others, but they are still…there is instability
everywhere, it makes the predicting thing a very difficult thing to do. So, that is one idea about reality, that is
the idea really that you have, and that is the reality that you have been educated to
have. The idea of reality that you have been educated
to have. Even though we know it’s wrong, Einstein
blew that world up in the early 1900s, along with the various people that Einstein depended
on. That’s gone, it’s wrong, and then there
are all sorts of other extremely complicated problems like how to model positive feedback
loops, that sort of gets you into chaos theory, and it’s really hard to model positive feedback
loops. They can go wild in 50 different ways you
can’t really and predict them as they depend on initial conditions. So, the deterministic world is like no, that’s
wrong. I think part of the reason we have to have
free-will is because we can’t act deterministically. A deterministic system is only going to work
in a system that stays the same. So, you can wind up a little clock, one of
the little clockwork toys and it’ll walk. But if you put a cliff in front of it, it
just walks off the cliff. So when cliffs are appearing in front of us
randomly all the time, I can’t even see how a deterministic system could possibly
work to guide us. It would assume that our knowledge, the knowledge
that we derive from the past is sufficiently accurate to causally guide us into the future. It’s like no, that’s not right; it doesn’t,
so maybe that’s why we have consciousness. No one knows that that’s a good theory if
there’s a why. Anyways, here’s an alternative, this is
a Darwinian alternative, so the alternative is that the world’s a complex and dynamic
place. It’s full of weird things. Basically it is made up of patterns and patterns
and patterns, that’s what it is, and they shift and dance around. Then you throw something that’s alive in
to that. It’s programmed by DNA and it has to keep
up with patterns and they’re changing all the time. Some of them are kind of stable but they’re
pretty fluid. Then you throw the DNA in there and it produces
a million variants of whatever it is going to produce. Most of them are wrong. You’re a mosquito and you lay a million
eggs. So, that’s a million bets about how the
future will causally unfold and the bet is the future’s going to unfold so this egg
can turn into a mosquito. Then you might say, how often is the mosquito
that lays the eggs wrong? The answer to that is if it lays a million
eggs in its lifetime, I don’t know how many eggs mosquitoes lay but they lay a lot, all
of those eggs are going to die except one if the mosquito is lucky. You know that because we are not knee deep
in mosquitoes. If it wasn’t the case, there would be mosquitoes
everywhere, but there aren’t thankfully. So, basically what’s the bet? The bet is that mosquitoes match their environment. The answer is wrong except once in a million. So how do you overcome that? Million mosquitoes, million eggs and it’ll
do the trick. It means that the fundamental hypothesis that
the mosquito structure matches the structure of reality is wrong at a one in a million,
a 999 999 level of error. You might just think that’s just completely
wrong, but it keeps the mosquitoes going. So then, this propagates across time, and
what really propagates across time is really a massive wave of death. Virtually everything fails, 99.9% of the species
that ever lived are extinct. We are doing a fair good job of making sure
that a good chunk of the ones that exist now are going to go extinct. Failure and death is the norm and it’s going
to happen to all of you. So if the underlying structure of reality
is mutable, which it is and the only way that you can adapt to it is by generating variance
and having most of them perish, except for the ones that manage more or less by chance
to keep up how do you define real. A Darwinist would say, as well as a Pragmatist,
you embody real to the best degree that real can be attained. It’s not very good. Your real is good enough for about 80 years. They say that it’s as real as it gets. Reality is so complicated, this multilayered
pattern array that you can’t even model without using death as the mechanism. You can’t do it and even if you do use death,
it is almost all death. Even for the parts that aren’t all death
which is hardly any of it, the solution isn’t that good. You are going to wear out in 80 years and
you’ve got 3 billion years of trying behind you and that’s the best you can do. Maybe if you’re a parrot, you can get 150
and apparently there’s an immortal jellyfish, figures it wold be a jellyfish that would
be immortal. So, there’s a whole different way about
thinking about real. Neches said life is truth, truth serves life,
and that’s a Darwinian idea. Although he didn’t take it from Darwin,
there isn’t anything truer than what evolution reveals as the model for reality. That’s as true as it gets for us. That’s not a Newtonian reality. It’s a multilevel, patterned, chaotic reality
that we’re trying to keep up with. So what that might mean is that the implications
for actions that I derive from that phenomenon might be more indicative of what it is than
an objective analysis because your truth, the degree to which you embody truth, is so
far as it can be determined with a Darwinian framework is entirely measured by your success
in living and propagating. That’s it and there isn’t anything under
that. Maybe there is but if you’re a Darwinian
that’s it. I think Darwin is right all things considered
and newton is wrong plus we also know that Newton is wrong. The whole Darwinian thing is more complicated
than we thought because, you know what epigenetics are? How many of you know about that? That’s pretty good, so your biological education
demolishes your historical education. How many people don’t know what epigenetics
is? It’s okay as it is relatively new. Anyways, it turns out that your parent’s
experience can alter their genetic structure in such a way that it alters your genetic
structure. That’s something we didn’t expect, that’s
for sure. Nobody knows what the final consequence of
that will be but it looks like there’s more to the evolutionary story than near random
