Fascism, Democracy, and the American Idea

Submitted by murph on Fri, 09/21/2018 - 10:26

Words like "fascist" and "totalitarian" have too many ideological overlays, and are too widely misunderstood, to be used in any attempt at an honest discussion of what drives people to adopt various styles of government. Most liberals, for example, think liberals are democrats and conservatives fascists; cite the nazis as an example of a right wing, military, regime; and, do not associate totalitarianism and socialism with the continuing atrocities in places like China, North Korea, and Vietnam.

For the purposes of being clear, therefore, I want to use these terms where their natural meaning is likely to be understood, but broadly contrast the two most basic forms of human communal organization under two word groups with "feudal", "fascist", "totalitarian", and "old testament" in one group and "Christian", "democratic", and "American" in the other.

In the feudal form most people act like children in a caricature homesteader or fundamentalist family in which the power of the father is absolute and uncontested; in which the patriarch owns everything: land, people, animals; and in which his word is law, his rights sacred, his anger fearsome, and his vengeance inevitable.

Feudal structures are totally hierarchical: from the Pharaohs to the Bourbons and the Clintons the king is the only adult, power is inherited, other males exist as dependent children, women are traded around as brood animals, and the whole society divides into layers that suck up and kick down - fascist in its violence and totalitarian in its control over the minutia of almost everyone's life.

Most of the Old Testament, like the Koran, was written by people living in a feudal society who saw God the way a five year old Somalia refugee sees a father trying to save his family from the Kenyans: as the patriarch who loves but must be obeyed; as a power to be both loved and feared; as someone whose actions, however counter-intuitive, must be accounted good; and, as someone whose choices, however capricious, are automatically law.

In that world, and from that perspective, the children of the father, serve only the father - without question or necessary comprehension.

Think of Europe in the time of Henry Plantagenet: he owns England; all of England, every acre of land, every building, every person, and every animal. His word is life or death to nobles and peasants alike; his whim, whether for a peasant girl to be brought him or a castle to be built, is law. Nobody else counts - and the life of anyone daring to question the system is immediately forfeit.

Feudalism is a human thing: a group response to stress. In a situation where the group faces an external threat of extinction, group members seek out and promote a leader strong enough to bear the burden, to sacrifice some group members so the majority will live, to act in loco parentis for the group and thereby allow individuals to avoid responsibility for decisions leading to the deaths of family members.

When the waning of the late Roman warming reduced agricultural productivity, food stress ushered in the dark ages: workers became serfs; landed gentry became nobility; warrior cults led by figures from the old testament arose in Asia and the middle east; and, Roman roads emptied of all but clergy and the entourages of the very rich as forts were built, communities closed, and human rights generally obliterated.

Feudalism in all its forms reflects a world view based on scarcity - a world in which the few come to own the many and survival is a daily issue for most.

The classic example in literature - a fully worked out statement of the liberal fascist dream - is provided in a mid 70s sci-fi classic: Lucifer's Hammer. A comet fall combines with conservative greed, military stupidity, and the natural racism of the not-us to produce WWIII, mass starvation, and an eventual "last chance for humanity" battle between the nice people collected around the brilliant, and utterly benevolent, cultural father all sane readers identify with and the mad max precursors rednecks reveal themselves to be when opportunity affords.

Feudalism pervades the old testament (and Islam): God is lord in the same way Henry was, but with the relative peace and prosperity characteristic of the Roman empire circa 50 B.C. came the re-awakening of the human spirit - and so the Christian revolution eventually replaced the angry old man with his kinder, gentler, more human son.

In the New Testament the children of God have left home: they love and honor God, but assert their independence, make their own choices, and expect God to respect them. Jesus was a Jew: this is the covenant re-imagined more than a thousand years later - the Christian world is a world viewed across wider horizons, a world made possible by relative plenty in a time of peace, one in which God loves all equally, in which every human is considered worthwhile, all have value, and none can own another.

Basically, Locke's words, as quoted in the American Declaration of Independence about 1700 years later

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

restate both the moral message, and the revolution, underlying the New Testament.

Thus the church stood against feudalism: its power was limited and its prelates corruptible, but for the six hundred years between the waning of the late Roman warming and the beginning of the medieval warming period, the only real power in Europe protesting the rights of the individual against the power of the hierarchy was the Catholic church. Eventually, increased food security, brought about by a warming climate and the increased use of iron in both agriculture and transportation, led to the renaissance - literally a rebirth of the human struggle for personal freedom as feudalism weakened; trade and specialization re-created social mobility through the forced evolution of a new merchantile class; resurgent Christian teachings drove a schism between secularists and ecclesiastics in the church; and, a mere four hundred years later, the American revolution capped 1700 years of gradual evolution toward the real Christian, libertarian, ideal.

In Europe weakening feudalism forced the gradual devolution of power from the governing minority to the lower classes - and, as a result of that process, power is still seen as granted by the state to the people. In Canada, for example, the formal bill of rights is really a list of grants from the English throne - grants that can therefore also be rescinded at the will of whatever government wields the power of the throne.

In the American or new Testamentary approach the "arrow of power" points the other way: instead of having the crown delegate some of its powers to parliament and thus ultimately to the people, the people stand-up the congress and delegate some of their powers to it.

Basically, in the feudal, fascist, or old testamentary approach the power of government ultimately comes from inheritance, from bloodlines, and, more practically, at the point of a checkbook, a gun, or  sword - where in the American, Christian, and new testamentary approach it is an expression of individual value through collective means.

Thus the American Declaration of Independence is not part of the American Constitution but stands, instead, as a separate enunciation severing the parent-child dependencies between the crown and the people to declare that all, from kings to paupers, are born equal: creatures of God, not the crown.

For these reasons words in the Feudal group (fascist, totalitarian, old testament) are used here when the underlying organizing assumption is that the government owns the people and delegates some of its rights to them, and terms like "American" or "Christian" are used when the organizing assumption is that the people own the government and delegate some of their rights and responsibilities to it. Today's socialist governments are feudal - and the only truly Christian governments on earth are those of the American states, and the American union.