| THE ROOTS OF FASCISM
By: Jerry S. Maneker
“…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2Corinthians 3:17)
Perhaps the best, most generic definition of “fascism” was stated by Laura Dawn Lewis in a piece that I found on the
Internet. She states: “The most notable characteristic of a fascist country is the separation and persecution or denial of
equality to a specific segment of the population based upon superficial qualities or belief systems. Simply stated, a
fascist government always has one class of citizens that is considered superior (good) to another (bad) based upon
race, creed or origin. It is possible to be both a republic and a fascist state. The preferred class lives in a republic while
the oppressed class lives in a fascist state.”
In 1932 Benito Mussolini, the founder of “fascism,” wrote the following for the Italian Encyclopedia: “…The Fascist State
organizes the nation, but leaves a sufficient margin of liberty to the individual; the latter is deprived of all useless and
possibly harmful freedom, but retains what is essential; the deciding power in this question cannot be the individual, but
the State alone….”
When there is a nation largely composed of people with uncritical intellects; people who are trained by assorted
advertisers and other media savvy people to be gullible and develop “false needs,” there is no need to impose fascism
on them. They willingly, gladly, embrace fascism as a salve, an antidote to their fears and perceived needs that are
inculcated and reinforced by those who seek to gain and maintain power over them.
Some of this embracing of fascism is neurobiological, as the author, Arianna Huffington, pointed out in her article,
“Appealing To Our Lizard Brains: Why Bush is Still Standing,” published before the election. She stated: “Deep in the
brain lies the amygdala, an almond sized region that generates fear. When this fear state is activated, the amygdala
springs into action. Before you are even consciously aware that you are afraid, your lizard brain responds by clicking
into survival mode. No time to assess the situation, no time to look at the facts, just: fight, flight or freeze.” “The
strutting, winking, pointing and near-shouting that marked Bush’s town hall debate performance all sent the same
subconscious message to our fear-fogged brains: ‘I’m your daddy…I’ve got your back. So just go to sleep and stop
thinking. About anything.’”
When in a condition of fear or uncertainty, we seek to bond with a person to whom we ascribe “charisma”; we tend to
ascribe charisma to that person who promises to deliver us from our fears and uncertainties even when he or she has
created and reinforced those very fears and uncertainties. Hence, the frequent successes of one-dimensional
politicians who impose simplistic thinking on complex issues, and of “fundamentalists” of any religion!
They promise us surety in a world fraught with danger; they promise us deliverance when we feel trapped; they promise
us clarity when we are confused; they promise us protection when we feel threatened; they promise us peace when we
are in turmoil. They seek to force us to see the world as they do, thereby making many, if not most, people “Stepford
Wives,” in a scenario that they have themselves created.
They play upon most people’s short-sighted self-interests that guide most of their choices in life. I remember when I was
president of the local faculty union, I was amazed how most faculty members only cared about their own paychecks and
work-lives, and didn’t care a bit about anyone else.
I sought to remind them that we couldn’t have “collective bargaining” unless we were a “collective.” It made no
difference! Their short-sighted self-interest ruled the day for them, and for the rest of us.
Fascism is also enmeshed with what the sociologist Emile Durkheim defined as “ingroup-outgroup dynamics.” Basically,
it states that when you have a threatening out-group, the in-group unites to protect itself against it. That is why one of
the most dangerous calls the police receive is the domestic disturbance. Frequently, even though the husband may be
savagely beating his wife, when the police enter the situation both spouses frequently unite and attack the officer.
Therefore, it’s in the interests of those who want to obtain or maintain power to create out-groups so that in-group
cohesion can develop around them. Even though they themselves created the out-group(s), the uncritical, gullible, self-
interested, fearful public bonds with them if they, either verbally and/or non-verbally, promise them deliverance from
their fears. Hence, by creating gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people as “out-groups” to be feared in that they
were seen as seeking to “destroy the sanctity of marriage” by wanting the same rights as any other citizens, many
people were motivated to vote for the person who was seen as “standing in the gap” between heterosexist supremacy
and the “danger” of same-sex marriage.
