The USA will soon have a President elected by people who voted for simplicity over complexity. The kind of simplicity that harks back to 20th Century Germany and Italy, Spain and Japan, Austria, Chile and Brazil. The list unfortunately goes on. Those years of fascism created neither happy times nor happy nations but they began as a response; a call from those that believed they weren’t being heard. Sadly it is this belief that brutally propels democracy towards despotism. And fascism is just one of its forms.
Fascism discourages engagement suggesting that you leave democracy to the experts. But they cannot give the consent that democracy requires. That’s what politics is, the process of elected representatives gaining consent to make decisions on our behalf. These decisions are made in the public arena of parliament not behind closed doors. That is why it’s noisy and messy. If the polis does not engage then that consent has not been given. But that doesn’t mean that decisions won’t be made. Engagement is essential if the widest variety of voices are to be heard. There’s little point in lamenting a decision after it’s been made (as in the case of Brexit and the US election), particularly if you reveal that you didn’t participate in the making of it, didn’t fight it with everything you had.
Fascism beguiles us with simplistic, easy solutions. ‘Build A Wall’, Keep Them Out’. Slogans targeted at our simple fears, our childish selves. They are designed to stop us stepping up to the plate as adults and taking the responsibility that differentiates us from children. Voting for someone that promises to solve all your problems without you having to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty is at best a fantasy and at worst a con that makes us all worse off. Believing that democracy is what you do once every few years at the ballot box and not every day, is a sure fire way to gain the status of a child. But children don’t vote and they don’t pay taxes. Adults do. And what is politics, parliament, government but the activation of our taxes – the decisions about what to do with our money. Why wouldn’t you want a say in that? As Thomas Jefferson once said, “eternal vigilance is the price of democracy.” That’s the job of adults who are allowed to stay up late.
Fascism uses terms such as the ‘political elite’ to deny that we live in a democracy, deny that there is anything we have to do to keep it vibrant and alive. Believing that there is an us and them, and that the us is powerless, simply gives consent to the people who’ll do whatever it takes to get what they want. It also give us an excuse to do nothing. But that’s the fundamental problem with life, and democracy. It’s impossible to do nothing. Those people in Britain and the USA recently who decided that the best decision was to do nothing, to not make a decision by not voting, still ended up doing something. Something rather big. We have to be informed. We have to be active. We can’t bury our heads in the sand as much as we may want to. And it’s not enough to just have an opinion. Anyone can have an opinion. It’s what you do that matters.
Let’s all pledge to reject fascism. In my own case I need to be better informed and braver about putting that information out there. And I need to make sure I don’t run away when bullies with loud opinions disagree with me. I need to not be afraid to say something different to what many around me may be saying. Democracy is a conversation. A conversation that doesn’t need a perfect solution. A conversation that has room for compromise. A conversation that isn’t just about winning an argument. Being an adult is not our opportunity to make up for not getting into the high school debating team. Being an adult, who is lucky enough to live in a democracy, is about taking the opportunity to make a satisfying dent in inequality across the planet. It’s about breaking down the simplicity that harbours fear, and celebrating the complexity that opens up the world.
Image 1: Guernica by Picasso (Photographed by Papamanila) via Wikimedia Commons
Image 2: By Auguste Migette (Reproduction de tableau) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons