Having recently spent five weeks in Germany (which mostly went rather well), I feel still unable to fully understand (or even accept!) a rather shocking observation: three people whom I have known since school times had suddenly found their political home on the extreme right, mostly in reaction to the inflow of asylants from, mainly, the Middle East.
With one of those three (let’s call him M) I have a regular email correspondence, and his last, long mail was reaching me two days before I started on my travel. The other two (H and S) I was meeting face-to-face. About M I was not that astonished: in spite of his profession as a psychologist I know him since decades as a rather neurotic representative of a, let’s say, rather US Republican line of thinking, e.g. always eager to crack down in draconic ways on anybody who deviates from his standards of morality and ”rationality” (to which, according to him, Muslims anyway do not live up). H and S, though, I had on earlier occasions experienced as quite good-willing persons. But now they were politically so excited that it was simply impossible to reason with them in any way. H felt by Angela Merkel reminded of her mother (whom she hates deeply), thought it also highly unjust that money was being spent on asylants as long as the potholes in Hamburg’s biking lanes had not been repaired – her opinion was that there should still many more asylant shelters burn (without harming people, but anyway …). S felt threatened in his German identity (which he felt best represented by a book which he had been required to read at school, but which nobody reads any more anyway – which is certainly not the fault of those Middle Eastern asylants), and in addition he had heard/read about a crime which had been committed by a few Muslims and which had been a bad violation of one of his taboos – which made him to call asylants (with deep conviction) ”rats!!!”. And of course he does not know any asylant (or other Muslim) personally, nor any rat.
To develop very strong opinions for the reasons that somebody reminds of one’s mother or that a personal taboo has been violated is commonly called ”neurotic behaviour”. And also in the case of M there is a long-established neurosis at play. The truly horrifying thing, though, is the fact that it was obviously very easy for whomever was playing the part of the demagogue (media, social media, personal contacts …) to activate those neuroses, and that to such a degree that any reasoning became impossible. I have right now only beginnings of ideas what mechanisms could be behind this phenomenon, but I intend to keep in autumn a discussion group (in English) about Political Psychology. And if any reader of this blog should be interested, I should be very grateful if s/he could express the interest in a comment on this text.