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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Essay on Nationalism in Erich Fromm's "The Individual in the Chain of Illusion"

Nationalism in Erich Fromm “The Individual in the Chain of Illusion”
What are illusions? Illusions are things that people see which are not real but the people think of them as real.  It is like dipping a pencil on a glass full of water.  A person can see that the pencil bends though in reality it is still straight.  Illusions, therefore, are simply matters of perceiving things but they can be harmful to a person or to a society if they believe in the illusions and they act in the belief that the illusions are true.  Illusions can be dangerous.
What is the first step to breaking from illusions? The answer is to become aware that what we see are illusions and to know the difference between what is a mere illusion and what is a reality.
This is what Erich Fromm wanted to achieve.  He wanted to expose the illusion that enslaves man so that man can liberate himself and become free again.  He wanted to correct the people’s perception so that they can realize the folly of their actions.
In “The Individual in the Chain of Illusion”, Fromm stated the devastations brought about by the World War I to the society. Countless number of lives were lost. Soldiers lost their limbs. Innocent civilians lost a family member. Properties were destroyed. There was simply utter destruction.  Despite the lessons learned from World War I, World War II still happened.  Because of the improvement in the warfare and weapons, there were more lives lost.
Fromm revealed that though the majority was against war, the political leaders made going to war inevitable in view of the emphasis given to nationalism.  The leaders convinced the people that war was inevitable and that they need to show their love for their country by joining the war and protecting their nation against its enemies.
According to Fromm, “The Germans were persuaded that they were fighting for freedom, and so were their Western countries.” (p.329).  In the face of this illusion of nationalism, the importance of human suffering was lost.  People became obedient to their political leaders even if it was against their conscience.  Conformity to the political leaders led to the people to lose their individuality. 
Sometimes, it is necessary for a person to follow the shout of his conscience.  If he feels that whatever he is about to do is wrong then he should follow his heart regardless of whether the act is tantamount to disobedience of the political leaders.
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1 comment:

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