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A Pagan's Blog


Paganism, Fascism, and America, Part 2 of 2

posted by Gus diZerega

For most people the appeal of
fascism is first and foremost to feel powerful, particularly to dominate those
they blame for their sense of themselves being exploited.  But unlike many movements against
oppression, fascist movements do not target those had exploited them, but those
who have recently visibly improved their status.  This paradox is a key to understanding fascism.
 


Future fascists had long accepted
being dominated by some so long as they did not feel they were at the bottom of
the heap.  Their acceptance of a
status quo that subordinated them required them to feel superior to those who
were even worse off.  This was as
true for German Nazis as for the folks who scream “Liar!” every time a
Congressman tries to answer a question and question President Obama’s birth
certificate.

The Fascist World
Fascists view of the world as a
hostile universe arranged against a small virtuous population, usually ethnic,
that strives manfully to survive. 
This is a zero sum view of the universe, which is why the gains of the
formerly oppressed are seen as evidence that those who once were oppressing
them are now oppressed.  It is why
fascists love unilateral action as “manly” and regard cooperation as “weak.” It
is why Democratic leaders are stupid beyond words to emphasize bipartisanship
over their goal.  The Republican
Party is not fascist, but it increasingly holds itself together by appealing to
and feeding the emotions of which fascism is a more complete expression.  The fascist world is a place of eternal
struggle and war.  Those who
prevail do so by dominating the others, and those who do not become slaves or
go extinct.

This is why Power as Domination is
the currency of the realm in fascist thought.

Power
Power comes in many forms, so many
that a definition covering them all is deceptively simple: power is making a
difference.  Love is powerful.  Sex is powerful.  Ideas are powerful  The same is true applied to a river, an
emotion, or an entity, physical or otherwise.  As such, power is a component of everything that is
wonderful in our lives.

But not all Power’s forms are
wonderful.  Facsism is the service
to and worship of Power as Domination. It seeks to organize an entire society
along this principle.  It differs from
traditional forms of domination in that it wants its rank and file members to
participate actively as dominators, even as they themselves are dominated.  By comparison, traditional domination
wanted most people passively to accept their fate.  Facsism wants them to embrace it, because by doing so they
get to participate in dominating others. 
Even at the lowest social levels, where people are powerless, fascists
experience the thrill of domination when their country, race, religion, or
ethnic group – whatever symbols of resentment and power the leaders employ,
dominate other countries, races, religions or ethnic groups.  Then the  bulk of the people can feel a part of something bigger than
they.  In this sense fascism is a
product of a democratic age, even as it is completely anti-democratic and
appeals to religious needs, even as it is completely anti-religious.

I move to the insights a Pagan
approach can bring to all this by quoting Malidoma Some 
on power.

When power comes out of its hiddenness,
it shrinks the person who brought it into the open and turns that person into a
servant.  The only way that overt
power can remain visible is by being fed, and he who knows how to make power
visible ends up trapped into keeping that power visible. . . .

[Western culture] gives names to
corporations and treats these corporations like living beings. . . . Whoever
creates that kind of visible power must then stay in the service to that which
he creates. . . . To display power is to become servile to it in a way that is
extremely disempowering.  This is
because the service is fueled by the terror of losing the fantasy of having
power. (62-3)

Domination as power
If we look at the real views of a
Hitler or a Mussolini or, I would suggest, the leaders of the religious right
and those like them, they are neither Christian nor Pagan.  They are not religious or philosophical
at all in any normal sense.  Rather
they are a devotion to domination.

And here is a twist.

Power in the sense of domination is
ultimately empty.  The dominator is
as dependent on the dominated as a tapeworm is on the host it parasitizes.  Power as Domination gives a sense of
vitality so long as it is being fed by the soul of the dominator and the pain
of the dominated.  But when the domination
stops, the person is cut off from this energetic psychic drug and feels empty.

 I think this is why fascists
persist in blaming people more victimized than they who are now themselves
becoming freer from domination. 
The white racist or anti-Semite or religious bigot can no longer simply
enjoy a sense of superiority over another who now rejects it.  Worse from a fascist point of view, the
former underlings receives social support for their rejection, especially from
liberals and “The Left.”  The
dominator’s source of personal fulfillment is cut off, even as they continue to
be oppressed by dominators above them. 
They feel powerless, and resent their powerlessness.  But they still honor and lust for power
over others themselves.  I think
this explains their utter irrationality.

