My generation (Baby Boomers) was brought up, in the 50s and early 60s, pretty largely on the mythos of World War II movies.
The bad guys in that conflict were presented as a lot of extremely uptight looking guys whose every aspect or act screamed precision -- their hair, their uniforms, their way of speech, constantly affirming their obedience and reverence for the chain of command with "Yes Sir!"s,"Heil Hitler!"s, and elaborate and precise salutes, and scurrying around obeying orders like machines.
What were we told (by example) to do with this vision? Blow it up! Blow up everything in sight! Mow them down! And who was doing all this blowing up and mowing down, but a bunch of rather slovenly, loose-natured guys, with their uniforms rumpled or half-discarded and usually needing a shave and washing-up. Their leaders, all the way to the top of the field command, were generally shown living by a general directive (blow up and mow down), but otherwise, often displaying creativity; not visibly answerable to anyone; often disobeying the letter of command while obeying its spirit, and the general directive. Often, too, the "enemy" was shown with rigid obedience as their Achilles heel.
These movie Nazis were a caricature of authoritarianism, structure, and obedience. Ruthlessness was a somewhat less prominent feature, and sometimes we were ruthless ourselves (though with a certain etiquette about our ruthlessness that the Nazis lacked). Mostly, these mythical visions did not look at what really caused the Germany of the 30s and early 40s to act in such a bizarre and awful way; the structure of the sickness and/or evil that spread through and seized that society. When we did pay attention to other aspects of the "enemy" society, besides their machineline precision, the aspects stressed were extreme ruthlessness and racism.
What narrative could be better calculated to raise a generation like mine? One which celebrated rebellion, and had a simplistic revulsion towards authority and obedience; wanted to, symbolically at least, blow up structure and authority; show ourselves the antitheses of Nazis by acting imaginatively and often anarchically.
There were other ways of reacting to the mythos that we were shown, which could be gone into and rationalized. Obviously some were reacting in different ways than that described, like joining ROTC and/or being obsessed with anti-Communism, or wearing suits and striving for material success -- but there is surely a plausible relation of cause and effect between the narrative and the anarchic side of my generation.
While we were being taught this mythos of rigid Nazism and the virtue of blowing it up, we were also being taught (more overtly) to revere the flag; to stand up and put our hands over our hearts when the national anthem is played; to wear neat clothes and neat haircuts; to stay in line, elect leaders, and often obey them, once elected. We formed teams and played by rules. But all this, when examined closely, could be reasonably interpreted as just a milder, or more subtle version of the mythos of Nazism that we were presented with, and a large portion of my generation saw it in just that way.
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3 years ago