Category Archives: racism

Genocide Repudiated

 

The Indian Residential Schools established by the Canadian government under the provisions of the Indian Act were instruments it used, often through its church partners,  to ensure dominance over indigenous people. Even if the Popes had disavowed the Doctrine of Discovery, the basis of these notions were also the foundation of that doctrine, which I have called vile.

Here is what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (‘TRC’)  said in its report to the Canada in 2015,

“For over a century, the central goals of Canada’s Aboriginal policy were to eliminate Aboriginal governments; ignore Aboriginal rights; terminate the Treaties; and, through a process of assimilation, cause Aboriginal peoples to cease to exist as distinct legal, social, cultural, religious, and racial entities in Canada. The establishment and operation of residential schools were a central element of this policy, which can best be described as “cultural genocide.””

 

Since that report was delivered many critics have said the TRC was too gentle with Canada. They suggested the word “cultural” should be dropped from that destruction. They say, Canada was guilty of genocide. Pope Francis on his recent visit to Canada said he thought it “genocide.” The subsequent report of the 2019 Inquiry into Missing and Murdered  Women and Girls, said the actions reported on in that report amount to “genocide.” There was no qualification. It may be that the reticence of the TRC was a consequence of it not being authorized to accuse people of crimes, and genocide is a crime.

The TRC said this about genocide:

“Physical genocide is the mass killing of the members of a targeted group, and biological genocide is the destruction of the group’s reproductive capacity. Cultural genocide is the destruction of those structures and practices that allow the group to continue as a group. States that engage in cultural genocide set out to destroy the political and social institutions of the targeted group. Land is seized, and populations are forcibly transferred and their movement is restricted. Languages are banned. Spiritual leaders are persecuted, spiritual practices are forbidden, and objects of spiritual value are confiscated and destroyed. And, most significantly to the issue at hand, families are disrupted to prevent the transmission of cultural values and identity from one generation to the next.”

 

 

And then the TRC added, “In its dealing with Aboriginal people, Canada did all these things.” If Canada did all 3 things necessary to be classified as genocide, then the TRC is saying, Canada committed genocide in its dealings with its Indian Residential Schools. According to the TRS, and was amply justified by the evidence revealed in its report,

 

As if that was not enough the TRC also said this,

“Canada denied the right to participate fully in Canadian political, economic, and social life to those Aboriginal people who refused to abandon their Aboriginal identity. Canada outlawed Aboriginal spiritual practices, jailed Aboriginal spiritual leaders, and confiscated sacred objects. And, Canada separated children from their parents, sending them to residential schools. This was done not to educate them, but primarily to break their link to their culture and identity.   In justifying the government’s residential school policy, Canada’s First prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, told the House of Commons in 1883:

When the school is on the reserve the child lives with its parents, who are savages; he is surrounded by savages, and though he may learn to read and write his habits, and training and mode of thought are Indian. He is simply a savage who can read and write. It has been strongly pressed on myself, as the head of the Department, that Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence, and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training industrial schools where they will acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men.”

 

But as if that was not enough the TRC added,

“These measures were part of a coherent policy to eliminate Aboriginal people as distinct peoples and to assimilate them into the Canadian mainstream against their will.”

 

Who can possibly deny that taking children away from their parents for such a vile policy is not genocide? I think the conclusion is clear and unassailable.

In my opinion these genocidal policies are incompatible with the statements made by Pope Francis in Canada. He spoke plainly and clearly. This was a most welcome message from a Pope.

 

A Call for Love, Truth, and Justice

 

Friends have asked me what I thought of Pope Francis’s recent words in Canada during his pilgrimage of penance. As I said earlier, it is up to indigenous people to say whether or not the apology is satisfactory, but I want to comment on some of his other statements.

 

The vicious Doctrine of Discovery, has for more than 500 years held that it is justifiable for Christians to steal land from indigenous people and brutalize and murder them in the process and then force them to be become Christians. What could be worse than that? Even if the doctrine was dismissed by former Popes, the doctrine was used to exploit indigenous people right up to the 20th century. Pope Francis while in Canada was implored to reject that doctrine  And guess what?” He did it! At least that I is my interpretation of his words, for what he said is clearly incompatible with that doctrine.

According to Niigaan Sinclair, writing in the Winnipeg Free Press, “Pope Francis has rebuked over 500 years of how the church and Catholics treated Indigenous people.” Sinclair pointed out how in 1550, almost 500 years ago, a trial took place among Catholic leaders at Valladolid where the question was: are Indigenous Peoples human? Today, it seems incomprehensible that such a question could even be asked, but in 1550, the idea that indigenous people might be human was radical. Until then, the Popes had declared that indigenous people could be robbed of their land and must be converted while authorizing the use of brutal and even murderous force against them. It was a heinous doctrine that required a heinous world view—white male supremacy—to found it. It was not confined to Catholics but was the common European attitude to indigenous peoples everywhere.

