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