production and natural selection. There’s more to it than that, who know how
much. So, when the phenomenologists say we react
to meaning first, that opens a question, is the meaning real? And that opens up another question, which
is what do you mean by real and that opens another question, is it Newton real or Darwin
real? Well Newton is wrong, so that leaves Darwin
and Darwin real, that’s about as real as it gets. If a partial entity is trying to model a complex
totality, all they are ever going to be able to do is embody a partial representation of
that and it’s not going to be that good but it’s going to be as good as they can
get, as that’s as true as it can get. So the phenomenologists, they have this weird
idea that we perceive meaning. Guess what, that’s how you brain is set
up. You first perceive meaning, and then with
a lot of work you turn that into an object perception. God only knows how much exploration you have
to do before you do that. How long do you think it takes a child to
handle its soother before it builds up an accurate representation of the soother? It is going to be chewing on that thing like
mad, taking it out, checking it out, turning it around and banging it against things. It has to do all that including the tactile
interactions. The experimentation with the thing across
situations establishes object permanence. It has to do all that before it can see the
thing. Early eye researchers who were under the influence
of behaviourists basically said that the object is given so they can treat the brain like
it doesn’t exist. The object is just there and you can just
see the world. Well that turned out to be seriously wrong. It is difficult to get a computer to see the
world. It turns out you have to put them inside bodies
before they could really do it because you really can’t perceive the world without
a body. Perception is for bodily action. Without the framework within which, really
what you’re doing is a Piagetian idea. This is a pattern; this thing and the pattern
exist at multiple levels including the advertising level, your memories of coke and all the jingles
you know. But this, when I look at that, I map its pattern
onto my retina and the pattern is a pattern because it’s extending across time. It’s not like smoke which is dissipating. It’s staying there across time. I map that onto my retina and then the retina
matches it onto my hand. That’s the coke can. The coke can is all of this. And you might say that’s not what it is
because it is made of aluminum. “Yeah, yeah it’s made out of aluminum”,
but that is only one part of what it is and it’s not necessarily even the most important
part. That’s only one part of what it is. And it’s not necessarily even the most important
part because it could be made out of plastic and what difference would that make? It’s pretty weird when you start to think
about it. People make the claim that meaning is epiphenomenal,
as if there is no real meaning and the universe is this dead thing, and if we all went instinct
tomorrow, there would just be a bunch of meaningless marbles rotating in space. First of all, even this is not true because
we cannot know what is out there if there is nothing to perceive it. The physicists tell us it is more like vast
potential fluctuating quantum fields and maybe it doesn’t even turn into stars and planets
until there is someone to look at it. You may think that’s ridiculous but if you
think about it for a while, you’ll see that there’s really something to it. You are the thing that specifies the level
of analysis. With the way you look at the world, you don’t
see the atoms, you don’t see the sub-atomic particles, and you don’t see the little
rocks. You see planet-sized things when you look
out into space, and you see it at a particular slice of time. Maybe your refresh rate is something like
60 hertz, so what you see is the universe sliced into 60-hert-slices and you think that’s
real. But so is all the rest of it, including its
huge expansive time, from beginning to end. You don’t see any of that, but it’s there. All those things are there at the same time. What does all that add up to? The physicists seem to tell us it adds up
to a pool of quantum potential that isn’t realized until there is something conscious
that interacts with it. Now, you’ve got your meaning shining forth
like math and part of the reason children are so attractive is because for them, the
meaning is just shining at them like math. That’s why they are always wandering around
like this [looks around in wonder]. It’s really fun to watch kids because they
give you a taste of that again. Kids have to pay you so you don’t throw
them out the window. They’re very annoying; they’re always
crying, they’re completely useless, they just lay there and don’t do anything, and
they wake you up at three in the morning to annoy you. Because you’re selfish and mean, you need
something in return. So they smile at you. But they do other things as well. They’re really [x6] comical so they’re
a blast to watch and play with. But one of the things they really do is they
remove the blinders from you while you’re around them. You go out in a forest with a two and a half
year old and it’s very annoying. The bloody thing just wanders around randomly. You’ve got no goal direction. Nothing goal-directed is going to happen with
a two and a half year old, but that’s kind of cool because it frees your mind from your
goal-directed narrowness. You can watch the two year old look at all
these things that you haven’t looked at for twenty years because you’ve already
looked at them once and you just have to see your memory. And then you think “wow that really is cool”. They’ll bring you something and they’ll
tell you it’s cool. Maybe it’s a shiny piece of aluminum or
gum wrapper. You think it’s a gum wrapper because that’s
what you see when you look at it; you’ve already built a gum wrapper representation
and you just lay this on that. That isn’t what the kid sees. God only knows what they’re looking at. Maybe how the light reflects off the aluminum
prismatically and how it glitters, or how cool it is that it can be folded up and how
