A World of Speculation

Philip Pullman’s trilogy, His Dark Materials, has spurred thoughts about fascism and how it shows itself today, and perhaps tomorrow.

The point of the trilogy is that the entire human tradition of good and evil has been turned upside down. God is evil; Satan is good. All forms of Tradition are soul-destroying. There is no Kingdom of Heaven; at best it’s up to us to build a Republic of Heaven–though how to tally up the elections in all these universes will be complicated, when apparently a small place like Florida gives us almost insurmountable difficulties.

In this view of morality, murder is OK if the right person commits it, for a good enough reason–one good-enough reason is that the murder victim offended the murderer. Another unaddressed murder is when the Great Leader Lord Azriel murders a child to break open a bridge between worlds. It was necessary so that he could mount his War on Heaven.

Leaving behind all the accumulated wisdom of the past (the dreaded Magisterium in Pullman’s worlds), we go forward into a new existence, the world Satan (or was that Lucifer?) was trying to build when the regimented angels won the War in Heaven.

What connects this with Hitler is an observation I read somewhere on the Web that Hitler never tried to conserve anything. Yes. He believes in leaving behind soul-deadening tradition and building something new, from the ground up. He was the “Leader” who became the “Supreme Law Lord,” for whom murder was simply a matter of scientific necessity. I thought, reading Pullman’s trilogy, that a sensitive child of the right age who lacked a moral grounding would be more likely to become a Nazi after reading this book than before it.

But I don’t mean Nazi exactly. The National Socialist design elements—the swastika, the flared helments, the German shepherd dogs, the steam engines and crematoria—are all out of fashion now. (According to a growing segment of society, apparently, anti-Semitism accompanied by swastikas is bad; anti-Semitism accompanied by kaffiyehs is OK.) But these are all incidental to the Nazi mindset.

More important to the essence of Nazism is the idea that we can cut loose from our roots, do something new, overturn the old morality, get rid of the tiresome idea that murder is bad and that God is good.