Popular ignorance and the road to fascism
It was a question I didn't want to answer at first.
Dick Bernard, who puts out an almost daily newsletter on behalf of Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers, ran across a quotation from Winston Churchill in a book he read recently.
Churchill, of course, recognized the dangers inherent in any and all forms of government and noted that “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”
Bernard, who likes to get people thinking and to involve them in conversations that will foster that noble goal, asked his readers what application the quotation has to the present-day United States.
The answer seemed clear to me. I've devoted much thought in recent years to the United States form of government and the reasons for what I believe is its likely demise, sooner rather than later. My great sadness, and fear, at that conclusion doesn't change the facts.
But, frankly, I'm tired of the venom spit at me by people who don't want to know some of the information I pass on, or who simply don't agree with my views. Bernard's question was one I didn't have to deal with.
Only, once you set yourself the task of passing out information that people don't generally get from corporate news outlets and, worse, to putting out there in space perceptions that usually are not voiced out loud and in public, you're committed. Gotta do it. If people don't like what you say, they're free to ignore you, and if they spew hatred at you, you're free (for now) to ignore that.
So, with only minor modifications to what I said in a quickly written reply to Dick Bernard's question:
There seems to be very little chance of saving the American democratic republic that people of my generation, and our predecessors and a generation after us, grew up in. We are heading rapidly – far more rapidly than even the average pessimist has realized – toward an essentially fascist form of government.
In that light, Churchill's comment accurately applies to the United States of today. There are powerful autocratic forces laboring to bring about the change, but their efforts are working, can work, only because of the ignorance, frequent stupidity and rampant cowardice of the country's citizens.
Those characteristics have, in fact, replaced the old – always at least partially fictional – American characteristics of courage, innovative and independent thought and self reliance.
Anyone who gets out and about beyond the little world of people who seriously concern themselves regularly with public affairs, government, politics and such knows that the vast majority of Americans are not talking about the issues that concern Dick Bernard in his daily news note or me in my blog commentaries.
To the degree that they are paying any attention at all to the presidential campaign – I find almost no one who is even aware of races for lesser offices – Americans are paying attention only to the horse race and the generally false issues and distractions put before them by the flapping jaws of broadcast outlets and by what used to be newspapers.
Worse, only a small minority of Americans seem to have any understanding of the principles informing the creation of our form of government and under which it operated for a goodly number of years.
They generally have no grasp of the history, they haven't a clue about the purposes of the founders in laying out a constitution that protected minorities from majorities, or, for example, the real point of “religious freedom.” It is indisputable that millions of Americans think that latter point means freedom to force their own religious-cum-moral views on the country as a whole.
It could hardly be otherwise.
Our educational system has been deliberately undermined for several generations now, and is getting worse almost by the month. Even in the neighborhoods of the supposedly best educated – that is, those with college degrees – public schools teach to the test. Critical thinking, the most important of all skills for citizens, no longer is taught and, in fact, is actively discouraged.
“Just believe what we tell you,” is the message, and the parents, taught the same thing and fearful of going against accepted beliefs and mores, approve.
Young people are taught and raised up to be obedient employees and consumers, not to be thinking citizens.
Of course, we have raised generations of kids to believe in the supposedly indisputable wonders of unrestrained capitalism and the royal infallibility of its leaders. We almost literally adore the rich, regardless of who and what they are in truth.
And for many years now, but especially over the past seven years, our leaders, with the unstinting help of what used to be an independent press, have preached a gospel of fear.
This is the message, pounded at us without relief: The rest of the world is against us. Anyone who doesn't agree without exception to the demands of our government is against us. The Muslim world, in its entirety, is jealous of us (a nonsensical proposition if you know anything at all of Islam) and wants to destroy us. And, of course, we are totally innocent victims of that hatred and blood lust.
Millions of Americans, probably a substantial majority, have come to believe the propaganda, to believe that only our political and corporate elite, our leaders – the ones who sell us that fear – can protect us from the hordes of mass-murdering, dark-skinned people.
A number of devices, such as airport “security,” are designed not to protect us but to reinforce the fear and provide the illusion that we are being protected.
Too ignorant to choose wisely on policy or leaders? Absolutely.
And I don't see anything in the offing that will change that dismal fact – most certainly not the election of any of the intellectually stunted and timid individuals chosen by the news media and the two branches of the Corporate Party as candidates for president.
There have been many solid and intellectually honest books about the terrible state of our democracy published during the past couple of years. Several truly are important, but the one I put above all others for baring essential, if terrifying, truths is “The End of America; Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot” by Naomi Wolf. It doesn't take long to read, and it's essential if you care about where we're going.
See you in the camps.