I Understand People Who Deny Reality

The following essay by Henryk Broder discusses the tendency — and even the necessity — for ordinary people to escape to a dream world in these terrifying times.

Many thanks to JLH for translating this op-ed published last month in Die Welt:

I Understand People Who Deny Reality

by Henryk M. Broder
August 8, 2016

The word is, we must get involved with the refugees. All the knife-slashers and axe-swingers, well, they’re just traumatized lone wolves. What do you mean, “must”? Are all our problems now litmus tests?

There are rights that are not guaranteed in any constitution in the world. The right to lie, the right to be cowardly, the right to repress what you don’t want to know.

These types of behavior do not have a good reputation. Even small children learn that they should tell the truth and be courageous. No later than the onset of puberty, when they dream of being in the shoes of Lady Gaga or Justin Timberlake, they are yanked back into reality with pedagogic force, where they are offered part-time employment. Accepting the inevitable counts as courage.

Courage is at a premium, especially in the form of moral or “civil courage.” At least two dozen prizes a year are awarded for civil courage in Germany, The Paul Spiegel Prize for Civil Courage, the Eduard Zimmerman Prize for Civil Courage, the Jena Prize for Civil Courage, the George Leber Prize for Civil Courage, the Prize of the State Capital Wiesbaden for Civil Courage, the Prize of the City of Delmenhorst for Civil Courage, the Civil Courage Prize of the State of Rhineland-Palatinate and many more.

A prize for civil courage can also be awarded posthumously, for example to a Munich citizen who was beaten to death by two youths who resented his wanting to stop them from robbing four other youths.

Wolfgang Schäuble paid tribute to the deceased’s actions as “downright exemplary.” He had “truly earned” the honor. Unfortunately, the hero of the day could not participate in the celebration.

And an actress was honored for her stand “against rightist extremism and anti-Semitism, and for the State of Israel’s right to exist.”

“I Can’t Take it Anymore”

Or a TV moderator who walked along with an AfD demonstration and interviewed several participants. It is said that on such occasions, you must not be quiet and go on your way. You must intervene, show the flag. If not, everything stays the same.

Really? Is there some duty to intervene? Do we have to stand in the path of floods, avalanches and vandals and try to stop them? I used to have a very fixed answer to such questions. Yes, we must!

Today, I am a little more relaxed about it. We can, but we don’t have to. I note that I have more and more understanding for people who don’t want to know what is going on around them. Who do not read newspapers, listen to the news, follow neither the “subjects of the day” nor “today’s journal.”

They say: “It’s too much. I can’t take it any more. I have to close myself off or I’ll go crazy.” Of course they are aware of what is going on around them. But hesitantly, and in small doses. At their workplace, with their parents, or on bowling night. Even second hand.

Wrong Time, Wrong Place

Repressing the truth is nothing new. We don’t want to admit that we are mortal, that any visit to the gastronomist for some harmless discomfort can end in a finding of cancer.

No one would set foot in an airplane, if it were not possible to block the thought of how absurd it is to fly through the air ten kilometers up, in a metal tube. We find consolation in the improbability of a major accident. And it is calming to note that the chance of dying in a car accident is statistically much greater than of being killed in a terrorist attack.

Recently, we have heard this comment more often than an altar boy hears the Lord’s Prayer. It is true, to be sure, except for those who are in the wrong place at the wrong time. On the promenade in Nice or in a local train near Würzburg.

Negation of Reality

In the Third Reich, if you were not a Jew, a Communist, a Gypsy, neither gay nor handicapped, and were always sure to give the “Heil Hitler” salute, the chances of scalding your finger when brewing coffee were certainly greater than of being sent to a concentration camp. And those it happened to anyway thought that God or at least the Red Cross would come to their aid.

Human attitudes are determined not by hope, but by the negation of reality through a fiction. As the old joke goes, the person bent on suicide who jumps off a high-rise building says, when half way down: “So far, it’s going well.”