“Fundamentalism” of all stripes capitalizes on this phenomenon! When the imprimatur of “Christianity” is placed upon a
person, rhetoric, and deeds, that person and his or her acts become not merely credible, but seen as “righteous.” It may
well be that the “charismatic figure” feels he or she is on a mission from God, engaged in a holy war, to usher in his or
her version and vision of the way the world should be or, absent that as a possibility, be the agent of God to usher in
Rhetoric is crucial in this endeavor! Coupling what is implied or stated as the equivalent of “God’s will” by a person in
power or by a person who seeks power to a citizenry that is fearful and seeks, even if irrationally, a person who
promises them deliverance from their fears, with an agenda that, to a rational person, even contradicts his or her
statements and policies, lends credence and respectability to that person’s agenda, regardless of how irrational and
horrific that agenda is.
Witness the following statement: “The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the
nation the spirit of unity and cooperation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has
been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life.”
(Adolph Hitler, My New World Order, Proclamation to the German Nation at Berlin, February 1, 1933.)
By using such buzzwords as “duty,” “revive,” “spirit of unity and cooperation,” “preserve and defend,” “basic principles
on which our nation has been built,” “Christianity as the foundation of our national morality,” “the family as the basis of
national life,” uncritical and gullible people who are fearful will look favorably upon such sentiments and upon the person
promising their deliverance, regardless of the means utilized to achieve the goals of promised deliverance.
The appeal to virtue, as seen in the recent Presidential election, where “faith” and “morality” were made to be
centerpieces in one’s choice of candidate, also resonates with the imposition of a mind-set by political and religious
“leaders” who have nefarious motives. Hear this: “Parallel to the training of the body a struggle against the poisoning of
the soul must begin. Our whole public life today is like a hothouse for sexual ideas and simulations. Just look at the bill of
fare served up in our movies, vaudeville and theaters, and you will hardly be able to deny that this is not the right kind of
food, particularly for the youth...Theater, art, literature, cinema, press, posters, and window displays must be cleansed
of all manifestations of our rotting world
and placed in the service of a moral, political, and cultural idea.” (Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Vol. 1, Chapter 10)
Whenever evil is done, there is almost always an appeal to virtue! This phenomenon is especially true in politics and in
religion. Some of the most horrific abuses have occurred in the name of religion, such as the justification of child abuse;
slavery; segregation; subjugation of women; condemnation of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people; capital
punishment; religious imperialism, as occurred in the Crusades, and as well may be occurring now in this country’s
attack on Iraq.
There is a gigantic difference between “the Spirit of the Lord” and “religion!” One of the definitions of “religion” is the
following: “A specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects.”
(Random House Webster’s College Dictionary)
As the verse of Scripture that preceded this article states: “…Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” In
“religion,” there are doctrines and creeds that seek to restrict, not only a person’s thoughts and behaviors, but have the
consequence of frequently quenching the Spirit of God at work in people’s lives. In many ways, “religion” inhibits and is
actually antithetical to the “freedom” that God seeks for us.
Creeds and doctrines certainly have their place! Indeed, they were largely instituted to prevent “heresy,” and that was a
worth-while institution, since the fledgling Church was inundated with false doctrines that could have had the effect of
destroying Christianity before it even got off the ground. Unfortunately, many Christians confuse the recitation and
intellectual adherence to doctrines and creeds with living out the Christian life, a life that is characterized by faith in God
and love toward others.
Doctrines and creeds can never usurp the work of God’s Spirit; the work of God’s Spirit is to bring freedom to those who
are bound by encumbrances that prevent them from living as fulfilling a Godly life as possible. Frequently, those
encumbrances are imposed by religious denominations and institutions that, in recent times, have also aligned
themselves with the political aspirations of those who seek to inculcate fear and, appealing to our reptilian brains,
thereby gain and/or maintain power.
