We are the frogs in the pot.We’re being incrementally desensitized via one small cruelty after the next.This is how countries slide from decency into committing wholesale atrocities against minorities.This is what the period before a genocide looks like.
– The Hoarse Whisperer on twitter.
250 characters summing up such a terrible state of a nation, THW is referring to ICE’s raids on immigrant workers in Mississippi this week.
People have been writing and commenting about rising fascism in the US for a long time, and in particular since the build up to the last US election. Yet it still seems hard to have this conversation. Fascism is a big word with a heavy and complex history, and I agree with the analysis that it shouldn’t be over-used.
But the risk here is that the very nature of rising fascism involves denial and propaganda that prevent the frogs in the pot from realising what is going on. It’s past time we yelled ‘fascism is here!’ into the pot.
We have pressures in our own society that are proto-fascist. Anti-immigration rhetoric and rising Islamophobia, racism, Dirty Politics, the centre-left afraid to do anything meaningful about the class prejudice against beneficiaries, the tenor of talkback radio and social media. Much of it emboldened by the Trump era.
The liberal frog in me says that these pressures are still small, fascism could never happen in New Zealand, we have a chance to turn things around with the centre-left government, the Mosque shootings were a one off, she’ll be right. And it’s true that we are still a much more tolerant country than the US.
But rising fascism in New Zealand wouldn’t look like the US, and we had nine long years of the Key government and the Dirty Politics crew socially engineering society to accept all sorts of things that are agin a society that actively rejects fascism. Sometimes the pot of water slowly coming to a boil is camouflaged by a smile and a wave.
This happened in the United States this week:
HAPPENING NOW: In Forrest, Mississippi where one of the #ICE raids happened nearby Children of those who were arrested are left alone in the streets crying for help. Strangers and neighbors are taking them to a local gym to be put up for the night. FULL STORY TONIGHT ON @WJTV. pic.twitter.com/s2zuTTRYfM— Alex Love (@AlexLoveWJTV) August 8, 2019
Where the news coverage is reporting the raids as the atrocity that everyone can see it is, it is also telling people how they can help: by donating to the man organising food and shelter for the night for the kids whose parents were just stolen by the state. Which is right, but holy hell, the response to the government stealing people is to feed their kids for a night?
How about: IF YOU WANT TO HELP YOU HAVE TO TAKE TO THE STREET! NOW! General strike, rolling strikes, occupations, whatever will mobilise the people and grind the economy to a halt. Use the tactics and strategies of all the movements that have been honing their skills for the past decade: Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, Extinction Rebellion, The Arab Spring. Do the other things: vote, lobby, organise marches, build community, but these alone are insufficient.
It’s ok though, because ICE temporarily released some of the arrested immigrants. It’s not so bad. See how we all adjust? The pot of water’s just that bit warmer now, but not so hot as to make the frogs jump.
In 2009 r0b wrote a post about the five steps of fascism: The F Word, based on a three part essay series by US writer Sara Robinson about the rise of fascism in the US. The first essay is worth reading to see how far they have come.
Thinking it can’t happen here? R0b links to a short post by Irish Bill in early 2009 about the insanity of the 2008 NZ General Election and what the right were up to: Now with a little perspective.
As Robinson said in 2009 about the US situation,
Our choice now is stark: knock them back while they’re still new, small and not yet entrenched; or deal with them later, when they’ve got some real power to fight back with, and the cost to all of us will be so much higher.
We can’t say we weren’t warned.
If that’s a bit too bleak (and it is), Robinson’s follow up was 7 Ways We Can Fight Back Against the Rising Fascist Threat. We should be translating that into the NZ political context.
Post script: to cheer myself up I read this piece at RNZ about the NZ train conductor who literally stopped a Wellington train on Thursday and had an abusively racist passenger removed. See also Lynn’s post yesterday about how Whale Oil was finally taken down. Sometimes we really get it right.