I don’t like to talk about politics…
Is something we can no longer afford to say.
Donald Trump has built a fascist administration and will try to steal the election tomorrow regardless of how the votes go.
This post won’t save America.
Heck! Most of you reading this are Canadian so, we can’t vote on Tuesday anyway.
Keep in mind though that what happens in the USA is not that far removed from our own politics.
A guide for the recently inspired
For those about to get involved, we salute you
Canadian politics follows the general trends of American politics even if our system is structured differently.
America is the center-point for English-speaking culture and that affects us whether we like it or not.
We can see examples of this in the Trump flags that have waved in Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto over the past several months.
Consider this passage from Douglas Quan of the Toronto Star.
“As former prime minister Pierre Trudeau put it in 1969, living next to the U.S. is akin to sleeping with an elephant: “No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast … one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”
Five decades later, political observers say, that metaphor couldn’t be more apt.
“I think it holds true today,” said Stephen Azzi, director of Carleton University’s graduate program in political management, who likens Canadian attitudes toward the U.S. over the past four years to watching your best friend “make a terrible mistake and knowing there was no way to stop it.”
“Events in the United States are bound to have an effect on Canada. It’s not just Trump’s policies on trade or pipelines. It’s the impact of American political culture. If Americans learn to distrust their media, can Canadians be far behind? If American democracy dissolves, can Canadians hang on to democracy here?””
So what’s going on?
The United States of America is going to choose this month between an authoritarian fascist and a career politician.
Most of the time when we hear the word “fascism” we think of the Nazis, and we picture Hitler.
The problem with this kind of word association is that, while Germany had the most famous fascist administration, Nazis and fascists are not always the same thing.
In 1995, Italian scholar Umberto Eco wrote a definitive description of fascism. Eco grew up under the rule of fascist Italy in the 1930s and was well versed in political theory.
If you want to read the whole paper (it’s not very long) you can find it here: Ur-Fascism; Freedom and liberation are an unending task.
The most important part of Eco’s paper was his fourteen (14) common features of fascism which, as a political ideology, will mould itself to the government/country in which it takes shape.
Right now, America is showing many of these characteristics.
Umberto Eco’s fourteen common features of fascism:
“1. The first feature of Fascism is the cult of tradition. Traditionalism is of course much older than fascism. Not only was it typical of counter-revolutionary Catholic thought after the French revolution, but it was born in the late Hellenistic era, as a reaction to classical Greek rationalism. In the Mediterranean basin, people of different religions (most of them indulgently accepted by the Roman Pantheon) started dreaming of a revelation received at the dawn of human history. This revelation, according to the traditionalist mystique, had remained for a long time concealed under the veil of forgotten languages—in Egyptian hieroglyphs, in the Celtic runes, in the scrolls of the little known religions of Asia.
This new culture had to be syncretistic. Syncretism is not only, as the dictionary says, “the combination of different forms of belief or practice”; such a combination must tolerate contradictions. Each of the original messages contains a sliver of wisdom, and whenever they seem to say different or incompatible things it is only because all are alluding, allegorically, to the same primeval truth.
As a consequence, there can be no advancement of learning. Truth has been already spelled out once and for all, and we can only keep interpreting its obscure message.
One has only to look at the syllabus of every fascist movement to find the major traditionalist thinkers. The Nazi gnosis was nourished by traditionalist, syncretistic, occult elements. The most influential theoretical source of the theories of the new Italian right, Julius Evola, merged the Holy Grail with The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, alchemy with the Holy Roman and Germanic Empire. The very fact that the Italian right, in order to show its open-mindedness, recently broadened its syllabus to include works by De Maistre, Guenon, and Gramsci, is a blatant proof of syncretism.
2. Traditionalism implies the rejection of modernism. Both Fascists and Nazis worshiped technology, while traditionalist thinkers usually reject it as a negation of traditional spiritual values. However, even though Nazism was proud of its industrial achievements, its praise of modernism was only the surface of an ideology based upon Blood and Earth (Blut und Boden). The rejection of the modern world was disguised as a rebuttal of the capitalistic way of life, but it mainly concerned the rejection of the Spirit of 1789 (and of 1776, of course). The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense Fascism can be defined as irrationalism.
