In this article I will discuss the influence of texts on people in the social political field. Written words can influence our perception; perception impacts ourselves and our surroundings. The sentences we read influence our behavior and attitudes towards others. We read, think and choose to make a change in the social political field after we read a text that was unique for us, a text which gave us the reason to stand up and do something. In turn, these actions of ours can hurt or even kill other people. This, in a nutshell, is why words can be dangerous.
For explaining this idea I’ll use a poem by Wisława Szymborska showing the power of words and art in general:
“Twenty-seven bones, muscle thirty-five, nearly two thousand nerve cells have all five fingers of the pad. It is enough to write Mein Kampf or the Winnie the Pooh.”
This poem tells us art created by our body can be the story of childhood or the manifest for murder. The ethical question is which story we, as readers, choose to consume. Will we read Winnie the Pooh or Mein Kampf?
Republishing Mein Kampf
Mein Kampf – translated as My Struggle – is the iconic book written by Adolf Hitler. Following the end of the Second World War and the Holocaust carried out by the Nazis, the manuscript was banned from many countries (including Israel and Germany), and copyright issues (they were transferred from Hitler to Germany) made it hard to print. However, On 31 December, 2015, Mein Kampf’s copyright license ended. This enabled the book to be republished.
Now the book is free of copyright law and can be printed or bought by any one. A Munich history department published 4000 copies during January 2016. The decision to advertise the book was not welcomed in Germany and raised many objections. Despite the objections there is a belief by the Germen academy that the publication of Mein Kampf can help fight antisemitism instead of spreading it. They claim that having the book published by historians, and with research references, is the proper way to educate about the past. By refuting Hitler’s theory and teaching of the genocide it turned into, they say, the chances of trying to repeat the Holocaust drop drastically.
The German academic belief is based on the idea of fighting fire by fire. This means using rational thought to help the readers understand that there is nothing rational in Hitler’s theory. The historians used academic knowledge to exterminate the influence of the theory. There is a problem with that belief, as the German historians relate to all the readers in the same way. They assume the readers all have the same psychological background. Not all the readers are the same, some of them will be persuaded by the historians but there are other who will not be convinced. The opposite! These readers will see the opposition to the theory of Hitler as a challenge and an invitation to fight. For these readers the publication of Mein Kampf is wildfire.
For further explanation of this idea in the next paragraphs I will use Linguistic theory of philosopher Jacques Dridrh -Deconstruction to explain the impact of the text on the reader and using this rationale to wire to why I believe that Mein Kampf was no need to publish.
Deconstruction is Linguistic theory literary text analysis conceptualized by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida. Deconstruction is breaking the basic meaning of text and redefined with a new meaning. In deconstruction theory there is no significance for the writer meaning of text, there is no Wright or wrong but only chain of interpretations, I can understand text in one way and my friend understand in other way, were both Wright and wrong. When we deconstruct text we create a new text who interpret the first text the archetype in semantic relationship, it is homage.
Deconstruction is a post modern way of thinking in art and literary, we can see deconstruction in new ways to interpret modern texts. Deconstruction according to Derrida is liquidation of text and rebuilding it with critical reading.
Derrida’s goal is to subvert the meaning of the text structure and break it, to give it meaning in a new context, not accept the text for granted. According to the deconstruction any text can be interpreted in many ways very different from each every meaning have much difference from the other, this method of critical analysis relies on multiple meanings of the language .according to Derrida relationship between signifier and signified is linearly but differential, variable and arbitrary.
There is no essential connection between the word and its meaning; there is no understanding of the concept, but a series of understandings and interpretations. The language is Unequivocal and alloying many Interpretations, the language is turning against itself. Through deconstruction the connection between words and their global meaning is destroyed, and there is not one way to understand words rather many.
The power of words-deconstruction and Mein Kampf
In his writing of Mein Kampf Hitler did deconstruction of philosophical theory in western philosophy that called “chain of being” which is metaphorical connection between nation or country and body , In addition used old anti Semitic ideas that seeing the Jewish people as parasite and spreading disease. Hitler’s metaphors created the base line of Nazi ideology, a connection between the German state as dying body and Jewish people as parasite poisoning the body. These metaphors was Hitler’s Interpretation of western philosophy and reality, he deconstruct the known and create new meaning of: body, state and blood poisoning. Hitler’s ideas were unique, megalomaniac and homicidal, only by his words he persuaded nation to murder 6 million people that were massacred only by ideas and words that spread by a book written by madman.
The power of metaphors in Mein kampf
In his research of Mein Kampf Andres Musolff analyzed Hitler’s writing and its attribution for holocaust and war world 2. This book is the source for Nazi ideology and the final solution. Hitler’s metaphors are well known but there is significance for the text itself and the way it influenced the German nation.