In real life, it is the chancellor who — faced with the chaos her fateful decision has caused — is capable only of clinging to her solution: “We can do it!” It is as if the captain of the Titanic had cried: “My course was correct! The iceberg wasn’t paying attention!”

The Advanced School of Reality Transmutation

And since this is not a play that can be rewritten with a finale that fits the mood of the audience, it is necessary to conjure up a magic formula to make sense of senselessness. This formula is: We are not dealing with a crisis, but with “a litmus test of historic proportions” — so it is a positive thing which brings progress, a kind of final exam for all of us.

We should be thankful to fate or providence or whom- or whatever we are always grateful to, that such a trial has been laid upon us. The joy at “suddenly being gifted with people” with whom we must negotiate “coexistence anew every day,” must not be spoiled by any niggling questions about whether we wanted that. “So everyone must go along and accept the changes.”

That is how the new Jacobinism talks. Everyone must. And if anyone refuses, we will not recognize their civil courage, but force them to accept the changes. For the good of society, and for their own good. Houellebecq[1] calls that “submission.”

There is a psychological term for the technique of reversing a situation seen as negative into its opposite. I suspect it is a kind of hypnosis — the high art of reality transmogrification.

Where Does Displacement Begin, and Where Does it End?

You can get people to sweat in a cooling chamber or shiver with cold in a sauna. You can get them to hop backwards on one foot while singing the Internationale. You can get them to climb into a barrel full of cockroaches…Assuming that you call it a litmus test.

By incessant repetition, you can get them to believe that all the ax-wielders and knife-stabbers we have been gifted with are lone wolves, self-radicalized in the blink of an eye — flexible people with psychological problems who were once traumatized. And when it comes to the deadly, relevant act, part of the blame can be shifted to the victim, who failed the litmus test.

If it goes on like this with lone wolves carrying diverse defensive weapons made in Solingen[2], the phrase “lone wolf” has a chance to be chosen as the “word of the year.” The jury of the Society for German Language could also use this occasion to clarify where “displacement” begins and where it ends.

Does it make a difference whether an incurably sick person does not wish to know his condition, or whether a society refuses to recognize that its days are numbered? Could there be a proper life within the false one?

A few days ago, Pope Francis said that he considered it wrong “to equate Islam with violence.” Almost every religion, according to him, has “a small group of fundamentalists,” including Christians. “This one kills his lover, while that one kills his step-mother, and they are all baptized Christians.” That’s one way to look at it.

The Pope’s argument would be more convincing if he had also mentioned the last time a group of radical Christians had attacked a girls’ school, caused a bloodbath in an airport or stoned an adulteress to death. Baptism does not protect anyone from stupidity. Not even God’s representative on earth.


1.   French author, filmmaker, and poet. His 2001 novel Platform has an explicit criticism of Islam.
2.   North Rhine-Westphalian city famed for production of fine cutlery.


  • “Terror War”: BILD’s headline after the attack in Paris in November, 2015, describes the situation that has prevailed in Europe since then.
  • A rescue blanket and bandages lying in a local train near Würzburg. This is where a refugee attacked several travelers with an axe in mid-July.
  • Over a million refugees came to Germany in 2015. People who must be integrated into the employment market. If that does not happen, the cost for the state could be considerable.
  • After the Islamist attack on a Catholic church in northern France, Pope Francis speaks out against judging Islam. Making it equivalent with violence is unjust.

19 thoughts on “I Understand People Who Deny Reality

  1. “Not even God’s representative on earth.” He is not God’s Representative on earth. He lost that claim when he started supporting paganism and “dialogue” with it.

  2. [Anti-Catholic incivility redacted]. Three, four, ten Muslims stand around “chatting” – in the middle of the busy street. The blank faced zombies step off the pavement or walk around them. Same behaviour in stores and elsewhere. The Manchurian Candidate has nothing on the mass hypnosis in action today. If this keeps up most of will sooner or later carry the real scars mental and physical. Gosh we might even be subjugated.

