A few days ago, I saw a revival performance of the musical “Cabaret”. It brought to my mind the insidious takeover of government by a “militia group” (the Brown Shirts; Nazis), and the contrast that existed between the world of the Cabaret (seemingly insulated and oblivious), and what was happening in the world of politics. Are we living in a similar time, with much of the population oblivious to, or ignorant of, what is happening around us? With that in mind, let us explore some areas that may give clues to some of what is happening now that may have disturbing parallels to what happened then.
“Obama is a socialist - he’s taken over private enterprise and he advocates government takeover of our health-care system” “Obama and the Democrats want to take away our guns” “Obama is really a Muslim” “The government is our enemy; it wants to take away our rights.” “Hollywood and the media are nothing but a bunch of liberals trying to destroy our values”
Do we hear in these phrases the possibility that some group feels that there is a CONSPIRACY or PLOT against ordinary citizens?
“There’s no such thing as global warming” “We want Creationism taught in our schools; there’s no such thing as evolution” “Lock and load” “Defend your rights” “I want the right to carry a gun to a political rally; to church; wherever I want to”
Is there a climate of anti-intellectualism and anti-science; does a certain group want us to believe that ACTION is what matters, not deliberative thought or reasoning?
“Obama and the Democrats are soft on terrorism; don’t they understand we’re at war” “Let’s nuke those bastards” “We can’t ever take the nuclear option off the table” “Pre-emptive war is a successful strategy” “Blast those scarf-heads” “Let’s blow their factories up before they can develop atomic bombs” “Those peaceniks are anti-American” “The Congress needs to be investigated to find those members who are un-American”
Is there a group out there that always needs to be defining someone as ‘the ENEMY’ and that sees WAR as inevitable; or, that views diplomacy, negotiation, and other peaceful measures to be anti-American and even traitorous?
“Obama wasn’t born in this country so he’s not eligible to be President.” “We must seal our borders” “Keep those criminals out of our country” “No amnesty” “Build that fence” “Arizona has the right idea” “Stop illegal immigration now” “Those people are taking jobs from Americans” “They’ve ruined this town, state, country” “Profiling is very necessary”
Is there already a large group of Americans supporting the concept that there is a group of immigrants or FOREIGNERS that are at the root of our problems? Is there an appeal to a frustrated middle class that targets a lower class as the ENEMY?
“I’m not going to pay for your health care” “Don’t ask for a hand-out; take some initiative” “Welfare Queen” “Stand on your own two feet; get a job” “You Retard” “We’re spending too much on entitlements” Do you remember the video of the well-dressed man taunting the seated man with cerebral palsy berating him and saying he wouldn’t pay for his health care?
Is there a group, or groups, out there who are targeting the WEAK in order to enhance their image as the STRONG?
“Talking points” “Slogans” “Irrational tirades” “Attacks on liberals”
Is there already a media blitz of lies, distortions, banal slogans, diversionary speech, etc. which is the base of a “newspeak” that encourages IRRATIONALITY rather than critical reasoning; that encourages groups that are associated with all of the above?
To conclude, let me simply quote from a piece that may give us food for further thought:
In a 1995 essay "Eternal Fascism", the Italian writer and academic Umberto Eco attempted to list general properties of fascist ideology. He claims that it is not possible to organize these into a coherent system, but that "it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it".
His proposed features of fascism are as follows:
+"The Cult of Tradition", combining differing cultural beliefs with a rejection of modernism.
+"The Cult of Action for Action's Sake", which dictates that action is of value in itself, and should be taken without intellectual reflection. This, says Eco, is connected with anti-intellectualism and irrationalism, and often manifests in attacks on modern culture and science.
+"Disagreement is Treason" - fascism devalues intellectual discourse and critical reasoning as barriers to action.
+"Fear of Difference", which fascism seeks to exploit and exacerbate, often in the form of racism or an appeal against foreigners and immigrants.
+"Appeal to a Frustrated Middle Class", fearing economic pressure from the demands and aspirations of lower social groups.
+"Obsession With a plot" and the hyping-up of an enemy threat. This often involves an appeal to xenophobia or the identification of an internal security threat. He cites Pat Robertson's book The New World Order as a prominent example of a plot obsession.
+"Pacifism is Trafficking With the Enemy" because "Life is Permanent Warfare" - there must always be an enemy to fight.
+"Contempt for the Weak" - although a fascist society is elitist, everybody in the society is educated to become a hero.
+"Selective Populism" - the People have a common will, which is not delegated but interpreted by a leader. This may involve doubt being cast upon a democratic institution, because "it no longer represents the Voice of the People".
+"Newspeak" - fascism employs and promotes an impoverished vocabulary in order to limit critical reasoning.
Are you being bamboozled by forces already committed to concepts that could damage our democratic Republic, our freedoms, our real values? Don’t be too quick to judge, or too facile in your deliberation. There are elements of fascism and governmental takeover in the Tea Party and militia movements that cannot be ignored (and some Republicans have supported these elements). In the 1920s and 30s, that fringe element was ignored and look what it got us!