Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Are we, well.., decadant?

           Speaking as a Canadian and a North American, it is probably safe to say that we are not immune to the political and racial fanaticism that are emerging as disquieting symptoms of social decadence in Europe. Witness the recent debate in Québec over banning the wearing of "ostentatious religious symbols" by employees of public institutions: hospitals, government offices, schools, day cares..

left-wing-populism-in-quebec  (internal blog link)

             Ultimately, one can begin to pose questions about the long term viability of democracy in radically inegalitarian, capitalist / corporatist economies. Already, one begins to see the beginings of this questioning among political scientists:

link - democracy bankrupt?

             One of the things that strikes one as a "sign of the times": the nastiness of political debate. Why such nastiness in supposedly affluent societies where everyone (supposedly) has enough to eat? This may have a rational explanation: empty barrels make the most noise. When political parties have nothing to offer, they go on the attack. This is a way of hiding their intellectual vacuousness and moral bankruptcy: their sole reason for existing is to prop up a dying Old Regime as long as possible. This is the core set of values of reactionary politics, very visible in North America today. Just think of election time "attack" or "negative" ads. Our political leaders, with few exceptions, cannot be positive exactly because they have no proposals, no program founded in a critical analysis of reality. One gets the impression that our democratic institutions are exhausted.

link: noam-chomsky,10-strategies-of-manipulation

              Everywhere a "devil may care" attitude flourishes. Witness the antics recently of Toronto's high living, crack smoking, "man of the people" mayor Rob Ford.

link: character assassination as politics

               Everything which is "virile" - mean spirited, vicious, violent - is lauded. Cynicism is the norm, especially among the young. Many are convinced that all politicians are crooks, something which the Charboneau Commission hearings into corruption in the construction industry in Québec tend to confirm. 

 internal blog links:





                These are dangerous times. It is at such times that the disempowered and the disenfranchised finally opt out of the System and begin searching for Messiahs to save them. This has had terrible consequences in the 20th century. One need only think of the great dictators that century produced: Hitler, Stalin, Mao.. 

                Fascism caught the Left like a bolt out of the blue. Not only had they not predicted it's emergence in the first decades of the twentieth century but they did not really understand it. It is only with the 20 / 20 vision of retrospection, fifty years after its birth, could the Left say that it had some sort of an intellectual handle on fascism. And what we do know is not very encouraging..

                One definition of fascism: the control or seizure of the State by the corporate elite. That sounds like North America today. One need only compare, for example, the Harper government's environmental policies and the desires of the petrochemical industry to see much overlap there is. Harper's environmental policy could have been written in the Oil Patch (cynics say it was). Young people understand things like this viscerally and its corrupting influence both on them and on the political process itself.

                One of the strategies worked out by the fascists early on (program of the Italian fascist party, circa 1920), was what one can call "contemporary populism". Fascism / populism aims to bypass the logical, critical thinking circuits of the brain and tap directly into the reptilian brain.

              Dimetrodon: an early synapsid reptile (Permian era - 275 million years ago)
            Mammals are modern or surviving synapsids. Dimetrodon slumbers in the                    core of our mammalian brains..

           Since reptiles were the earliest terrestrial vertebrates from which the rest evolved, their brains are involved in computing the basic stuff: sex, aggression and flight, the stuff you need to survive but not much more. The rawest, most powerful emotional, instinctive stuff. This is what the fascists aim to tap into. Their males want our women: a traditional motivational ploy of the racist. They want to take over the world. They want to destroy our values and our way of life. Everything is simple, black and white - as befits a small, early model vertebrate brain.

             But the reptile slumbers in all of us (till awakened). The fascist wants to tweak Dimetrodon's tail, stomp on it. They want to connect the raw emotions stimulated and liberated to cues: racial, religious, gender-orientation or political epithets. The goal is to get a knee jerk - unthinking "conditioned" - reflex when the cues are presented. Thus, critical rational thinking - emerging in higher (non-reptilian) brain centers - is bypassed by raw, survival oriented emotion. This was all well spelled out in the first Fascist Party program (circa 1920, Rome). Contemporary North American reactionaries have refined the procedures (many are from advertising firms and corporate funded Right wing think tanks including university profs). More sophistication in programming and delivery but the basic principles are the same. In the third link from the top, Toronto's high-flyin' populist mayor smears - by insinuation - an adversarial journalist with the hate label, "pedophile". The connection is obvious: threat to children (our children!) has been linked to this man, his name and, of course, his future opinions expressed in his columns.

             The reassertion of populism, reactionary politics and even neo-nazi movements is a worrying sign, if the history of the 20th century is any judge...

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