August 27, 2000
Note from the Editor: Since the publication of Margaret Wyles' essay on fascism Milo Clark has sent three or four e-mails filled with thoughts and pointers to greater knowledge. I dutifully forwarded them to Margaret Wyles until it dawned upon me that Swans' readers may wish to share Milo Clark's encyclopaedic culture. So a bit of editing and reshuffling and here it was. Just had to get approval, which I got and more. And please, take the opportunity to read or re-read Wyles' powerful piece.
Says Clark: "My thanks to the editor for assembling a semi-coherent posting from a number of rambling rants and raves. In doing so, however, he gets me going on this stuff . . . . Again! I can't apologize for the resulting inconsistencies other than to note that paradox is the nature of actuality."
As follow-up to Margaret Wyles valuable essay, "Sex, Lies and Fascism.... Again?"
I will recommend some thought provoking possibilities. Rather
than use the digested form or précis, for the most part, I will simply
name them. This decision is based on a rather simple thought. The ability
to think, allegedly a goal of education, may be a function of completed
thought. The willingness to think for oneself may also be an antidote to
the processes lamented by Margaret Wyles. For me to digest the work of
others, in this case, may lead more to an undesired than a desired end, an
unintended rather than an intended outcome.
However, I would be pleased if other Swans readers would, on their own, find relevance similar to what I am discovering through these pieces (among the myriad available).
Historian John Lukacs has written extensively about the Second World War, especially the earlier days thereof. He has gradually refined his analysis from years to months and, most recently, He focuses on Five Days in London, May 1940. His comments on how people in Europe, Great Britain and the United States viewed the Nazi phenomenon are instructive and relevant, offering essential refinements to Wyles's theses.
Distinctions are carefully made between public opinion and popular sentiment; between understanding and knowing as well as many other pairings too often glibly confused. His concluding paragraphs are indeed provocative.
Five Days in London, May 1940, Lukacs, John, Yale University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-300-08030-1
For those who cut teeth on McLuhan (or even vaguely remain aware thereof), Paul Levinson has tenaciously probed the media for the Mcluhan message. His latest work, Digital McLuhan, a guide for the information millennium, serves to find the prophet coming of age. For those of us click-clicking away in typescript on light-through screens, Levinson gives form to our efforts to catch up with the media involved.
Digital McLhan, a guide to the information millennium, Levinson, Paul, Routledge, New York, 1999. ISBN 0-415-19251-X.
In my view, "Harper's" has eclipsed "The New Yorker" and "The Atlantic Monthly" in attempting to come to grips with issues raised in Wyles' piece. The August 2000 issue offers at least five worthy efforts.
1) Editor Lewis H. Lapham, in his Notebook (p.7) writes on "School Bells," the state of the art in politics and education.
2) In his essay, "The Last Word, can the world's small languages be saved?," Earl Shorris provides insights into the roles and significance of language, per se, and the losses involved in losing them much like extinct species. Here in Hawaii, for example, there are but a handful of elders who grew up in Hawaiian speaking contexts, for whom the language is, in many ways, akin to old Sanskrit, that is, based in oral experiencing rather than linear assemblies of symbols to be assembled, translated into word-sounds to be then given mind space in place of grokking. Most who now study Hawaiian are studying the transformations and filtering through missionary minds into text books in English. For the majority of these students, Hawaiian is a second language if a language at all. Reich's insights are very valuable in this context, although quite ignored.
3) Renata Adler may be familiar to Swans visitors and readers. Her article, "A Court of No Appeal, How one sentence upset the New York Times" offers sharp insights into the state of journalism and suggests how media have dissolved into polemic more than journalism. This trend, more accurately a raging acceleration, is pertinent to Wyles arguments.
4) As further gristly evidence that the U.S. does not take kindly to losing conflicts, see "You Must Go Home Again, Deported L.A. gangbangers take over El Salvador" by Scott Wallace. [See also Gilles d'Aymery's recent piece on OIL and missionaries]
5) Given the SWANS relationship to the once and former Yugoslavia, see the map, "Slouching Towards Bosnia."
Furthermore, if the readers develop a small taste for Lukacs after having read his book (Five Days in May), they can expand their awareness and move their analyses forward by jumping into and following the leads copiously available through his expansive body of works.
For starters, I would recommend:
1) Outgrowing Democracy: A History of the United States in the Twentieth Century, Lukacs, John, Doubleday & Company, Garden City, New York 1984 ISBN 0-385-17538-8.
2) The Hitler of History, Lukacs, John, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1997 ISBN 0-679-44649-4.
3) The End of the Twentieth Century, And the End of the Modern Age, Lukacs, John, Ticknor & Fields, New York, 1993 ISBN 0-395-58472-8.
These books were published a few years ago, as things go in this age of the instantaneous. I am left on each new exposure to Lukacs with a keen sense of having my eyes and mind pried open afresh . . . . Again!
Try one: a paraphrase -- people are moved more by the realities of power than by ideas or ideals. Fit that onto Kent State or forests of yellow ribbons in 1991. For that matter, fit it onto Swans. Lukacs asks "Who are the people?"
Reich in The Mass Psychology of Fascism (1970, p.18) posits, "The ideology of every social formation has the function not only of reflecting the economic processes of this society, but also and more significantly of embedding this economic process into the psychic structures of the people who make up the society. Man is subject to the conditions of his existence in a twofold way: directly through the immediate influence of his economic and social position, and indirectly by means of the ideological structure of the society. His psychic structure, in other words, is forced to develop a contradiction corresponding the contradiction between the influence exercised by his material position and the influence exercised by the ideological structure of society. . . . his thinking and acting must be just as contradictory as the society from which they derive."
Reich suffered greatly from more persecutions than I can easily recount briefly. He was hounded from Germany to Norway, from Norway to Maine, from Maine to prison where he died in 1957. There were great burnings of Reich's books in 1956 here in the United States of America. His books containing the word "orgone" or referencing "orgone accumulator" are still officially banned in the United States of America today, now (although most of his older work is now available in curiously edited forms). He sealed his later and to me even more important work until 2007 or later.
His short polemic published first in 1948, Listen, Little Man! (p. 105. 1971 edition) screams, "Only for living life am I still ready to make any sacrifice. but no longer for you, Little Man. Only a very short time ago I realized a gigantic error which I had entertained for some 25 years: I had devoted myself to you and your life because I believed you to be the living, the straightforward , the future and the hope. Like me, many other straightforward and true people hoped to the living in you. Everyone of them perished. After finding this out, I decided not to perish under your narrow-mindedness and pettiness. For I have important things to do. I have discovered the living, Little Man. Now I no longer confuse you with the living which I felt in myself and sought in you." [with that he moved his research to Arizona summers outside Tucson]
It is ironic that Lukacs and Reich are strangers to each other. Working The Mass Psychology of Fascism in conjunction with Lukacs several volumes yields crushing insights into many shibboleths about Adolf Hitler, The National Socialist Party (1920s through 1945, et seq.), Germany from 1900 through 1945, et seq. which refine and expand our capacities to understand, no grok, those times and these times, those people and this people.
Some quick ones: According to Lukacs Nazi Germany was not a fascist state. Hitler was closer to revolutionary than reactionary and certainly Nationalist while a totally un-Marxian socialist, a volks person. The nationalism which he exploited so brilliantly is very close in character to what we now see rampant in the Balkans, Africa, middle east, etc. Being carefully and with design aforethought based in German nationalism, it was nearly the whole of German society which eagerly embraced him, not just conservative elite or middle class or working class. Lukacs is very precise in his differentiations using source materials in German and often noting the distinctions between German and English wordings. One example: In spite of the bombings, blockades and losses; German war production tripled from 1941 to 1944. The workers, the engineers, the managers and the executives came together for Hitler, for his version of Germany!
Reich noted the contradictions and Lukacs dissects them from other perspectives. To come forward to today, Lukacs also applies his scalpels to the United States, updating Tocqueville, performing autopsies on our illusions. He needs to be experienced rather than summarized.
