Reposted from Medium

By now, you’ve probably heard about the state of national emergency to be declared over the wall. I want to say a few words about where America stands now. They’re going to a little brutal, a little alarming, and a little unforgiving. But I promise that I will tell you what I think, as simply as I can.

(Let’s dispense first with the argument that a state of emergency not a big deal. It is a big deal. A very big one. Yes, there have been emergencies declared before. But there are emergencies, and there are emergencies. It’s one thing for a President like Obama to declare a state of emergency. It’s quite another for this one to. The context couldn’t be more different. The declaration of a state emergency in the context of rising authoritarianism, democratic meltdown, and social collapse is something else entirely. What, precisely, though?)

America’s plight can be summed up very simply, in a sentence. Capitalism is imploding into fascism. It is doing so at light speed, with a vicious fury, and there’s no certainty that it’s going to stop before it burns the house down. And yet have you heard anyone say those words? Ever? Anywhere? Let me explain them, and discuss the situation we really face — which is that we are both largely ignorant of the reasons behind American collapse, and, worse, afraid to speak the simple truths we should and must, if this frightening plunge is to be stopped.

Capitalism implodes into fascism like a wildfire erupts in a dry forest — predictably, reliably, repeatedly. This time, just like the 1930s, having concentrated too much money in too few hands, a collapsing middle class — enough of it, at least — is reverting to tribalism, racism, hate, and violence as the primary modes of social organization. This was especially easy in America because unlike most other rich countries, it was an apartheid state until the 1970s. White Americans dislike hearing that — but in Virginia, where I grew up, “intermarriage” was illegal until 1973 or so. America’s had roughly 30, maybe 40 years, to attempt something resembling a modern democracy of genuine equals. But it didn’t try nearly hard enough, didn’t invest in democracy nearly enough — and now it’s imploding into fascism.

It’s not a coincidence that fascism’s rising at precisely the same moment the (mostly white) middle class is shrinking, for the first time in American history. It is causal. When the middle class began to shrink, around 2010 or so, people like me began to predict a wave of fascism. Collapse was on the way — it was just a matter of time. But the middle class didn’t shrink into a minority because of a plague, flood, or meteor strike — it did so because of capitalism. Capital took more than 100% of the economy’s gains, which means the super-rich became the ultra-rich. But everyone else who wasn’t a capitalist — the plain old Joe or Jane — saw their lives more or less fall apart: into a state of precarity, forced to live with artificial shortages of everything from healthcare to safe schools to money itself.

(And no, that doesn’t mean all, or even most Americans are fascists. Germans weren’t either. It just means that institutions and structures are changing — thanks to a minority of lunatic extremists.)

Capitalism is imploding into fascism — like it always does, if it’s left to its own devices. It concentrates too much money, too many resources, too much power, in too few hands — and as the heart is ripped out of a society, it becomes a snarling animal. When a middle implodes, it tends to take democracy, decency, and humanity with it, as neighbor turns on neghbour. A society fractures along the lines of old ethnic and racial tensions, as that middle demands what it promised — the dream, the home, safety, security. Sooner or later, along comes a demagogue, who promises to give it to them — by taking it away from the “impure”, the “vermin”, the “filth”, the “animals”: the subhumans. Society’s whole project then becomes excluding those subhumans — down to the point of annihilation. Despair turns to exhilaration. Poverty becomes security again. And so on. “Capitalism implodes into fascism.”

The problem, though, is that we’re not allowed to say any of this. To think it. To mention it. Not a single word of it. This entire set of ideas, thoughts, notions — historical, socioeconomic, political, psychological — is still absolutely unmentionable in polite company. You won’t read about it in the New York Times. Nobody on CNN will say it. MSNBC’s happily giving pundits a platform to tell you the Green New Deal is fascism, while little kids are being put in camps. (None of that’s a coincidence, the one thing you can’t talk about on capitalism is capitalism.)

We are not allowed to speak the simple truth about America’s plight: capitalism is imploding into fascism. Our thoughts are constantly policed by none other than ourselves. We do it to seem reasonable, good, polite people. But who does that help? The good guys — or the bad guys? Democracy, or tyranny? Haven’t we just made fools of ourselves this way? If capitalism isn’t imploding into fascism — what is, cheese?

Still, maybe you don’t believe yourself, even at this late stage, that “fascism” is what is happening. Very well. Let’s just do a simple checklist. Demonization. Scapegoating. Ethnic bans. “Enemies of the people.” The reshaping of basic institutions. The constant transgression of norms. All that’s just step one. Step two. The changing of laws. Ethnic bans. Camps — systems of repression. Show trials and systemic human rights abuses, the beginnings of institutionalized violence against minorities. Step three. Emergency declarations seizures, expropriations the beginnings of the end of democracy, the transition to true authoritarianism — as power is concentrated formally. Step four? The unthinkable. Atrocity, genocide, holocaust.

I think most intelligent people would agree that’s a reasonable — if incomplete — checklist for fascist-authoritarian meltdowns. Would you?

Where are we on it? We’re beginning step three. Alarms going off yet? Panicked? You should be. This is not a drill. It never was. We are now three quarters of the way down the abyss. Deep down, I think most of us know it.

