The Wave (1981) Die Welle (2008)
At this point I am supposed to say watch out for spoilers 🙂
However,this time it is not necessary.
Because this is a story for all of us.There are no plots or sub plots,no villains,no heroes who save the day.
We ARE the villains. For, where else do they come from?
We are also the heroes IF we want to be.
But only if we want to be. Only if we are ready to think differently. As an individual. As a living breathing being. One who will not be influenced by what goes around him/her. One who will not conform.
The moment you start to conform whether you are a right winger or a so called liberal, you face the danger of turning into an automaton…whatever it is that your beliefs are, you first need to think as a human being. One who has been given the brains to do so.
These movies and the book , that this post is about are based on a real life incident.
What happens ,what can happen when we cease to think on our own.
When we become part of the herd. Herd mentality and/or mob mentality they call it.
(And oh don’t think that mob mentality can only be about the right wingers in India’s context.It can as much be for the ‘liberal’ ones.Which is why blindly following one thing because the other is worse is equally dangerous.)
In my experience, most normal , ordinary people are somewhere between being staunch proponents of their beliefs and being a complete liberal for whom anything goes.
Which is why I personally do not believe in anything or anyone called secular in India today .
There are always shades of grey.
Sample Nietzsche’s words…(ofcourse, Nietzsche himself was no genius and some of his works are quite offensive due to their bigotry)
”Herd mentality describes how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors, follow trends, and/or purchase items.”
”People in these herds are broken up into two groups, explains Friedrich Nietzsche, a philosopher who coined the phrase.
One lended itself to the religious points of views- their beliefs and how those dictated their actions–
while the other lended itself to influence by the media- more liberal and based upon what others perceive as ‘right’ (following trends, social norms, etc.)”
Die Welle means The Wave in german.
The Wave:-How it started.
In 1967, at the Cubberley High School in Palo Alto, California, World History teacher Ron Jones was asked about the Holocaust by a student. “Could it happen here?”. According to the press release accompanying the latest retelling of the events that followed, “Jones came up with an unusual answer. He decided to have a two week experiment in dictatorship. His idea was to explain fascism to his class through a game, nothing more. He never intended what resulted, where his class would be turned into a Fascist environment. Where students gave up their freedom for the prospect of being superior to their neighbors.
Monday morning he straightened the classroom, dimmed the lights and played Wagnerian music. The word “discipline” was written on the blackboard. He then had the students sit up straight in their chairs with hands placed flat across the small of their backs. In this setting, he devoted the remainder of the class to the topic of discipline.
By the second day, Jones developed a special greeting, a wave. It became known as the Third Wave, and if students saw each other outside class, they were to use it. In his lectures, Jones went from “discipline,” to “strength through community,” and then to “strength through action.”
By midweek, his “experiment” expanded to sixty students, and by the week’s end, more than two hundred were participating. Other teachers and the school’s principal stood by and watched.
The first sign of concern came when some students had taken it upon themselves to report others who did not conform. After just four days, things got out of hand. Jones feared for the safety of a few students who refused to participate. To his dismay and alarm, the experiment was so blindly embraced by the students, that he cut the project short. “Initially I just wanted to show my students how powerful the pressure to belong can be, but the exercise got out of control. A momentum began to build that I couldn’t slow, or even deter. I became frightened by the day-to-day happenings in class, and was forced to call it off,” recalls Jones.
Overnight, Jones became the subject of national controversy, sparking discussion on the appropriateness of exposing young adults to life’s realities. To some, he was an innovative hero and teacher; to others he was a Communist. Many people were shocked and embarrassed that the same mentality which led to the Holocaust could develop so quickly, in 1967, in a pristine all-American setting, and an academic town no less, home to the well-known Stanford University.”
(Thanks for reminding me Biju:) )
“I’m not proud of The Wave but I can’t escape it! It is like a calling that just gets louder! For me The Wave is a story of ghosts. What we can be. The allure of good and evil. Choices. I’m sorry, but in the end I can’t answer your questions about The Wave. I am a gym teacher and grandparent. Confused by today’s events. Worried. Feeling unable to affect change. Content to play basketball with a grandchild, listen to the songs in my head. Spitting the poetry of everyday life in quiet reverence.
I suspect, the answers you seek are closer than some distant drum beat. It is the choices you make. The decision to include or exclude people from your life. To walk across the room to meet a stranger. The stranger in you and all of us. To trust yourself and others. To fight for justice and equality in the pulse of your life. To love your children. To be silly. Playful. Organize for a sense of community and better life for all. A life that can’t be given away to any fear or tyrant. A life that can’t be planned or explained, only appreciated.
Yes, there is good and evil in what we do. The good in me yearns for freedom. The evil exists at the edge of road rage or a racial slur waiting to explode into a world of perfection, answers, and order. I am capable of either.”
-Ron Jones (American High School teacher)
These are the words of a American teacher. A teacher, for whom an experiment in the classroom in 1967 went horribly wrong. An experiment on which an American Television Film was made, a book was written and a German movie (2008) was made.
”A thought-provoking dramatization of an actual classroom experiment on individualism vs. conformity in which a high school teacher formed his own “Reich” (called “The Wave”) to show why the German people could so willingly embrace Nazism. This unflinching yet sensitive 1981 Emmy Award-winner raises critical questions: When does dedication to a group cross the line from loyalty to fanaticism? Does power corrupt? What is the nature of propaganda and mass persuasion? Can something like the Nazi Holocaust happen again?”
-Lines from a review of the movie
More on The Wave here (DO READ THIS)
The Wave is now standard teaching material in Germany.