light it is. They are looking at it like this [makes wide-eyed
expression], and I think it’s because their cortex isn’t very well developed and they
haven’t built the inhibitory structures that stop them from seeing meaning shining
forth. You might think “is there any evidence for
that?” There actually is quite a bit of evidence
for that. One piece of evidence is that if you take
a cat’s brain out and you leave it with just a hypothalamus and a spinal cord, it
is hyper-exploratory; it runs around like everything is interesting. It is weird behaviour for a thing that doesn’t
have a brain. You would think that once you don’t have
a brain, nothing would be interesting. It depends on how much of your brain you have. There are people who have experienced that. There was a famous case of a conductor who
had a very serious brain injury. It basically blew out his hippocampus so he
could not put any more information from short-term attention to long-term storage. He wrote these articles, these massive multi-page-long
journals. All he would write is “it’s as if I’m
seeing everything for the first time”, over and over. He was wandering around in a constant state
of awe. His wife would come to visit him. He couldn’t remember any of the things that
had happened to him. He would be blown out of the water to see
her because he didn’t see his memories. He would say “it’s just like I’m seeing
you for the first time”. And he was; he was seeing her for the first
time. The access to the inhibitory structures that
were directing his attention was gone. He was an interesting case because now and
then, he would sit down to play the piano. He’d have an epileptic seizure and then
he could play just like he used to play. It was as if he had to switch brain modes
and the mechanism for switching was damage. He would have to have a little seizure and
then he could lay out these Beethoven Sonatas like a mad dog. At the end, he would have a little seizure
and come back to “it’s as if I’m seeing everything for the first time”. I think part of the reason psychedelic drugs
proved so attractive to people in the 60s and to people since the beginning of time
is because in some sense, that is what they do. With a poof, your memory representations are
gone. Now what are you seeing? God only knows, but it is not what you expect. And perhaps it is what’s there, but maybe
not. I’m going to sum this up a little bit. What do you think drives people to extreme
forms of pathology? This may be your pathology: your misery, your
suffering, and all that. Or it may be your social psychopathology,
which is your murderous desire to exterminate. Here is a phenomenological theory. The terror management theory is that you must
build these structures in your head to get yourself away from death anxiety, so really
what the terror management people are saying is that the blinder you are, the better off
you are. That’s what the positive illusion people
think too. The phenomenologists were going at this from
another direction. They were saying that the meaning that constantly
reveals itself is nourishing and revitalizing, although it’s so powerful that it can just
blow you apart. It is a dangerous thing to be messing with. It’s like the burning bush. You have to build this structure in order
to be able to cope with that because you have to minimize it to what you can handle. But you need to build this structure properly
and carefully so that the meaning that reveals itself can be shaped by you into a world,
conceptual and practical, that allows the remaining meaning to shine through in a way
that you find sufficiently revitalizing so that you don’t become corrupt enough to
become genocidal. That’s a good theory and that’s what the
phenomenologists were on about. That’s part of the reason why the existentialists
and the phenomenologists both say “don’t deceive yourself about what manifests itself
to you. Don’t use language instrumentally”. Why? Because if you do that and twist up the structures
that you are using to interpret the world through, the world will twist up on you and
all that will be revealed is its horror. And if horror is all that is always being
revealed to you, you will not stay good because you cannot endure that sort of pressure. You will get bitter and resentful. Everything will fall apart around you because
you’re not actually modeling the reality in a way in which positive meaning can shine
through. You will fail and become resentful. And you will become bitter. Then you’ll be looking for someone to hurt
and you’ll have plenty of justification for it. And worse, and this is Jungian contribution
to this idea, this won’t happen all at once, it’ll happen as a consequence of a hundred
thousand micro-decisions that you hardly even notice, where you can be truthful about something
or not in this tiny way that hardly even seems to matter. But the consequence of iterating that across
time, say three hundred decisions, is that you can build yourself into the sort of monster
that you would never want to see in the mirror. And one of the things the phenomenologists
would also tell you, and this is something Jung said as well, is “that is the sort
of monster that you probably are”. If you want to deal with that, you have to
start taking things seriously. There are two things you have to take seriously. One is the meaning that reveals itself to
you and the other is the stance of truth that you adopt while you’re interacting with
that meaning. The final consequence of that would be that
your health, the health of your family and your society, and the health of the entire
society at large pivots on that. The way the world moves is the sum total of
the decisions that all of us are making, all those little micro-decisions. Those things echo like ripples in a pond so
when you do some little crooked thing that you know you should not be doing, you are
actually warping the entire structure of reality. And what’s really interesting about that
is now we know what happens when you do that. What happens is we end up with the Nazis and
the communists and the hydrogen bombs. And we haven’t escaped from that yet. Hopefully we will, but we won’t if people
don’t learn what the 20th century had to teach them.

