Saturday, 12 November 2016

Guest post: Why These Fascists Are Not Like Those Fascists

A note from AxesnYarn: The following post is a guest post by a friend of mine. Inspired and rallied by their writing on their personal page I offered them a Guest Post spot. All that follow are their words. As always please comment and treat with respect. 

Content Note for discussion about fascism, islamophobia, Nazis, the American Election and related topics, but actually in my opinion this is a hopeful post. 

I want to talk about Fascism, and why These Fascists Are Not Like Those Fascists.

I first wrote this in my own bubble. Pen asked if I would be interested in making it more widely available through their blog. So, before I begin, I want to introduce myself a little bit to people who don’t know anything about me. I am writing from a relative position of privilege, specifically in terms of wealth, class and education, as well as conditional White privilege. I am also Jewish, queer and mostly invisibly disabled. Because of my family background and personal circumstances I have been spending a lot of this last year thinking about parallels between our current political situation and Hitler’s rise to power.

So I am one of the first one to find the swastikas and literal fascism of the past few months horrendous. But… actually, this is NOT how Nazi Germany Happened. It's important to understand that for all the parallels you can draw and how terrifying that is, this is terrifying for all its own reasons.

The German National Socialists were a fringe minority party who gained power slowly through the build up of several elections from 1919. They had an active, uniformed paramilitary right from 1919, initially formed from mostly WW1 veterans.

Germany was in an internationally marginalised position in the global community.

Fascist views in Germany never split populations close to 50/50 in the way that both Trump and Brexit have. This is key, because it means that solutions such as using constitutional process like the electoral college to refuse to elect Trump in America or Parliamentary votes against Brexit in the UK don't actually make the problem of rising fascism go away. Slightly under 50% of the population will feel increasingly (if potentially falsely) disenfranchised if that sort of action is taken. That is likely to increase polarisation and potentially violence.

The difference between a mob and a paramilitary is that at least someone is steering the fucking paramilitary.

Also, importantly: this has not been caused by complacency and failure to see what's been happening. Approximately 50% of voters have noticed, woah, this seems to be a slide into fascism. Populations are not complacent, they are polarised.

Importantly, and I've said this in a couple of other places, tools that were developed for fighting fascism in the 40s or the 80s are not necessarily going to be relevant today. We live in a world of 24 hour news coverage and social media; the issue is often over-saturation and compassion-blindness / compassion-fatigue, not invisibility of the issues to hand. Especially inside our bubbles. It is incredibly easy to look at the past and say, people should have spoken up more, then. And to try to fix that problem with our actions today. We can’t fix that problem, and this problem is different.

In a world where outrage is cheap and painful and truth easily dismissable we need to get really damn good at Snopesing before we share. Especially those of us in a position of educational privilege. We have the advantage of holding a position which has integrity, let’s make use of it.

I am trying to think before posting why am I posting this? What action, answer, change or response do I expect to come out of this post? If I am shocked, upset, outraged and my instinct is to share that feeling (and it is my instinct, fuck me I've resisted sharing images of swastikas and stories of hijabi women being assaulted alllll fucking morning) then I need to acknowledge that what I am doing is increasing the amount of shock, outrage, upset and pain in my community. Which is sometimes necessary, but a good question I am trying to use is, to what end?.

We do not know what the tools to fight fascism that looks like this look like yet. That's ok. In the 80s, my parents knew that the tools that their parents had used were also out of date.

Anger is good. Love is good. Action is good. Reflection is good. Communication is good. Silence is good. There is no right way to hold up my ideals, and that is fundamental to the nature of my ideals.

We haven't fucked up and we haven't failed. I wrote it in fiction – some of you might recognise these words from a different context - but these times come round and these times come round again. We've done it as tragedy. We've even done it as farce. This is familiar, yes, shockingly uncomfortably, boringly familiar.

But it's also absolutely brand terrifying new. Don't forget that either.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Us and Them and Me

NB: This is quite a personal and emotional blog post. It is written in one go to express some very real experiences. It may not be scholarly, objective or properly cited but that makes it no less true or valid.

Talk about the US election and indeed politics in the UK has brought up the concept of "elitism" and perceptions of people considered "educated". This is a big thing that needs to be considered carefully.

I want though, to talk about these concepts in an area which is more personal to me and also that highlights the duality of stereotypes that can occur.
As most of you know I had my PIP assessment on Tuesday - a benefit I need as I have a chronic illness and am unable to work and can be considered disabled due to my limitations.
A phrase that came up during the interview was "I can see you are well educated and intelligent ..." which in this scenario was deemed to be a good thing.

Being seen as intelligent, articulate and educated is a social privilege in this country. It means I get taken more seriously and that people are more willing to listen to me. It means that PIP assessors are willing to explain things and talk over issues in depth. It means that my cognitive disabilities are considered with empathy and in comparison to what I used to be capable of: I am not seen as merely stupid but that there is a marked difference between what I am clearly capable of and the stuttered half sentences I produce in person these days.

It means that I am also viewed as probably honest, as not "lazy", as more likely to genuinely be ill and disabled and in need of help. It means I can articulate my concerns and navigate the buracracy (though I can still never spell it) on their terms. Consequently I am more likely to be believed and treated fairly. That is a privilege I am lucky to have.

Yet at the same time I am seen as not really poor (thanks to my partner we are not) or in need. No matter how hard my living situation, how desperately I need a government who cares about me and who will provide. No matter that I have had times when I have had to choose between food and heating. No matter that I am treated like a waste of space, a liar, a cheat, a fraud, a burden by large parts of the country I am still, because I can type it out with some eloquence and because I went to university, one of the elite. I am not one of them. I am not one of the people. I couldn't possibly understand (and sometimes I don't) what people go through, and more damning, it's perceived that I couldn't possibly care. 

Classicism in the UK, as developed in the 19thC, matured through the mid 20thC and violently clashed in the 1980s doesn't exist anymore. Now we have elitism. We have educationism. We still live in a world that expects an attitude of "well we're not like /them/" regardless of money and income. We live in a world where we can expect preferential treatment from one group of people whilst being scorned by another and still not afforded any institutional compassion because of artificial descriptors that separate Us from Them. I will be treated nicely because of my education which makes me a part of the Us but, ultimately, I will be cast aside by the government because people like Us don't need benefits. People like Us don't need assistance. People like Them are lazy and undeserving. Only people like Them would dare ask for social security. If you have the nerve to ask for a little more then you must be one of Them.

But we'll at least tell you politely.