Catholic leaders had a hard time coming to a final decision on the issue and hence acquiesced in violence, evangelization and yes, even genocide for the next 500 years. At least that was the case until now. On July 28 in Quebec City, Canada, Pope Francis asked a monumental question: “How about our relationships with those who are not ‘one of our own,’ with those who do not believe, with those who have different traditions and customs?”

 The question is astoundingly simple and yet astoundingly profound. Then the Pope gave a very clear answer to his own question: “This is the way: to build relationships of fraternity with everyone, with Indigenous brothers and sisters, with every sister and brother we meet, because the presence of God is reflected in each of their faces.”

 Pope Francis gave a theological answer to the question. I would have given a more naturalistic answer. I would have said, this is because ‘we feel the humanity in the indigenous people as we feel it in our ourselves.’ But either way, the answer really is the same.

 Niigaan Sinclair said this in response: “In a simple statement that rebuked over 500 years of Catholic doctrine, the Pope had pronounced Indigenous cultures and traditions are valuable, worthy on their own terms, and represent “the presence of God.”

Sinclair explored the idea further by speculating what this revolutionary idea of Pope Francis means in practice:

 “Bishops and priests must now “build relationships of fraternity” with Indigenous ways, instead of forcing us to give up our songs, stories, and traditions. Because, finally, after 500 years, the church finally recognizes us as human. Forgive me if I don’t give the Pope a standing ovation — as the priests and bishops did — but I do recognize a step when I see one.”

 

So far, I have not read any other pundit who has recognized the significance of Pope Francis’ remarks, but Sinclair has done so. This is how he characterized those remarks: “The impact of Pope Francis’ new doctrine is nothing short of a game-changer for Catholicism in Canada (and, I guess, the world).

Sinclair showed how significant the Papal comments are:

“It means Indigenous languages, cultures and ceremonies must be recognized as legitimate spiritual expressions by every member of the Catholic Church. It means any effort to destroy Indigenous traditions is to attack the “presence of God.” It means the purpose of the Canadian residential school system — to eradicate “the Indian in the child,” to use an infamous phrase — was invalid in the eyes of this Pope.”

 

I acknowledge that I scoffed at the suggestion that the Pope would discard 500 years of Catholic history—even ignominious history such as the Doctrine of Discovery—but that is exactly what he did. It was a historical moment! Indigenous people should be proud of what they have achieved. It is truly, deeply momentous.

Pope Francis summed up his thoughts in Quebec this way:

 Thinking about the process of healing and reconciliation with our Indigenous brothers and sisters, never again can the Christian community allow itself to be infected by the idea that one culture is superior to others or that it is legitimate to employ ways of coercing others.”

 

I am not aware of any more profound remarks made by any Pope in the past 500 years and they were made in Canada at the behest of the indigenous people of Canada! This was a great day.

So forget about the Pope’s apology, forget about the doctrine of discovery, what Pope Francis said in Canada was a miracle.  It was magnificent.   I think in his own humble way, without fancy words, Pope Francis did do what Niigaan Sinclair wanted him to do—he called for truth, love, and justice.

The Doctrine of Discovery Moves from Religion to Politics and Law

The Doctrine of Discovery originated as policy in the 15th century as a result of Papal Bulls (decrees) to the monarchs of Portugal and Spain.  According to According to Olive Patricia Dickason and William Newbigging in their book A Concise History of Canada’s First Nations this amounted to a “virtual declaration of war against all non-Christians and an official sanction of the conquest, colonization, and eventual non exploitation of non-Christian people and their territories.”

Yesterday, I promised that I would opine on the historic comments of Pope Francis in Quebec last week.  I have decided to make a few more comments on the Doctrine of Discovery today before I do that tomorrow.

As a result of a conversation yesterday, with a friend who is a professor of Religious studies, and clearly knows a lot more about the Doctrine of Discovery than I do, and says that the Doctrine of Discovery was repudiated by Catholic Popes and church leaders more or less from the beginning. However, the attitudes that underpinned it, namely white supremacy and its corollaries, dominated western thinking for centuries. Those attitudes allowed the people from Europe to believe they had an inherent right, if not a religious right, to dominate the people of what they referred to as the New World. According to Olive Patricia Dickason and William Newbigging,

 

“The main principles of the discovery doctrine was accepted by European colonizers and remained an unspoken assumption until the famous U.S. Supreme Court case of Johnson v. McIntosh in 1823. Writing for a unanimous court, Chief Justice John Marshall noted that the European colonizers had assumed dominion over North and South America during the Age of Discovery, and that the indigenous peoples had lost their rights to absolute sovereignty, but they did retain the right of occupancy in their own lands. In addition, Marshall claimed that the United States of America, upon winning it independence from Great Britain, simply assumed this right of discovery and the authority of dominion from the British. Succinctly put, the colonizing powers assumed the right to claim possession of the Americas by virtue of their belief in the superiority of Christianity and its adherents . In turn, the US Supreme Court ruled that they had inherited their right of possession, by way of the British, from the doctrine of a fifteenth century pope who was attempting to curry favour with the King and Queen of Spain.”

