By Robert A. Vella
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist George Santayana
Human understanding is a difficult thing. We are saddled with numerous limitations to what we can potentially learn as individuals some of which are culturally-imposed while many are self-imposed. This is why history is said to repeat, not because it is somehow preordained, but because even the hardest and costliest lessons fade with time. Ask yourself how many people you know who are cognitively stubborn and dismissive of information which contradicts their personal beliefs. I’m sure that number is very high. Now, ask yourself the same question… honestly.
I think you get my point.
Almost exactly 100 years ago, a radical authoritarian ideology swept through war-ravaged Europe. It offered overly simplistic solutions to complex social problems. It exploited the deep anxieties and fears of distressed populations. It utilized disinformation and clever tropes to demonize minority groups and to delegitimize democratic governance based on the rule of law. And, it always was championed by an apparently strong, charismatic leader who issued grandiose promises without the capacity or even the intent of fulfilling them.
Does that sound familiar? It should, especially in America today.
Despite the general lack of human understanding, fascism is a distinct and well-defined ideology. It is totalitarian like other autocratic forms, but it differs substantially from monarchy, theocracy, and the communist examples of China and the former Soviet Union. The standout feature of fascism is its ethnic and racial animus; and, that is why atrocities committed by fascist regimes are the most pernicious of all with the Nazi-perpetrated Holocaust being the prime example. See:
Two years ago, renowned world traveler and documentarian Rick Steves retold the history of fascism in a brilliantly informative, yet concise, video aired on PBS. I’m not just recommending it, I am urging readers to watch this timely piece of professional journalism and to share it with their friends and families. As the pivotal 2020 election fast approaches in the U.S., the necessity of an informed and engaged electorate couldn’t be more imperative for the future of America… and, for the entire world.
In this one-hour special, Rick Steves travels back a century to learn how fascism rose and then fell in Europe — taking millions of people with it. He traces fascism’s history from its roots in the turbulent aftermath of World War I, when masses of angry people rose up, to the rise of charismatic leaders who manipulated that anger, and the totalitarian societies they built.