Actually, what is Savage Capitalism other than black fascism in action? Red Fascism is presently dead or dormant. Reich defines the political spectra as concentric circles with tiny gaps between red and black fascisms (note the plural form). The constant for all of them is this small gap separating only figuratively those whose primary motivation is to force other to agree with them or suffer accordingly. Or is what we are now calling "fascism" but a tyranny of a majority of those who still vote?
I suspect that Silicone Valley and its imitations now proliferating world-wide provide extensive modeling to be understood in terms of Reich, Orwell, Lukacs, et al. One great value of Lukacs is his extensive referencing of other works and parenthetical comments thereon.
Another contemporary exposition worthy of contemplation is Doctorow's novel? City of God. Also the movie, The Deer Hunters. The final scene of which is haunting, haunting.
Brown shirts are now three piece suits and Aloha Friday informalities. Snooper technologies are sophisticated beyond imagination. Privacy? Forget it. No more storm troopers required, For the few outside the capture of media miasma, if isolation and economic deprivation don't get through, SPECOPS teams and local level SWAT squads are adequate as a rule.
TV and media control exact the same results for virtually everyone else. Torpor is the norm. If not enough torpor results from media saturation, then control distribution of addictive and hallucinogenic substances whether through corporate dominance (alcohol and tobacco are under control although becoming less profitable) or government armies and DEA subversions. If those are not adequate, creation of desires and fads will suck up time, energies and resources. Make enemies of all who dare dissent.
Reich's Mass Psychology of Fascism is just about worn out on my shelf -- third copy. Along with Orwell's Animal Farm, Mass Psychology is a steady beacon and sure ground with which to make relevant discriminations.
Few remember the burning of Reich's works in the late '50s. He has been thoroughly dismissed and denigrated. Those familiar with his works, especially his political actions in pre-Nazi Germany , his transitions through Denmark, Norway and Maine, and his fights against the US medical establishments and federal enforcers will recognize that much of his thought has infiltrated and lurks subversively in many current theories and practices.
[In fact, Reich didn't fight the medical establishments, et al, he insisted that his work was beyond their jurisdictions -- and a judge disagreed. Keep that in mind and wonder what will happen if a Republican President, Republican Congress, Republican Governors and Republican legislatures lock in the judiciary even more tightly and reapportion elective districts into their versions of gerrymandering.]
J. Edgar Hoover, FBI Director 1924-1972 is alleged to have said: "Truth? Truth? Truth is what I say. What no one dare challenge."
The study of group psychology and its relationships with societal control is fascinating. The word , fascinating, comes from the same root as fascism, a sheave or bundle of fasces, war axes in some versions, wheat or corn in others. Both of which are etymologically associated with phallus -- and away we go!
The core research which led to US propaganda efforts in WWII and subsequently transmuted into PR and advertising methodology begins in the early 1920s. Goebbels, Nazi propaganda genius), learned his core techniques, interestingly enough, from this body of research centered in the U. S and U.K. (buried somewhere in my library and files). After WWII, Goebbels expansions into mass societal control techniques were studied and amalgamated into the models now operative as market research (esp. focus groups), advertising, public relations and media modeling.
Don't get me going on this stuff, please. Lukacs points out that even in Nazi Germany, it was possible to stay under the radar and to live a fairly decent life. Daniel Quinn and others are pointing to that range of possible alternatives -- Listen, Little Man!
Milo Clark, a founding member of Swans, had it all: Harvard MBA, big house, three-car garage, top management... Yet, once he had seemingly achieved the famed American dream he felt something was missing somewhere. As any good executive he decided to investigate. Since then, he has become a curmudgeon and, after living in Berkeley, California, where he was growing bamboos, making water gardens, listening to muses, writing, cogitating and pondering, he has moved on to the Big Island in Hawaii where he creates thought forms about sunshine. Milo can be reached at Swans
Ishmael - Daniel Quinn
Sex, Lies and Fascism.... Again? by Margaret Wyles
Armies of Compassion: The Missionary, the Businessman and the Military by Gilles d'Aymery
Resources on the War in Yugoslavia and its Aftermath
Articles Published on Swans Regarding the War in Yugoslavia and its Aftermath