Reposted from Medium
Editorial Note: As with abrupt climate change, it is time to stop using the future tense and use the past or present tense. There is nothing “future” about either abrupt climate change or the demise of the United States into fascist autocracy.
Here’s a tiny question: what stage of collapse is America in? Do you think — like many Americans — that “things aren’t that bad”? Or are you ashamed, furious, and disgusted? How should one feel, anyways — what’s the objective reality of collapse?
First, extremists like fascists capture institutions — they gain power over them. That’s phase one of any proper collapse. Then, they subvert them — they pack them with cronies, flunkies, admirers, and sycophants. That’s phase two. But in phase three, the institutions of a democracy are perverted. They are turned from instruments of freedom, justice, and equality, to weapons of subjugation, repression, fear, and violence.
(Think of how the Nazis used the law itself to oppress and then exterminate Jews. Phase three. But that was after phase two — stacking the branches of government with good Nazis. And phase one — seizing power. That is how social collapses tend to go.)
So where is America on my little scale, or sequence, of collapse? Should we be relieved things aren’t worse — or horrified at how bad they really are? American collapse is further along than you probably think, my friends. It is well past phase one. Even phase two. In fact, phase three — the last one — is beginning. The basic institutions of democracy, having been captured, and then subverted, are now being reshaped and restructured, as weapons of mass subjugation, repression, and violence.
Consider three events that happened just in the last week.
This morning, the Prez told several members of Congress to “go back” to their countries. Now, of course, they’re as American as…the Prez. This tirade was described in the press as “racist.” But the truth is that it is much more than just racist. Racist would be the President demeaning minorities in general. But to attack members of the opposition in this way isn’t just racist. So what is it?
Well, let’s specify the nature of the attack. It says this: Impostors walk among us. The opposition members aren’t “real” Americans. Someone that isn’t real is an impostor, pretending to be a thing they are not. It’s a slur that every minority’s heard countless times. But that very slur is very different when it comes from the head of a state — against members of an opposition. In that case, it isn’t merely obnoxious, foolish, or vulgar.
It is institutional dehumanization. “You aren’t really one of us! You are alive, foreign, other. You are something lesser, beneath us. The true and real volk of the homeland. You are subhuman.” None of that is said explicitly, of course. It doesn’t need to be. “Go back home!”, to another citizen, in a democracy of equals, is a violation of personhood, its negation, absence, removal. It says that some of us are superior, because we are real, and others of us are inferior, because we are not.
But that is the very logic of supremacy. Why is it that some of us are real people, and others of us only impostors? The only answer is that it is in the blood. The real ones among us are authentic by virtue of our bloodlines, our genetic inheritance. Impostors walk among us — the ones pretending to be real, just like us, but they are not. Their blood says so.
So. What do we call people — especially in an official capacity — who institutionally dehumanize others as impostors? They are called fascists, my friends. But these fascists apparently run the country now. They are using the office of the Presidency itself to institutionally dehumanize the opposition. That’s not just the textbook definition of fascist-authoritarianism: it’s phase three, the perversion of democracy, using the institutions of governance as instruments of violence, as weapons.
Let me come to my second event. This one barely seems to have made the news. Did you know that “agents” were checking IDs on the…NYC subway? Does that chill you a little? It should. But if it doesn’t, let me put it another way, so that it does. Papers were being checked on public transport.
Get the context now? What does it say when papers are being checked on public transport? Well, the “agents” must be looking for a specific kind of person. Because in the absence of war or some kind of genuine emergency, the only point to checking papers can be to identify members of an unwanted group. Not, for example, to manhunt individuals.
What kinds of societies check papers on public transport? Certainly not constitutional democracies. Because doing so violates basic constitutional principles. Freedom of assembly, expression, movement, privacy. Checking papers in any public space isn’t just a “violation of civil liberties”, as America’s anodyne public discourse might put it: it’s a violation of the most basic principles of democracy.
That is because if I imagine my papers are going to be checked, I will alter everything about my life, probably. I will avoid those places. I will avoid associating with certain people. I will watch what I say. I will limit what I think. Society will soon come to be defined by an atmosphere of fear, of grim and stone-eyed complicity, of looking the other way.
The “chilling effects” — another American phrase — of paper-checking are vast. Why, though? Because people are not just numbers and categories and files, my friends. In a democracy, people, first, are human beings, with inalienable rights. They are equals in regards to those rights. But when a society begins to check papers, in broad daylight — and it barely even makes the news — it tells us something crucial, vital, and bleak. That society is dehumanizing itself. It is reducing people to objects, numbers, things to control and subjugate and prey upon.
Checking papers, of course, demands the creation of new government agencies who can do the “job.” Later, they will say things like: “we were just following orders!” Of course, of course. But that doesn’t change the point. When a society begins checking papers in broad daylight, it tells us something very, very important, and very, very bleak. It takes Gestapos to check papers, my friends. And that is precisely what America is building now.
That brings me to my third event. The VP recently did something very much like a victory tour of America’s concentration camps. A press junket. He showed them off and flaunted them. “Tough!”, he said, as if to show off just how manly and strong the regime is. Of course, that’s a celebration of violence and cruelty — but that’s so normal in America it’s almost besides the point.
What does it say when a VP is giving tours of concentration camps? Let me remind you that once, not so long ago, concentration camp tours were given to eager journalists. They were shown canteens and cafeterias and gymnasiums and schools. “Why, see”, cried the Nazis. “Look how well we are treating the Jews! Like honored guests!” The world was foolish enough to fall for it. But even that is not the point.
When heads of state are giving tours of concentration camps, it’s even more stark evidence of the answer to my question. The institutions of governance haven’t just been captured. Now they are being perverted, commandeered, rebuilt.
Let me make all that crystal clear. What institutions am I talking about? The Presidency is now an office that institutionally dehumanizes the opposition, speaking the language of supremacy openly in public. The Vice-Presidency, meanwhile, is an office that…gives tours of concentration camps. Needless to say, both of these are offices that build networks of such camps. Meanwhile, new “enforcement agencies” have arisen to fill the camps — the Gestapos of American collapse. They check papers in broad daylight — and nobody much notices.
What kind of a society does all these things? I think the answer to that is very clear. One that is turning fascist-authoritarian at light-speed.
Americans are in a kind of deep, stark, denial. They have been for very long, about very many things. The wars they made on the world, they damage they did, and so on. But the denial they are in now is the most dangerous of all. The way that they treated the world — with contempt, with hate, with scorn — has come home. The fascists are treating Americans just the way they treated the world. But Americans deny — enough of them — that there is a fascist collapse happening in America at all.
Even if they worry, even if they’re concerned — they are unable to use the lexicon of history to describe what is happening to America now. Wait — what is it that we say about people who can’t learn from history?
America’s not just in danger of having a fascist collapse. It’s having one. It’s bang in the middle of one. It’s not in the early phases — but in fact, beginning the later ones. The ones where concentration camps rise, and hatred spews from the head of a state, and papers are checked on public transport. How much more obvious could it get? How many more data points do you need? If this isn’t enough…what could be?
Denial, in the face of fascist collapse this obvious? It’s the bad guys’ best friend. It’s up to you to judge for yourself where you stand on that scale. But don’t kid yourself anymore. When the President is openly dehumanizing the opposition, when the VP’s giving happy tours of the concentration camps, when the NYC subway is a place where papers are checked…my friends, your country is ruled by fascists. The only question is when they will come for you, too.