This means that the seeds of
fascism are with us in any society where people accept being dominated so long
as they themselves can dominate someone else.  Traditionally such societies were not fascist, but when
growing freedom enables those at the bottom to begin to change their position,
the layers above lose their pay off for accepting the status quo.  Instead of acting to change that status
quo to one of greater well-being for all, they turn their resentment towards
those they can no longer themselves dominate.  In this sense a Rush Limbaugh may not himself be a fascist, (he
has not endorsed physical attacks on others or preventing other points of view
from being heard) but he gives eloquent word to their frustrations,
legitimating and empowering them.

Domination as a Power
Many Pagans know that constantly
focusing on an idea, combined with strong emotional energy, can create a
thought form or quality of psychic energy.  Domination, and the rush of vitality and aliveness it can
provide, is a major thought form in human life.

As a Power, Domination can be fed
by dominating, and by resentment at being dominated and so wanting to dominate
in return.  But once the
opportunity to dominate another stops, as Malidoma Some observed, the person of
power is faced with how truly small he or she is, because at a certain level
they lived off others’ energy in a zero sum relationship.  They were strong because others were
weak.

They get their domination fix the
same way rabid soccer fans get theirs – when their team prevails.  Their team won, so they feel
powerful.  In the fascist context,
their ethnic/national/religious/racial team beat another, so they feel that in
a sense, they did it.  For the
powerless seeking power without challenging those above them, it can be the
only game in town.  And so the
“little people” applauded aggressive war, torture, putting those brown Islamic
different people in their place. 
Or they can dominate those they regard as inferior, such as liberals,
Blacks, Hispanics, the wrong types of women, (the right types accept their
domination, as do the right kinds of Blacks, Mexicans, and Indians), and so
on.  This in itself is not fascism,
but when frustration reaches a point where it overrides respect or fear of the
law, and the rules of civilized disagreement, you are at its front door.  All that is then needed is organization
and a leader.

Fascist rallies and rituals are
acts of worship

The charisma of a fascist leader is
the means by which Power as Domination most completely completes the loop of
energy, feeding back to even the most insignificant fascist a sense of power
and greatness.  Other than beating
up the weak and despised, it provides the most personal feedback from top to
bottom, as the bottom feeds the top. 
Hitler fed off his crowd, and his crowd felt fed in return.

This is a magickal relationship,
but it is not a good one.  Happily
we do not (yet?) have such a leader. 
So America’s fascist rumblings are still at the level of mob action.

And so I think this is the key to
understanding why any genuine religious tradition has to oppose the rise of
American Fascism.  It is the
opposite of all genuine religious traditions, which without exception place
human beings in contexts or meaning bigger than they are, contexts requiring
not domination, but respect, care, compassion, love, and similar values.  Fascism places people in contexts of
utter meaninglessness and nihilism, against which the violence of domination
and the thrill it gives is the only response.

Paganism and Fascism
I hope this mini essay has given some pointers on how a Pagan world view can shed light on some of the most paradoxical and frustrating elements in fascism and in contemporary trends in the American right. 



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Tom

posted August 13, 2009 at 2:06 pm


“For most people the appeal of fascism is first and foremost to feel powerful, particularly to dominate those they blame for their sense of themselves being exploited.”
I would add that a sense of security, certainty, and stability are appeals to fascism as well. The human condition fears insecurity, uncertainty, and instability; and history has shown, such as in Italy and Germany, that people–out of fear and passion–will gravitate towards any person or party that can supply them those three things for their own self-preservation. Really, though, this goes for authoritarian regimes in general, evidenced by other authoritarian governments that popped up throughout Europe where internal civil strife and political instability were present–Portugal and Spain, for example. You also have Hobbes and Machiavelli, both contemporaries of political strife, that emphasized order and stability through authoritarian regimes.



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jc

posted August 13, 2009 at 3:05 pm


I really like this idea that paradoxically, fascism can only have risen up in societies that embrace a democratic ideal, because fascism must operate on an individual’s innate sense that they can improve their lot in life (democracy), even if it is at the expense of another (zero-sum game).



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Gus diZerega

posted August 13, 2009 at 3:05 pm


Yes, right. But it is the universal nature of this point that makes me not regard it as a key to fascism as a particularly demonic movement.
Fasicist try and create such instability – as they are doing now – in the hopes of frightening people to support them.
A black guy can be busted when he is rude to a cop on his property and people critical of Bush II are relegated to “free speech zones” (I thought the US was a free speech zone), but infantile imbeciles can carry weapons and bully their way at public meetings, making it impossible for citizens to interact with their representatives, and not be busted. Crazy.
I wonder whether Democrats have a death wish. Sometimes I think they do.