 

The basis of the policies that flowed from the doctrine were based on a fundamental assumption of European superiority over indigenous people. That attitude poisoned the relationship between Europeans and Indigenous peoples for centuries even if Popes repudiated it.  The religious leaders could not erase the attitudes of assumed European supremacy.

 

Doctrine of Discovery: As Vile as Vile can Be

People have been asking me what I think about the recent apologies of Pope Francis. Some were complaining it did not cover everything he ought to have covered. Others told me they hate apologies. I have been resisting a reply as I consider an answer.  I know this is not like me. I usually allow whatever inane thought has entered my head to plop out ungraced. This time I wanted to do better. I am glad I waited because on his second last day in Canada, Pope Francis made a momentous statement, which in my opinion dwarfs all else. He got to the root of the problem and he apologized for that and said we must do better. Frankly, it was a shocking statement that many have not taken note of. He has effectively ended, in words at least, more than 500 years of an important plank of white supremacy and hate that has been a stain on western civilization that urgently required redress.

 

First, about the apology I don’t claim the right to tell indigenous people what form of apology they should accept or what wording is good enough. That is for them to decide.  I think however I can comment on what Pope Francis has done to remove a deep dark stain on so-called western civilization for the benefit of beneficiaries of that civilization like me. Pope Francis made some astounding remarks about the foundational notion of white male supremacy and its corollary doctrine of discovery. Few have commented about that.

I have often said that Pope Francis is my Pope. I have never been taken seriously in comments because I not a member of any organized religion and certainly not the Catholic Church. So I have no claim to ownership of the Pope.  Part of the reason I have been opposed to organized religion is that it has been used for so long to buttress the thinking that produced the Doctrine of Discovery. That doctrine is based on an underlying philosophy of white male supremacy, which is the real original sin.

The Doctrine of Discovery is a doctrine as vile as vile can be and it was produced in the name of religion by Catholic Popes starting in the 15th century. In those days statements by the Pope were important. They were almost like laws. To many they were laws because  all of Europe was Catholic. But on July 28, 2022, in Canada, the current Pope poked a hole in it so deeply that it is bound to sink. This was a truly historic moment. I applaud the Pope.

To begin with, we should note that the doctrine of discovery (or discovery doctrine) is a concept of public international law that was produced by the Roman Catholic Church and adopted by the European monarchs in order to justify and legitimize the colonization and evangelization of lands outside of Europe. These lands were often ludicrously described as “uncivilized” or “savage.”  The inherent dehumanization of non-Europeans in the eyes of Europeans was used to legitimize the theft of foreign lands by Europeans by giving a thin veneer of legality and religion to that organized theft.

This doctrine was used from the mid-fifteenth century to the mid-twentieth century to permit European countries to seize land that was inhabited by indigenous people around the world and in particular in the recently contacted western hemisphere.

The idea of the doctrine was that any land not occupied by Christians could be seized by Christians for their own uses. This idea was the basis of colonization. It really was doctrine invented by Popes and European monarchs to try to justify (weakly) their invading, of the western continent, and raping and pillaging its inhabitants  in the name of the Catholic Church and European monarchs. it really was a doctrine that authorized exploitation.

The doctrine was often promulgated by written statements made by Pope that were called Papal Bulls. A papal bull is a type of public decree, such as  letters patent, or charter issued by a pope of the Catholic Church. It got the name from the lead seal the Popes used to make their statements look official.  Most of now think of them as bullshit, but actually for centuries those decrees were very important and had serious consequences attached to them because of the prestige of the Popes.

The doctrine emerged during the Age of Exploration. In 1452, Pope Nicholas V issued what was called, most appropriately, a Papal Bull, Dum Diversas that authorized Portugal to conquer non-Christian lands seize the inhabitants as slaves and consign them to perpetual servitude. Is it possible to imagine a viler doctrine that this? In 1493, Pope Alexander VI issued another Papal Bull that permitted Spain to claim the lands visited by Christopher Columbus on behalf of his patron Spain. In 1494 the two competing Christian nations concluded the Treaty of Tordesillas that divided the western “New World” between the two of them. As if they had the right to do that. It showed the extreme arrogance of Christian Europeans that gave them the confidence that they could own and control the world while ignoring the wishes of people that already lived there.

