We’re in a fascist moment right now. I don’t have to tell you this. Not only is the United States government locking away families seeking asylum from war and violence, but the guards enjoy their jobs, there are already allegations of abuse in the children and infants’ detention camps, and there’s a pretty big minority who doesn’t care or believe any of this is going on.
Maybe they really do think that everyone ICE is arresting and throwing into prison camps are all thousands of MS-13 gang members who constantly stream into the country.
Stare at that hatred. It’s a human desire. It is not monstrous. It is not somehow inhuman. It is ordinary.
Different trends of research examines the images that warp a personality to express such intense hatred against the ethnically different. Many of those research trends percolated through the academic discipline of Cultural Studies. Jeremy Gilbert provided a damn good bibliography section for this end of my research.
An important set of fascist concepts is rooted in the appeal to stability. You could call it the desire for freedom from fear. Any change brings risk, and a major shift in the nature and makeup of your society is riskier than if little to nothing changed at all.* Fear is the most intuitive response to the notion that your world is growing riskier, more dangerous.
* This is, of course, not the actual nature of risk, which is way more complicated. The point isn’t about what risk is, but people’s intuitions about risk.
When our world feels more dangerous, we dream of peaceful times. If we associate our feelings of danger with the change happening all around us, we’ll idealize a time in our society before that change began. We’ll want to return to that state.
Make America Great Again.
That’s how nostalgia becomes the driving image of a fascist political movement. When you’re so motivated by a fear growing in the most important desires of your personality, you’ll condone whatever violence needed to make that dream come true.
The imagery of nostalgia can turn to better purposes, of course. Nostalgic themes play an important role in the environmental movement. I find it naïve that people would think of a non-technological world as a Garden of Eden.** Simply false when you learn anything about the very turbulent history of Earth.
** As a cultural image of a peaceful, harmonious Nature before human corruption. Not some silly story about a naked couple living in the woods with a talking snake.
If you come from a culture and a community that’s treated ethnic minorities with terrible oppression for centuries, wouldn’t you fear becoming an ethnic minority? You’d associate being a cultural minority with oppression, unable to imagine people of different cultures and ethnicities living together peacefully.
When you’ve grown up hating by instinct, you have an instinctive feel for how terrible it is to be the object of that hatred. When you see yourself in danger of becoming that object, your survival instinct kicks in. Luckily, what you’ll do to survive supports your disgust at having to share space with them. You’ll be relieved that these disgusting creatures won’t come to find you so disgusting.
Reading Gilbert, he brings it back to neoliberalism. How all of this becomes a way to dupe people into supporting an oligarchic economic system. He’s not wrong. But let’s understand this aspect as well – an ethical phenomenology of the racist.