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
What is not widely recognized, though, is the underlying germ that makes the politics of division so viable. Our culture teaches us in subtle but countless ways that division works – that it is necessary for creating safety and enabling control. We soak up this lesson, learning first and foremost how to divide the self. That lesson is stressed and locked into our bodies by our public schools: achieving success there means suppressing the body’s intelligence and sitting still (and you’d better learn to throttle the body’s energy, or you’ll get in trouble) so that you can fill your head with the right facts and lessons.
This is who we’ve always been, a nation of madmen and sociopaths, for whom murder is a line item, kept hidden via a long list of semantic self-deceptions, from “manifest destiny” to “collateral damage.” We’re used to presidents being the soul of probity, kind Dads and struggling Atlases, humbled by the terrible responsibility, proof to ourselves of our goodness. Now, the mask of respectability is gone, and we feel sorry for ourselves, because the sickness is showing.
Why we feel so fatigued, depleted, and exhausted
The extreme weather events of the summer of 2018 are not just symptoms of climate breakdown. They are early stage warnings of a protracted process of civilisational collapse as industrial societies face some of the opening symptoms of having already breached the limits of a safe climate.
As I write this article, the Trump regime wants to add one simple question to the census – Are you a US Citizen. What harm can there be in answering this simple question – if you are living here legally? If you are a citizen? I would like to rephrase the question. For me the questions is: What are the potential dangers in asking such a question, in separating people into categories based on citizenship – especially under a regime that has repeatedly shown itself as hostile to everything it deems “foreign” (generally non-European in origin)?
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.
I have been writing about collapse for more than a decade, and perhaps you have been reading about it for even longer. While I know that it is inevitable and that in tandem with climate catastrophe it will be even more horrific than seasoned students of collapse anticipated, it matters to me how it unfolds. Throughout history, the collapse of societies has played out in a manner unique to each one. How this collapse plays out matters to me. It is poised to be violent, and my intention has always been to minimize the brutality. The first step in that project is to name what is so at this moment in time and to stop minimizing it by pointing to the myriad evils the Unites States has perpetrated on other countries in the past. Indeed, the chickens have come home to roost, and now it is our turn to deal with them.
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.
He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God. ~Aeschylus~