1936 presentation copy of Mein Kampf
photo credit: fortinbras

Are some words so dangerous they must be locked away?

The world needs heroes and it’s better they be harmless men like me than villains like Hitler.

Albert Einstein

The question is currently an issue of fierce debate in Germany where a leading historian has called for Adolf Hitler‘s anti-Semitic screed Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”) to be published openly for the first time since 1945. It is available for sale in Britain and the US, as well as through the internet, yet many people still object to the idea of it appearing in bookshops in Germany, the birthplace of Nazism.

It’s an understandable concern, but misplaced. Banning Mein Kampf only lends it a glamour it does not diserve. Making it freely available would remove its mystique and enable more Germans to discover for themselves quite how appalling this book is.

It’s not only evil, but badly written, repetitious, anti-factual, rambling and turgid, the testimony of a furious, self-pitying failure with a slender grasp on reality. Publishing Mein Kampf would demonstrate that Germany has reached the point where it can look on the evil of Nazism with a confident disdain instead of a lingering fear.

What you can do

Read Mein Kampf. Make-up your own mind, however realise that:

Democracy and censorship have never been happy bedfellows. Freedom of the press and freedom of speech are democratic principles intrinsically linked to a functioning egalitarian society.

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People in organizations typically spend over 75% of their time in an interpersonal situation; thus it is no surprise to find that at the root of a large number of organizational problems is poor communications. Effective communication is an essential component of organizational success whether it is at the interpersonal, intergroup, intragroup, organizational, or external levels.

  1. Stand up and be counted. Research shows that those with the courage to speak out are listened to, respected and rewarded. Dare to have the conversations that others shy away from.
  2. Get ready. Prevent difficult conversations from becoming emotionally charged. Ask yourself ‘What do I want to achieve here?’ before you go into the conversation. The answer can act as a reminder to pull back from an argumentative stance.
  3. Start with the facts. Sharing your feelings is a powerful way to express why something is important to you, but differentiate between facts [the report has three errors in it), assumptions [it was clearly done at the last minute] and emotions [I feel let down]. Facts are indisputable, so are easier to share first.
  4. Describe actual behaviours. If delivering constructive criticism, avoid the infamous ‘feedback sandwich’ [good-bad-good]. It comes across as disingenuous and dilutes the impact of your message.
  5. Allow time for reflection. Give people the chance to respond, but don’t force them: arrange to talk about it later.
  6. Open up. Listen without showing any negative or defensive emotions [this will be difficult, but is essential]. Show that you understand not only what they are saying but how they feel.
  7. Collaborate. When asked about the turning point in the Cold War, Gorbachev replied that the crucial moment came at the 1986 Reykjavik summit with Reagan. This was the first time the leaders had entered into genuine dialogue, sharing their values, assumptions and aspirations. Their resulting trust and understanding began to reverse the nuclear arms race. Ask questions and work together without judgment.
  8. Keep moving. If you can’t agree on an issue, don’t waste hours debating it. This conflict quicksand will get you nowhere. Park the issue and move on – you can always come back to it.

What do you think? Have I missed any points? Please leave your comments below:

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