Hence, for increasing numbers of Christians, we may be entering a post-denominational era, where Christians gather in
worship communities not beholden to the rules, regulations, and strictures that have been traditionally and institutionally
imposed on us by the established Church. Many Christians may well come to realize that the “ecclesia,” the “called out
ones,” are those throughout the world chosen by God to be agents of His grace in the world; institutional religion has
increasingly become antithetical to fulfilling that ministry and mission.
Furthermore, it must be acknowledged that the institutions of “education” and “bureaucracy” have also been catalysts to
make possible the emergence of fascism, by their encouraging of both uncritical intellects and by subordination of the
interests of individuals to the interests of the bureaucracy. The sociologist, Max Weber, wrote concerning bureaucracy
that, although it subordinated the individual to the codified rules, “having no respect of persons,” bureaucracy was “the
most rational and efficient way of coordinating complex tasks.”
Hence, bureaucracy was seen by him to be a necessary evil; it is functional. It does what it’s supposed to do. Even
though individual interests are subordinated to the needs of the bureaucracy, he stated that bureaucracy will
The sociologist, Robert Merton, in his article, “Bureaucratic Structure and Personality,” highlighted the dysfunctional
aspects of bureaucracy. Bureaucracy, he argued, made people “methodical, prudent, disciplined,” in their actions and
ways of thinking.
To be “methodical, prudent, disciplined” is not necessarily to be “logical!” Within the confines of an organization that
elevates rules over people’s needs, such traits may well mitigate against “logic,” and yield a slavish respect for the rules
and for actual or perceived authority figures. Since most people spend most of their waking hours in such organizations,
bureaucracies, this mind-set tends to become a way of life, and taken as a legitimate way of thinking, even in situations
where such a mind-set is both illogical and even irrational.
Such a mind-set tends to yield a slavish conformity to the status quo; respect for authority figures; the placing of
organizational and societal needs over the needs of individuals; subordination of sensitivity to the dictates of authorities;
short-term thinking as ways to solve problems rather than looking beyond the immediate circumstances.
Educational institutions are bureaucracies! Despite their rhetoric of encouraging critical and eclectic thinking, they
actually encourage docility and a lock-step rigidity in one’s thinking, so that many, if not most, students are only
concerned with the question, “Will this be on the exam?” I could go on about the “dumbing down” of higher education in
this country, but that would be a diversion and is the subject of another article.
Educational institutions are bureaucracies after all and, therefore, encourage their members, both students and faculty,
to be “methodical, prudent, disciplined,” those very qualities that lead to short-sighted self-interest in not only
confronting fear and uncertainties, but in dealing with life itself. Such qualities, largely spawned by bureaucratic
institutions, are tailor-made for encouraging the yearning after gurus, and by those who count on an uncritical intellect
to institutionalize their own self-serving, sometimes believed to be God-ordained, agendas.
That is why Hitler was able to galvanize overwhelming support, not only from the masses, but from the “intellectuals,” the
professors, the physicians, corporate heads, the clergy. By engaging the reptilian brain, creating out-groups, promising
deliverance, counting on people’s gullibility and their short-sighted self-interests, he was able to mobilize people to
support and do the most horrific things to men, women, children, and babies.
We invaded a country who posed absolutely no threat to us; that had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. As of this
writing, we have lost over 1,000 military personnel, with countless others maimed. Moreover, it is estimated that we have
killed over 100,000 men, women, and children in Iraq; we’re doing it in the name of bringing “democracy” to Iraq,
because “God wants people to be free.”
Most of the electorate actively seek to deny some of their fellow citizens the civil liberties and rights that they themselves
enjoy; many working class and middle class people have embraced domestic and foreign policies that are diametrically
opposed to their rational self-interests; most of the electorate support foreign policies that have virtually guaranteed
more death and destruction; many have embraced the limitations placed upon their own freedoms in the name of “the
war on terror,” largely constructed by those who sought to retain power over them and have thereby succeeded in so
May God open our eyes to see what’s happened to this country, and what we have unleashed on ourselves and on the
rest of the world! May God have mercy on us all!