SOPHIA : FASCISM DEFINED, AND DEPLORED, AS BELLICOSE MENTAL SIMPLICITY ENFORCED BY LOW MENTAL DIMENSIONALITY.
WHY IT IS ALL TOO NATURAL.
Overview: Political fascism was explicitly defined and celebrated more than 2500 years ago in Rome. Fascism turned into Rome's most prominent characteristic, and generalized from politics, to the Roman mind in general. Fascism, both in its political and generalized mental versions, is a mental behavior characterized by many minds becoming one. Interestingly, this behavior can be summarized with "E pluribus unum", the motto of the American republic. So many minds in the same direction, thinking, feeling, acting the same way: "out of many, one". Fascism is crucial as an instrument of war and control. Fascism is natural in intelligent social mammals, and allows them to fight more efficiently. In literate civilizations, such as Rome, it insures great bellicose prowess, and long term MENTAL, hence civilizational MEDIOCRITY. The military advantage that fascism provides explains why civilizations which are too bellicose turn out fascist, and then, therefore, stupid. We will show in several essays that the crucial lessons were not drawn from the fascist reflex most states, including democracies, come equipped with. What is advantageous in a group of aggressive or terrified mammals in the wilderness is counterproductive for advanced civilization, where the greatest advantage comes from mental diversity rather than mental sameness. As it turns out, generalized mental fascism is the greatest foreign and domestic enemy of civilization. And the long drawn decline of Rome into stupefying stupidity, and finally, quasi illiteracy, is probably the best example of the risks of bellicose low dimensional intelligence, i.e., mental fascism. Much less fascism would have defended Rome better, in the fullness of time.
This long history of fascism, and the analysis therein, better be meditated by US decision makers. As the "lone super power" embarks on a policy of finding military solutions to civilizational problems, the search for efficiency will ease the USA into increasing fascism, i.e. long term, self defeating mental shrinkage.
THE MOST RESTRICTED DEFINITION OF FASCISM AND HOW IT RELATES TO THE DEFENSE OF THE REPUBLICS:
Before fascism got a very bad name under Mussolini and Hitler, it had an allegedly more alluring past. The FASCES were bundle of weak rods, tied up strongly together around a battle ax. They were carried on the shoulders of lictors, the ceremonial bodyguards to the Roman republic's consular officers. Consular officers were the highest magistrates in republican Rome. They were the Consuls, the Tribunes with consular powers, and the Proconsuls.
The fasces were a symbolic representation of the idea that out of many weak individuals, tightly bound together in one direction, a devastating power could be formed to strike the enemies of the republic. The two Consuls, symbolized by the ax inside, wielded that "fascist" power. The fascist power of the many acting as one saved Rome many times. Rome was indeed surrounded by ferocious enemies: first oppressed by Etruscan kings, later on even sacked by Gauls, countlessly fighting her numerous Italian enemies, she finally engaged in a long death struggle with Carthage before submitting Greece and becoming a huge empire.
Fascism was the ULTIMATE WEAPON of the Roman republic, and then the Roman empire. It allowed Rome to survive, in a sense, for more than 2000 years (until fallen by Turkish Hungarian engineered guns in 1453 CE).
Fascism was the fundamental organizing principle of Rome, just like the fundamental organizing principles of Athens were EQUALITY and MENTAL DIVERSITY. By telling the people that, come what may, Romans sticking together tightly around battle axes, was the principal principle of society, one obtained a population of disciplined warriors who would never stop conquering Iraq again and again and again (which they did for seven (7) centuries). When Rome's Iraqi adventure ended up in irreversible disaster, Rome had long become an empty shell of her former self. In all this military rise and cultural fall, fascism provided both with the outside power, and the inner devastation. To a great extent, the history of Rome is the history of fascism. Interestingly, later great European powers were able to avoid doing the same fascistic mistake as Rome did, at least to the same extent (although, as we will see in another essay, some, especially the French super power, came close).
