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Posted on August 29th, 2012, by

In the article called “Fascinating Fascism”ť   Susan Sontag analyzes the  book by famous Nazi actress and film director – Leni Riefenstahl.

Analyzing her recent book on the spotlight of all her past artistic career the author of the article proves that Leni possessed an important role in Nazi Germany. She also finds similarities between her Nazi artwork and recent book. The analysis of Leni Riefenstahl’s works and outlook have an important function. They help the author to shed light to the driving forces of Nazi ideology.  Longing for supernatural, longing for the signs of their own majesty and strength combined with depression and poor economical and social position resulted in the appearance of the most devastating and cruel cult in the world ”“ Nazism. The article is interesting not only because it gives keys to understanding Nazi aesthetics and mechanisms of influence. It also gives idea about the way different teachings and cults gain popularity in the world. The author of the article drives parallels between Leni’s recent vindication and growing interest to the inner principles of Fascism. I agree with the basic statement of the article  which presents an idea that Fascist ethics and aesthetics appeals to deepest feelings of people. That is the reason of popularity of Nazi and that is also the reason their ideas are gaining popularity again. Basic ideas of Nazi aesthetics can be found in popular contemporary trends.

In her  article “Fascinating Fascism”ťÂ Â  Susan Sontag analyzes things which made Nazi aesthetics appealing to so many people in the world.

The author explains growing interest to this theme by the universal character of values used by Nazi regime.  Nazi party and its main inspirer and leader ”“ Adolph Hitler used sophisticated mixture of ideology, propaganda, force impact, lies and manipulation to get power. Their ideology touched the most sacred  parts of human souls and thus gave people hope to satisfy their need for supernatural.  The idea of personal salvation and idea of chosen nation which can save the world became the basis of Nazi ideology. Hitler used a sophisticated premise which guaranteed personal salvation only by service of the common good of the entire German nation. Idea to reject personal self in order to reach the depths of the soul is mirrored in many world religions including Zen. In Buddhism self and individuality are not the parts of the objective reality. They are the parts of human nature, which can be expressed only through social interaction. Self is rejected by Zen as an independent reality. That is why Oriental hostility towards self and identity meets fierce resistance in the West. Western people are not ready to leave their identities so easily. Very careful attitude to self becomes a great disadvantage and even obstacle for the practice of Zen. Ideas of Salvation and sacrifices for the common good helped Hitler to make his ideology popular among different kinds of people.

Sontag explains the popularity of Nazism not only by good leadership qualities  of Adolph Hitler. She also notes that universal nature of Nazi aesthetics became appealing to many people. Growing interest to Riefenstahl the author also explains by the ability of Nazi propaganda to touch the deepest roots of human nature in their longing for occult. As states the author of the article speaking about Riefenstahl: “Although the Nuba are black,  not Aryan, Riefenstahl’s portrait of them evokes some of the larger themes of Nazi ideology: the contrast between the clean and the impure, the incorruptible and the defiled, the physical and the mental, the joyful and the critical”ť (Sontag, p.85). The role of women is interesting and controversial point in many teachings and religions. Different schools propose different ways to resolve this issue. The role of women was of minor importance in Nazi Germany. “The fascist ideal: a society in which women are breeders and helpers, excluded from all ceremonial halls and represent a threat to the integrity and strength of the party”ť (Sontag, 78). I belie e that  similarities   between the becoming of Nazi ideology in Germany and widespread of Zen teaching in the West prove that accent on the occult side of the teaching is an important component of Nazi popularity.  Despite it is hard to compare Nazi and peaceful Oriental religion there must be common features which influenced the popularization of them. Christian religion discriminated itself during the recent time and it become harder for Western people to find different fallacies of this religion. Zen came to the West as a result of people’s dissatisfaction with the religion they had there. Here we can find noticeable parallels with  Nazi. Zen is a specific form of Buddhism, which appeared in post-Heian period. Zen became accommodated for those, who practice it. So, it obtained new characteristics in the West. This process of accommodation was repeated in each country where Zen appeared. Hitler and his companions did not invent new aesthetic principles.

They only rediscovered basic principles which satisfied the deepest desires for supernatural hidden in all people. Same does Zen, an ancient oriental practice which centers on inner nature of people and gives them hope to access inner self.

Nazi aesthetics appeals to many people because it promised to resolve external problems by reaching deepest source inside of each separate individual. Nazism appeared during the time when external problems made people turn attention to their inner worlds in the search for inspiration and Hitler with his ideology managed to give people this opportunity. “The right of way of the German spirit”ťÂ  mentioned by the author of the article became that joining force which helped  to  unite so many people together (Sontag, 1980). In addition, this philosophy counted on the strong methodological basis and proposed the way out of difficult situation, called ones guilty  and promised future blossoming and superiority of German nation. Women were not considered to have same spiritual and religious abilities as men did.

Ideology of Nazi Germany derives from: “a preoccupation with situations of control, submissive behavior, extravagant effort, and the endurance of  pain; they endorse two seemingly opposite states, egomania and servitude”ť (Sontag, p.73). Zen Buddhism  came to the west just in time when people get lack of stimuli in life. Its appearance in the West corresponds to the human need for something to believe.

Based on controversial principles Nazi ideology provided the type of strong leader which promised people both ”“ a wise guidelines and opportunity to discover their inner self. These combination became  especially appealing for the followers of Nazi regime. Rediscovery of inner self is the main purpose of Zen Buddhism as well.

Opponents of universal nature of Nazi doctrine attribute success  of the regime to good leadership qualities and well-planned external and internal policy. Hard economical situation, inflation, unemployment and devastation put the country on the border of economical crises and undermined the faith of people in the democracy and democratic perspective. Nazi philosophy of “chosen nation”ť reflected perfectly the mood of suppressed and dispirited nation. Some specialist attribute the success of Nazi occupation to the external factors and put less attention to the inner filling of this ideology, which became the most attractive to the most of people.

Nazi ideology which turned to be the most devastating and the most popular ideology of the last century,  presents a unique combination of aesthetic principles which conditioned its popularity. Nazi doctrine contains some  common features, which can be found in many popular trends of our time. Strong figure of the leader, ideas of choosiness and salvation are among the basic ideas of Nazi. Ideas of Salvation and following the religious authorities can be paralleled to the ideas of Zen Buddhism which gained much popularity in the West during the recent time.

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