The reason why we are doomed to have another Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, or just a murderous despotic ruler in the west, is not our inability to learn from history. We have learned that it is possible, we have learned to be vigilant for the signs. We have learned to watch each other, especially our political opponents. What we haven’t learned, and why it will happen again, is how to keep an eye on ourselves. We have not learned to question our political allies. We learned, incorrectly, from the Nazis, and from Stalin’s Russia that these people were evil, and that their followers, and supporters, or sympathizers were malicious or ill-intended toward others.
We learned that there were many who disagreed but remained silent, and said to ourselves, “if any one tries to do that here, I will stand up against them.” That is the problem. It isn’t the people who refused to speak up that we need to learn from, but the people who agreed with, supported or promoted the fascists, communists and tyrants. We should not be worried about the silence of those who objected, but of the acquiescence of those who followed, and the guiltless confidence of those who encouraged their leaders. We should learn how hundreds of thousands of people, even millions, agreed with and supported these harsh rulers, because, unless we recognize what it is about human nature that allows us to follow those who would do what we deem unthinkable, we are more likely to be the supporters of such rulers. Until we acknowledge that these same human traits are in us, we are doomed to relive the worst parts of history, because it is not a failure to learn from history that puts us at risk, but our success in learning the wrong message.