Prof. Julie Reshe 2018 Summer Institute seminar

“Anti-Fascism with a Human Face”

 
 
“A Hitler within me”-- Mother Teresa

 

Hitler became a household name for one of the most terrifying things that happened to humanity.

Perhaps the most incomprehensible aspect, and for this reason terrifying, found within the figure of Hitler is not just the atrocities with which his name is associated, but his humanity as such.

Despite the commonsensical association of Hitler as a monstrous dehumanized figure, he was, as difficult as it is for us to admit it, a human being. Being human in Hitler’s case and in countless other cases (serial killers, sociopaths, the Donald Trumps, etc) doesn’t protect one from senseless brutality; indeed, as my seminar will demonstrate: being human is always already a form of brutality and compassion inextricably bound up together, despite liberal fantasies wishing to dream humanity into a state of idealize perfection.  In the case of Hitler, for example, he loved Eva Braun, played with children, selflessly defended animals rights, was devoted to a form of life and certain people and even painted an icon with the Virgin Mary and Jesus with butterflies.

But why does the human side of Hitler shocks us?; indeed we want to bury all aspects of his humanity as if it never existed. What’s the pathology behind this dehumanizing maneuver that we apply to Hitler (and others)?  In the universal human discourse in which “we are all part of the human race” Hitler is the exception, the exception on the bases of which all unwanted “otherness” is framed.

My point here is not to in any way redeem or defend Hitler from any of his murderous actions and “insane will-to-power”, but it’s rather to uncover this “fascistic logic” that we apply to Hitler the fascist. And in so doing, are we not thus committing ourselves to becoming a certain “Hitler within ourselves” as Mother Teresa famously said, in the very theoretical and ethical and universal act of de-humanizing judgment?

 Rhetorically, if one cannot accept the “other” they must de-humanize them by simply calling them “Hitler” and the argument, and any other form of critical thinking is terminated in the invocation of this very name. But why should we concede this power to Hitler, or more strictly, why is “Hitler” the name we assign to others when we are unable to accept them as “human”?

What would happen if we resisted this “fascistic gesture”? This is the question that my seminar will explore.