3. Irrationalism also depends on the cult of action for action’s sake. Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation. Therefore culture is suspect insofar as it is identified with critical attitudes. Distrust of the intellectual world has always been a symptom of Fascism, from Goering’s alleged statement (“When I hear talk of culture I reach for my gun”) to the frequent use of such expressions as “degenerate intellectuals,” “eggheads,” “effete snobs,” “universities are a nest of reds.” The official Fascist intellectuals were mainly engaged in attacking modern culture and the liberal intelligentsia for having betrayed traditional values.
4. No syncretistic faith can withstand analytical criticism. The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism. In modern culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge. For Fascism, disagreement is treason.
5. Besides, disagreement is a sign of diversity. Fascism grows up and seeks for consensus by exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference. The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Fascism is racist by definition.
6. Fascism derives from individual or social frustration. That is why one of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups. In our time, when the old “proletarians” are becoming petty bourgeois (and the lumpen are largely excluded from the political scene), the fascism of tomorrow will find its audience in this new majority.
7. To people who feel deprived of a clear social identity, Fascism says that their only privilege is the most common one, to be born in the same country. This is the origin of nationalism. Besides, the only ones who can provide an identity to the nation are its enemies. Thus at the root of the Ur-Fascist psychology there is the obsession with a plot, possibly an international one. The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia. But the plot must also come from the inside: Jews are usually the best target because they have the advantage of being at the same time inside and outside. In the US, a prominent instance of the plot obsession is to be found in Pat Robertson’s The New World Order, but, as we have recently seen, there are many others.
8. The followers must feel humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies. When I was a boy I was taught to think of Englishmen as the five-meal people. They ate more frequently than the poor but sober Italians. Jews are rich and help each other through a secret web of mutual assistance. However, the followers must be convinced that they can overwhelm the enemies. Thus, by a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak. Fascist governments are condemned to lose wars because they are constitutionally incapable of objectively evaluating the force of the enemy.
9. For Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle. Thus pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. It is bad because life is permanent warfare. This, however, brings about an Armageddon complex. Since enemies have to be defeated, there must be a final battle, after which the movement will have control of the world. But such a “final solution” implies a further era of peace, a Golden Age, which contradicts the principle of permanent war. No fascist leader has ever succeeded in solving this predicament.
10. Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology, insofar as it is fundamentally aristocratic, and aristocratic and militaristic elitism cruelly implies contempt for the weak. Fascism can only advocate a popular elitism. Every citizen belongs to the best people of the world, the members of the party are the best among the citizens, every citizen can (or ought to) become a member of the party. But there cannot be patricians without plebeians. In fact, the Leader, knowing that his power was not delegated to him democratically but was conquered by force, also knows that his force is based upon the weakness of the masses; they are so weak as to need and deserve a ruler. Since the group is hierarchically organized (according to a military model), every subordinate leader despises his own underlings, and each of them despises his inferiors. This reinforces the sense of mass elitism.
11. In such a perspective everybody is educated to become a hero. In every mythology the hero is an exceptional being, but in Ur-Fascist ideology, heroism is the norm. This cult of heroism is strictly linked with the cult of death. It is not by chance that a motto of the Falangists was Viva la Muerte (in English it should be translated as “Long Live Death!”). In non-fascist societies, the lay public is told that death is unpleasant but must be faced with dignity; believers are told that it is the painful way to reach a supernatural happiness. By contrast, the Ur-Fascist hero craves heroic death, advertised as the best reward for a heroic life. The Ur-Fascist hero is impatient to die. In his impatience, he more frequently sends other people to death.
12. Since both permanent war and heroism are difficult games to play, the Ur-Fascist transfers his will to power to sexual matters. This is the origin of machismo (which implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality). Since even sex is a difficult game to play, the Ur-Fascist hero tends to play with weapons—doing so becomes an ersatz phallic exercise.