100 Comments on "2015 Personality Lecture 13: Existentialism: Nazi Germany and the USSR"


  1. Jordan, I'm a huge fan but I'm conflicted by your distinction between the so-called far left and far right. I've often heard you use Hitler and Nazism as examples of the far right but I see little distinction between Hitler and Stalin. In this video(6:48 time mark), you defined 'Fascism' as a form of State Totalitarianism but how is that any different from the State Totalitarianism of Stalin, Mao Zedong, Castro, Pol Pot or any other Totalitarian dictator flying the flag of Socialism, Communism, Nazism, or Fascism? All modern day totalitarian dictators have certain things in common. They're collectivist and they rely on the moral fallacies of collectivist group identity to justify their totalitarianism.

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  2. Getting no sound. I can view and hear other of his vids but this is the third JBP video without any audio.

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  3. National-Socialism and Fascism are DIFFERENT — except in the realm of economics, which Peterson is not discussing here. The casual reference to National-Socialism as "fascism" implies a lack of real understanding. National-Socialism does not glorify the state. If you read National-Socialist writers and compare them to Fascist writers, you might notice that.

    Hitler did not start WWII. More regurgitation of victors' propaganda on Peterson's part there.

    Hitler was compelling because he genuinely represented the interests of ordinary German people, against overlaid elite interests that had so far frustrated the desires of the people. Hitler's program was a synthesis of popular ideas that had been kicking around for decades. Trump is similar in that regard; he was elected in 2016 on the populist agenda that Pat Buchanan had presented 20 years earlier. Hitler however was more effective in carrying through what he had promised.

    Peterson should consider whether the reason that some actions are "difficult to understand" might be that the accounts are inaccurate. Skepticism would be the normal reaction to a story that doesn't make sense, I should think.

    It is not at all clear how the digression about the daycare abuse scare of the 1980s was supposed to explain Hitler's appeal, but it clearly does explain why "Holocaust survivors" tell such stories. One might well wonder if this was Peterson's real point. If it wasn't it should have been.

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  4. If the elites are so even handed why haven't they made sure that the same terrible circumstances that lead to war and economic destruction don't have a chance to manifest again, Dr Peterson?
    I would suggest that Dr Peterson take some time to think about that. If he thinks that representative democracy isn't just a hand maiden for the promulgation of ancient ideologies directed through deceptive means he should investigate the death of Princess Diana. Just for starters.
    Still love what Dr Peterson has to say but he can't be right about everything. It's just not human.

