Once upon a time in Germany, an ultra-nationalist and extreme right wing party, the Nazi party, came to power. The leader of this party, Hitler, was a Catholic Christian who thought that non-Germans living in Germany were destroying “German culture”. He was particularly pissed off with the Jews. They were a religious minority in Germany that did not follow the beliefs of the majority. To make matters worse, they were generally well off since they tended to choose careers in commerce and finance. These people, in the opinion of Hitler, needed to be taught a lesson. They needed to be told who was in charge, they had to be cured of their belief that they were equal citizens of a state that respected all its citizens regardless of their religious affiliations. Germany was a Christian state, and those upstart Jews needed to be taught a lesson.
Hitler did not win an outright majority, rather he won a plurality of votes in the elections. However, once he came to power, he claimed to be the choice of the people, the choice of the majority. A person defending Christian German culture against the evil designs of the Jews, who did not have the good manners to allow their German overlords to dictate to them how they should live their lives.
Imagine what it was like for Jews, and other minorities in Germany, after he won office. Perhaps they wanted to protest against his oppressive rule, but were told by the rest of the country that they need to “respect the wish of the majority”. Even if the will of the majority infringes on your personal freedoms, you must abide by it, they said. After all, this is a christian country and you must follow our rules if you want to live here.
I imagine that many people told those who wanted to protest against the infringement of the Nazi regime on personal rights that they should either accept the will of the majority or leave. Because, as we all know, the majority can never be wrong. It can never, for example, establish a law saying that people of African descent are inferior to people of European decent and that their only place in society is as slaves — the rule of the majority could never do such a thing. There are many other things that the rule of the majority could never do, see this blog post for some of these things.
That was the first step of the Nazi regime. It established that people who were different from the majority in terms of religion were inferior. It dehumanised them, it spread the culture that they were somehow ungrateful for not accepting their second class status. After dehumanising them, the next step was easier. After all, if these upstart are less than human and don’t want to abide by the rules of their masters, why not get rid of them? Thus was born public support for the greatest atrocity in human history, the Holocaust.
Of course, Hitler couched all his arguments in terms of supporting the will of the majority in their efforts to purge German society of people who wanted to destroy it with their non-German values. The state had the right to interfere in the personal freedoms of people if the ultimate goal was to protect the culture of the people from pollution by people who had the temerity to try to live their lives by a different culture. Coexistence was impossible, it was either impose the German way of life or those infernal non-conformists would destroy it for ever.
Every time I hear someone silence protest against oppressive policies or parties in the name of “accepting the will of the majority”, I cringe. He who has ears, let him hear.