Hive Mind: Fascism (and Other Lost Causes)
I’m back from the past (and glad for it).
While I was away in beautiful British (“Speed limits? We-don’t-need-no-stinkin’-speed-limits!”) Columbia, renewing old contacts and friendships, I happened upon a book in one of my old haunts — historian Mark Bourrie’s Kill The Messengers: Stephen Harper’s Assault on Your Right to Know. It’s a disturbing book about what can only be described as a fascistic tendency in the “new” Conservative Party of Canada and in the present government of Stephen Harper and amongst his “Base”. The book couldn’t be more timely, given that this is an election year in Canada and campaigning by the political parties has already begun.
And then this morning, again, more disturbing revelations from the UK Guardian about the British aristocracy’s and monarchy’s earlier fascist sympathies and secretive ties to Hitler and the Nazi regime.
If duplicity and deceit is “the currency of the day”, as Pope Francis has recently stated, Bourrie’s book demonstrates the truth of that in the Canadian socio-political context. It includes a revealing quote from Mr. Harper himself that I had not heard before,
Journalists make lousy politicians because they think they always need to tell the truth.
That bit of supposed political “wisdom”, I think, says much more about Mr. Harper’s philosophy of politics, his ethics, and his penchant for government by propaganda than it says anything about the veracity of journalists. Some scribes and scribblers in the conservative press have, seemingly approvingly, even referred to Mr. Harper’s government as “executive democracy”. “Executive democracy”, however, is only a euphemism for authoritarianism, if not dictatorship.
This is not just a problem in Canada, either. We hear of a “sneaking” or “creeping fascism” in other jurisdictions also, as being a problem of Late Capitalism or of the late stages of Modernity (or post-modernity) more generally — of a political and social system that has become overripe. In The Dark Age Blog, and here in the present Chrysalis, I’ve argued that it is the logical consequence of a structure of consciousness (the mental-rational) that has reached the end of its tether, and is now devouring and consuming itself in self-contradiction and nihilism.
Supposedly, fascist totalitarianism is promoted as being an effective response to the threat of communist totalitarianism. It’s no such thing. That belongs to an old illusionist’s and con-man’s trick called “direction by indirection” or “direction by misdirection”, or just creating a diversion. All forms of totalitarianism arise from a repugnance for democracy, while claiming to be the true and “ideal democracy” themselves. Even Nazi propaganda minister Goebbels’ described Nazism and der Volksstaat (the exclusive ethnic or racial state) as “ideal democracy”. In the absence of any serious threat of communism today, fascist totalitarians — a very illiberal bunch — require the boogey-man of something called “cultural Marxism” to rationalise and justify their own bid for total power. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing, as it were.
It is in those terms, and in light of the present danger of new forms of totalitarianism, that I keep coming back to that confusion of values that has made the “whole” and the “totality” synonymous, for in that confusion lies the present flaw and deficiency of the mental-rational structure of consciousness, and of reductionism, fundamentalism, and utilitarianism which are the perverse expressions of that deficiency.
Totalitarianism itself, whether of the fascist or communist flavours, is a symptom of the decadence of the Modern Era and of the structure of consciousness that defined that Era. We may say briefly that, in formal terms, “modernity” begins with Descartes’ metaphysical dualism, which in turn led to the philosophies of Hegel and Marx, idealism and materialism, and that Hegel and Marx finally deteriorated into nationalism and communism, and therefore ended in Hitler and Stalin, respectively. The period 1914 – 1945 represents the logical suicide of the Modern Era when the extreme deficiencies of its logic became apparent. Hegel and Marx, nationalism and communism, were both checkmated by the World Wars, as Rosenstock-Huessy thought, and today persist only as zombies — as lost causes and the walking dead, including Mr. Fukuyama’s thesis about “the end of history” (which is accurate only in an ironic sense).
So, Hegelian “spirit” and idealism degenerated into fascism and radical nationalism while Karl Marx’s “classless society” degenerated into Stalinism. Both were originally conceived as emancipatory. They are connected like Siamese Twins, though, as both have their ancestry and common root (in Modern terms) in Descartes’ metaphysical dualism. Each also, in those terms, contained the seed of its own self-negation and self-destruction, like Freud’s eros and thanatos instincts. Perhaps only Nietzsche recognised that when he wrote that the triumph of liberal institutions would simultaneously be their self-negation.