France and England, for a while at least, also used the Doctrine of Discovery to justify their dubious claims in the New World even though they refused to recognize the Spanish-Portuguese hegemony. Francis I of France said he wanted to see the “testament of Adam” that divided the world between Spain and Portugal. When Christian nations quarrelled over disputed western territories, they sometimes asked the Pope to arbitrate the disputes. Inhabitants of course, being savages, had no say in what was decided. Their lives did not matter.

After the English Reformation when England no longer recognized the supremacy of the Papal Bulls, it retained the Doctrine of Discovery to sanction its own bloody deeds. It was just that after that the English monarchs had the supreme authority, rather than the Pope but it did not cede jurisdiction to local people. The effect on indigenous people was the same.

In 1537 Pope Paul III issued a Bull Sublimis Deus that forbade the enslavement of the indigenous people of the Americas that he called the “Indians of the West and the South.” The Pope stated that “Indians” are fully rational human beings who have the rights to freedom and private property even if they are not Christians. That was a radical idea. It was so radical that European monarchs often ignored it.

The Doctrine of Discovery continues to this day to be referred to in American and Canadian judicial decisions and it continues to influence American treatment of indigenous people. The doctrine was expounded upon by judges of the U.S. Supreme Court in a series of cases most notably Johnson v. M’Intosh in 1823. In that case, demonstrating the poverty of American common law, the Supreme Court Justice John Marshall had large real estate holdings that would have been adversely affected if the case were decided in favor of one of the litigants, Johnson, so rather than recusing himself, Justice Marshall wrote the decision of the unanimous court in a manner that protected his personal interests. The court ruled that the ownership of land came into existence by virtue of discovery of the land which in that case was discovered by Great Britain and then lawfully transferred to the United States, again without consent by the indigenous inhabitants.

The Doctrine of Discovery has been roundly criticized as socially unjust, racist, and in violation of basic human rights. In 2012, the UN called for a mechanism to investigate land claims. Speakers at the UN conference noted how the doctrine had been used repeatedly over centuries to allow for the transfer of land from indigenous people to colonizing authorities or dominating nations without consent of the indigenous.

Numerous religious bodies have condemned the doctrine, including the Episcopal Church in 2009, the Unitarian Universality Association in 2012, the United Church in 2013, the Christian Reformed Church in 2016, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) also in 2016 and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In November 2016, a group of 524 clergy publicly burned copies of Inter caetera, a specific Papal Bull that underpinned the doctrine as part of the protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline protests near Standing Rock  Indian Reservation.

The Canadian bishops have called on the Catholic Church to issue a new Doctrine of Discovery and stated that they “reject and resist the ideas associated with the Doctrine of Discovery in the strongest possible way.”

Finally, in July of 2022, without mentioning the doctrine specifically, Pope Francis during his penitential pilgrimage to Canada  made some profound comments that seriously undermine the legitimacy of the doctrine. It really was a historical moment. I will get to that in my next blog post.

Putin’s Fascism

 

Jason Stanley and Eliyahu Stern wrote an interesting article in Tablet Magazine. They pointed out that “The admiration of religious traditionalism and hatred of cosmopolitan liberalism is part of the Kremlin’s fascist ideology.”

 When Russia invaded Ukraine in February of 2022, Vladimir Putin claimed it was necessary for Russia to “denazify” Ukraine and end the genocide of Russians who lived in Ukraine.  It would have been difficult to come up with a more absurd claim, but that’s what he said. He did that to elicit memories of Russia’s memorable and heroic defeat of Nazi Germany in what the Russians called “The Great Patriotic War,” and we in the west call the World War II. Stanley and Stern point out that Putin’s claims are “a diversion from his own fascism,” and ““an expression of antisemitism.” I agree with them.

Stanley and Stern say this about fascism:

“Fascism embraces a mythic past, where the nation, once great, has experienced humiliation and loss of land, the result of weakness and decadence brought on by liberal democracy. To make up for these losses, real and supposed, fascist leaders encourage violent reassertion of previous greatness, as well as the destruction of liberal democracy in favor of a one-party state or, more typically, a single autocratic ruler who is synonymous with the nation.”

 

This strikes home for many recent fascist movements, including, even the near fascist movement led by Donald Trump.  As Stanley and Stern said,

“In the Russian nationalist version of the mythic past, Ukraine is central. According to this mythology, there are no Ukrainians—just lost Russians living, whether they know it or not, in the heart of historic Russia. Under Putin, Russia has been harshly sexist and homophobic, familiar manifestations of fascist ideology. But Russia’s violent imperial war against a neighboring cosmopolitan democracy that it seeks to absorb is the clearest manifestation yet that its animating ideology is something akin to classical fascism.”