The research is focusing on the medical political concepts of Hitler’s writing and how leads for the murder of 6 million Jews- creation of death camps. The death camps created by understanding and internalizing the metaphors, the research in a deconstruction of Mein Kampf in understanding how the text was a manifest for murder and lead for murder. Deconstruction of this manifest is a way to show how metaphors in political context are dangerous in their influences on people perception-Uncontrolled political writing can be devastating in its impact, the text is dangerous.
Referring Mein Kampf, Hitler did not use complicated metaphors but simple common anti Semitic images. He took these images gave them structure, order and rationality, in addition he add moral justification for his racial murderous thoughts. Metaphors are more than aesthetic use thinking or artistic expression, it helps set to mean that the writer wants us to understand and want to internalize. Plain text becomes meaningful, and in the context of Mein Kampf destruction of an entire people.
Hitler’s ideology metaphors relay on the analogy between Germany and sick body- the body of Germany is dying. The only solution and cure must be radical; the solution is in the race. If Germany is the sick body the cause for the sickness is the “parasite” Jews whom poisoning Germanys blood, Hitler is the only solution, he is the nation’s doctor. This metaphor was not invented by Hitler but part of western philosophic dialectic (chain of being) that compeering nation with body, this comparison used by many philosophers like Machiavelli, Thomas Moore, Francis Bacon and Thomas hob.
Hitler didn’t analyzed with the theory, but deconstructs it and created new meaning; he turned it from abstract to practical and gave it moral importance for murder. His concept is clear-the state is the dying body by the Jewish parasite, there is no place for imagination when it comes to the solution, Hitler’s solution is himself, he’s the leader who will destroy the Jewish plague which poisoning Germanys body. The narrative in his writing leading the reader to the solution that is not possible to argue about, the only solution that makes sense is extermination of the Jewish people. That is the most dangerous situation in these kind of texts, the writer speak to you and you’re listening, influenced by him or her and decide to take action, one book can destroyed the world, Mein Kampf did.
There is not only one dangerous text- the murder of john lenon
Hitler’s writing in Mein Kampf influenced Germany and changed the people understood race, body and poison, with his words Hitler persuaded that here is nothing wrong with extermination of the nation parasite on the contrary the moral thing is to end the plague for Germany sake. As mentioned before the Nazi movement who was in regime not only assimilated Hitler’s metaphors but gave life to them when it was determinate that the solution for the parasite is extermination and purifying the body, therefore the way to cleanse Germany is to exterminate the Jewish people using science- Hitler’s words lead to second war world and holocaust.
Mein Kampf wasn’t the only dangerous book that was banned, the book was banned due to transport murder and racism other books were banned due to other dangerous influences: Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita was banned because the book legitimised pedophilia, Oscar Wilde the picture of Dorian Gray was banned for legitimised homosexuality. There is one famous book that its content lead to the murder of John Lenon – The catcher in the rye by J.D. Salinger.
John Lenon was murdered at December 8 1980 by David Chapman at the entrance to his home at New York. At that time the killer was influenced by the book the Catcher in the Rye book that criticize the 1950’s bourgeois American society in their non authentic and material way of living. The writer critique against the American society incarnate by the lead character Holden Caulfield who was strongly criticising upper society of America, explaining how that society was hypocrite and fake, pretending to be quality and well mannered but realistically was rotten from the core.
The author was angry with that society, disappointment and hurt, all of his negative emotions reflected in his writing by the words of the main character, Chapman read these words and was strongly influenced by it, believing the writer is the only one who really understands him, the only one who tells the truth, Chapman seen himself as Holden Caulfield and Lenon as the symbol of social hypocrisy therefore the symbol must die. Holden had violent thoughts and a lot of anger, thoughts that persuaded Chapman to murder Lenon.
Literary, poetry, novels and books are the way people express their definition of reality, emotions and believes. Every writer tell his or her readers a secret from his or her world, sometimes this secret can change your perception of life, giving a new perspective to understand reality- this is the power of written words.
As Darida said the written words have life of its own out of the writers meaning, the text has independent life and story. This story can influence every person differently. Different influences can create different acts and these acts can give or take life. In his writing Hitler brought the death of 6 million Jewish people and caused a war world.
For conclusion as said in Szymborska’s poem, the same hand can write children story or manifest for murder. Our power as readers, publishers and writers is to choose to write or read the texts that contributing life not destroying it, publishing Mein Kampf at present days isn’t helping the fight against anti Semitism, instead its raising the hatred demon out of his forgotten grave.
Written by: Ynon Mager