Slavoj Žižek, while delivering a lecture at Institute for sociology and philosophy, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, explains how SS head Heinrich Himmler used The Bhagavad Gita’s meanings to justify killings, without any moral remorse. “You need this type of a vision to enable you to do the horrors”, Zizek says. The Nazi soldiers carried out genocides, killed women and children, and committed unimaginable horrors, the problem was – how to enable the soldiers to do this ‘without becoming beasts’. In Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna has doubts while in the battlefield – ‘Do I have the right? thousands will die’, and Lord Krishna convinces him of the legitimacy of the violence he was to inflict. He explains how material realities are just appearances, true reality is the reality of your self (aatma) – “What you can destroy ‘deserves to perish’. Don’t get involved”. Zizek sees this as a good totalitarian propaganda when it’s difficult to carry out such violence. Himmler’s argument to convince soldiers suffering from pangs of conscience and ethical doubt was that – ‘most people could do great things for the country, even lay down their lives, but a true hero is the one who is ready to lose his soul for the country, to do horrible things for it. The true greatness is to elevate yourself above this temptation of ‘ordinary humanity’, true ethical greatness is when for a higher cause, you are ready to act beyond good and evil’.
It is all too relatable in the present context as we see a renewed popularity in totalitarian and fascist worldviews, be it in the form of Hindutva or Islamic fundamentalism (Islamic State et al) etc. Watch the video for yourselves and drop a comment telling us what you feel. In case you are interested in reading more about this, here’s an informative article on the same.
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