The way dictators like Hitler and others are able to move people to follow them and support unspeakable actions is through pathos. These ‘leaders’ convince the masses that they — leader and people — have something in common — a common enemy or a scapegoat. Because the leader has ‘power,’ the people give him their support (their power, their will), and they go along with whatever.
Studying the history of Hitler is instructive. Studying other figures in history is also instructive. For example, Jesus taught the people of his day how to remove themselves from this kind of influence.
If people are told to focus on their fear (“We’re being invaded by rapists!”), pain, need, and despair (“Look at these horrible conditions!”), they are going to listen to someone who acknowledges their plight (“The Middle Class has been forgotten for far too long!”), claims to have the same ‘enemy’ they do (“We know who they are!”), but is more powerful (“I don’t need this job; I have Billions!”), the people will feel they have found a bully who is finally on their side. All the rhetorical devices are used to strengthen and reinforce the alliance: slogans, mantras, symbols, hats, hand-gestures, etc.
The people of Jesus’ time were dealing with Caesar and the Roman Empire. Some thought the solution was to fight back in forceful opposition and were looking for a strong warrior-type leader to do just that. But Jesus was a wise rhetorician. He didn’t counter with repetitive slogans, mantras, or whip up the masses against a common enemy. Jesus’ approach was to change the game by changing the initial conditions.
If you want to change a system, change the initial conditions.
Jesus addressed the initial conditions of the time — the people’s focus on fear, pain, need, and despair. He encouraged the people to not be afraid, to ease their pain by removing what is causing the pain, to forget their despair by caring for others, to worry less about what they have or their needs for the future, and to spend their energy loving all people. What about Caesar? “Give him his coins.” Their lives and souls were not Caesar’s to take.
If you want to lessen the power of an entity, eliminate your need for it.
People who live ‘small,’ who need little, who appreciate what they have and share it, and who work to remove what gives them pain are not inclined to be looking for a bully. They don’t need what a bully promises. They are meek, but they are not weak. They are strong and not easily swayed.
The meek will survive all this and inherit the earth…and take better care of it when they do. And this is how they’ll do it. This is the rhetoric of Jesus.