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  5. I didn't need to know that experiments were done where they removed the brains from cats just to see what happened. Scientific knowledge is a noble goal, but that is just depressing as shit.

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  6. I think I have more hours listening and judging his ideas more than sleeping😳 That is one smart man.

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  7. For some reason, whenever I watch these lectures I always feel mentally refreshed afterwards, as if someone had just injected caffeine straight into my brain.

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  8. Love his reaction to the Stanford prison experiment narrative! Exactly what I thought in my psych lectures

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  9. Holy Shit! that last part was so fucking eye opening if you really listen and want to understand what he meant. Here is my take see if it differs from yours; you have to take very seriously the things that you use to perceive the world with, like vision, communication, thoughts and actions. Because if you dont the odds of perceiving the good and the bad, but especially the good because that is what everyone wants and sense bad will be obvious and abundant, will be screwed up leading to hell. Seeing everything in a bad light, seeing the bad in everything and when your preception of everything is fucked up because you let your ways of percieving things get screwed by not constructing order in your life, then there is no way to fix it and your reality (since reality is perception) is complete and utter shit and then you curse God because your life is terrible and other people "look" like they dont have scars and issues (they do but everyone hides them)

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  10. Holy Shit! that last part was so fucking eye opening if you really listen and want to understand what he meant. Here is my take see if it differs from yours; you have to take very seriously the things that you use to perceive the world with, like vision, communication, thoughts and actions. Because if you dont the odds of perceiving the good and the bad, but especially the good because that is what everyone wants and sense bad will be obvious and abundant, will be screwed up leading to hell. Seeing everything in a bad light, seeing the bad in everything and when your preception of everything is fucked up because you let your ways of percieving things get screwed by not constructing order in your life, then there is no way to fix it and your reality (since reality is perception) is complete and utter shit and then you curse God because your life is terrible and other people "look" like they dont have scars and issues (they do but everyone hides them)

    Reply

  11. I adore Jordan Paterson’s knowledge and his ability to deliver thought provoking subjects to explore. I’d jump at the chance to be educated by him.

    Reply

  12. Calculus is following me everywhere. In the classroom, in my study, in my dreams, now in my youtube videos. WHY must there be derivatives and integration?!

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  13. Take the lesson people, be aware of radical left and groups like Antifa. Today we people of Iran are experiencing a different form of fascism which is the ruling regime in Iran.

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  14. The feeling or hallucination prior to the seizure indicates what part of the brain is affected. The guy with the double behind him probably has a problem with his axis or C1 vertebrae and rotating to look at this hallucination triggers the siezure due to some kind of compression on the nerves. Hmmmm. Then one where he feels it coming up his arm is likely related to the radial nerve. And each of these things correspond to certain parts of the brain. Hm. Now I'm fascinated to figure this out.

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  15. Finding this man for me,was like finding a pathway to understand my mind,understand the other people with another perspective….

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  16. No Communism in the Automobile Jordan , thanks God for the evolution and intelligence from many main races of Humans we have the Auto' the wheel.

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  17. I would love to win some lottery and bring this guy to our schools here in Alberta to educate the new generation.

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  18. The first 20 mins sounds like my freshmen year in college in the early 90s. There so much emphasis on "rape culture" and insistence that women "speak up" that a certain number of impressionable young girls were going to see themselves as one of these victim-heroes regardless of what actually happened to them. It was in the air, in the water, in the collective unconscious of the entire campus to the point that it was inevitably going to manifest. Some guys were going to get nailed, regardless of their culpability. The prophecy was going to be filled. There was no way around it.

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  19. Nietzsche observed that Christian morality lead to nihilism or a ‘saying no’ to life. Wtf are you talking about bro?

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  20. Hitler allegedly also survived an encounter with an enemy soldier in WW1. The enemy soldier had him in his sights. It was a sure shot yet he chose not to take it. Interesting story. If that soldier survived the war I wonder if he ever found out whose life he had spared that day. lol!

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  21. Can you imagine being so intelligent that you can turn to a class full of students and, cheerfully, say “so that’s one interpretation of reality”…

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  22. 16:13 when I was a sophomore in high school I was the “poor pigeon” and I failed most of it😂 I did stand out once and diverted from the crowd and said the lines were wrong but for a few I just went along.

