Frank Visser, CLIMBING THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN: Reflections on Ken Wilber's “The Religion of Tomorrow”
INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
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Elliot Benjamin is a philosopher, mathematician, musician, counselor, writer, with Ph.Ds in mathematics and psychology and the author of over 150 published articles in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, pure mathematics, mathematics education, spirituality & the awareness of cult dangers, art & mental disturbance, and progressive politics. He has also written a number of self-published books, such as: The Creative Artist, Mental Disturbance, and Mental Health. See also: www.benjamin-philosopher.com.
Trump and Hitler: An Integrative Perspective
I think there are good arguments that show a number of alarming and blatant similarities between the mass charismatic appeal of Trump and Hitler.
NOTE: In my 2007 Integral World essay “Integral vs. Integrative” I intentionally chose to not utilize Wilber's Integral theory inclusive of quadrants, levels, lines, states, types, zones, as well as Spiral Dynamics theory inclusive of color schemes. Rather I chose the term “integrative” to reflect the far simpler multi-perspectives that I described as “something more” without spelling out what this “something more” is in any kind of concrete way or form. I have utilized my integrative perspective in many of my Integral World essays, as I am doing once again in this essay.
When I wrote about the prospect of “US President Trump” in some of my Integral World essays this year, I never really believed that this would happen. But now that this has indeed happened, like many politically progressive Americans, I am still in a state of shock and fighting off depression. There have of course been a multitude of concerns and apprehensions expressed about our new American president elect, ranging from racism to misogyny to inappropriate sexual conduct and bravado to narcissism to unethical business practices to tax evasion to filing bankruptcy to no political experience to no military experience to dangerous personal reactivity to secret dealings with Russia to associations with the mafia, etc. The list goes on and on, and I am deeply concerned about both the fate of the United States and the fate of the world, now that we actually will have US President Trump for the next four years.
I am aware of Bryan O'Doherty's recent post-election Integral World essay, but as I described in the above Note, I am choosing to “not go there” and not enter the Spiral Dynamics debate in the comments to Bryan's essay about whether Trump or Clinton is red or orange, etc. Suffice it to say that Bryan and I have had extensive disagreements about the merits of Trump and Clinton, and my position on the relative merits of Trump and Clinton are well documented in my previous Integral World essays. But what is taking me up me right now very personally is related to my Jewish heritage, and this is what I wish to explore in this essay, from an integrative perspective.
There have been a number of comparisons made between Trump and Hitler. I don't know how accurate these comparisons are, and I suspect they are exaggerated. However, I think it is likely that Trump is in some sense an admirer of Hitler, or at least of Hitler's power of mass influence. It is disturbing to me that my new president apparently had a book of Hitler's speeches by his bedside, and a picture of Hitler in his office[6, 7] The 1990 account of Trump' possession of Hitler's speeches by his bedside [Vanity Fair, September 1990] goes as follows:
Ivana Trump told her lawyer Michael Kennedy that from time to time her husband reads a book of Hitler's collected speeches, My New Order, which he keeps in a cabinet by his bed. . . . Hitler's speeches, from his earliest days up through the Phony War of 1939, reveal his extraordinary ability as a master propagandist.
When asked about this statement, Trump responded as follows:
Actually it was my friend Marty Davis from Paramount who gave me a copy of Mein Kampf, and he's a Jew.
But Marty Davis responded:
I did give him a book about Hitler. . . . But it was My New Order, Hitler's speeches, not Mein Kampf. I thought he would find it interesting. I am his friend, but I'm not Jewish.
The article continues:
Later, Trump returned to this subject: “If I had these speeches, and I am not saying that I do, I would never read them.”
Trump's best defense, as is often the case, is total ignorance. His Art of the Deal ghostwriter Tony Schwartz told. . . The New Yorker in July, “I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.”
Now it can certainly be argued that Trump is nothing like Hitlerfor example, I do not believe he has the intention of building gas chambers to kill millions of muslims. On the other hand, I think there are good arguments that show a number of alarming and blatant similarities between the mass charismatic appeal of Trump and Hitler on multitudes of their passionate patriotic followers. And the fact that Trump thought he had a copy of Hitler's book Mein Kampf, which outlines Hitler's rationale for the extermination of the jews, makes me feel quite unsettled, to say the least. It was “Germany first” as the crucial message of Hitler, and it is “America first” as the crucial message of Trump. I fully understand all the serious faults of Hillary Clinton, but at the same time I see a parallel with the scapegoat tactics of Hitler targeting the Jews as I watched the multitude of Trump fans screaming “Lock Her Up, Lock Her up!” Yet I also understand that some people would say that Hillary Clinton used the same scapegoat tactics by targeting Donald Trump in “nasty” ways. Thus from an integrative perspective there are widely different views about the accuracy of this comparison between Trump and Hitler.
