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Les petits esprits ont besoin de despotisme pour le jeu de leurs nerfs, comme les grandes âmes ont soif d’égalité pour l’action du cœur. Or les êtres étroits s’étendent aussi bien par la persécution que par la bienfaisence; ils peuvent s’attester leur puissance par un empire ou cruel ou charitable sur autrui, mais ils vont du côté où les pousse leur tempérament. Ajoutez le véhicule de l’intérêt, et vous aurez l’énigme de la plupart des choses sociales.
Small minds can develop as well through despotism as through benevolence; they can assure themselves of their power by tyrannizing cruelly or beneficently others; they go the way their nature guides them. Add to this the dictates of self-interest, and you will have the key to most social riddles.
–Honoré de Balzac, Pierrette (1840) in Scènes de la vie de province in the Pléiade edition of La Comédie humaine, vol. 3, p. 702 (M. Bouteron ed. 1952)(S.H. transl.)
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"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."