[ 5 min read ]
Could we turn Adolf Hitler into a hero? I think it’s possible.
You just need to reframe what happened in the first half of the 20th century.
You just need to do what optimists do all the time. Tell yourself a nice, uplifting story about what happened.
When shit happens in people’s lives some people give up on life (they just can’t go on living after all what had happened to them), and others reframe and many of them become the most successful people on earth.
What does it mean to reframe?
When Steve Jobs was fired from Apple (the company he himself created), after a short period of being pissed he switched to other things and years later he started telling everybody that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have happened to him in his life.
Here are his exact words taken from the Commencement address delivered by him on June 12, 2005: “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life. During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the world’s first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together. I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith.”
That’s the most widely known example of a positive attitude. There are a gazillion similar examples to be found in the world. The reason? We’re storytellers. We tell stories. All kinds of different stories. How someone hurt us on purpose. How the things that happen in our lives mean something.
When I lost the court battle in which I tried to prove that I should have passed the bar exam (that it should be obvious if others who did what I did passed it) I was so pissed that I said to myself that I will sooner die than take this fucking exam again. I was that pissed. But also I saw no point. And I also lost any trust that was left in me in the fairness, impartiality and ethics of the whole legal industry.
I was pissed at the whole judicial system, at the whole legal industry, at human beings who will always guard their own interests first. And if your interests accidentally collide with someone else’s interests (someone who has more power than you and who is pulling the strings / is the authority / can decide the matter) then good luck trying to get a fair trial or any decision. It never happened in the history of mankind. If it happened it means that prior to that the person who was trying to guard his or her interests had lost the position of power or realized that this case is not a threat to him or her anymore and that’s the reason you won, had a fair trial, got what you wanted.
That’s precisely how it works. We can tell ourselves nice stories, but all of it is just bullshit. When your interests collide with the interests of someone who has more power than you and who is pulling the strings / is the authority / can decide the matter then you’ll lose. That’s how it is in life. Even if you’ll win one battle (accidentally), you’ll lose — they will want to get even and will hit you elsewhere. You will end up sacrificing something. Your reputation, your career, your family, etc. You can try to weaken their position or make them realize that your interests only seem to collide, but actually don’t, and if you’ve managed to accomplish one of these things then you can start to hope that you’ll get what you want.
But soon I started telling myself that losing this court battle and experiencing firsthand the workings of this whole flawed system (which is bound to be flawed as long as human beings pull the strings) gave me the opportunity to find my passion. That it was the best thing (professionally) that could have happened in my life. Which, as I later realized, may or may not be the truth.
It all depends on how we will frame it. I reframed it and told myself that had I not lost the court case I would most definitely still be a lawyer and never find my passion. That’s only one possible scenario — one which allows me to feel good about losing this fucking court battle.
Can we do the same with Adolf Hitler? Of course we can. Why not? We can reframe anything we want.
We think that WWII was the worst thing that happened in the XX century. Not only that. We assume at the same time that it was the worst thing that could have happened in the XX century. What if that’s not true? What if even worse things could have happened (not only better scenarios — no war, no mass deaths)? What if WWII prevented something even more disastrous for humanity? What if the scientific developments that were made in the years preceding WWII and during it (that were prompted by the war effort) helped prevent some kind of a deadly plague which would kill not 60M but 250M people? Impossible? Not at all. Or that in this war some even bigger doctor evil was killed and this prevented something much worse from happening. Impossible? Not at all. Or that it was some kind of a wake up call for humanity and had it not happened the use of nuclear weapon on a much larger scale would be much more probable. Impossible? Not at all.
Could it be that WWII (or Adolf Hitler) was this awful tasting medicine (in the words of Steve Jobs), which the patient (humanity) needed? Of course, most people will say it’s nonsense. But why will they say it? Because they’ve bought into something entirely different and have been programmed to consider such debates taboo. Because it is a very disturbing thought and most people won’t like it and will never want to assume that such possibility existed. Because their loved ones died. Because they believe (and want to continue to believe) that had it not happened nothing bad would have happened in its stead. Which is not guaranteed.