What do imploding middle classes do? They turn to fascists. Who blame their woes on scapegoats, turning grief into grievance. Fascists promise the downwardly mobile that they will be “great” again — that they’ll rise culturally, triumph socially, be symbolically reborn, and economically renewed. It’s a powerful appeal, to people who, suddenly, are shocked, that they are falling out of what appeared to be a clear blue sky. Who will save them? Who’ll rescue them? To understand fascism, Yyu have to understand that the minds of a large part of this stratum of society simply stop working. Those minds brim over with grievances, hated, imagined enemies, who are persecuting them, victimizing them, who are hunting them into nonexistence, who they need to destroy first, exterminate — not anything resembling coherent thoughts, logical reason, or moral sanity
It is very strange that the self-styled populist wing of the left is so indifferent to this project.
Collusion in real time
In 2016, Andrew Harvey and I published Savage Grace: Living Resiliently In The Dark Night of The Globe. In Chapter 1 of the book, we forecasted essentially what is happening in this moment in terms of the demise of the last vestiges of democracy and human rights on this planet. We chose the image of Kali, the Hindu goddess of creation and destruction as the symbol of our current global predicament. Two years later, we are witnessing a virulent, worldwide embrace of white nationalist, authoritarian rule. Ultimately, Kali seeks to transform the human ego and rational mind and bring us into a more permanent residence in the heart, but the process is often excruciating. Might she also want to transform the image a country or a community has of itself? “This is not who we are.”—Or is it? How shall awake human beings respond? What is our work? What is our calling? How do we reconnect with the authentic sources of meaning in our lives and the web of life itself as totalitarian rule is poised to dominate our consciousness and our countries as we stand on the threshold of the potential extinction of all life on Earth as a result of catastrophic climate change? We will be posting portions of Savage Grace in the coming weeks because it is proving itself to be prescient and empowering in this very dark time.
So the fascist society — which can’t be a democracy, remember — becomes one giant authoritarian exercise is seeing just who these people that are “born better” really are. Who among them is the most cunning, vicious, and ruthless predators of all, the Nietzschean uberman, who can dominate the weak the most savagely? It usually begins like this: can they exploit the weak, the alien, the immigrant, the foreigner, the disabled? Take their wealth and belongings? Kick and punch them down? But it’s a contest now. Who will go further? Soon enough, there is someone willing to put the weak in ghettoes. Then to split up families. Then to put children in camps. And then the unthinkable happens.
A continued exploration of my family history and how the past can guide us through turbulent and dangerous times.
What all of this portends, worldwide, is far from clear. Though there are also significant signs of hope, some commentators have — with good reason — been quoting Gramsci’s observation from his prison cell: “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”
I probably won’t change many minds about Trump/Russia in what I’ve written above. Some will probably conclude that I’ve sold my soul to the Clintonites (for the record, I did not support Clinton in the election), or that I’ve bought into anti-Russian propaganda emanating from the neoconservative foreign policy establishment. But that’s also part of the story: we are entering a post-truth era in which tribal alignment matters far more than mere facts, which are becoming ever harder to establish to everyone’s agreement. Jennifer Kavanagh calls this “truth decay,” and notes that it makes the job of informing and mobilizing the public much harder—not just with regard to Trump-Russia or politics in general, but also when it comes to climate change and the other collective survival threats
When it comes to the Russiagate scandal, progressives usually take one of two positions. They either dismiss the scandal as a lot of hooey, a “nothingburger,” just a way for warmongers and the “Deep State” to revive a cold war between Washington and Moscow. Or they treat the scandal as just a means to an end, a way to cast doubt on the 2016 presidential election, implicate the administration in a variety of crimes, and ultimately impeach the president. Both of these positions are wrong.
Overall, Snyder’s message is that the United States is not unique—neither in the world today nor against the backdrop of history—in being pushed in more authoritarian directions. If anything, Trump is exploiting the same tactics Putin and state-run media in Russia use, but with the American addiction to 24/7 media and smartphones and other devices, we’re making it easier for an emerging authoritarian like Trump to consolidate his power.