Article 43


Thursday, March 11, 2021

Speaking of Capitalism and Fascism

image: corporate rule

“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”
- Benito Mussolini

“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”
- Abraham Lincoln


You Can’t Talk to Americans About the Things They Need to Hear Most
Until Americans Open Their Minds, the Prospects of Change Will Remain Weak

By Umair Haque
March 8, 2021

There are four small words. If I say them to Americans- I get nowhere. I’ll come back to that. First, let me describe to you the reaction in the rest of the world.

Some countries have lived what these four words describe, and people in them nod along ruefully when I say them. Some countries are educated over and over again about them, and people in them stroke their chins, understanding, reflecting carefully. Some countries chuckle, and just say “America.”

When I say these four words to Americans, though, I get one of three reactions. One, furious rage. “That can’t be true! Don’t be ridiculous!!” Two, a long, perplexing, overcomplicated stream of denial, the recitations of weird, dead, failed ideologies, like a Soviet might have given you in 1989. “That isn’t true! Don’t be absurd!!” Three, the blank stare Americans are now famous for around the world. The walls have gone up. Nothing’s going in. They’re waiting for you to go away, so they can back to watching the Kardashians, or firing a rifle, or reading the Bible.

The four words are “capitalism implodes into fascism.” If I say this to people in Germany, by and large, they understand it, because they’ve lived it. If I say it to people in, for example, Asia, they nod along, reflecting, thinking deeply. If I say them to people in Canada, they think. Anywhere - literally anywhere else in the world, people seem to understand the point I’m making. They might not always fully agree with it, but at least they understand it. Maybe they are thinking critically about it. They are remembering their own history. They’re reflecting on what happened in the world around them. Their minds turn on.

But when I say these four words to Americans, exactly the opposite happens. Their minds turn off. They begin to fight me, in rage and anger. They recite ideas they learned in some classroom - without stopping to think if they’re true or not. They recite the very words pundits and columnists have spent a lifetime beating into them - without hesitating for a second. Capitalism is the greatest wealth creation engine known to - My American friend, I wonder gently, why are you living in lifelong debt then?

Why do Americans minds; shut down when I say my magic four words to them? I’ve questioned several of their most fundamental ideas at once. Capitalism. The idea that society can plunge into fascism. The idea that progress itself can come to a halt. The idea that there are links between systems and paradigms, that they don’t exist in a vacuum.

Americans act as if I’ve personally attacked them when I say “capitalism implodes into fascism.” That’s revealing. It tells us a process of IDENTITY FUSION has occurred. Americans have built their identities on capitalism. Threaten to take that away from them, criticise it, point out a flaw - and you are threatening the very basis of the self.

But of course this idea is hardly new. When Marx’s glorious proletarian revolution didn’t happen, in the 1930s, and fascism exploded instead, generations of thinkers went to work. What went wrong? Why was Marx wrong? Why, instead of a revolution of equality, was there one of hate?

The answer turned out to be simple. When people grow suddenly, sharply poor, they punch down on those even more powerless than them. Working and middle classes in decline tend to punch down, therefore, on even more powerless groups, who tend to be long-hated minorities. In Germany, that was Jews, Poles, Roma, gay people. In modern-day America, it’s Mexicans, Latinos, Hispanics, Muslims, Jews, women, the LGBTQ, etc.

CAPITALSIM DOES IMPLODE INTO FASCISM It’s hardly a controversial point at this juncture in history. That’s why the entire world doesn’t find it controversial. Only Americans do. And say it to an American, and their mind shuts down, goes blank, their lips twist in rage, they stifle the urge to insult and abuse you.

There’s a funny and tragic wrinkle in that tale. Americans are the people who need to understand what becomes of capitalist nations most. But they are the ones who can understand it least. Marx, too, made sense of all this long ago he called it “false consciousness.” In his language, the prole believes that he is one of capitalism’s chosen people. In more modern parlance, Americans have fused their very identities with capitalism. What does it mean to “fuse an identity” with capitalism, though?

It means that you have to live according to a CERTAIN SET OF VALUES. The ones prized by capitalism.Competitiveness, which becomes hostility and aggression, selfishness, which becomes cruelty and ignorance, vanity, which becomes narcissisms perpetual victimhood and wounds. Have you ever noticed how Americans are at once a) the world’s most cruel people, who make their kids, for example, do “active shooter drills” b) the world’s most SELF-CENTERED people, who know nothing about the rest of the world, because they don’t care for it and c) the world’s biggest victims, who always think everything is against them?

