Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State…(Mussolini, 1925)
Chris Hedges has written and spoken often, and eloquently, about the “inverted totalitarianism” that our current corporate-media-political system represents. In fact, there is an insidious fascism stealthily creeping its way through our stately republic these days that is no less dangerous, and no less deleterious to human rights or human behavior, than was the National Socialist regime of Hitler’s Germany or Mussolini’s Italian Fascisti. It may be less of a pageant, less dramatic, and less visibly death-dealing within the homeland as of yet; although, it is certainly engaged in serious bouts of ethnic cleansing at the farthest reaches of Empire (MENA being equivalent to our Poland and Ukraine). But, perhaps it is more subtle (as Hedges points out relentlessly) by its very nature. However, the protocols are now in place – and the motives strongly aligned between the political elites and the corporate oligarchs who run the multimedia circus – to see things through to their likely and bitter conclusion. And, they keep adjusting our collective representations (e.g., what “civil liberty” does and does not mean) and our expectations, so that we believe we are walking into the showers and not the gas chambers.
Let us remember today, our comrade, Private Bradley Manning. Dear Bradley testified in court this week regarding the torture – cruel and unusual punishment – he endured at the hands of his jailers at the military prison in Quantico, Virginia. He has been roundly indicted on charges of espionage, treason, aiding and abetting the enemy – in short, “high crimes” against the Republic. If he did release the documents in question, since when is exposing the deceit or criminal acts of your employer itself a crime? I guess, only when the employer happens to be a creeping fascist enterprise – that “coldest of cold monsters” — the corporate State. On the other hand, the White House or other federal agencies commonly leak information whenever they feel the compulsion to get something out there in the public domain or just get it get off their chests; to mislead or perhaps to cover their ass. Be that as it may, the State professes vigilance against incipient insurgencies. God knows the ‘responsible’ adults do not want to see any Arab Spring or Anarchist Winter settling in here in the homeland. And we already recognize with the new National Defense Authorization Act in place, and the Patriot Act still in full force, the monster, Empire, can do roughly anything it pleases to snuff out dissent without so much as drawing a breath or eliciting a whimper from us, its prey.
And now we have the upcoming release of “Zero Dark Thirty,” a new action-thriller; a docudrama spectacle, chocked full of confidential Defense Department tidbits and heart-stopping action. It is directed by the rather alluring Kathryn Bigelow (one of Hollywood’s newest, best, and brightest: another femme fatale?); but brought to you with BIG homeland blessings from the Departments of State and Defense – dramatizing beyond your wildest imagination the hunt, the top-secret raid, and that very swisher-sweet-cheap execution of the wily coyote diabetic outlaw, Osama bin Laden, conducted by our own heroic Navy Seal Team Six. Tom Clancy, move over! A new marshal has come to town; and her Hunt for the Head of Osama trumps your Hunt for the Red October. Hands down! Don’t you just want to beat your chest with pride? Funny how that works; if the powers in control want to release confidential files or data, they just do so and declassify them at will. Or, perhaps, it is only necessary for some alluring director or pretty young journalist to snuggle up close and intimate with some big Pentagon or CIA brass and get anything she wants without much more than a cat-fight.
But let me not get sidetracked on some maniacal rant – some slam, bam, thank you ma’am argument – against the republic which still stands. That ultimately gets us nowhere; but I think we all understand just how close to nowhere we already stand as a consequence of republican choices. Well, maybe not conscious choices, but implicit trajectories written into the genetic code of the republic and its insatiable appetite for progress, expansion, perfection. The real issue still haunting us is how to survive the social, psychological, and existential chaos that awaits us on the far side of collapse; and what in the hell will things look and feel like to the survivors?
If there is to be a final curtain on the Western Curriculum with its diverse artifices of concrete, steel, and iron-will, hidden behind fashionable appearances – or, perhaps more accurately, the collapse of modern post-industrial society – what do we really have to look forward to? Well, of course there are the wild berries, the mushrooms, the field mice, and the grubs we can scavenge in the forest for dinner. But, what about this nagging thing we call “reality”? And, what about thinking, or those other “higher” mental functions; what about this thing we have become accustomed to call “consciousness”?