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Malaz

posted August 13, 2009 at 9:12 pm


Gus,
Thanks so much for this insightful essay.
While I don’t believe there is any real cause for alarm in the context of Indigenist (pagan) Fascists such as the Odinists, this is a lesson that we should all keep in mind all the time.
I’m surprised you didn’t reference “1984″
Thanks again,
Malaz
Baydjing



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Thomas

posted August 13, 2009 at 11:20 pm


We are, for the moment, lucky that no such leader has emerged among American Conservatives. This is not so much because there is no one willing to assume that mantle but rather because there are so many that want to. The internet is awash with would-be revolutionary leaders and the Republican party is brimming over with officials that all fashion themselves the saviors of their cause.
We should all fear the day when one such person manifests the force of personality that it will take to enlist the others as their underlings.
Then, of course, the question becomes ‘what must we do in that case?’ I’m not willing to believe that brinksmanship with these American Proto-Fascists is inevitable but it does look less and less avoidable with each passing day. Are we to reach out to them? Are we to arm ourselves in preparation for their violence? Are we to become authoritarians, ourselves, in an effort to curtail their activities? Time will tell.



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Makarios

posted August 14, 2009 at 1:44 am


Regarding Gus’ remarks on domination as power, let us not mince words. There are some people who, when placed in a position of power, will use it, not in aid of any particular aim or goal, but simply because that’s how they get their jollies. They get high just from subjecting others to their will, for whatever reason or for no reason. They get high on domination the way that a tweaker gets high on meth—and, like meth, it’s extremely addictive. I imagine that everyone who has gone through the public school system has had at least one teacher like this—probably more than one.
Now, if you take a person like that, put him/her together with a bunch of people with similar proclivities, stuff them into uniforms, and give them truncheons and a license to use them, the results will be predictable.
Oh—and by the way, when I refer to “a person like that,” I suggest that it could be anybody. In the well-known Stanford Prison Experiment, the researchers found that “The most and least abusive guards did not differ significantly in authoritarianism, Machiavellianism, or other personality measures. Abusive guard behavior appears to have been triggered by features of the situation rather than by the personality of guards.”



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Bookhousegal

posted August 14, 2009 at 1:52 pm


“I would add that a sense of security, certainty, and stability are appeals to fascism as well. The human condition fears insecurity, uncertainty, and instability; and history has shown, such as in Italy and Germany, that people–out of fear and passion–will gravitate towards any person or party that can supply them those three things for their own self-preservation.”
Actually, you can take it a step further: the *fears* of insecurity, uncertainty and instability can be induced where they are not actually present. Once a sense of ‘threat’ is induced, the natural response is to want to *orient* to a source for that threat, even if it’s a sourcelessly-induced thought.
Authoritarians will *cultivate a sense of threat, often through senses of flattery and entitlement,* and *then* pose themselves or their belief system as the *answer* to that threat, and, of course, whoever’s convenient enough as the cause to be ‘fought’ in the first place.
Once you get people accustomed to thinking that way, say, over Christmas decorations, it becomes all too embarrassing, ‘weakening,’ if you will, to admit you fussed over nothing: by gradients, you of course, must be ‘under attack,’ and next thing you know the Senator from Illinois is a Muslim ‘Black Church’ Commie sleeper agent of some kind.
Once you’re riding that tiger as a social person, never mind someone convinced their soul is at stake about believing it, …it’s not so simple a matter to get off. When fighting fascism, providing a graceful way out is pretty key.



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Gus diZerega

posted August 17, 2009 at 9:08 pm


Bookhousegal-
Do you have any stories where you were able to supply a graceful way out?
Gus



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sgl

posted August 19, 2009 at 5:20 am


there’s a canadian academic psychologist who’s studied authoritarian personalities for 20+ years, and written a very good summary, in laymen accessible format but still with links to the research, of all the research done in this area. he’s also concerned about these trends in america.
http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/
–sgl



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Gus diZerega

posted August 19, 2009 at 12:35 pm


I’ve read Altemeyer’s stuff and it’s good. He made it available on line so people without access to university libraries and the like could read it.
Two thumbs up.



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