We don’t live in the “modern era” any more, but we think and act as though we do. This makes us inherently duplicitous and hypocritical. Our present struggle against this condition and against the continuing delusions of dualism is sound. All forms of totalitarianism I consider my “spiritual enemy”, for they have also proven to be ineffective and deficient responses (as well as being very destructive) to the disintegrative and centrifugal tendencies of modernity and the mental-rational structure of consciousness. Yet, they persist as lost causes.
An example (one of many that could be cited): Presently, the Harper government is busying itself in planning and constructing a monument to the victims of communism. (Monument building, as part of the new Conservative’s “historical revisionism”, has become a passion of the present government, including the bizarre and kitschy plans for a “Mother Canada” statue rivaling in gigantism, pomposity, and grandiosity anything Stalin himself ever commissioned. In fact, there is no precedent for anything called “Mother Canada”, but there is a “Mother Russia”! Gigantism is itself a symptom of a decadent civilisation).
But as for the monument for the victims of communism…. why not for the victims of totalitarianism more generally? The monument is being sponsored, apparently, by a group called Tribute to Liberty. But it seems that the monument’s sponsors have rather selective criteria and selective perception for who is worthy and unworthy, or deserving and undeserving, of memorialisation in such a monument. What about the victims of fascism? Or, even more to the point, why not also the millions of aboriginal victims of European imperialism and colonisation? In fact, this whole project is merely propagandistic, and, being very biased in its conception, is making an ideological statement about preferential worthy and unworthy, or undeserving and deserving victims, stating, in effect, that the victims of fascist totalitarianism (or colonialism) had it coming to them. The monument is inherently dishonest, duplicitous, deceitful, and self-serving in design and conception even as it pretends to be otherwise.
The monument to the victims of communism, as propaganda, also reflects the differing approaches taken to instances of Islamist terrorism or neo-fascist terrorism amongst conservatives (even though they are both ultra-conservative reactionary violence). The terrorism of al Qaeda was handled differently than the terrorism of Anders Behring Breivik, for example. In the judgement of conservatives, you were practically a traitor if you even mused on possible “root causes” for Islamist terror. There was no “rationale” for the terror. It was simply pure “evil” and that was it. Thinking any further than “pure evil” was itself evil. Contrast that with the way Mr. Breivik’s killing of 77 kids in Norway was handled. “Terrible, yes… but…” The “but” was described as the rationale for Mr. Breivik’s massacre. Apparently, neo-fascist and right-wing terrorism has a “root cause” and is allowed a rationale — immigration, or it’s because of something called “cultural Marxism”. It’s nothing but self-exoneration for a sneaking fascism. And these revisionist and reactionary attitudes run pretty deep in some segments of the population. So, I don’t think we are quite out of the woods yet as far as the totalitarian tendency goes, especially when it is seen as being the “solution” to atomisation, fragmentation and the disintegration of the Modern Era. For once you make the mistake of confusing “the whole” with “the totality”, you must also necessarily confuse integration with assimilation, and unity with uniformity, and then everyone falls in love with uniforms — Black Shirts, Silver Shirts, Brown Shirts.
Another term for “duplicity” is “lip-service”. Lip-service is that particular form of nihilism that Rosenstock-Huessy described as “the conservative disease”. Rhetoric about “values” and “principle” is on everyone’s lips even as they cynically negate those same values and their “principles” in practice. People who are themselves falling apart often look for someone to tell them what to do, and become easy prey for propaganda of this kind, even as they insist on “self-reliance” and “individualism” though they themselves act more like puppets on a string. That’s the “Jekyll and Hyde” problem, otherwise called “cognitive dissonance” (duplicity), and it is a lot more common than we like to think.
Bourrie’s Kill the Messengers is all about that duplicity now become “the new normal”, and especially as exemplified in the case of Mr. Harper. Even by his own admission Mr. Harper isn’t much interested in truth or integrity unless they bring him some personal advantage. In fact, Bourrie even uses the term “sociopathic” to describe this kind of duplicity. But in that sense, Mr. Harper and his “Base” are simply a symptom of the age, which is why the book might be of wider interest than for Canadians alone. For if this duplicity is the “new normal” more generally (as even the Pope seems to think), we are in very, very deep trouble.