FASCISM AS PART OF THE FUNDAMENTS OF THE AMERICAN AND FRENCH REPUBLICS:
Both the American and French republics were modeled after Rome (rather than after Athens). The Roman symbolism of fascism as fundamental to the republic was refurbished by the United States of America, with the motto:" E PLURIBUS UNUM" ("Out of many, one"). This is the ARCHETYPICAL fascist proverb. A French consultant, Pierre du Simitiere, had suggested it (and it is often argued the "many" were the original 13 states, but the Freudian slip is too good, and too obvious, to not have been fully intended!). Not to be left too far behind, the French republic proclaimed fascism big time too: two fasces are indeed in full view on the seal of the Republique Francaise (here one certainly cannot hypocritically claim something else was meant than raw fascism for everyone to see!). So both the USA and France adopted the Roman fascist model as fundamental inspiration rather than (say) Athenian diversity (not to say that Athens did not fall to fascism: it did, quick, hard, and lethally). To make sure people got the idea, the Americano-Roman Eagle of the US coat of arms grabs in its talons some sorts of fasces, one hypocritically made of olive branches, the other, more Frankly (pun intended) made of arrows. All this semiotic was not new, nor innocuous: the first absolute French king, Clovis, was made a Roman Consul. Some fasces were sent over to him from the Roman imperial capital. Clovis could then proclaim his fascist power (of absolute king) over what had been so far the Confederation of the Salian Franks, characterized, so far, with its equalitarianism and elected kings. In other words, explicit Roman fascism created the idea of the French absolute monarchy (an idea which shortly went underground for centuries, before blossoming venomously with Louis 14 and Napoleon). To make surer everyone got the message, Clovis split the skull of a warrior about a vase he, Clovis, had no right to as an old fashion equalitarian Frank, but had full rights to, with his new status of top fascist.
FASCISM TENDS TO GENERALIZE FROM A HELP IN DEFENSE TO A METHOD OF MENTAL ORGANIZATION;
NO NEED FOR THE "VISION THING":
When in a state of fascism, the minds of the people indeed gather together, ready to strike in one direction, as depicted by the fasces. It was the force of Rome. It led to disciplined and SINGLE MINDED national efforts, a characteristic of Rome, especially in military matters, which struck the Greeks at the time. It struck the Greeks figuratively, but also literally. Greek states had long been choruses of (ridiculously) discordant voices, inside out. Fascism allowed Rome to survive. And thrive. Time and time again, Romans united together as bundles of lightning rods against foreign enemies. In that messy antiquity, fascist Rome was like hot steel into butter.
But what did that fascist power consist of? It was a mental phenomenon rather than a political institution. Fascism is first a MENTAL PHENOMENON, A MENTAL STRATEGY each individual is pushed to partake in. What is bound together are the hearts and minds. E pluribus unum: think all the same, feel all the same, strike as one. Fascism concentrates the mind, a bit like the coming of one's execution (which fascism is, in a sense, because fascism is meant to kill one's mental diversity, so as to concentrate on the battle to come!).
But the fascist binding of minds together around a common direction can be applied to other mental situations, and, indeed, it can be applied so much, again and again, that this binding together in common, this fascism, becomes a HABIT. This happens because, short term, low mental dimensionality is the most economical way to apply brainpower. If the only thing one thinks of is the problem at hand all can see, one will solve the problem at hand. All the more, if the entire population does the same, with the same problem. Fascism makes militarization more intense, so a desire for the latter brings in the former. So fascism will become more valued in a militarizing society. To the point that, the only minds one looks up to, in such a society, are those capable of low dimensional achievements in the direction pointed at by the over militarized society. That CAME to be the case of Rome, after Rome underwent military FORCING during the second and third Punic wars (by then the Roman republic was three centuries old). Conversely, fascism loves war, because it knows war thrives.
Fascism empowers the mind in some (very reduced) number of mental dimensions. To do so, it IMPOVERISHES the mind in all the transverse dimensions. Pushed to the extreme, it KILLS the rest of the mind in these dimensions. Started young, it delivers stunted minds: if a young animal is not exposed to light early enough, it will never see properly. In a fascist population, the young will grow up blind to many dimensions of understanding. In any case the fascistic minds, and the fascistic civilization, become deprived of peripheral, and long range vision. And they do OK for a while, without the "vision thing". Such was the case of Rome, and why it mentally emptied itself as the centuries went by: why to bother with art, poetry, beauty, science and intelligence, or even technology, when all is supposed to be solved by the sword? Why to think when you can strike?
FASCISM, THE TOOL OF AUTOCRATIC REGIMES:
To lord over low dimensional minds is the dream of any autocrat. If all the minds are bound together tightly in one direction, they will be lower dimensional, hence easier to predict, and therefore, to rule absolutely (and the first Frankish king to receive the fasces was also the first ABSOLUTE king of the Franks: it's the Romans who taught autocracy, and fascism, to the Germans!). Autocrats do not want minds who jump all over the place. This fact did not escape the ancient oppressors: the rulers of Constantinople would proudly proclaim to be "autocrats" and, at the same time, would do whatever they could to maintain the society in a low dimensional mental configuration (using Christianity to this effect, and using God to compress the demos). Roman fascism, first from Rome, and then from Constantinople, lasted two millennia. So fascism has long been an efficient friend of the dictators, be they from the right, the left, or whatever direction the Spartans, Plato, or Stalin also came from.
But, overall, it is the Rich which have been best able to exploit fascism. And their first field of venue was republican and imperial Rome.
WHAT WENT WRONG WITH THE ROMAN REPUBLIC;
FASCISM WAS CRAFTILY USED BY THE PLUTOCRATS TO FURTHER THEIR RULE:
Until the Punic wars, the Roman People was keeping the Patricians (the nobles) of the Senate in check, and actually forced onto them the concept of Tribunes with Consular powers. Tribunes were elected by the People. It looked as if the future of the republic would be to the People.
Unfortunately, the continual wars with Carthage broke this evolution towards democracy. The Consuls, the Senate, the Patricians were Rome's warmongers, and they thrived each time Rome would go to war. War actually made the Rich way richer (hence more powerful). The second Punic war had destabilized the Roman republic, because the Rich, having taken refuge with the peasants behind the ramparts, became even richer (through the black-market, and rentals). After Hannibal had gone back to Africa, the Rich bought the lands of the peasants, and replaced them by slaves (the enslaved war prisoners, from all those powers which had sided with Carthage). The destitute peasants became the large unemployed urban lower class, the plebs.
The plutocratic Senate was sanctified after its martyrdom at the battle of Cannae lost to Hannibal (66 Senators died that day, weapons in hand). The Senate pushed its advantage. The Senate wanted more, and more wars. It actually (very secretly) plotted the holocaust of Carthage, and the infeodation of Greece. That was the conspiracy of the third "Punic" war, which should rather be known as the anti democratic war for fascist and plutocratic world domination. Cato wiped the entire Roman republic into a fascist frenzy against innocuous democratic powerless Carthage. A monstrous holocaust ensued, allowing the fascists to physically annihilate the democrats in Africa and Greece, and establish Roman fascist terror over the whole Mediterranean. The Romans may have won physically, but they had lost their minds, and their consciences, and their intelligence, in the process. Fascism was exactly what the Senate wanted. Fascism was the progeny of the spirit allowing to make these wars all over. Now the Senators and the overclass could turn the fascism which had grown from the enmity towards the foreign enemies, against the domestic reformers themselves, and prevent such a horror as the return of Tribunes with Consular Powers. Elected reformers such as the Gracchii, a family of treacherous Patricians, were denounced, proclaimed "public enemies", hunted down, and killed.
A very long evolution in degeneracy ensued. The conquests of Rome had become so vast, the rich so rich, that the People was defeated in the electoral process (since the Rich were buying the elections; actually the Rich could buy anything, starting with allies). Cornered, tired of being submitted to fascism, the allies (socii), and then the Roman People took to the battlefield, but the Rich bought armies (paid by the conquests of foreign territory, of course), and defeated the People in battle. The Rich had more legions, and more predatory generals (Caesar equipped his soldiers with gold ornamented weapons, to make sure they would think twice before running away on the battlefield: the armies of the Rich were really rich). Rome ended up controlled by the army, and the Senate. The People would avenge itself, centuries later, when it came back to power modulo a fascism of its own, dictatorial Roman Christianity. At the cost of destroying nearly all the remnants of literate civilization.
SHRINKING ROMAN MINDS COULD NOT HANDLE A WORLD REPUBLIC:
How could the Roman republic degenerate that much? Because the Romans were mental dwarfs. They started as disciplined peasants running a city state. Disciplined by fascism, that is. They were too busy with thoughts in only a few directions: how to make money, how to be good engineers, how to be militarily strong, how to be pragmatic. Mental fascism ruled. No mental power was ever used in Rome for the big questions. In these matters, the Roman, the basic peasant, or soldier with an attitude, depended upon others' ideas. Roman civilization had no concept that it could be useful to try to address the biggest questions. They just looked at their gross economic output, their hyper rich classes, and their legions, and they were satisfied. Rome was THE "lone super power". THE military super power. THE super power of ROADS. THE super power of organizing. Rome was too busy being super powerful and super boastful to be super thinking.
As far as the deepest intelligence was concerned, Rome was not even a dwarf. Rome was rather a bacteria, a spore. Rome was anthrax to civilization itself. It contributed nothing deep ever. Then it went to Greece to kill deep thinking there. Romans seemed PATHOLOGICALLY UNABLE OF DEEP THINKING. The Roman way of life was an abyss of superficiality. Even their greatest philosopher (Lucretius), a really illuminated mind, was only a clever parrot. A great poet like Virgil was also not far from a parrot himself. In all cases, the Greeks had got the inspiration, and the Romans were just trying to move their mouths the same way without knowing why, except it looked good. Rome produced NOT one SINGLE deep thought. Hundreds of millions of Romans over many centuries produced NOT ONE SINGLE THOUGHT of the class a few thousands Athenians produced many of in a few years. Rome was an aggressive mental desert. Rome could send legions over deserts and seas. Rome could build, with her own invented materials, buildings which were more than 1,000 years ahead of their time (the Pantheon). Romans could sit on the edge of the industrial revolution, having all the prerequisite technics, and then fascistically forbid the implementation of technical and economic progress. The only set of ideas Rome did send over the centuries was Roman law. Rome had not invented the idea of modern law, of course (the Greeks did), but the law was the skeleton of Roman republic and empire, so it survived. It survived the destruction of literacy which was the ultimate result of Roman fascism.
WHAT WENT WRONG WITH ROMAN MINDS;
FASCISM WENT OUT OF CONTROL, AND SHRUNK THE MINDS:
Why were the Romans mental dwarfs? Maybe because the idea of fascism was so pervasive in Roman education that young Roman minds were molded around the idea that a THOUGHT WAS GOOD WHEN IT WAS A THOUGHT EVERYBODY ELSE HAD. E pluribus, unum. The upper Roman classes' children would often learn Greek before Latin, but then they learned fascism next, and ended up mentally stunted. In other words, it was peer pressure, generalized around protection of the fatherland. One is struck to discover how FEW human behaviors the highest Romans thought worth emulating. By contrast, Athenians were extremely diverse mentally. Fundamentally, the Romans were copying everybody in sight (Etruscans, Greeks, Punics). Fundamentally the Romans moved their mouths the same way, a bit like those primitives who east cheese and drink wine, and believe they are absorbing French culture. So the Romans were fascinated by Greek culture, but they despised the Greeks, because they were unable to emulate them, and were too corrupted by mental fascism.
Romans mostly knew that minds were capable of great things when all bound together, the EXACT opposite of what gives rise to great minds, and truly great civilizations. So Rome sat on top of the Mediterranean civilizations, smothering everybody, until fascism got so thick that a mentally inactive Rome became senile and illiterate (then the open minded Franks took charge, in extremis).
TOTALITARIANISM AND POLICE STATE ARE CONSEQUENCES OF FASCISM:
Mental fascism provides with minds the leader(s) can totally embrace in one single, unique swoop. So the mind of the leader(s) is (supposed to be) the mind of the people. As THE typical example, if the state says such and such weak and irrelevant nation threatens the fascist state, all the individuals of the fascist state are supposed to think that, and will BELIEVE and FEEL how strong the evidence for that is (even if it is non existent, as was the case in Rome for the third Punic war). And so it was that Cato's senile, but persistent rantings led to the holocaust of democratic and innocent Carthage. Hence fascism leads to totalitarianism, where the MIND OF THE ONE IS THE MIND OF THE MANY. Yes, it's no comfort that the most powerful republic yet has this intolerance for mental diversity as its fundamental slogan (because then, conversely, the mind of the many is the mind of the one).
Homo Sapiens is fundamentally free and fierce, so mental independence is always a threat to the state, hence the necessity for the state to develop the fascist mindset, and the POLICE STATE. In such a state, contrary to full blown republics, citizens are watched for mental deviations out of the allowed mental dimensions. Indeed if one is not with the fascist state, one is against it (that formula, sadly parroted by the ill informed G. W. Bush, is EXACTLY the formula Athens proffered in the Peloponnese war, leading to her quasi ANNIHILATION, because it caused Athens (although a democracy) to abuse her (democratic) allies, who then turned against her!). Next, arbitrary, extra constitutional arrests of people (aliens first, citizens next) occur. To keep all this safe and effective for the fascist state, one has to make the police omnipotent. That is what Octavian (known as the August one: Augustus, Caesar's nephew and son) did to the Roman republic when he proclaimed himself "First in the senate" ("Princeps").
FASCISM AS SCOURGE OF REPUBLICS:
Could republics do without explicit advocacy of fascism? Of course. They better. Republics, when threatened, tend naturally to fascism (as any assembly of baboons does, see below). There is no need to encourage them. Athens, as far from being a theoretician and advocate of fascism as could be, or so it seemed, succumbed to it quickly in the Peloponnese war, and got destroyed as a direct result. As a distant aftershock, Socrates got tried, and condemned, for having somehow done, or not done, too many minds of too many of his students, in such a way that they ended up as notorious fascists. We will show next that fascism is, by far, the main threat democracies are exposed to. There is no reason to believe that this historical situation has changed, far from it. Paradoxically, as the world, fresh out of autocratic, imperialistic or fascist regimes, is turning to democracy, some of the oldest democracies, a bit too confident about their own democratic credentials, are cranking up on fascism a bit too early, when the danger is not yet overwhelming.
By doing so, they risk following Athens, and making themselves fascist enemy number one of the world population.
THE PSYCHOBIOLOGY OF FASCISM:
Baboons need to drink everyday. Their dependence on water is even greater than the American dependence on oil, and has lasted millions of years. Where baboons live, there is a dry season: baboons inhabit the savannah. In Africa, during the dry season, water is confined to the centers of wet season swamps. Typically surrounded by trees, where leopards dwell, attracting all sorts of prey and predators, those water holes are extremely dangerous places. But the baboons need to come drink and expose themselves. To do that safely they need to strike terror in the heart of their opponents and clear the water holes of hostile life. So they come, and they shake the trees, perhaps hundreds of them together, striking fear in the mind of the more simplistic predators. Then they move as a tremendous militarized mass, the huge male dominant baboons first, with their gigantic canines flashing at the first indices, mock charges at the ready, females and children inside the legion. They function as one: e pluribus unum. Out of many baboons, one monster organism of tremendous lethality. Even lion prides, alarmed by the monstrosity of it all, flee for their lives. This is how fascism, and the natural instinct for it, developed in our own ancestors, in just the same sort of circumstances, the same sorts of savannah and water holes, millions of years ago: all together now, all bellicose now, all efficient now, the many having become as one and monstruous entity never seen before in the terror it strikes over the entire universe. The fascist instinct is a very old thing: people, like baboons, love to group up, be a mob with one mind, one purpose, one heart and go terrorize and kill their enemies. When they have thermonuclear weapons, it gets to be even less civilized than what real baboons are up to.