  3. A very good essay showing how we can be transfixed by the head lights, even when we know we are standing on a road.

    Reality is always a problem when life is good, seeming to be too good to be true. After all live the dream.

    Telling the truth, I heard to day can be classed as being cruel.
    So who wants to be cruel, if you love some one.

    Selling falsehoods, can be classed as giving hope. Hope can be called everlasting. (until too late)

    Having faith in other leaders?, your self?, based on what?

    Truth, hope, faith, love, all being twisted to deny themselves and sell a false reality so we can live the dream.

    • We are “Mesmerized, Loosing Freedom”

      I don’t think we’ve been spoiled as much have forgotten that freedom is so precious we must fight for it every day and for every inch.
      We have become complacent just like an obese person gets fatter by not doing exercise and watching what they eat and doing something about it.

      Watched on TV “Fat Doctor” where a man just kept getting fatter 40 stone x(14 lbs)=560 lbs = 254 kgs.
      Month by month he had got fatter, first getting his wife to put his socks and shoes on, another bench mark being when his wife had to wipe his @#*&. The bench marks just kept going past, even though he emotionally struggled with it, he relentlessly kept on eating though, and still crying at night to his wife that he ate too much.

      She loved him to wipe him, and still loved him to continually feed him.

      Craig Curtis is super morbidly obese – he is 40 stone and still gaining weight. In a bad day Craig can get through 25 packets of crisps and two loaves of bread. Craig, from Gravesend is married with three children under four years old. His wife has to do everything for both Craig and the children. Craig feels he is incapable of being a good father or husband to his family – he hasn’t left the house in over a year, he is unable to go to the toilet on his own and needs constant care.
      revisit Craig Curtis from series 2. He’s lost 22 stone! Life has been transformed, now waiting for plastic surgery to remove huge apron from stomach.

      He was like “road kill” mesmerized by the head lights of the on coming juggernaut of death, and still could not stop eating. The only option being surgery.

      Are we like this, as step by step we lose our freedoms, then become so moribund that it becomes too late and drastic life and death measures are required?

      The next “Fat Doctor” episode showed Daniel 30 years old 40 stone, but unfortunately he did not survive his surgery.

      It was the helplessness of the obese person who could see his inevitable death coming up and just could not change his ways.
      I now see that people, societies, government do this in regards to immigration, deficits, debts and credit cards, health, sort of addictions that we do that kills or costs us in many ways.

      It is hard to understand and to stop some of that thinking creeping into our lives, that ties us, loosing our freedoms, yet we must become knowledgeable, disciplined, to stay out of these quagmire traps.

  4. Speaking as a Catholic, Pope Francis is a fool. Why we have deserved to have such a fool as our leader is a mystery to me but the church is full of mysteries anyway.

    I would love to have Pope Benedict back again but for some mysterious reason he resigned his popeship or popehood or whatever the proper term is. We are the poorer for it and of that I have no doubt although I have lots of other doubts.

    Might be why I don’t go to church anymore.

    As for Pope Francis, Islam does equate with violence and nobody with a hinge of reality could possibly disagree. Hence my opinion that Francis is no longer in the real world, just a dream world of his own. Muslims are peaceful, nothing to worry about, right — as the decapitations continue.

    • Friends have left the Catholic church before this Pope got in because of all the church scandals (ditto for protestant church scandals) and are not going anywhere to church, some go online for studying or meet in small informal groups. This will continue as apostasy takes over more churches (workers of iniquity). Some of the protestant denominations are getting grant money to resettle refugees (invaders) in the U.S. Other denominations say nothing and remain neutral. I am amazed more haven’t ditched these type churches, but will admit it’s a social outlet mainly. Even the neutral churches are social clubs as clergy choose to keep their jobs by dishing out watered down sermons and contemporary band music.

