The Wave – Morton Rhue

March 14, 2014 1:05 pm

the waveBased on true events in the 60s, a history teacher decides to teach his class the realities of living under the Nazi Regime, and give them a taste of why so many people were drawn into its ideology. So he creates a club called ‘The Wave’, complete with mottos, a logo, and a salute. Surprisingly, the students welcome this new social order with open arms and the experiment quickly makes its way out of the classroom, and although at first it seems the perfect antidote to high school hierarchy and bullying, a darker side is soon revealed; with members turning against non-members, voluntarily reporting those who aren’t acting quite within the club ‘rules’, and harassing those who speak against it. As the ‘Wave’ starts taking on a life of its own, it’s up to the history teacher to find a way to end it, and fast.

This is an absolutely fascinating insight into the psychology of group mentality and the human need for discipline. In short, it is a warning of how easy it is to be brainwashed. The novel follows the students’ original incredulity that anyone could be duped into supporting such an oppressive regime as Hitler‘s rule to becoming little Nazis within a week. And the scariest part is that this is not a work of fiction. Although there are some parts and characters that have been included to help it flow as a novel, the core of the story is unfortunately completely true.

Anyone who is familiar with the Stanford Prison Experiment of Zimbardo and Jane Elliott’s ‘blue-eyed brown-eyed experiment’ might not be surprised by the fact that it is surprisingly easy to get people drunk with power, or create social divides by emphasising differences (if you don’t know these studies, Google them – they are incredibly interesting). In fact, this book should probably be compulsory in schools, as to read it could provide some sort of armour against mindless group mentality. It is a short, easy-to-read novella, but for me had long-lasting effects. I hope now that whenever I am next forming an opinion, I will always remember to ask the most important and powerful word in the English language: Why?

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