May 21, 2013
Posted on Jun 3, 2012
By Chris Hedges
The left in times of turmoil always coughs up its own version of the goons on the far right. Black Bloc anarchists within the Occupy movement in the United States, although they remain marginal, replicate the hyper-masculinity, lust for violence and quest for ideological purity of the right while using the language of the left. And they, or a similar configuration, will grow if the center disintegrates.
These radical groups, right and left, give to their followers a sense of comradeship and empowerment that alleviates the insecurity, helplessness and alienation that plague the disenfranchised. Adherents surrender the anxiety of moral choice for the euphoria of collective emotions. The individual’s conscience, a word that evolved from the Latin con (with) and scientia (knowledge), is nullified by personal sublimation into the collective of the crowd. Knowledge is banished for emotion. I saw this in Yugoslavia. And this is what happened in Germany during the Weimar Republic. The Nazis, who knew whom they could trust, forbade recruitment from the Social Democrats. They understood that the bourgeoisie liberals of that political stripe lacked the desired ideological rigidity. But the Nazis embraced recruits who defected from the Communist Party. Communists easily grasped the simplistic, binary view of the world that split human relations into us and them, the good and the evil, the friend and the enemy. They made good comrades.
“Comradeship always sets the cultural tone at the lowest possible level, accessible to everyone,” Sebastian Haffner wrote in his book “Defying Hitler,” which more and more looks like a primer on the disintegration of the early 21st century. “It cannot tolerate discussion; in the chemical solution of comradeship, discussion immediately takes on the color of whining and grumbling. It becomes a mortal sin. Comradeship admits no thoughts, just mass feelings of the most primitive sort—these, on the other hand, are inescapable; to try and evade them is to put oneself beyond the pale.”
William Butler Yeats, although he saw his salvation in fascism, understood the deadly process of disintegration:
Those of us who care about a civil society, and who abhor violence, should begin to replicate what is happening in Quebec. There is not much time left. The volcano is about to erupt. I know what it looks and feels like. Yet there is a maddening futility in naming what is happening. The noise and cant of the crowd, the seduction of ideologies of hate and violence, the blindness of those who foolishly continue to place their faith in a dead political process, the sea of propaganda that confuses and entertains, the apathy of the good and the industry and dedication of the bad, conspire to drown out reason and civility. Instinct replaces thought. Toughness replaces empathy. “Authenticity” replaces rationality. And the dictates of individual conscience are surrendered to the herd.
There still is time to act. There still are mass movements to join. If the street protests in Quebec, the most important resistance movement in the industrialized world, spread to all of Canada and reach the United States, there remains the possibility of hope.
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