13. Fascism is based upon a selective populism, a qualitative populism, one might say. In a democracy, the citizens have individual rights, but the citizens in their entirety have a political impact only from a quantitative point of view—one follows the decisions of the majority. For Fascism, however, individuals as individuals have no rights, and the People is conceived as a quality, a monolithic entity expressing the Common Will. Since no large quantity of human beings can have a common will, the Leader pretends to be their interpreter. Having lost their power of delegation, citizens do not act; they are only called on to play the role of the People. Thus the People is only a theatrical fiction. To have a good instance of qualitative populism we no longer need the Piazza Venezia in Rome or the Nuremberg Stadium. There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People.
Because of its qualitative populism Fascism must be against “rotten” parliamentary governments. One of the first sentences uttered by Mussolini in the Italian parliament was “I could have transformed this deaf and gloomy place into a bivouac for my maniples”—“maniples” being a subdivision of the traditional Roman legion. As a matter of fact, he immediately found better housing for his maniples, but a little later he liquidated the parliament. Wherever a politician casts doubt on the legitimacy of a parliament because it no longer represents the Voice of the People, we can smell Fascism.
14. Fascism speaks Newspeak. Newspeak was invented by Orwell, in 1984, as the official language of Ingsoc, English Socialism. But elements of Fascism are common to different forms of dictatorship. All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning. But we must be ready to identify other kinds of Newspeak, even if they take the apparently innocent form of a popular talk show.”
Why should I care?
Well, why would you care?
The problem with fascist authoritarian regimes is that they do not consider human life to be valuable.
The question of whether or not you care for your neighbours, family, or strangers is one that should be thrown into the spotlight right now.
It’s important to consider the idea that your community is more important than the leader of your country. Will policies that the leader enacts hurt people around you? Then maybe vote for the person who will do the least amount of damage to your friends.
This is saying nothing about Climate Change.
Umberto Eco died in 2016, but I would like to think that, by the end of his life, he understood the impending problem of climate action.
In our current situation where the American President, and the modern Conservative movement is actively working to deny Climate Change, the more votes they get, the more people will die.
This isn’t me being dramatic, this is me being realistic.
I implore you to consider that humanity and civilization are not likely to succeed if we continue down this path of division.
If we keep putting individualism and power on a pedestal, we will see the deaths of our friends, family, and neighbours within a generation.
Community collaboration could help, but it is going to require radical change to the way we engage with others, and the way we engage with business.
The decision, ethically, that needs to be agreed upon, is whether or not we believe that other people’s lives matter
When we are looking at a future system that will function to support everybody, we have to look at the problems in our society right now that are stopping those things from happening.
Things like “politicians shouldn’t be celebrities”.
The idea that a politician needs to be somebody who is famous, or that becoming a politician should make them famous is the root of the power that corrupts.
One of the most profound things I read as a kid was in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe where Douglass Adams writes.
“The major problem – One of the major problems, for there are several – one of the major problems with governing people is that of who you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.
To summarize: it is a well-known fact, that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it.
To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.
To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem” (Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Chapter 28).
There is a character who “rules” the universe, but in his lack of desire to be powerful, he actually makes some of the best decisions (theoretically).
To reemphasize the point, in his book A (Brief) History of Vice, Robert Evans discusses the “Celebrity Attitude Scale” which measures how dedicated to a celebrity people may be. Although he uses Patrick Stewart as an example, I suggest you imagine he’s talking about Donald Trump.
“In 2002, a group of psychologists designed the “Celebrity Attitude Scale.” It’s basically a test you can give someone to tell if he or she just really likes famous person, X, or if you should start filing the paperwork for a restraining order on X’s behalf.
The Celebrity Attitude Scale presents respondents with a series of statements about their attitude towards “MFC” or “my favorite celebrity.” Since I’m a big fan of Patrick Stewart, I’m going to use his name from here on out, because it makes me smile. The statements range from fairly innocuous (“Keeping up with news about Patrick Stewart is an entertaining pastime”) to straight up terrifying (“I would gladly die in order to save the life of Patrick Stewart”) to really just … weird. (“If I were lucky enough to meet Patrick Stewart, and he asked me to do something illegal as a favor, I would probably do it”).