  5. Mr. Bergoglio ; the fraudulently elected Pope { Look it up } is also part of the “denial disease ” afflicting the entire world. Perhaps the Hungarians , and Poles who were vaccinated a few years ago with the ” Communism” Vaccine, may have the antibodies to repulse the Muslim infection. The soft , self indulgent , Western Europeans are like inbred dogs that can’t even procreate; thus insuring their ultimate extinction. The remnant of clear thinking Europeans must follow the leadership of Wilders and Orban and others like them…….ally themselves with the strong Russian Orthodox Church { emigrate if necessary } and prepare for another Crusade. Pray to God that this happens before the Evil of Islam engulfs the entire world.

    • I second your suggestion to look into Orthodox Christianity. I fell into it (long story, but GoV was the catalyst) in April 2015 and was officially baptized into Orthodoxy earlier this year.

      No “go-along, get-along” with Islam, no indeed!

      And…all Orthodox churches, regardless of modifier (Greek, Russian, Bulgarian, etc.) have the same exact theology. Churches which hold services in English are most often affiliated with the Orthodox Church in America (http://oca.org), whose website offers a directory by state/province of its parishes.

      The air is fresher over here, being aromatized only by incense rather than the stench of Abp. Bergoglio’s kowtowing to Islam.

    • Old guy: the embarrassed, sincere and disgusted folks will leave all of these type liberal churches even if their grandparents on back to the Mayflower landing were charter members. In most churches, if a person leaves and cuts ties they will be dropped from the rolls and sent a letter they are no longer members. Some rejoin other denominations. Catholics may keep people “members” long after they quit, so best for them to contact the parish priest and tell him to “unroll” them permanently. Each denomination has their own policy on this.

    • Even ISIS was upset. Here they were meticulously planning attacks and killing crusaders in the name of Allah; and the Pope runs around saying that the attacks had nothing to do with Islam. They sent him a strongly worded letter which unsurprisingly the Progressive media refused to cover.

  6. “This formula is: We are not dealing with a crisis, but with “a litmus test of historic proportions” — so it is a positive thing which brings progress, a kind of final exam for all of us.”

    It is indeed a litmus test, a test of the West’s spiritual strength, some things ng Solzenitzen questioned decades ago. The West is failing test and the only “progress” being made is by evil in the firm of Islam. Islam is passing the litmus test of its strength, even though it is a strenght that cannot last.

  7. Everyone is going crazy all at once. Has this happened before in history? or, is it the internet? Very peculiar. Similar episodic psychosis must have happened before ….we are the same species, aren’t we, as existed during the 30 Year War? What is causing this? E.g. In the US we are noticing, sprouting up all at once, these homeless encampments, all over the country –all during the last 6 months or so. Come on!, the crappy economy did not change THAT fast. Maybe it is our new connectivity causing some sort of mass alignment of our brains similar to the orientation of polar hydrogen atoms in a MRI magnetic field. Or, it could be some actual physical thing like a virus or an effect from the sun or that maybe our DNA got mutated from a burst of cosmic rays? Or maybe Islam is like a world toxin?and we are really being poisoned in our brains? Maybe Progressivism is winning and this is what it feels like? Whatever, it feels as if we are being manipulated and controlled by some extrinsic forces….new and rather ugly and ominous.

    It’s better to pull away and go surfing or skiing or read about math or science.

    • Whatever it is has started. We’ve been shooting up everything we could lay our glands on for so long now that finally we took some really bad stuff. For now the dealer is calling the shots. It is easy to understand why anyone would consciously or otherwise avoid Muslim company. Who would want what the Muslim definitely has got? Islam is toxic.

  8. “Human attitudes are determined not by hope, but by the negation of reality through a fiction.”

    – Reminds of something Ernest Becker wrote in his book ‘The Denial of Death’.

  9. Ah, wonderful, wistful and educated human comments.
    ”What a piece of work is a man (or woman…)! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel! in apprehension how like a god!” (Hamlet)
    Whatever the future holds this has certainly been a great epoch for mankind.
    Bless you all!

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