 

Alexander Dugin was the intellectual leader of Russian fascism.  He and Putin both deny being racists or Nazis but frankly that is what they are. I think the evidence is overwhelming.   They claim the real enemy of their movement are not any racial group but rather “what they refer to as confused cosmopolitans, liberals, and secularists. The same enemy found by many fascists, including Donald Trump and a host of American conservatives. Those American conservatives say their enemies are the “elite-racist ultra-liberal that seeks to annihilate American values.” These “liberals” stand for minority rights and and the replacement of political leaders by democratic means.  A substantial number of Americans would agree with these “classical fascists.” To me that is a scary thought.

According to Stanley and Stern, the clear enemy of modern fascism then is liberalisms which it sees, rightly in my view, as “cosmopolitan liberal democracy.” That has been demonstrated by both Putin and Trump.

 

Christian Hate

 

To me it is a fundamental position that Christians should not hate. They should love. Yet often that is not true. Often they hate.

In the United States far right groups traditionally attack racial minorities, but those are large groups. If you want support from non-whites you have to attack smaller groups such as trans-gender Americans. That is what the current far right is doing in America. Many of those are of course Christians. Take almost any hated group and away you can go. It does not take much for Americans to join an anti-racial parade. Vilify a small group and soon you will have wide-spread support for your cause.

If you attack a tiny group you can gather a large group  against them.  This is what Americans have been doing.  Then you can gather a lot of people to join our hateful attacks on very small minorities. Unfortunately, there are often many Americans who want to do exactly that.

As Jason Stanley an American philosopher and expert on fascism said,

“In the United States the audience includes white nationalists who very prominently want to return to a white state that prioritizes white Christianity. So they say they have black Americans who join them in their antipathy against LGBT citizens. It is always about gathering a larger coalition by ever greater vilification  of a small minority while winking to the large  part of the coalition that this is really helping. In the case of the United States that would be white Christianity.”

 

One should never underestimate the power of hate among small groups. Smart politicians know how to enlist such power and amplify it. Often such tactics are used to enhance the interests of white Christianity. Hence we get what Timothy Snyder referred to as Christian fascism which often attacks small sexual groups that are easy to dominate and quick to catch the attention of haters.

There was a recent piece in the New York Times by Elizabeth Dias and Ruth Graham that reported on The growing religious fervour in the American right. They call it a Jesus movement.”  The far-right movement is increasingly drawing in devout Christians.

As Stanley said,

“That’s because the global fascist movement presents itself as a defender of traditional values. And this is not new. This is textbook fascist politics. If you look at Joseph Goebbels’s speech, “Communism with the masks off,” in 1935, Goebbels says that Jewish Bolshevism is threatening religious faith in Christianity and that the only protection is National Socialism.”

 

Once more, this is Christian fascism. So what Putin is doing is reviving these themes. He is saying liberalism is a threat to tradition. Of course liberalism is not a threat. Liberalism says my Orthodox Jewish brothers may live as they want and other people who aren’t religious can also live however they want. Tolerance for other views is the bedrock of liberalism. However, Christian fascism says Judaism is a threat to its hegemony and must be resisted.

 

Of course, this is not about truth. This is about creating fear among people who chose to live traditionally that they are under attack and this approach in the US, Russia and many other places has been very successful.  As Stanley said,

 

This is about persuading people that other people’s choices threaten them and in particular, threaten their children, and then they say to them, ‘Look they are going after your children. You need us to protect you.”

 

This is a very effective strategy and has been used by authoritarians and fascists many times. It is so effective because it is so easy for us to fear our children are in danger. In its most extreme and absurd recent incarnation this has been the strategy of QAnon followers.  They get people to believe their children are in danger of pedophiles. That is guaranteed to arouse quick and hostile response especially in countries where such fears are rampant such as the United States and Russia. Sexual insecurity adds an existential edge to such fears. It is so effective people are quick to believe totally absurd claims.

 

In both countries conservative members of society are easily convinced that their children are in danger because traditional values have been undermined by liberals. As a result, traditionalist are quick to abandon democracy in favour of the protection of a strong autocratic leader.

 

This is what Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeted on April 6, 2022:  “Democrats are the party of killing babies, grooming and transitioning children, and pro-pedophilia politics.”  It doesn’t matter that it is absurd. It matters that it triggers fear.

Hari Sreenivasan who interviewed Jason Stanley on PBS quoted this: “In a recent poll 49% of Republicans said it was definitely or probably true that top Democrats are involved in elite child sex-trafficking rings.”

These are now going viral in conservative Christian circles in particular in the US and elsewhere. This is not a small group of people in the US.  Congresswomen are part of it. This is widespread hair-brained thinking.

As Stanley reminded us, QAnon is clearly descended from “blood libel” and the “protocols of the elders of Zion”,  the conspiracy theories that Jews were stealing Christian babies for their religious rituals. It is a conspiracy theory that there is a global cabal of elites and they are seeking to conquer institutions to get at your children.

