17 February 2014

Postmodern Fascists? (Part 2/2)


The Romantics viewed Nationalism through feelings of connectedness with the past, a revival of folk tradition and identity vs. the mechanized view of Enlightenment society.

They were not Militarists. Nationalism plus Militarism is what leads to Fascism. This is something remarkably absent from these Conservative criticisms and narratives which seek to tie Fascism to Leftist politics.

Why? I think the answer is obvious. The Far Right is just that...militarist and nationalistic. This is why despite the quibbles over the term 'socialist' the Far Right is usually viewed as the quarter from which Fascism arises.

Now we could speak of Totalitarianism which can arise in any context, even that of Christendom. But I find the Christian Conservatives who advance these arguments are reticent to venture down this road.

And the one figure you will never hear them discuss is Francisco Franco. Spanish Fascism does not fit their narrative.

Wagner and Schopenhauer weren't Nazis or anything close to it, but some of their ideas were appropriated by the Nazis...Schopenhauer far less so. Were they racists? Yes, that could certainly be argued, but if that makes them Totalitarian proto-Nazis, then so were the leaders of the British Empire, not to mention quite a few American presidents as well.

The Nazis in many ways simply militarized already existing prejudices and values that existed in European society. Their values weren't that different. They became extra perilous and geo-politically dangerous when placed within the context of Fascism.

One Christian author focuses on Schopenhauer because of his pantheism and wishes to make the connection between these ideas, the Nazis, and modern environmentalism. This is a bad and quite irresponsible case of association fallacy. And that's really the heart of this whole argument.

It's precisely the same flawed way of thinking that without qualification associates Luther with Nazi Anti-Semitism. Are there generalized connections? Perhaps. But to just simply say (without qualification or explanation) that Luther contributed to the culture which led to the Holocaust is misleading and irresponsible.

Existentialists like Kierkegaard rejected the collective thinking of Hegel. He re-cast some of Kant's ideas but ultimately placed the importance on the individual, his experience and the attempt to find meaning in a world that seemed meaningless and terrible.

Secular Existentialism which has been profoundly influential in our culture, (it's everywhere in our movies,) deals with finding meaning in life, authenticity and views morality through the lens of individual experience and context.

This thinking and those behind it (Sartre and Camus) were very much against the Totalitarianism of Nazi Germany. A core idea of Fascism is the subjugation of the individual to the collective. Your individuality disappears into the great will of the people... represented by the leader.

Philosophy has been split into two general categories. The labels are criticized and so nebulous as to almost defy definition, but I think are a helpful starting point.

Most modern secular Westerners have embraced Analytic philosophical categories. It's the scientific worldview. Truth is discovered through empirical observation. In today's forms morality is often relative, but all ideas and concepts are related to logic and reasoning, things that can be demonstrated.

In the secular version of this school, ideas concerning the collective are often tied in with Positivist and Utilitarian thinking. If they want environmental regulation, it's due to scientific pragmatism, not mystical connections to the land or passionate nationalism tied in with a race-mythology.

Continental philosophy is the realm of Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer and others. It has produced the Idealist School (vs. Positivist/Empiricist type thinking) that restricts epistemology to the mind. On one level it is the exact opposite of our modern scientific secular worldview. They can be secular too, but they're approaching basic questions in a quite different fashion. They often would end up being somewhat agnostic as opposed to outright Materialist Atheists. Philosophy to them was not an outworking or application of scientific discovery.

Of course people like Feuerbach and Marx could take Hegel's ideas and synthesize them with Materialism. And that's just it, all of these issues, the history of these ideas are complicated and dynamic.

Beware anyone who makes these kinds of simplistic comparison arguments. When I hear them, I know they're immediately flawed.

I heard a radio programme that tried to argue the Emergent Church was laying the foundation for Fascism. Gene Veith tried to argue something along similar lines back in the 1990's. Basically he was saying Postmodernism leads to Fascism. This was before the Emergent Church appeared but it's essentially the same argument.

Again, this is fundamentally flawed, even ridiculous. Postmodernism (which is certainly not above criticism) is once again wedded to Individualist philosophies, in many ways the antithesis of Statism and Nationalism.

At this point someone will point to Heidegger, but his ties to Nazism while established, are not able to conclusively demonstrate that he influenced the Nazi Party. Nor can it be proved that his philosophical speculation was influenced by their Fascism. Much of his thought was rejected by the Nazis and the Individualism in his concepts of Being are in fact quite subversive to the ideology of Nazism.

