Fascism as a flaw in human nature unleashed by unlimited power
A meditation in three parts on how power corrupts and what we might do about that
I. Fascists are fascist because they can get away with it
I’m still chewing on this essay in the Sunday NY Times, “They Are the Heirs of Nazi Fortunes, and They Aren’t Apologizing.” To summarize briefly, the industrial titans who created Volkswagen, Porsche, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz were all Nazis:
Ferdinand Porsche persuaded Hitler to put Volkswagen into production. His son, Ferry Porsche, who built up the company, was a voluntary SS officer. Herbert Quandt, who built BMW into what it is today, committed war crimes. So did Friedrich Flick, who came to control Daimler-Benz. Unlike Mr. Quandt, Mr. Flick was convicted at Nuremberg.
This was already widely known. What troubles the author of this essay, David de Jong, and should trouble all of us is that to this day, these men are still lauded by these companies:
These titans of industry, the men who played a central role in building the country’s postwar “economic miracle,” are still widely championed and celebrated for their business acumen, if not their wartime deeds. Their names adorn buildings, foundations and prizes. In a country that is so often praised for its culture of remembrance and contrition, an honest, transparent acknowledgment of the wartime activities of some of Germany’s richest families remains, at best, an afterthought.
What interests me in particular about this piece is how it can inform our discussion about modern day fascism across the developed world.
We (I) keep circling around the question of how major industrialized countries returned to fascism nearly 80 years after it was completely discredited by World War II. Justin Trudeau in Canada, Emmanuel Macron in France, Joe Biden in the U.S., and Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand, to name a few — and most of their followers — are now openly and avowedly Pharma fascists.
We keep trying to identify the ideology that led to this. Did liberalism lead to fascism (which is the thesis of this book)? Did progressivism lead to fascism? Did a coordinated fear campaign lead to Mass Formation that encouraged the bourgeoisie to embrace fascism?
Now I’m wondering if perhaps we’re overthinking it?
Fascists are fascists because they can. Said differently, when corporate power reaches a certain point, there are no more limits on their ability to do whatever they want and so the dark side of human nature inevitably re-emerges. Fascism then is not an elaborate ideological construct, but rather a primitive base instinct that is only held in check so long as power is diffuse. (That’s the argument that Adam Curtis makes in the three-part documentary series, The Living Dead.) Allow power to concentrate too much in too few hands and some industrialists will start killing lots of people for sport — and call it “public health”.
II. Cult, gurus, and fascists in everyday life
The brilliant statistician Mathew Crawford penned an extraordinary essay this weekend that is a perfect companion piece to the above referenced article on Nazism. Crawford is taking aim at the possible ties between the Dalai Lama and the CIA.
By historical accounts, the version of the Dalai Lama and Tibet Buddhism sold on Western television was a post hoc invention that may have begun as a CIA propaganda operation, then continued as a self-fundraiser for a religious leader who may very well have sold his people out.
Ouch. But it’s plausible and Crawford provides some intriguing details.
Crawford’s broader target is cults in general — the cult of Oprah, the cult of the Dalai Lama, the cult of Keith Raniere and NXIVM, the cult of Scientology, and the cult that he grew up in and helped to bring down — the Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E).
In many ways, cults show us the demand side of fascism — a huge percentage of the population really wants someone to rule over them.
I spent a lot of time in American Buddhist circles in the early 2000s, even moving to Boulder in 2005 to work with a particular guru. Boulder is a place where there are more gurus than gas stations and so lots of people have experience working for these people and share stories with each other about how things actually work inside these organizations.
What I discovered is that the male gurus almost universally breach societal sexual norms and the female gurus come to fetishize cruelty (we certainly saw that with Mother Theresa but sadism appears to be the pattern across a broad range of female gurus). Male gurus sleep with their students and female gurus treat staff with unspeakable cruelty because they can.
This suggests that the dark side of maleness is sexual abuse and the dark side of femaleness is cruelty — and this repressed shadow is released when power becomes concentrated in one person. There were so many stories that fit this pattern that it became an almost perfect predictor of what was about to happen across all of the various guru-led fiefdoms that dot the Boulder region like mushrooms in a forest.
The lesson in all of this is to never get too close to your heroes. I highly recommend the book, Feet of Clay: Saints, Sinners, and Madmen: A Study of Gurus by Anthony Storr that explains this dynamic in detail.
There is a lot of overlap between submitting to a cult or a guru and submitting to a fascist state. More people than we want to admit (probably a majority of people in the developed world) participate in such imbalanced systems. And whenever power becomes concentrated in a few hands — whether that be a a charismatic guru, a celebrity, or a monopolistic robber baron, the dark side of human nature is unleashed.
The remedy in all of these cases is to stop giving our power away to these knuckleheads.
III. Love’s the higher law
The song “One” by U2 has been going through my head all day. I’m not sure why — to my knowledge I haven’t even heard it recently. Curious, I looked up the background to the song. Bono explains that it was written in about 30 minutes at the end of the Rattle and Hum tour when the band was unraveling and their personal lives were falling apart. He claims that it’s a breakup song. But thankfully the song has escaped the clutches of its creator (as art is wont to do) and become one of the most powerful love songs ever written. (That’s not hard to understand, in the surrender that comes from unravelling, a pure love is often able to shine through the cracks in our armor).
The irony of course is that Bono has become an insufferable twat who uses his vast wealth to advance the agenda of the WEF and WHO. But that fits with the theory of the case that we are exploring — that absolute power corrupts absolutely. And I’m not going to let that diminish my affection for this song and its message.
My point here is just that at the end of the day, I think this is what we are fighting for — love itself. Pharma and all of its enablers seek to destroy all that is good and true in the world — children, mothers, families, life itself. Pharma seeks to turn the living into the dead for profit.
Pharma kills us because they can.
And yes science is on our side and we seek a return to logic, reason, and rationality. But more than anything, Pharma seeks to obliterate love itself because it is a power greater than any earthly power. I am working from the premise that God is love and the robber barons seek to be gods — so they want to eliminate their rival. But that’s why we’re going to win, because love is the only immutable force in the universe.
Perhaps this teaches us something fundamental about love, democracy, and human nature? In fascism, cults, and bad relationships, we fail to show up as fully formed human beings and we collapse into the false promises of the other. In healthy relationships and thriving societies, there is an I/Thou relationship of mutuality, intersubjectivity, and respect. The paradox of course is that both pathological systems and healthy systems require surrender, but in pathological systems we surrender to lies and in healthy systems we surrender to love itself.
Blessings to the warriors. 🙌
Prayers for everyone fighting to bring down this tyrannical regime so that love can once again flourish in this world. 🙏
In the comments, please let me know what’s on your mind and in your heart today.
(As always, please help me to correct any typos.)