To these conspiracy theorist if “their men” cannot stand up to this they are not real men because they are going after women and children and all real men must stand up to defend them.  As Stanley said, “It is that level of fear and paranoia that has seeped into…and permeated much of American politics.”

 American Christian fascism, the ugly American twin of Russian Christian fascism.

 

Vladimir Putin, Alexander Dugin, & Alexander Prokhanov: Political Fiction

 

Alexander Prokhanov was Putin’s companion in a radio program in 2011 where Putin had cited Ivan Ilyin. Prokhanov and also Alexander Dugin enlisted the idea of Eurasia as an alternative to the despised liberal west.  Both used this idea to try to bring back Soviet fascism. Like Hitler, Prokhanov blamed international Jewry (the typical fascist scapegoat) for inventing ideas of an enslaved homeland. As Timothy Snyder said, “Like Dugin, Prokhanov openly embraced political fiction, seeking to create images that would exude meaning before people had a chance to think for themselves.” People who think for themselves are the greatest enemy of fascism.

 

Like Putin and Ilyin, Prokhanov found an enemy in sexual perversion.  All them of them agreed that perverts were the enemy of Christian fascists although Putin of course never called himself a fascist. He considered himself an enemy of fascism, but he was a fascist. They all argued in favour of traditional values that were opposed to liberal perversion.  A good example of this was Prokhanov’s statement after a meeting with Barack Obama, for the Russians “it was if they had all been given a black teat, and they all suck at it with lust and mammalian smacking…In the end I was humiliated by this.” Blacks of course are the other standard enemy of fascists.

 

As Timothy  Snyder said,

“Prokhanov’s next move was to claim that factuality was hypocrisy: “Europe is vermin that has learned to call heinous and disgusting things beautiful.” Whatever Europeans might seem to be doing or saying, “you don’t see their faces under the mask.” In any event, Europe was dying: “The white race is perishing: gay marriages, pederasts, rule the cities, women can’t find men.”  And Europe was killing Russia: “didn’t get infected with AIDS, they deliberately infected us.”

Notice that  Russian white supremacists, like their American counterparts, try to stoke fears that the white race is perishing and needs to be saved. Just like the young American domestic terrorists in Buffalo last week who walked in to a supermarket with a gun to kill blacks and prevent blacks from replacing whites.  Fascism is similar the world over.

It seems strange that so often for fascists, a fundamental problem for them were the Jews and blacks Jews rattle the fascist cage and paid a heavy price for that in so many fascist states.

 

Timothy Snyder described the situation with Prokhanov this way:

“The fundamental problem, said Prokhanov in this interview (with the Izborsk) was the Jews.  “Antisemitism,” he said, is not a result of the fact that Jews have crooked noses or cannot correctly pronounce the letter ‘r.’ It is a result of the fact that Jews took over the world, and are using their power for evil.”  In a move that was typical of Russian fascists, Prokhanov deployed the symbolism of the Holocaust to describe world Jewry as a collective perpetrator and everyone else as the victims: “Jews, united humanity in order to throw humanity into the furnace of the liberal order, which is now a catastrophe.” The only defense against the international Jewish conspiracy was a Russian redeemer. Eurasianism was Russia’s messianic mission to redeem mankind. It “has to encompass the entire world.”

 

Prokhanov thought this would happen when Russia, Ukraine and Belarus merge. That is exactly Putin’s goal.  That is what he meant by Eurasia and Prokhanov acknowledged that Putin had declared this.

And of course, Putin saw himself as the Russian redeemer against the perversions of the west. And like so many redeemers, he brought ruin,  not paradise. Just like the young killer in Buffalo. And so many others.

 

Why does the American right love Putin?

 

You may have noticed something astonishing recently—the love that some American conservatives have for bullies and tyrants. What is that all about?

A poll that came out right after the Russians invaded Ukraine showed that 1 in 4 Republicans blamed Joe Biden and not Putin for the war. Because their  statements  are so appealing to them, the Russians are using statements by Donald Trump and Tucker Carlson on their televisions with Russian subtitles.  Trump and Carlson are producing Russian propaganda! The Russians have already used actual statements by Trump and Carlson as part of their propaganda machinery. That is how enthralled some American right-wingers are with Putin. He is their kind of strongman. They envy him! I know not all conservatives can be tarred with the same brush. Many of them have spoken out loudly against Putin, but when the two most influential conservatives in America agree on their approval of Putin we must take notice!

Steve Schmidt, a former Republican strategist  who lost all confidence with that party after it elected Donald Trump said Trump had “a fetish for autocracy”.  Tucker Carlson seems to share those views.

 Former Trump has consistently acted like a tin-pot dictator and no one should be surprised. While he was president, he frequently made it clear that he admired dictators such Vladimir Putin of Russia, Xi Jinping of China, Rodrigo Roa Duterte of the Philippines, and Kim Jong-un of North Korea. Trump admires strongmen.  He admires bullies and that is the mark of an authoritarian or even a fascist. While he was president, he also tried to twist the arms of Ukrainian political leaders by withholding aid payments to that country in order to dig up dirt on his political rival (at the time) Joe Biden. He also used the Department of Justice as his personal law firm against all protocols, and has done much else to make it clear to anyone who pays attention that he is an authoritarian at heart.

Then after Russia invaded Ukraine on flimsy justifications that Russia was there to save Ukrainians from a neofascist government, Donald Trump, like a true New York real estate mogul, told the world what he really thought of Putin. He said,

“Putin’s smart.  I mean he’s taking over a country for $2 worth of sanctions. I’d say that is pretty smart. Listen, he’s taking over a country; really  a vast, vast location and a great piece of land with a lot of people and just walking right in.”

 

In other words, Trump was jealous of the great real estate deal Putin made by invading Ukraine. Never mind the 44 million Ukrainians who had their government taken away from them. This is the bizarro world of Trumplandia. As the journalist Julia Ioffe said about Putin and his cronies: “They take a little bit of truth and spin it into a cotton candy ball of lies.”

Bill Maher said as early as 2018, “We thought Russia would become more like us, but we have become more like the Russians.”

What really concerns me, about this issue is the 55 million Americans who voted for Donald Trump, though his popularity seems to be waning, he is a still a force to be reckoned with. So is Carlson.

Reporter Lulu Garcia-Navrro of the New York Times said, this,

 “There was just a poll. out showing that Putin was more popular among Republicans than any senior Democratic leader, including the American president.”

 

Bill Maher and others have for some time been commenting on the attraction of the American right to Putin.  In the case of Trump this was near man crush. It is really surprising what has happened. A sea change has occurred. The Republican party used to be so anti-Russia that they were nearly rabid on the subject. Ronald Reagan became Saint Ronald by defeating the Ruskies economically and calling on Mr. Gorbachev to “bring down that wall.” It didn’t happen but Reagan became a hero on the right.  George Bush attacked the evil empire and the axis of evil. Yet for some reason the Republicans have flipped on Russia. Why is that?

Anne Coulter in June 2017 said: “In 20 years, Russia will be the only country that is recognizably European.”  What was she getting at there? I think she was getting at appearance. Matt Drudge in 2013 said “Putin is the leader of the free world.” The free world? White Supremacist, David Duke in 2004 called Russia “the key to white survival.”  There is a big hint there.

All of us have noticed how the world has become a lot more diverse. London used to be completely white. When I was in London in 2017 I was struck by what a a wonderful diverse city it was. I was pleasantly surprised by this. But some people don’t like diversity. We must acknowledge that. Some people think the white people are being replaced.  They are being displaced from their positions of dominance. And that scares a lot of people.  I have talked to people like that.

Russia has resisted diversity. They don’t want diversity and make no bones about it. Gays and lesbians also have a difficult time there. Putin has made it clear that they are not welcome in Russia. He does this openly. But not only Putin, many of the Russian people are  like this.   They are attracted to what Yale Historian Timothy Snyder has called “Christian fascism of Putin” that does not tolerate diversity. To them holy Russia has no room for diversity.  They don’t want gays, lesbians, or blacks.

As Maher said, “Republicans don’t see Russian meddling in our election as bad thing. They see it as white people helping white people. To the people who are afraid of a diverse world, Russia is their savior country. ”

That is exactly what fascism is all about.  Keep the inferiors out so we can dominate the country. This attraction of American conservatives to Putin and his cohorts betrays their allegiance to fascism. Like the Nazis before them, they want white supremacy. Actually, I think it goes beyond white supremacy but that is a big part of what some of them like about Putin. In future post I will say what I mean.

 

Compassion for the Vulnerable

 

To Brother Cornel West the concept of Hesed is central. I had never heard of Hesed before I heard him talk about it. I guess that shows profound ignorance. In the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, if you like, when God appeared to Moses to give the Law a second time, he said that he was  “abounding in” or “filled with” Hesed, which is translated  as “love and faithfulness,” “unfailing love,” “faithful love,” “steadfast love,” and “loyal love,” depending on which version of the Bible that you read. The relevant passage is (Exodus 34:6–7). The idea is that of a love that is loyal within a group. West emphasizes, as did American Philosopher Walter Kaufman, the idea of compassion for the vulnerable that is so important in the Hebrew Bible. Once more, that is the essence of religion. I believe that it is the essence of the religious quest in the modern world.

Cornel West says that the greatest play on the American Empire is Eugene O’Neil’s The Iceman Cometh. The plays deals with the idea, what does it profit a nation to gain the whole world and lose its soul?