Those that have posited a Heidegger-Nazi chain of argument have been heavily criticized, let alone the notion that Postmodernism is somehow a result of this relationship. One would be hard pressed to find a postmodern thinker who is appreciative of Nazism.

This same kind of argument could draw connections between Heidegger, Leo Strauss and the Neo-Conservatives who influenced the second Bush administration. In fact, there have been those who have made these connections.

While I do see connections between the Right and Fascism, I find this connectivity argument concerning Heidegger, Strauss and the Neo-Conservatives to be dubious and equally irresponsible. In every case Right and Left would have to be defined, because they don't always mean the same thing and there are ideas which can manifest themselves in both Right-wing and Left-wing forms. Libertarianism is just one example. Right-wing Libertarianism is represented by someone like Ron Paul and his ideas. Leftist Libertarianism would be represented by someone like Noam Chomsky. While there's some overlap, these schools represent very different ways of thinking and yet both would lay legitimate claim to the heritage of Classical Liberalism.

Those that argue Left equals big government and Right equals small government only demonstrate that they do not understand any of the complicated history regarding these terms and concepts.

It is undeniable that some of Nietzsche's ideas contributed to the Nazi model, particularly that of the Ubermensch or Overman, an idea that Fascism appropriated with its concept of 'the leader', a man who would lead in the creation of a new world with a new morality etc...

Does this mean Nietzsche would have been a follower of Hitler? Not at all. Nietzsche's thinking in general is hyper-individualist (almost Anarchistic) and in many ways antithetical to Fascism. He was critical of Nationalism which was the heart of Hitler's vision. And while Nietzsche continues to be a fascination for many thinkers, one would be hard pressed to tie in his actual ideas, their selected appropriation by the Nazis and the modern Environmental movement.

These arguments in the end are reductionist and sensationalist. They serve as propaganda by pulling monsters from the historical closet. Ideas have consequences, certainly don't die, and can percolate and reform, but this is little more than stirring fear for political ends.

What is most ironic is that the heart of Nazism, it's fierce Militaristic Nationalism which demanded total submission to the agenda of the state, its subjugation of the economy to state interests and its use of fear and domination to control others are not ideas being posited by anyone in the Environmental movement. These folks (who are also not above criticism) are generally anti-nationalist and anti-military. They might be bad people, but they're not Nazis.

The rebirth of something like the Third Reich is more likely to appear as a Flag-wrapped Cross, with an army marching abroad to war. It would establish a police-state and use law enforcement to purge unwanted elements from society. Militant Nationalism will always be reactionary and its ideas of morality and virtue will be rooted in tradition... these are not ideas or concepts associated with the Left.

The idea is to reclaim the true heritage, to re-establish social values that will remedy society and strengthen the dominant historically backed narrative. This is not liberal or progressive thinking. These impulses exist in our society but they're not flowing from the Left.

And finally, it needs to be appreciated that there are significant differences within the Environmental movement itself. Some schools of thought are optimistic with regard to science and technology. They believe big tax-funded projects, oversight, and innovation will solve the problems of pollution and climate change. While believing in regulation, they are not necessarily anti-capitalist. They believe government needs to take a leading role and that the marketplace can work with the state to solve these problems. To be successful they would argue that society needs to be on the same page, and in an era of strained budgets the time for massive military expenditures is coming to an end. While by no means pacifists, these people believe a reduction in arms proliferation will free up money for new technologies and contribute to a more geo-politically stable planet.

These people have to be starkly contrasted with the 'Deep' Environmental movement who usually would be considered extreme by the bulk of society. Some of their fiercest critics are those within the 'mainstream' environmental movement.

Deep Ecologists believe industrialization has destroyed the planet and the only solution is a radical civilizational shift away from the current paradigm. These people believe capitalism-industrialization-and empire are all related co-dependent entities and their rejection of them manifests itself in terms of Localist anti-globalization, anti-consumerism and simple living. Some from this spectrum (ELF and Ted Kaczynski for example) have turned to violence. These groups which are vastly different from the mainstream environmental voices in Washington 'may' contain pantheistic elements, but from my own (limited) investigation, it seems to me these groups view the world through an evolutionary Materialist framework. 

They may want to bring down society but to suggest they are somehow Nazi-like Totalitarians is misleading. Localism is incompatible with Fascism and Nationalism. These people if anything are anarchists.

No comments: