A great deal of the horror we experience when examining the development of murderous regimes comes from knowing that ordinary citizens from all walks of life were, to varying degrees, in on it. It does not take a doctorate in history to recognize the totalitarian regimes in question could not have succeeded if a certain percentage of the population had not, at bare minimum, indirectly supported or endorsed the noxious ideologies or succumbed to the poisonous propaganda the regimes in question spewed.
Yet, what of the people who did not support these regimes in any way shape or form? Why did they not rise up and challenge the evil en masse? A cursory look at history reveals some did, indeed, resist, but these were dealt with ruthlessly. As for the rest, they either ducked their heads in fear or remained passive as the revolting developments unfolded before them.
Analyzing the expansion of political and social evil in retrospect warps our perspective. To begin with, we tend to look back at the Nazi and Soviet regimes from what I would classify as, for lack of a better phrase, a privileged position. As citizens of the contemporary West, we feel we have evolved above and beyond the kind of evil the Nazis and Soviets epitomized. We have learned from our history and have built a civilization in which such atrocities simply could not develop or occur. We are better people possessing higher virtues, ethics, and morals. Thus, when we analyze the terrible past, we do so with considerable condescension and mild scorn.
There must have been something innately evil in them all, we conclude. Otherwise, how could it have happened? How could they have supported it? Collaborated with it? Allowed it?
As mentioned above, the answers to these questions are extremely complex, but I am going to go out on a limb and simplify the matter knowing full well that this generalized simplification does not address nor do justice to the totality of the questions raised.
As far as I can tell, the answer to the question of how and why ordinary citizens allowed or supported the strategic evil inherent in Nazism and Communism can essentially reduced to the following - they had forgotten God; they believed they were doing good.
Most modern people imagine they would have acted differently had they been alive in Hitler's Germany or Lenin and Stalin's Soviet Union. They imagine they would have recognized the ominous signs well in advance and would have resisted immediately even under the threat of possible death. Perhaps a few of them would have, but I imagine most modern people who nurse these delusions would have acted as badly or worse than the ordinary German or Russian living under the Nazis or the Soviets.
On what do I base this conjecture? On a simple premise, one encapsulated by the question below:
How many modern people are actively resisting the development of evil in our contemporary world?
Comparing our contemporary world with Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union is ridiculous! We live in a free world! We have democracies! We elect our leaders! No one oppresses us! There's no propaganda or surveillance and even if there is, it is mostly innocuous and transparent! We have human rights, diversity, inclusivity, and rule of law!
I will let the scoffs clear from the air for a moment before continuing.
You are right. It is a bit of a stretch to compare the contemporary West to two bloody dictatorships of the twentieth century. It really is a matter of apples and oranges, but I made no mention of either the Nazis or the Soviets in my question. What I wanted to know is the number of people actively resisting the development of evil in our contemporary world.
What kind of question is that? Only a few deplorables collaborate with evil now! The rest of us are all actively fighting against it! We fight against nationalism, which we label fascism! We shut down offensive hate speech! We don't allow anyone to oppress anyone else! We support open borders and safe and orderly mass migration! We abolish cruel reality and replace it with compassionate and altruistic unreality! We provide safe spaces for everyone! We endorse men who claim to be women and women who claim to be men and use legal and punitive means to punish anyone who dares to challenge this reality! We fight against the evil patriarchy and the oppression of Christianity and the family! We hire people based on everything but ability and competence! We adjust science to fit our ideological molds! We punish wasteful people to fight climate change! We rewrite history to make sure everything opposing our ideas is regarded as evil! We make a point of never allowing any evil views into the media, and if they do seep in, we attack them with the vitriol of a pack of savage dogs! We encourage children to be their real selves by giving them hormone treatments! We liberate women through abortions! We make sure children learn to be good citizens by thoroughly indoctrinating them into our narrative at schools! We only bomb evil people in the name of goodness! We hold white people accountable for their racist crimes! We have John Lennon's Imagine as our anthem! We . . .
Okay, okay. I get the point. You are right. You are resisting evil now and you certainly would have resisted the development of evil in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union had you lived then.
Oh, if only you had lived then, you upright, moral, secular citizens! Your resistance and actions would have spared the world from a great deal of evil indeed!