"The basic test of freedom is perhaps less in what we are free to do than in what we are free not to do." ~ Eric Hoffer
Led by Their Noses
I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that millions of people can be led around by their noses by as small a group of people as six or eight. I can't call them "wolves" and "sheep" because the sheep are willing participants in their delusions, which they don't see as delusion but instead see as truth, and the leaders really aren't wolves. All just have bad ideas that they think are good ones. Their houses are built on sand, you could say.
When I talk to people in their 20's today who claim they are "conservatives," I find they don't truly know what conservatism is. They are invariably Republicans, but being a true conservative and a Republican no longer have much in common. Instead, what they spout to me is closer to leftism than conservatism, a very disturbing trend which indicates the Democrats are the Old Left and the Republicans are the New Left. Anything close to a true conservative, such as the late Russell Kirk, is considered irrelevant these days. If that, if they're read him, or even heard of him. And most haven't.
Whenever I tell these faux-conservatives I am against the wars, they almost invariably think I'm a Democrat or a liberal. When I tell them I'm a conservative (actually a conservative libertarian, but why confuse them any more than they are?) they can't comprehend it. Their idea of a conservative is Ann Coulter, or the thrice-divorced, military-evading, lying dopehead Rush Limbaugh.
All of this is very sad. The left-wing neocons have done a pretty good job of redefining conservatism. Since there are probably less than a dozen of the most influential ones, it's what I mean by a handful of people leading millions of uneducated -- indeed ignorant -- people around by their noses. Worse, the people even put the ring into their noses.
This here's-my-nose-put-the-ring-into-it eagerness has got to be some kind of instinct in people, otherwise they wouldn't fall so easily for these con jobs. And it certainly proves the contention of religion that people are inherently flawed and fallen.
Norman Mailer, who is finally developing a brain at the age of 80, not too long ago made the comment that he believes fascism is the natural state of mankind. Fascism is generally defined as everyone a part of the State, no one outside of it. I think a better definition is "tribalism." That's what I mean by "instinct": people have an instinct to belong to a tribe. If we didn't, we'd be closer to independent cats than social dogs, as we are.
A voluntary tribe is one thing; an involuntary tribe is quite another indeed. "Involuntary tribe" is as short of a two-word definition of fascism as I can come up with.
There is no such thing as an involuntary tribe without leaders. To be more accurate, perhaps I should say "priest-kings." That's what we've got today, in part: people trying to coerce others into membership in their tribe, one led by priest-kings. Those who don't want to join are insulted and ostracized. To maintain tribal cohesiveness there must be an enemy, one whose is defined as an insane and potentially fatal threat, and whose strength is always overestimated.
I see no evidence human nature has changed in all of recorded history. We consider as completely nuts the worshipers of Moloch who rolled infants into the fire-filled stone belly of their idol, but aren't we far, far worse when we engage in total war, kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of infants, and call them collateral damage? I see the same psychology at work: if we don't sacrifice these people, bad things will happen to us.
In many ways, people are still barbarians, only now we have advanced technology to more easily rub out lots more of our "enemies."
Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn made the comment that we are subject to at least two conflicting drives: "identity" and "diversity." The desire for identity -- which he said we share with animals, which is why I consider it an instinct -- is the desire for everyone to be the same. It is the basis for tribalism, and politically, leftism and fascism. Everyone part of the State, no one outside of it.
Since at least the French Revolution, there has been an added component to fascist tribalism: what Francis Schaeffer, Rael Jean and Erich Isaac in their 1983 book called "coercive utopianism." All tribes consider themselves to be God's own; all want to return to the Garden of Eden, ignoring the fact that in the story there is an angel with a flaming sword preventing re-entry.
Currently, the best definition of leftism I've been able to come up with is this: the attempt to coerce people to involuntarily join a tribe, one with priest-kings as leaders. The tribe will consider itself to be chosen of God, and therefore will have messianic tendencies. Those outside the tribe will be considered less than human, insane, and an exaggerated threat that, unless neutralized, will destroy the tribe.
Non-fascism, on the other hand, would be voluntary groups, with religious leaders but no priest-kings, that consider individuals to be of God but not groups, that will not consider outsiders to be insane subhumans that have no other purpose than to slaughter and destroy.
These days, the United States in some measure fits my definition of fascism. It has afflicted both parties. The Republicans appear to be warfare/welfare, while the Democrats are welfare/warfare. The problem ultimately are two things: the involuntarily coercive tribe known as the State, and hubristic human nature when it considers its tribe as the chosen of God, and therefore messianic. That combination is a potent witches' brew that will always lead to catastrophe.