Cardinal Pell’s God and Hitler have a lot in common · 29 November 2010

Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, has said Mass to install the former Australian Defence Force chief General Peter Cosgrove as chancellor of the Australian Catholic University, saying:

‘’A minority of people, usually people without religion, are frightened by the future,’’ Cardinal Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, said: “It’s almost as though they’ve nothing but fear to distract themselves from the fact that without God the universe has no objective purpose or meaning. Nothing beyond the constructs they confect to cover the abyss.’’

According to the Sydney Morning Herald (29 November), Pell said education was not enough to create a civilised society, that faith was necessary too. He cited the example of 20th century Germany, which he said was the best educated society in the world when Hitler became leader. We should not create an ‘’ideological apartheid’’ between faith and reason, Pell said.

Some extracts from my book, Dictatorial CEOs & their Lieutenants: Inside the Executive Suites of Napoleon, Stalin, Ataturk, Mussolini, Hitler and Mao, suggests that Cardinal Pell’s God and Hitler had a lot in common.

I wrote:

All CEOs benefit from the need of people to believe in someone who can take care of unfamiliar or scary issues, leaving them to get on with their daily lives and work. Sometimes belief in a mystical God fulfils this need, but often and sometimes concurrently this need is fulfilled by a Man: some individual who is perceived to be so special and unique that religious terminology is often used in reference to him.

While a CEO can achieve and maintain dictatorial power without being the Man, that power will be precarious because of its narrow base of discipline and reward that is, a narrow base of interest and fear. Being the Man adds emotion to the support base of the dictatorial CEO: what people want to believe and what they hope for blinds them to many realities, and often wilfully so; they became gullible, often to an extreme degree. What would otherwise be seen as good, is seen as very good; what would otherwise be seen as very bad, is seen as merely bad; logical connections between issues and events are dismissed in favour of more emotional responses; and the alternatives to the dictatorial CEO are regarded with excessive concern.

Those people in a country, or in any other organisation who believe in the Man provide not only a powerful general support base, but the well from which the successful dictatorial CEO draws many of his lieutenants.

As Mussolini put it, people do not want to rule, but to be ruled and to be left in peace. This is what attracted Speer to Hitler and the Nazi party in the early 1930s: My inclination to be relieved of having to think, particularly about unpleasant facts In this I did not differ from millions of others.

Aspiring and actual dictatorial CEOs exploit these desires. They know, as Hitler said, that the masses need an idol, and they encourage and promote this idea. In 1937, when Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana, had a birthday and wanted to take a ride on the new Moscow Metro, Stalin who rarely made public appearances decided to join the group in a special train. The passengers going to and from the other trains noticed Stalin and gave him ovations. One of Stalin’s group later described his reaction: He sort of said about the ovations given to him: the people need a tsar; that is, a person to whom they can bow low and in whose name they can live and work.

As use of the term a Tsar suggests, the Man is only one of several terms that can be used to convey the same sentiment; others, as we shall see, include Tribune and God himself.

Aspiring and actual dictatorial CEOs also know that this desire for someone special who can rule and deal with unpleasant facts particularly in times of organisational stress is so strong that a blind eye will often be turned to concerns about methods. As editor of the newspaper Popolo dItalia in 1917, Mussolini wrote that Italy needed a Man:

A man who has when needed the delicate touch of an artist and the heavy hand of a warrior. A man who is sensitive and full of will-power. A man who knows and loves people, and who can direct and bend them with violence if required.

Maybe this is Pell’s—and also Islamic extremists—view of God, Iraq and Afghanistan?