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  23. 38:22 I was in that camp, I dismissed Orwell cause of that. Shows how little I knew in high school

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  24. As someone with generalized epilepsy, I found what he said about auras to be fascinating.
    My aura feels like a mini death. I become detached from my own reality and it’s as if my ego does not exist. It’s like I become one with consciousness and for a very brief moment there is absolute peace followed by a sudden sense of overwhelming fear, after which I lose consciousness and start having a tonic-clonic seizure.

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  25. 2:35 "… his exact double has appeared behind him" — thanks for putting that thought in my head, professor.

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  26. I watched so many of your lectures and my respect for you knows no bounds. That being said, I’ve never heard a more simplistic, DEAD wrong, and Zionist propaganda version of WW2 and the Nazis. This is almost as bad as your completely idiotic 1/3 of a billion years of evolution. Come on Doc, you are way too damn smart to spew idiocy like this. Makes me sad.

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  27. Thank goodness we still have lectures in the world of this caliber. I can’t imagine him having an empty seat.

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  28. Hitler elected by large majorities??? …..Hard to catch Peterson in many errors, especially considering the hundreds of hours on YouTube. In the last free election in 1932, Hitler came in second for President in the first round with 30%, (the Weimar Republic had two-round voting). In April’s 2nd round:
    Paul von Hindenburg 53%
    Adolph Hitler 36.8%
    Hitler manipulated The-old sick Hindenburg, and got himself chosen by the incompetent war hero Hindenburg to nominate him as Chancellor, as a supposed “national unity government” out of fear of the Communists. Then came the Reichstag Fire and the closing of the legislative branch and rule by emergency decree. The feeble Hindenburg doddered off and died in Spring of 1934, cementing Hitler in power., who created out of thin air the posts of Furhrer and Reichschancellor and named himself to both those positions.

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  29. To think that this lecture was before the Learned Doctor was world famous and charging hundreds of Dollars for a handshake.
    The fact that he is completely devoid of any sense of humour takes much of this theatrical and melodramatic performance into the absurdly comical.
    A Wizard, Shaman, Darwinian Priest, Peddler of the Mainstream Narrative, he gives not a monkeys for the fanboys buying his lobster merchandise and bull.
    A whore to Celebrity and Moolah.

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  30. Within the complexity of Jordan's lectures is the curiosity of a 5 year old who constantly asks "why". The purpose of his profession appears to be that the adventure of our individual lives should never end. For me as a believer in the eternal purpose as expressed by Jesus, Jordan makes the best of his minds ability to scratch the surface of that purpose. I am thoroughly entertained, educated and humored by his depth of analysis. I know I will continue to laugh into the future as I revisit his expression about the immortality of the "damned jellyfish." 😄

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  31. 36:30 Yeah that is a bimb dropper that most wont know because most assume "atomic" is the most devistating. War will be I would say… interesting next round and not in a fun manner.

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  32. Look up Alessander sholtshelm neitchsins thoughts on the Jews and communism

    Peterson never goes that deep lol he barely skims the surface but he opens you up to further understanding

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  33. The raw power of the mind of this man is absolutely staggering. I will have to watch this a couple of times more before digesting half of what he said. Good God…

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  34. A female i know, i can trigger it. How 2 explain? She is pretty, no shame needed. But all she has is her looks. When i tell her there are more beautfull females, mind broken.

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  35. M problem is that women are mistreated far more than men. they do not become rapists, shooters and mass killers. How do I handle this dilemma??

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  36. 25:10, watch as the mental capacity changes Time and space as the world witnessess greatness speek!

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  37. the seizure type JP described is complex partial seizures. facinating (raises one eyebrow in mr spock fashion)

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  38. when you're freshly out of a boring communication skills exam, and you use you free time watching and enjoying a psychology lecture, you know the lecturer is the amazing dr peterson.