But this association of Trump with Hitler is very visceral for me. It is deeply disturbing to me that someone with so many major flaws, as I have listed above, and lack of political experience and ability could have been elected to be the president of the United States. And yes I understand that others would argue that Hillary Clinton had more major flaws than Trump, believing what Trump succintly put in his characteristic way of finding catchy simplified phrases that stick in his followers' minds: “crooked Hillary”had “bad experience.” I also understand that multitudes of Americans liked Trump's simplified message of “America first,” guarding against the infusion of immigrants, protecting gun rights, etc. And in all fairness to Trump, I must admit that I am relieved that he has a far less militant and more open stance toward Russia then Hillary Clinton has.
But this association of Trump with Hitler continues to gnaw at me. It is this mass appeal to swarms of passionate followers of a charismatic leader that deeply concerns me, as I have written about in my book about modern religions. And I just cannot get out of my system the apparent reality that Trump may have learned about manipulating mass appeal from reading Hitler. I think that Hitler's charismatic control of the masses is a phenomenon that can be very useful for a businessman like Trump to study and learn from. Mixing this together with Trump's expertise at influencing the masses through the internet and Reality TV results in a modern version of Hitler's mass appealand it was apparently enough to make Donald Trump the next president of the United States, sidestepping numerous blatant and highly publicized wrongdoings.
I don't want to live in a country where the likes of Donald Trump is my president.
I don't want to live in a country where the likes of Donald Trump is my president. I felt this way when George Bush was elected as my presidentparticularly for his second term in 2004, but I feel this way much more intensely now. I am seriously thinking about relocating to Canada, as many Americans are also now seriously thinking about. And I know that what is making this especially more personally intense for me than the mere fact of all the above concerns and apprehensions about Trump that I have listed, coupled with the fact that we will now be having both American houses in congress controlled by Republicans, and a supreme court justice appointed by Trump, is this association of Trump with Hitler. But I am trying to see both sides of this associationi.e., can it be justified, if it is the case, that Trump was influenced by reading Hitler's descriptions of his hatred for the Jews and how he was able to galvanize multitudes of Nazi followers that resulted in the horrors of the holocaust?
However, even if it is the case that Trump was influenced in this way, is it any different from a historian studying Hitler's books to learn about what actually transpired in Nazi Germany? But then again, if the accounts about Trump keeping Hitler's book of speeches by his bedside are accurate, this appears to me to signify an “admiration” of Hitler by Trump, and if this is the case, then moving to Canada is looking more and more like a real possibility to me.
I thus leave this essay as my way of voicing my feelings, confusions, and concerns about the connection between Trump and Hitler, trying to accommodate various points of view in what I have described as an integrative perspective.
1) See Elliot Benjamin (2007), Integral vs. Integrative: A Response to Parker. Retrieved from www.integralworld.net
2) See Elliot Benjamin's (2016) following three essays: US President Trump: The Ultimate Outcome of Social Media Addiction and Unbridled Narcissism in America?; The antidote for US President Trump; Clinton vs. Trump: A More Integrated Perspective. Retrieved from www.integralworld.net
3) All the concerns and apprehensions that I have listed are of course very well known over the course of the US Republican primary and Presidential campaigns the past year and a half, especially the past few months, with perhaps one possible exception that I do not think has received as much publicity and did not get mentioned in the presidential debates, and this is President Elect Trump's very disturbing possible ties to the Mafia. For example, see “Just What Were Donald Trump's Ties to the Mob?”, www.politico.com
4) See Bryan O'Doherty (2016), What the US Election was Really About and Why Integrals Should Feel OK. Retrieved from www.integralworld.net
5) See for example “I never expected to see the conditions that gave rise to Hitler and Nazism come to America and UK”, www.mirror.co.uk and “How My Holocaust-Survivor Father Feels About President Trump”, www.thewrap.com
7) I came across an article a few months ago that described how Trump had a picture of Hitler, I believe addressing a throng of his passionate followers, in his office, and how his aides persuaded him to remove the picturefor political reasons. From what I recall, Trump explained that he had put the picture up to remind him of how the United States was victorious over the Nazis. However, I have not been able to find this article on the internet, and if anyone is able to find an account of this I would be grateful to obtain this information, either in a comment to this article or in a personal e-mail at email@example.com
8) See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mein_Kampf#Contents
9) See Elliot Benjamin (2013), Modern Religions: An Experiential and Exposé. Natural Dimension Publications (available at www.benjamin-philosopher.com).
10) See “What Germans really think about those Hitler-Trump comparisons”, www.washingtonpost.com
To end on a lighter note, here is a hilarious -- if chilling -- parody by Bill Maher making Hitler very much look like Trump! (FV)