Dieter Fuchs, who has taught ‘The Wave’ in his Münster school for 15 years. Mainly, though, he admires its central message: “To show how human beings are capable of falling under the spell of a dangerous leader with charisma, and how that’s not only a problem of German society, but also maybe of other societies.“
Fuchs and other devotees assign ‘The Wave’ alongside classics like ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’.
Do pick up the book and try to see the movies as well.
The book as well as both the movies are quite fantastic to read and watch. It is a world that seems normal. People like you and me inhabit this world. They think they are normal just as we do. They think Nazism is a thing of the past just as we do.
They think that they live in a sane ,logical, thinking society just as we do.
And yet they turn into the very same people they had loathed. Over a period of just a few days a group of teenagers are transformed from thinking individuals to being nothing more than automatons.
The subject itself is quite gripping. It terrifies you when you start thinking about it.
What actually sent a shiver down my spine was the fact that this had happened in REAL LIFE.
Do go through all the links. And ofcourse research on your own too. But DO pick up the book and watch the movies.
Ask anyone who has read the book and/or seen the movie about what the lesson has been and chances are that they will reply that it teaches us or rather shows us why we should not blindly follow a leader.
For that matter who makes an individual a leader?
So is it not our responsibility to question the leaders at all times?
So yes, NOT blindly following a leader is one important lesson.
The other is the sheer horror that watching the book and movie fills us with.
How easy is it for Fascism or Nazism to rise??
Its a matter of days.
This is why the need to be constantly vigilant. Constantly alert. Constantly thinking.
When I first saw the movie the Fascism /Nazism angle was constantly on my mind. Maybe because this is exactly the subject I teach. Also, it showed me exactly what NOT to do in the classroom, a classroom where young minds are sitting. All of them looking upto you. It taught me where to draw the line between reality and play acting.
But now let me add one more thing that I did take from the movie. A lesson if you may.
It is easy and justified to call certain right wingers bad or pathetic or what have you…any name that you want. Even a kid can tell you that a man who says ,” I will cut off your hands /legs /body because you belong to such and such community’‘ is a bad man/woman. Or even some of the previous leaders in this pantheon of demi-gods and goddesses. (or so the supporters would like to think)
We all know how fanatical some right wingers can get at times. And really,it is not such a complex subject for a debate unless ofcourse someone has got a few nuts missing.
Edited to add:-I understood Manju’s point and let me add that supporting the BJP does NOT mean someone is a fundamentalist. All BJP supporters in India are not fundamentalists.
Just as being a Congress supporter does NOT mean that one has magically and mysteriously acquired a ‘secular’ identity.
Secular and fundamentalist are not terms that are someone’s ‘jaagir’ or are to be flung at people in contempt..
Both the parties have fundamentalists AND secularists (if there are any left today) in their ranks and among their supporters.
BJP and Congress both cannot claim to be above and beyond questioning.
IF THE BJP CAN BE CALLED A RIGHT WINGER PARTY, THEN THE CONGRESS CAN BE CALLED A PSEUDO SECULAR ONE.(Oh and before the trolls object I do love to use the word pseudo secular for the Congress.:) It describes them best)
(Let me show you how in my next post)
It is important that every action, every activity of the right wingers is highlighted.
Highlighted so that we never forget.
However, what is equally important ,perhaps more than any other is the need to realize that we need to question our ‘secular’ institutions too.
So let me repeat my previous line. Highlight each activity of the pseudo seculars too, so that we do not forget EVER.
It is important to question the ‘pseudo secular’ parties so that we are not fooled again.
That we need to question their credentials every single day.
That not a moment should pass where we should take it for granted that they are ‘all right’.
The probing questions…the scrutiny…all of the secular institutions /individuals/parties should be subjected to it.
The only way we can hope that we do not turn into a version of The Wave is by ensuring that all secular people are questioned .Every damn day.
That they should never take it for granted that the ‘secular title’ rests securely on their head just because there is another bigger villain in the picture.
OR Just because they ‘say so’.
For, in trying to distance ourselves from the rabid elements, are we moving towards a blind following of some not so desirable ones??
Why give anyone that much power? Why make them feel so secure?
Why not refuse to be on either side because both look like different faces of the same evil ?
If one will gladly kill you in the name of religion, be assured that the other will merely stand without a care in the world and watch you being killed.
Now tell me, which one will you pick?
I want to kick/throw out/strangle/kill both of them equally.
Why not stand in the middle and look for individuals who can measure up to your standards?
For that matter, why not be that individual yourself? (I know, easier said than done)
And remember there are NO individuals with impeccable credentials who cannot be questioned, no institutions which are totally secular and not open to questioning, nothing in a democracy is above questioning.
And if they ARE, really are concerned about you the aam janta, then they will WELCOME your questions.
They will not turn right around and start pointing fingers at someone else instead of answering YOUR QUESTIONS.
”Yes, yes we KNOW that the ‘OTHER’ is bad, but what will YOU do for us??” That should be the question nay, the counter question we should ask these so called secular parties/people/institutions.
Questioning authority is the first thing we learn on our own.(or atleast should for those who dont)
And questioning authority is what we need to teach or show our children as well.
The only democracies that survive are the ones where no one is above scrutiny.
PS:-IHM, Dhiren and Winnie, I am not able to comment on your blogs.Actually it is a problem with most blogspot blogs:((
And from what I have noticed this problem is only with the commentboxes which have been embedded beneath the posts.:((
I am able to comment on the separate comment pages or the opo out ones:)
So if you see me ‘arriving’ and not commenting..:D why! It would be sacrilegeous !:D it would!
So I am trying my best..:D
bear with me please:))
Are any of you facing this problem as well? 😦