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  39. …'THE SHADOW OF THE GERMAN PEOPLE' IS NOT REALLY CORRECT SINCE HE PLANTED IDEAS IN PEOPLE'S MINDS

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  40. @11:37 I DISAGREE Jordan! "Hitler was not elected by a "landslide vote"
    The Nazis actually dropped in vote from the mid thirties to something like 32%
    high but not "landslide"
    Also the idea being he has cross Party and universal appeal is untrue. Catholics in particular didn't vote for Hitler. see the maps here
    https://exlaodicea.wordpress.com/2007/07/31/the-truth-about-catholics-and-the-nazis/

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  41. It's not that people who are center left (like me) should argue with the history that Peterson refers like Mao's killing as many as he did (I don't know about 100 million but 30 million people during induced famine of The Great Leap Forward) but itis his breathless way he delivers the information with such indignation as if it is a Left (Far Left to Liberals) are trying to suppress information as if to enslave everyone.Then he gets attacked for his hyperbole by far left and then he gets indignant and all his minions freak out.He is a bright pop political psychologist who validates a center right perspective and that's fine.It's his defensiveness and the hyperbolic defense of him that just seems childish.He's not Hitler but everybody who criticizes his approach is not Lenin.One cannot criticize his the breadth of base knowledge and ability to synthesize and present it to a broad audience.but can't think that part of it is schtick to get people to oppose or defend him.Smart marketing

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  42. Where is your real proof the Nazi's committed genocide. There was massive propaganda and dirty schemes by the British and communists. The communist provoked Germany by killing Germans in Poland. A lot of projection by the so called allies doing the very thing accusing Germany. I don't buy the history by the the victors.

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  43. I can honestly say that I discovered Jordan Peterson by trying to find a reason to live. Not through politics. But by searching for meaning through faith in God. And I found his biblical series.

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  44. The same they did with Germany those days they were doing with America soon after the war started, until this day, mind control, desire for money thanks to the necessity, the economical resection of the 30s created the boom of Germany at the same time, so, the rich and powerful recreated the same in America.

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  45. Hitler got 43 per cent of the vote about 10 million more votes then the 2nd placed SPD. Under the German system this wasnt enough for a parliamentary majority. He had to go into coalition with the DNVP. Plus Hindenberg was President and had power over Hitler until the fire at the Reichstag the Enabling act and ultimately Hindenbergs passing of old age.

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  46. Hats off. You Sir are the embodiment of knowledge hunger and thirst for me. You are the only thing I am glad SJW and leftists brought up as otherwise I might not hear about You. Thank You for the good fight.

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  47. Jordan peterson drops a mind blowing statement. Then says. so any way!….. leaves me wanting to hear a 30 min break down of those sentences.

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  48. That last bit hit me hard the most. I paused the lecture and stared at the screen for a long time. It really made me think about all the stupid things I did and how I justified them all with "we're all going to die so it doesn't matter anyways". It made me realise that a decision I've made might have killed someone or maybe lead to another war, god forbid. It also made me realise that the things I did might have saved someone or caused a positive impact or brightened someone's day. This video may have literally changed my life, how I carry myself, how I think and the things I'll say. I can say for sure he's made the biggest positive impact on other peoples lives and I want to grow up to be like him someday.

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  49. Hitler only got the majority vote well after he became Chancellor. He used all the resources of the state ,combined office of president and Chancellor and only after he wiped out all other parties and had acquired total power did he get a majority vote.

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  50. If hitlers name was Shicklgruber he would never have been fuhrer . Heil shicklgruber just wouldnt work . That would of been Hitlers name if Alois Hitler father did not legitimize or adopt Hitlers father as HITLER..Jordan digresses on so many subjects and im trying to understand why he thinks all this stuff ties in .Columbine in relation to Nazis ? Jordan is able to join dots where are others might not.

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  51. Hitler ,Nazis were as much if not more a product of circumstances had an in born love of harsh discipline and regimentation. militarism

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  52. I think peterson is wildly exaggerating on figures about China 100000000. I dont think the Japanese and Chinese total even came close to that .

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  53. No other nation ever had human abboitours. It was the method and calculated ferocity on a typically efficient German basis . Better Stalin than Hitler and the Japanese.

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  54. Existentionalism in relation to the causes of mass murder on an industrial scale. ERADICATE.

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  55. This man is an idiot. pseudo-intellectual charlatan. He once held a position with the globalist UN. Never ever trust a man that would criticise Adolf Hitler. This man knows very well the truth about WW2, and yet he continues to propagate lies, what does that tell you. Like many in a similar position he took Soros money. To understand what is happening toady in the West, watch the independent historical documentary: "Adolf Hitler – The Greatest Story Never Told" It can be found on Bitchute.

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