I’ve been working my way through the archives of Where We’re Bound for transfer here to the new blog and I’ve come across the first post of several that I will be posting again as a fresh entry. Back in 2003 Mark Anderson of the American Sentimentalist posted an excellent series of articles titled An Escape From Freedom: reflections on the development of an American dystopia. It turned into a four part series, here’s the first: It can’t happen here, can it?.
Mark does a great job of describing the current situation in America. His comments on current perceptions of the growth and definitions of fascism as well as the prospects for freedom are right on. He presents a useful description of the factors which allowed for the unfolding of previous fascistic movements as this relates to the current move in America ever to the right. In part three of the series he states that:
One of the primary characteristics of fascism is the perceived relationship between the individual and the state: through the elevated power of the nation, created by the iron-clad unity of the individuals who make up the non-disenfranchised groups within the society, fascism allows individuals themselves in turn to find power. This relationship, however, is symbiotic without being mutually-beneficial; inevitably, the state gains power over the individual, and not the other way around. However, despite the fact that the distribution of power in a fascist system flows one way and one way only, it is the perception and belief that matters most – the perception on behalf of the ruled that they are at the center of the state itself, and not the rulers, to whom they give their unquestioning support in return for this belief. This belief allows the purposes for which certain policies are carried out to be ultimately cast as for the good of the individual as a component of the wider society, and not as an effort to benefit any particular segment of that society, such as the governing elite.
Which brings us to the United States of America.
The laundry list of ways in which the U.S. is no longer a democracy is long and well-known among all but the most myopic of patriots: the expansion of corporate power replacing public power, the insertion of money into electoral politics, and the overlay of ideology on all but the most inconsequential moments of public and civic life. Much discussion and debate is currently taking place as to exactly how the United States expects to exist in the world for the coming millennium, and how it is to be run by its politicians and perceived by its own citizens. But what is often lost, however, are the ways in which the structural underpinnings of American society are wholesale being replaced, and the consequences such changes will have wrought. For, far from being a nascent society with a long future of increasing freedom ahead of it, America is instead a mature society in deep transition, and one that is in much more danger of diminishing freedom for its citizens than it is in securing them.
I think what Mark has stated here is spot on. These structural changes have been carefully orchestrated and are difficult to see. The move away from freedom and towards corporate control has been a gradual process designed to be invisible.
Mark paints a clear picture of the rigid class structure which has evolved in the U.S. and describes the dynamics of that class structure. Other important variables for the development of fascism are also discussed: September 11, U.S. military and superpower status, and racial scapegoating. He concludes the discussion of necessary conditions for fascism by addressing the near collapse of citizenship in the U.S. as well as the psycological results of this collapse.
It’s as though we have forgotten what it means to be a citizen. We’ve been slowly and carefully stripped of responsibility and the desire to participate. Freedom has become a catchphrase which is more likely to be used to sell a product than it is to be seriously considered as an idea fundamental to participatory democracy. A commitment to community, to a public life has vanished from our daily life. Even the idea of such commitment has vanished. Instead daily life has evolved into an orgie of anonymous consumerism and alienated work. We are inundated with propaganda in so many ways that we don’t even know it. You could call it friendly facism. It’s like eating candy. It’s “Friends” and “Survivor”. Wal-Mart and the mall.
Someone once said that “Freedom is something you assume. Then someone tries to take it away from you. The degree to which you resist is the degree that you are free.” Will we fight back? Will we step up to the responsibility of defending Liberty? Can we each be an activist citizen every day?