Now. How long has it taken us to get to step three — three quarters of the way to full collapse? It’s taken roughly three years. That’s not just “fast” — it’s three important things, to remember. It’s faster than anyone thought. It’s faster than anyone discussed. It’s faster than anything could stop it, because institutions work slowly. It’s taken just three years to get to step three. How long will it take to end up at step four?

Now we come to a grave issue — maybe the heart of the matter. Many Americans — maybe even you — don’t think there will be a step four. Even if I’ve persuaded, and you’ve reluctantly agreed, that we’re at step three — concentration of power — you pooh pooh the idea that the unthinkable could happen. After all, that’s what the unthinkable means.

Why are you still in denial? What else do you need to understand the above? Kids being separated from their parents systematically is already genocide. So where else is all this going to end, except step four — annihilation, extermination, ruin? Where else does fascism end — which you’ve already agreed all this very much is? In Candyland?

The reason that you are still in denial (and I’d bet you are, please accept my apologies, but let us just be honest) is that we still aren’t allowed to say any of the above. Nobody, anywhere, ever, is allowed to utter the simple truth: “capitalism is imploding into fascism.” Nobody, anywhere, ever, period. You’ll never hear it on the news, you’ll never see it on the lips of any pundit, you’ll never read a book about it, you’ll never be exposed to this idea in any way whatsoever.

But you see, without being able to understand, hold, contain, share, and speak that truth, we then remain in a kind of chronic, perpetual, systemic, and collective denial about where all this leads, too. After all, if we are denying a thing is happening — we must also deny what it ends in. If we are denying the roots of a thing, the branches will always puzzle and confound us.

That is why the bad guys are still winning — by a long way. That is why despite all the triumphant shouts of resistance types, we’re at step three, three quarters of the way down the abyss — and still hurtling downwards a mile a minute. The bad guys are laughing because the good guys are not good enough to count, matter, or change anything at all, because they are impotent. And the good guys are impotent because they will not, cannot, speak the truth about the state of the nation: capitalism is imploding into fascism.

The problem isn’t just them, my friends. It’s us. I don’t mean to scold you — please don’t misunderstand me. I am only trying to issue a friendly warning, and perhaps a challenge to those who have positions of power themselves.

The problem isn’t just the bad guys. The bad guys have told us from the very beginning they were fascists. What other kind of people want to build walls to keep the “vermin” out? What other kind of people hold racists and supremacists in such high regard they employ them and read them and admire them? They bad guys have told us from day one who they really were. They are doing what bad guys do, which is exactly what they said they would do: institutional violence to people they don’t consider human beings at all. How many times did they tell us they would do that? Why did’t we believe them? Who were we trying to impress?

The problem is us, my friends. We didn’t believe them — and we still don’t. We are still playing a fools’ game with each other. We are giving monsters the moral benefit of the doubt — so that we seem like reasonable, polite, civilized people to one another. But giving a monster the benefit of the doubt is not a reasonable or civilized thing, though it might be polite. These games of social politesse we play with one another are making fools of us.

Do you see how our leaders, pundits, thinkers, columnists, intellectuals — every single mainstream one — failed to predict any of this? Except the women and minorities who were instantly demonized? How the same old coterie failed to predict how bad this would get, how fast? And then failed to stop it in any way whatsoever?

Who are we trying to please by refusing to say, speak, understand these simple words: “capitalism is imploding into fascism”? Them? The mediocre white guys who dote on their every words? The Nates and the Ezras? The Larrys and the Jakes? Who are we trying to please with our silence, with our obsequiousness, with the surrender of the last thing we have — our minds, voices, and words?

Who are we trying to impress, to win, to charm, with our deafening silence? I don’t mean empty condemnations of the bad guys — I mean calling these things what they are, because to name a thing is to finally have some power over it, even if it is not very much at all. I mean our impossible silence when it comes to the words “fascism” “authoritarianism” “genocide” and so on.

By now, my friends, our silence is humiliating. It is embarrassing. It has made us the laughingstock of the world. It shames the ideals of our nation. It shows the globe how timid and meek we really are. Our enemies laugh as they pick apart our bones, knowing us to be cowards. Our silence shows that we are all these things. Our silence shows how weak we really are — at precisely the moment we should have been strong. It says all these myths of Americans as brave and tough must have been fairy tales — why, they are intimidated by a few thugs in suits.

So who are we trying to please, by refusing to call all this what it is? Why won’t we say the words we should, must, say? We must be trying to please someone — because we are letting everything we cherish and treasure be destroyed by thugs and mafias. We are watching democracy be raped by fat men with little hands. We are watching fascism be reborn in our very own country, as little children are caged. But they are braver than us, my friends. We are the ones afraid to utter the name of the beast. But the beast only snarls and laughs, because he knows now how much he has frightened us.

Maybe the unforgiving truth we don’t cherish and treasure democracy, each other, the future, and decency enough at all. Maybe we have become the kind of people who don’t deserve a democracy anymore — because we cannot even speak the simplest truths about it. Maybe a country like that was over the moment it decided it couldn’t say what needed to be said — because at that precise moment, any lie was permitted, the bigger, the dumber, the more violent, the better. Is that who we are? I don’t know, my friends.

February 2019

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