The western tradition is important, but it is also limited.  The western tradition had no room for indigenous people of Africa or the Americas.  I went through 7 years of university without paying any attention to any part of the indigenous culture other than the western culture. That is what I thought culture was all about. I, like so many others was completely western centric. The western tradition was all that mattered. I did not see vulnerable.

Now we know better. Even I know better. We need African culture and tradition. We need indigenous culture and tradition from the Americas, and from everywhere! Anything less is shabby. We need to learn from the oppressed. If we get all our ideas from the dominant culture we are badly served.

Walter Isaacson when he interviewed West on PBS’s Amanpour & Co asked West  how these others could be added to the western tradition? How do they become a part of it?  West’s answer was very interesting.  He said the way to be part of it is to challenge it. We must challenge the dominant culture to learn from those that were oppressed by it. That is the start.

That is something that modern conservatives don’t want to do. For example, they worry about critical race theory which is used to challenge white supremacy. They don’t like it when their dominant culture is challenged. They don’t want their children to be challenged. They don’t want their children to be disturbed. But that is what you must do to wake up and see more than your own privilege. The point is not to make white children feel guilty. That serves no purpose.  The point is to make them see.

Hesed means to be concerned about and have love for others. To do that you must first see them. If you don’t notice them you won’t care. So you can’t be scared to look and look without blinkers or rose coloured glasses.

 

The Final Dark Truth

 

In his novel Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad tried to show us what he thought was a dark truth. It is not just a truth about European society, he showed it was a truth about all of us. You and I too.

Bu how can a person face this horrifying darkness?  Marlow has some advice. Clearly pious phrases are not the answer. Nor noble truths.

“Let the fool gape and shudder—the man knows, and can look without a wink. But he must at least be as much of man as these on the shore. He must meet that truth with his own true self—with his own inborn strength. Principles won’t do. Acquisitions, clothes, pretty rags,–rags that would fly off at the first good shake. No; you want a deliberate belief.”

 

You need deep inner strength to face such horror. It takes strength of character and courage. It reminds me of the person Leslie Fiedler, an American literary critic described in his bookLove and Death in the American Novel—the person who had the courage to go the end of the dark cave with a torch to see the tragic.  Fiedler like Conrad, realized that “The final horrors, as the modern society has come to realize, are neither gods nor demons, but intimate aspects of our own minds,” Fiedler said in his book.  We are the final horror! What an awful truth to face.

Fiedler saw this as the final consequence of the age of reason. I disagree. I think it is the final consequence of the abandonment of reason. Racism, white privilege and exploitation on an insane scale,  were the result of reason being forsaken in favour monstrous desires. The age of reason Fielder said, dissolved in sentimentalism, “in a debauch of tearfulness; sensibility, seduction, and suicide.”  Fiedler noted how the French philosopher Diderot wrote about Richardson the author of that classic novel, Clarissa: “It is he who carries the torch to the back of the cave… He blows upon the glorious phantom who presents himself at the entrance to the cave; and the hideous Moor whom he was masking reveals himself.”  Surely, “the hideous Moor” is a striking symbol of the demonic in ourselves, which the Enlightenment inadvertently discovered in its quest for light.”  Not that dissimilar from Kurtz who found that demon in his pursuit of noble ideals in the deepest jungle of Africa. We have created that image of the hideous Moor.  He is not real except in our own minds.

 The racial component here is not accidental either. The hideous Moor is, of course, black. He is at the heart of darkness. It is the black Moor that we fear the most and will do anything to stamp out. But that Moor is Us! He is the product of our original sin!

Kurtz found that demon when he looked at those shrunken shriveled heads on poles.  Heads that showed shrunken dry lips showing a narrow white line of teeth grinning horribly and “continuously at some endless and jocose dream of that eternal slumber.”  Those heads “only showed that Mr. Kurtz lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts.”

From that came the understanding only at the last that “the wilderness had found him out early and had taken him on a terrible vengeance for the fantastic invasion. I think it whispered to him things which he had no conception till he took counsel with this great solitude—and the whisper had proved irresistibly fascinating.”

As I said earlier, the horrors perpetrated by Kurtz in the jungle were never described by Marlow. That was because he did not know what they were. He just knew that they would be even worse than the heads on spikes. Marlow had the feeling that

“such details would be more intolerable than those heads drying on the stakes under Mr. Kurtz’s window.  After all, that was only a savage sight, while I seemed at one bound to have been transported into some lightless region of subtle horrors, where pure, uncomplicated savagery was a positive relief.”

 

The heart of darkness within the human mind was much, much worse. That was what Marlow could not bear.  He could not carry the torch into the back of the cave and confront that horror, as Kurtz had done. He did not want to know. He did not want to know the truth about himself. Do we want to know truth either?