Fascism is a self-defeating ideology. In every case of a full-blown fascist government, and even those with budding fascist tendencies, you get to a point where supporters of the fascists have to start saying, doing, and believing ridiculous things. Fascism, after all, comes from the Latin fasces, which was a bundle of wooden rods or sticks. Keep the sticks bundled, Fascism says, and you can’t break them. Never break from formation, never question, never ever let the idea get into your mind that the group doesn’t have the right answers and the best interests in mind.
But, as we know from every college freshman who thinks he has unlocked the linchpin of Communism, human nature tends to muddle things a bit. Things will go wrong. Things will get out of control. If you allow someone to believe they are right 100% of the time, if you never question or even think that they might be wrong, they will eventually start to believe that they can do no wrong… and that’s where things get terrifying.
So we know Fascism is bad. Well, most of us do. We’re told from an early age that America is good because of freedom and democracy and Mom and apple pie and what have you… so why do the American people, increasingly in the past 20 years, seem to support actions, candidates and platforms that are increasingly anti-democratic, anti-freedom, and proto-fascist? We want to believe that people are inherently good and just and prone to democracy, but History proves out that democracy is something that must be won and maintained, not just implied. Consider, for a moment, if many, many people would be willing to sacrifice democracy. What if a bunch of folks just did not care about the ideas that are supposedly integral to our liberal democracy? What makes the idea of fascism or authoritarianism or totalitarianism so appealing?
Because he makes the trains run on time.
It’s an oft-repeated little chestnut of History, and one that turns out to be not true, it seems, but in the era of Fake News, is it really that surprising that a lie gains more traction than the truth? The most important thing to look at (and something our current news media conveniently continues to forget to do) is not THAT the lie is accepted… but WHY. Far too often you see the easy, lazy excuses put forth by J.D. Vance in Hillbilly Elegy: that they’re just dumb, they don’t know any better, or they didn’t put in the hard work to figure it out. Ironically, the same things that were said about poor blacks in America by Dixiecrats are now being said about poor whites by the Neoliberals. But it’s not as easy as a moral judgment. It’s not as easy as saying it’s someone’s else’s fault. The WHY behind these lies getting accepted is just as much the fault of you reading this as it is mine and our entire broken system of psychocapitalism.
People want to believe the trains run on time. People want to believe that a proto-fascist they voted for isn’t a terrible idea, but the trains are going to run on time. There are going to be benefits… maybe not for everyone, but maybe those folks didn’t deserve it. Yeah, that sounds right, it’s their fault. They didn’t deserve it like I did. Black folks are just more likely to get locked up; it’s not a systemic problem. All those kids with no future prospects just should have worked harder, it’s not that the system is built to fail for 98% of the population. I’d rather excuse horrible behavior from my government and have peace of mind than have to admit this entire system needs an overhaul… because if the trains run on time, I’m all right.
The sin is not in electing fascists, or supporting them. The sin is in not working to reform the situation when you are aware of it. The sin is in the rationalization, the convincing of yourself that this really isn’t as bad as other people say it is, and if everyone just stopped being so awful they could succeed, too. For forty years, all of us were told over and over about the glory of American Exceptionalism and Rugged Randian Individualism and the Dogma of Hard Work Above All, to the point where anyone struggling has it drilled into their head that it must be their fault that they are struggling. And, in those desperate times, comes a man who says it isn’t your fault. This is correct, as the system is broken at the top, but instead this man offers something easier. He points to the bottom, those even underneath you in your sorry state, and says it’s someone else’s fault. That guy over there who doesn’t look like you or talk like you or think like you. He can make things better for you, and you are so desperate… what can you do? At this point, you’ll do anything to stop the bleeding. So you vote for them, and then you think you have to defend them. After all, I supported this government because it benefits me… I can’t be wrong… can I?
We were all wrong, but it’s not our fault. We just want to be happy, it’s how humans are. But now, with the mask off and an unashamedly kleptocratic administration running the country, doing its best to loot the till, knowing full well that their policies may very well cause the next Great Depression… we have no choice but to fight it. We read in our History books how Mussolini was bad because he was a fascist, and needed to be fought. We read how people, desperate for some good news, supported fascism, even with all its evils, on the promise of returned greatness and punctual trains. It is now our duty to look 100 years into the future to see what folks may say about us, about our time, and about our action… or lack thereof. People may have installed this government because they wanted the trains to run on time, but the people also have the power to remove it, even if it costs us in the short term.
Because, at the end of the day, a few late trains is worth it.