This scale has respondents give a number between 1 (“strongly disagree”) and 5 (“strongly agree”) to each question and then places them into one of three categories depending on their grade. If I’m just the kind of guy who likes to catch any movie or TV show Patrick Stewart shows up in, I’d go in the “entertainment social” category. If I was just dead certain that deep down he and I have some sort of spiritual connection, I’d qualify as “intense personal.” And if I’m the kind of fan who would happily drive in front of a bullet aimed at Patrick Stewart, while carrying a butt full of his illegal drugs, I’d probably qualify as “borderline pathological.”
The Celebrity Attitude Scale is still quite new, but early surveys done on limited samples of people suggest that celebrity worship is a common and growing phenomenon. The effects can be more subtle than you might guess, not just wide-eyed fans shrieking themselves hoarse on YouTube. Remember: Our brains reward us for paying attention because it makes evolutionary sense to emulate successful people. It’s only when that urge is coupled with the modern world that things get weird.”
Having a celebrity as a politician exacerbates this phenomenon and allows for that celebrity to grow their following under the guise of political representation. Which builds into a cult of personality until the policies that person is passing no longer matter because they are overshadowed by their persona.
Back in the real world, community collaboration – protecting yourself and your neighbour – means wrestling extreme power away from individuals and spreading it around your community (community could be your street, your town, your province, your state, your country, or your planet). It means embracing a public education system that embraces all learning styles. It means embracing (and funding), a public health model based in care (not money). And it means making sure that everyone. EVERYONE. Has the means to productively live in our society and can achieve the basic necessities of life, food, shelter, water. A basic income program and socialized public service that is fully supported by the population is one route to this better world where we can tackle climate change.
What should I do?
As Canadians we need to look at ourselves. We need to make sure we can learn from the events happening around us and try to not emulate American extremism.
This looks like a number of things.
If fascism is rooted in racism like Eco says, then how do we work our way out of that?
We need to take a serious look at how our country is treating indigenous people. We need to see them as humans with a rich history, agency, and the right to self-determination, not as an “other.”
In the book Critical Perspectives on Social Control and Social Regulation in Canada Danielle Bird and Julie Kaye discuss Social Control, Settler Colonialism, and Representations of Violence against Indigenous Women. There is a lot to be said on the topic, but I want to highlight just one line for now.
“Settler colonialism is an ongoing pursuit within Canadian state-building practices and the continued process of settling Canada’s socio-legal and political systems through ongoing structured dispossession (Morgensen 2011; Veracini 2011; tuck and Yang 2012). Such dispossessionrelies on racialized, gendered, economic, and political domination that seeks to eliminate Indigenous people from the land (Coulthard 2014).”
We need to re-evaluate as a society why we have police. Petty theft is one thing, but why are our National Police continuing to ignore centuries-old treaties?
Why don’t we have better care for people struggling with mental health crises? Why are the police the only people we can call?
Why are we still evicting people in a pandemic?
We need to take a serious look here at what “wealth inequality” means. If you are making under $100,000 a year and paying taxes on that, why are people in Canada who make millions paying disproportionately less? It’s not the fault of your neighbour, or “socialists.”
If America re-elects Trump, it’s because of the corporations who have lobbied politicians in the States so hard that money now matters more than the people (see Eco’s number 13).
Wrap it up, Jack!
Ultimately, I do not know what you should do other than start call your MPs and MPPs constantly letting them know why you’re worried about climate change and asking them to do something about it.
Make sure that when you act, and vote, you are considering the people who will be affected by the policies of the person you are voting for. Politics as a cult of personality will lead us to ruin.
Politics is a system to be engaged with, to interact with. If we sit back after voting and say “well, I’m sure it’ll be fine now,” the infallible people will be allowed to enact thoughtless, un-consulted policy and we will be back to where we started, no matter the party. Don’t look to politicians as if they are a celebrity – they are not.
Keep in mind the ways fascism presents itself and be wary of falling into that trap. Fascism will lead to people you know dying for it is callous, uncaring, and selfish.
I hope we see the end of Donald Trump in America, but just as we have work to do in Canada, so will Americans if Biden wins.
[ALSO if you think Trump should win, I’d like to find out why.
DM me on Twitter @Jack_Fisher_4, because I’d like to talk (without judgement).
I can’t fathom the idea, and I’d like to hear your perspective in your own voice if possible.]