BETTER MINDS MAKE MORE OUT OF MANY;
CIVILIZATION ADVANCES FROM THE MANY BECOMING MORE:
Advanced civilization rests just on the exact opposite idea to the basic principle of fascism. Advancing civilization uses this opposite principle: OUT OF THE MANY, EVEN MORE. Namely, the more diverse different minds are, the higher the probabilty of contributing a new idea to the ocean of thoughts which constitutes civilization. That is why Rome, unable to generate significant ideas, with its one tiny Roman mind, failed to advance civilization significantly, and may actually have contributed mightily to send it in reverse. Rome was one giant vehicle dedicated to spinning its wheels very hard, with an enormous roar, throwing bodies and sand everywhere, until it got submerged into the sands it was vigorously churning below itself. Rome had just one idea: spin those wheels! Even the Christian dictatorship spun those wheels harder, so strong was the dedication to fascism. At the highest level of government the Christians actually embraced that idea of making just one mind out of the millions that one mind enslaved. That is why the decomposition of Rome did not stop when the Christians took control, but became even worse (more violence, more illiteracy, more holocausts, more wars). The fascism got so strong that wars were pursued so as to maximize war: the late empire would fight distant wars, and leave the neighbourhood undefended (the Roman armies being far away), allowing the barbarians to conduct wars of their own below the walls of Constantinople. This way, there could be war everywhere, and the fascism at home could be cranked up another notch (ultimately, Islam put an end to this increasing insanity by invading all).
FASCISM AS GENEROUS SOURCE OF HOLOCAUSTS AND A CANCER OF THE MIND:
In the end, Roman fascism churned out a collection of well meaning, blundering, mass murdering autocrats: out of all these millions of Romans, just one person was doing the thinking and the ordering around. Horrible disasters and holocausts ensued, when that one single mind got it wrong, inside and outside of the Roman empire, and most of it finally was submerged under Islam's onslaught, in no small measure because the Roman population had enough of Roman fascism, and celebrated the Muslims as liberators. So we do not need more fascism. There has been a lot of it, it is mildly amusing for historians to look at. But now that fascism has gone thermonuclear, Auschwitz may end up looking like an amateurish playground, the instructive lessons of which were not learned by the unruly children in a timely manner. The number one lesson being that, per its very nature, low dimensionality, the fascist mind cannot even guess the suffering its actions may entail in other dimensions.
Those who want to make one marmalade out of the intense variety of human minds, do not just deserve our contempt and ostracism: we need to make them powerless. It's a matter of survival for the entire planet. As the case of Rome, and all other fascist regimes, shows, those who let it grow in their bosom fall victim to it. Fascism is like cancer, it metastasizes. But fascism is a cancer of the mind, and that, cancer itself cannot equate in horror.
Patrice Ayme', March 2003.
Next: How the historical record shows that, incited by fascism as defined above, democracies kill democracies (in other words, why some of the loudest recent Americans intellectuals have it completely wrong that "liberal" democracies everywhere means peace everywhere; as the preceding already hinted, democracies easily fall into fascism, and that makes them dangerous to themselves, and others; it is frightening to realize that intellectuals of that shallow sort, who obviously know very little history, by being so loud and respected may be inflecting recent American government policy)