Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The Dispossessed

Chris Hedges warns us about the rise of the Christian fascists. They're disenfranchised! They're politically connected! They're angry! And they hate us for our freedom!

To which one might reasonably reply, "What else is new?"

Christian fascists hate Otherness. No, really! Furthermore, they've retreated from a world that humiliates and bullies them, and found solace in religious fantasies that project their lust for petty vengeance onto God. They'll kill us all if they get the chance, and add insult to injury by chanting the Pledge of Allegiance over our bones.

So far, so good. The question is, will they get the chance? As Hedges sees it, one more terrorist attack could allow them to wrest the country from "us" (which translates, I'm guessing, as "people who get mawkishly sentimental about the Enlightenment"). One problem with this line of thinking is that the country isn't actually "ours." It's run for profit, generally speaking, by people whose zealotry is of a somewhat different order than R.J. Rushdoony's, and they seem unlikely to hand it over to the dominionists without a fight.

Beyond that, the idea that the country will simply fall on its knees before cadres of Chistian extremists is a bit too close to the standard right-wing danger narratives about Muslims or gays for my taste. If I don't accept Mark Steyn's vision of Europe groaning under the yoke of sharia in the near term, I'm not sure why I should accept Hedges' vision of Christofascists seizing control of every branch of government.

Building and administering a theocracy is hard work, especially in a country this large and diverse, and I don't think Hedges' "diffuse and fractious" fascists are up to the job. That doesn't mean they won't try, of course, or that people won't get killed as a result. But for most of these "radicals," dominion is a mere daydream. It'd be nice if it happened, especially if someone else did all the work and took all the risks. But by and large, it's simply an escapist fantasy. Although Hedges has a number of worthwhile insights into his subject -- worthwhile in the all-important sense that they agree with mine -- he fails to notice that revolutionary rhetoric often becomes more garish the more passive and defeated its adherents are. (Revolution, as Simone Weil said, is the opium of the people.)

Given how lurid Hedges' fears are, his solutions seem kind of laughable. The Christian fascists hate us, passionately and implacably: we can't negotiate or reason with them, because they "cannot acknowledge the legitimacy of other ways of being and believing."

But are we downhearted? No! Because we can buy off these Holy Warriors with the very same activist social programs that they view as the work of Teh Devil. After all, when you're dealing with a terminally angry cult of masculinity, nothing turns away wrath faster than collectivist platitudes and state-enforced charity:

Let us openly defy the liberal establishment, which will not save us, to demand and fight for economic reparations for our working class. Let us reincorporate these dispossessed into our economy.
Great idea! I wish I'd thought of it.

Granted, there's evidence that people who are prone to fascism are more prone to fascism in tough economic times. But it's hard not to object to Hedges' salvific view of "our economy," especially since he just spent a great deal of time identifying it, quite accurately, with "the culture of death" against which Christian fascism is reacting. Hedges falls into the same trap as a lot of leftish commentators on the Christian Right, in that he simultaneously wants them to be inherently anti-Enlightenment, and amenable to Enlightenment rationality at its most middlebrow and trivial (i.e., economic).
The liberal class has proved useless in combating the largest environmental disaster in our history, ending costly and futile imperial wars or stopping the corporate plundering of the nation. And the gutlessness of the liberal class has left it, and the values it represents, reviled and hated.
This sounds good. But how much of it is actually true? How much of it, for that matter, is coherent? What, exactly, is a "futile imperial war"? Are useful ones preferable? Is the liberal class -- whatever that is -- reviled and hated for failing to live up to its alleged ideals, or for making the occasional timid step in that direction? I'd love to live in an America that doesn't launch imperial wars or despoil the environment, just as I'd love to have a magic hat, but the idea that the liberal class is denying us this utopia through "gutlessness" is a bit hard to swallow.

On a more light-hearted note, Hedges advises us that "the Democrats have refused to repeal the gross violations of international and domestic law codified by the Bush administration." This is terrible, because it means that when the Christian fascists ruthlessly seize absolute power, they'll be able to use Bush's extralegal tactics against us! Otherwise, they'd be forced to sit in the Halls of Power and twiddle their thumbs, since it'd never occur to them to codify their own gross violations of international and domestic law.
The naive attempts to placate a movement bent on our destruction, to prove to it that we too have “values,” only strengthens its legitimacy and weakness our own. If we do not have a right to be, if our very existence is not legitimate in the eyes of God, there can be no dialogue. At this point it is a fight for survival.
OMG our survival is at stake! Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out!

But on second thought, isn't everything our fault, when you come right down to it?
We failed them; we owe them more: This is their response.
Pobrecitos. We must heal their psychic wounds, by reincorporating them into an imaginary pluralist mainstream they've already rejected.

On third thought, fuck that noise. It's time to gird our loins and battle the Hun!
Let us not stand meekly at the open gates of the city waiting passively for the barbarians. They are coming. They are slouching toward Bethlehem.
Oooh, a reference to Yeats' "The Second Coming"! What better proof could there be that Hedges has given this matter Serious Thought?

In summation: the typical behavior of the usual suspects is a shocking new threat to what little remains of Authentic Civilization. This crisis mandates immediate action of some sort, lest the Forces of Darkness mow us down and use our skulls as paperweights.

Like I said, what else is new?

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