Religion: Death of Pope John Paul II

I suggested to Philip Zimbardo, the well-known Stanford Social psychologist, that someone should study world reaction to the death of Pope John Paul II.  It is an extraordinary phenomenon.  Among other things, large numbers of people are actually crying. Comparisons are odious, but it recalls the Russians who cried at the death of Stalin. One reason Krushchev gave his famous speech denouncing Stalin was to put a stop to the cult of his memory.  Even in death Italians applauded the pope.  Remember the crowds in Germany and Austria applauding Hitler, or similar scenes in Mao's China.  The obvious conclusion is that people want a leader, spiritual or temporal.  It is what the Nazis called the Führerprinzip.  In discussing the rise of absolute monarchies at the end of the Middle Ages, UCLA historian Eugen Weber says that most people welcomed them because they were thought to guarantee law and order. The desire for father figures in built into a society consisting of families.  Americans do not refer to the founders of the republic but to the Founding Fathers and idealize them.  Eugen Weber doubts that there is such an attachment to democracy. It seems safe to say that, if a people have to chose between an authoritarian government and  a totally chaotic democracy, they prefer the former. Our Father which art in heaven, thy will be done.

Ronald Hilton 2005


last updated: June 10, 2005