An egalitarian collective transforms into Nazis
When faced with autocracy, at first you will oppose it. Then you will slowly get used to it. In the end you will not be able to get away from it. Even in a fully democratic society like Germany, a so-called collective can turn into fascist, and a class of undisciplined students can turn into Nazis in a few days. An outstanding film Die Welle (The Wave) was adapted from a real event.In itsrelaxing opening, students from a typical German secondary school are faced with the challenge of a project week. Under leadership of their teacher Rainer Wenger’s they are forced to choose “autocracy” as a topic of the project. In the next few days this group of students has been greatly influenced by Nazism. They have become Nazis just after the teacher decided to create a real autocracy circumstance. This essay provides an in-depth discussion of how an egalitarian collective transforms into an autocracy through the use dictatorship interference and extreme collectivism in the film The Wave. Nihilism clearly prevails in the film. One of the students claims, “I have all I should have. Clothes, pocket money, etc. always make me feel bored”. In real life, we may be satisfied with the material things, however we may lack a sense of identity. Life was aimless and boring for some students from the movie. They had lax discipline and relied on alcohol, love, etc to relax. Growing up is so painful but the process of searching for self-identity is necessary in life. Nevertheless, dictatorship was meddling in that process through the demand of authority.
In the movie, the character of a teacher stands for a sense of Dictatorship. The book On Killing by Grossman describes a real historical example of Milgram’s experiments in the demand of authority. It is said in the book, The subjects sincerely believed that they were causing great physical pain, but despite their victim’s pitiful pleas for them to stop, 65 percent continued to obey orders increase the voltage, and inflict the shocks until long after the screams stopped and there could be little doubt that their victim was dead (Grossman 146). A team with a good leader can increase the efficiency in the battlefield, because the leader symbolizes authority in the minds of group members. People are willing to obey a leader. Talking about the movie, teacher Rainer Wenger is a symbol of authority in students’ minds. His words such as a mandatory order or an unreasonable criticism can be defined as authoritative. A teacher’s job is to provide education for students and obedience to the teacher is compulsory for all students. Accordingly, it provides a good chance for killers like Rainer Wenger to take action. Search of self-identity is a tough process, thus, a teacher must help students by giving a specific goal. In the movie, Rainer Wenger and his students make the same team logo, uniform, and a webpage to emphasize the role of autocracy. It is a good way to help them to find self-identity in this project. In this case, the dependence on a teacher gradually increases. The position of a teacher is much closer to authority in their minds. In their collective subconsciousness, obedience to a teacher acquires another sense. Now it equals to obedience to his authority, as well. As time went by, a formation of Nazi can be witnessed in Rainer Wenger. The meaning of an egalitarian collective society has changed in his class, as well.
In Nazi, there is no self-identity; rather people’s self-identity is associated with a leader who has authority over citizens. In a collective environment such as a modern society, there are two important social issues to be considered. These are a collective sense of belonging and identity. Once a so-called collective sense crosses the warning line it transforms into obedience to dictatorship and a gradual formation of an authoritarian begins. In the movie the characters of Marco, Tim and Mr. Rainer Wenger all seem to be victims as they look for collective belonging and social identity. On one hand, teacher Rainer Wenger enjoys the process of giving orders. On the other hand, students are willing to obey his orders and get a great satisfaction form it. They have to accept the idea that only the people who absolutely obey a group leader can be defined as members of a group. The senses of an individualism and authoritarianism have mixed up in this case so that all the characters cross the warning line. Collectivism can be defined as a noble value theory according to which individuals should belong to a society and consider interests of a collective rather than their personal interests. However, with an excessive emphasis on collectivism, it is easy to create an autocracy by sacrificing individualism. According to the Association for Psychological Science, “Social psychology research has always maintained that individuals often identify themselves with the social group they belong to and will bond together to defend their identity at all cost” (Association for Psychological Science). This research has said that a social group could give its self-identity to individuals, and individualism should give way for collectivism. In the movie The Wave, a connection between individualism and collectivism can be seen in some characters. For example, Karo was opposed to dictatorship in her mind. She might have changed her mind to individualistic worship due to family education that made her value freedom and independence.
The girl used to have her own opinion even though she was never allowed to express it. The Wave has strong supporters, but Tim, who is the main character in the movie, is the craziest one among them. He is an introverted, reticent, and unfulfilled boy. He is usually perceived as coward by his classmates. The reason for this is hidden in his family background. His family does not have capabilities to give more warmth and care to him. Nobody is willing to accept the boy in spite of his efforts to make friends with others. However, The Wave provides a turning point to Tim and he finally finds his self-identity and self-expression in The Wave. It becomes an important part of his life. Lisa, whose background is similar to Tim’s, is envious of Karo’s cleverness and beauty. However she feels that beauty and intelligence is nothing when she joined The Wavebecause she gets confidence at once. Marco constantly obeys orders of his girlfriend’s Karo without arguments and tries to release himself from The Wave. There are also some characters with conditions similar to Tim and Lisa’s. They all have a spiritual need of The Wave. As for a society, both extreme individualism and collectivism cannot exist in a social group while he society might lose social cohesion. In addition, the ugliness of human nature can be amplified by individualism. Nazism could not be created in collectivism while that would kill the goal of life. For example, although Tim acquired self-confidence, self-identity, and satisfaction from The Wave, his extreme dependence on the group made him lose his real identity.
At this time, human weakness provides a good chance for collectivism to transform into dictatorship. There are two kinds of people in a society which faces autocracy. The first one is willing to obey the authority and does not want to make some change in autocracy. The other one dares to resist the evil. In the real world, if the number of the former prevails in a social group, then is will turn into autocracy. In Saboteur, the role of Mr. Chiu and railroad policemen can represent these two different groups of people. It is said in the novel, To his right, at another table, two railroad policemen were drinking tea and laughing; it seemed that the stout, middle-aged man was telling a joke to his young comrade, who was tall and of athletic build. Now and again they would steal a glance at Mr. Chiu’s table (Jin 271-280). This novel was written during the Great Cultural Revolution which is one the darkest times in China’s history. The railroad policemen can be classified as the ruling class which has a good social status in this time. They obey orders, On the contrary, people like Mr. Chiu who come from a lower class reject it. In the movie, all the students except of Karo want to obey the order established by Rainer Wenger. Obedience to a leader gives themself-identity. It benefits them as they do not have to worry about the negative factors like the lack of experience.
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