Those are, to me at least, the more interesting questions. Why, because I already appreciate the garden, the river, and the forest in Siberia – surrounding the dacha and the banya. But, the other reason these are important questions is because they betray what may have been essential, not only to pre-urban survival, but to appreciating the world to which our pre-agricultural forebears had ready access, a reality beyond the mere ‘thinginess’ of things. However, is it not the case that: perceiving THAT world is no longer a viable option for today’s Homo sapiens sapiens? Is there just too much mental clutter – like so much water under the bridge or corrosive battery fluid on the driveway – that has accumulated within the species, creating a regime of modern consciousness that is simply incapable of recovering such raw and unstructured sensations of the world-as-lived by the body? In other words, do we now perceive the world-out-there so differently from our foraging forebears, that recovering THAT perception is about as likely as resurrecting a pre-civilized percipient herself?
Certainly, when we in the West (and increasingly elsewhere) look out from behind these fully modern eyes — processing through a consciousness imprinted by the prescribed curriculum — and find that world of shiny objects spread out before us, what we are seeing is a highly structured event that took a few millennia to ‘perfect,’ a world that conforms precisely to a fully self-conscious mind reflexively corralled inside a bag of flesh to protect it against any and all alien intrusions. We long ago ceased to freely participate the natural world, or even unselfconsciously engage those objects of our own civilized, machine-crafted one.
We have fully objectified every centimeter of the lived-body-world, leading us to the edge of this apparent precipice we now stand before. Estrangement from this world-as-lived provided the potential to objectify, manipulate and gain control over a sanitized and externalized environment. So, as collapse continues to fold in upon itself, we will find ourselves left, not with a mental tabula rasa that once again let’s us feel connected to the world-as-given; we will not miraculously sense our visceral participating the natural world. We will merely become conscious observers of our own objectified and impoverished existence as former masters of the universe. And that, my friends, is the rub.
All of our machinations to prepare for life after the coming “fall” are little more than adjustments to our mechanized view of things. We will not suddenly perceive the spaces and places we occupy as essential to our very being. We will not see with primal eyes the vitality of that natural world we live. Certainly, we will come to realize our dependence upon it, but not our essential intertwining – “that subtle knot which makes us man.” We will still sees things as “through a glass, darkly.” But, eventually we may come to recognize who we are, yet again; not simply as mirrors of a world we’ve conceived, but as participants of the world we live.
The fascism we now sense muscling its way throughout our increasingly authoritarian, extremist-militaristic-political system is merely a refracted reflection of those same authoritarian tendencies embedded within our cultural beginnings and, perhaps, now emblazoned upon our souls – a persistence in control over a world of externalities, of ‘things,’ of ‘othernesses’ to be used and abused according to the dictates and desires of the privileged few. After all, what is fascism but an extreme authoritarian and unrelenting rule for the express protection of some privileged class or group at the expense of an unassuming populace. The world we have constructed is a world peopled with objects we rule over – as Augustine said, “lord it over” – increasingly intolerant, inflexible, with an authoritarian demeanor as well as an all-consuming sense of ownership and self-righteousness.
While some may seek the humbler solace of the Western Curriculum’s salvific faiths – a proposed salve for our postmodern predicament – beware that the sacrosanct prescriptions embedded in these faiths are no friend to the world-weary in this regard, but rather a spur and an elemental impetus to these very fascistic tendencies. The Hebrew Scriptures were clear on this point of authority and dominion from the first.
Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth. (Gen. 1:27-28 NRSV)
And, as St. Augustine even noted, what began as a command to have dominion over the earth, led us to grasping dominion over our fellow humans, as well. Even Benedito Mussolini self-consciously reflected on the religious dimension and spiritual value of this fanaticism called fascism.
Fascism is a religious conception in which man is seen in his immanent relationship with a superior law and with an objective Will that transcends the particular individual and raises him to conscious membership of a spiritual society.
Yet, it was the Old Testament that laid out the foundational principal and policy statement; and it remains the fundamental ground upon which both Islamic and Christian extremism now rise up again in this race to the finish line, a race to the eschatalogical fulfillment of an historical obsession that was unleashed, and whose trajectory was set, so many millennia ago.