That’s what it means to have an “identity fused to capitalism.” You become a shell of a functioning human being. You can’t act with empathy, courage, truth, grace - the money is what really matters. You cant handle reality - there’s always an episode of reality TV on. You can’t grant anyone else intrinsic worth, so you treat people with aggression and hostility and rage, not, say, Canadian niceness or European gentleness.

You are being traumatised, but you don’t know it. That’s why the three ways Americans react when you say the word capitalism critically perfectly match what happens to a trauma victim: the fight/flight/freeze response is triggered. They rage and attack you: fight. They go into denial, and recite weird facts they’ve read in the New York Times or Wall Street Journal: flight. They give you the blank look: freeze. Americans are people traumatised badly by capitalism - but still fighting desperately for it.

Let me give you another example.

Many Americans will probably object to reading this very article. Just making it this far probably made them mad. But should they be mad?

If I say to you “dogs have four legs,” you’ll probably nod along happily. “What cute little guys,” you might even say, thinking of my puppy Snowy. Here’s the thing. Snowy has four legs. But one of his best friends, little Lammy, has only three. Don’t feel bad for Lammy, though. He’s a tiny little thing with three legs, sure - but he puts most dogs with four legs to shame. He plays ball and fetch and outruns Snowy on. He smiles with delight. He is living a good and beautiful life on those three little legs of his.

All dogs don’t have four legs. Its just that most do. In the same way, not all Americans react in the ways I’ve described. But most do.

And yet even the Americans that get what Ive described often get mad at the way I put it. They want me to constantly say “not all Americans.” If I don’t, they attack me. They think I’m out to get them. I’m not. Of course not. I’m simply speaking the same way we’d speak about, say, puppies, or anything else. Cars have four wheels. Sure, most do. But not all.

These are perfectly valid generalisations to make. And yet Americans cannot handle it when you generalise about Americans at all. Its hardly a point of contention that WHITE AMERICANS ARE THE WORLD’S MOST HOSTILE AND BACKWARD SOCIAL GROUP. That is what a majority of them never having voted for anyone but a Republican for President means. That’s what a majority of them never voting for public healthcare or always voting for guns - choose your poison - means.

But Americans can;t handle this. Almost none of them. Even the Americans who can grapple with “capitalism implodes into fascism” without flying into a rage or staring at you like you’ve just killed their kids will get attack you for saying “Americans are...”

Why is that? Have you ever wondered? It’s not because Americans don’t know how to generalize. Of course they do. They won’t object to “dogs have four legs,” but they will to “Americans are violent and brutal people.” Both statements are true, though, maybe just in a slightly different matter of degree. That only leaves one possibility, really.

Americans feel the need to defend the idea of the perfection of Americans. Any criticism of Americans is not capable of being handled at all. Level a criticism at Americans - as a country, a social group, a majority - and bang! You have attacked all of them. And attacking all of them of course includes even the person you are talking to, who may think they are very enlightened, but still can’t quite handle criticism at the level of society. You cant say “Americans are” anything at all, except something good, because that is an attack on the person you are talking to, who can’t seem to grasp the idea that generalities just mean most of a category. And that in turn is because in this case, no generality can be permitted. If you’re not one of us - you must be the enemy. One of the many, many enemies.

Americans think of America in terms a psychologist would describe as “borderline” and “paranoid.” Black and white. All or nothing. Perfect or irredeemable. You’re either with us or against us. They can’t quite handle the idea of someone who is just criticizing, talking, thinking. That you can be for American, or even Americans, while pointing out flaws and weaknesses and mistakes. That makes you someone dubious, questionable, an enemy.

All that is why AMERICA NEVER GOES ANYWHERE. No real criticism is allowed or permitted. By American culture. To the American mind. It simply can’t be done. I know Americans think it can be, but examine what pundits say closely, and they will never say “Americans are...” They will always hedge and excuse and justify. So of course Americans never have to confront the idea that they are not perfect.

Being able to talk about your flaws and imprefections is what an adult relationship is. Without it, we can’t ever really care for anyone, beginning with ourselves. That never holds truer than for a country. It’s not mean or nasty or insulting to say things like “capitalism implodes into fascism” or “Americans don’t get how badly capitalism ruined them” or “Capitalism made Americans selfish, cruel, ignorant, and hateful.” Those are just facts. And stating those facts is also the only real way anyone can help America right now. Because without a little bit more awareness of such simple truths - which the whole world recognizes - America can HARDLY GO ANYWHERE except around and around in a widening spiral of violent and foolish self-destruction.

A nation in this much distress, though, cantt quite face them, like an addict in the throes of trauma can hardly kick the habit. Where does that leave America? I dont know, my friend. You tell me. All I know is: you canҒt talk to Americans about the things they need to understand most.


Posted by Elvis on 03/11/21 •
Section Dying America
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