The appeal of fascism

“He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.” — Samuel Johnson

I think the quote above explains the appeal of fascism. By drawing a sharp distinction between “your people” and “the rest” (whoever is not your people is either an enemy or a future victim), and dedicating your life to violently asserting the dominance and total triumph of your own faction, you get rid of the pain of being a vulnerable human being.

Fascism is easier than non-fascism in the same way than being selfish is easier than being altruist. It simply appeals to the fanning of the flames of your ego, of yourself as a completely separate entity who only cares about itself.

And fascism is great at hiding this, by defining a group of people as the “being”, rather than a single individual. In that way, you can be a fascist and still deeply care about your family, your friends, and those who belong to your group. Therefore, you can rationalize that you are actually acting in the interest of the whole and being an altruist. You can be an ardent fascist and at the same time believe yourself to be as altruist as anyone can possibly be. Because fascism is a collective ego trip.

The altruism also helps to justify violence: if you are ready to do anything for your group, dying for the cause is glorious. It is also glorious to give up any moral qualms about performing violence on others who do not belong to your collective, because when you repress your basic human instinct for compassion, you can better slaughter the enemy.

You can also act like a fascist even if you are fighting in the name of communism, or socialism, or capitalism, or even gender equality. You can be a fascist that is fighting fascists. Whenever you don’t consider as humans those that are “on the other side”, you’re climbing up the fascist gradient.

To work for others without being a fascist is hard work. It requires seeing the good in those that you oppose, and, equally importantly, requires noticing (and calling out) the mistakes of those who are part of your movement. In short, it requires to empathize with your opponent and not turn a blind eye to the defects of your fellows.

All of this requires a constant practice of:

Compare the above to the constant practices of fascism:

In the face of our collective challenges, I exhort you to remain a human, rather than going for the easy way out of turning yourself into a beast.

Easier said than done. But at least we can struggle together.