Boil it down to what you actually need to have a good life. I suspect even the most ardent Nazi or Klansman will have a list fairly similar to mine. For Nazism to flourish, the fact of our mortal commonality, that vast confluence of basic human/animal needs and desires, must be denied. Denial is a powerful force in human affairs and so it is not hard to prove to a racist that all his problems are imposed on him by the Other, powerful, pathetic, inhuman monsters who are vastly inferior to him. It’s not true, strictly speaking, but we have seen the limits of true and false in recent years, they are no barrier to any faithful belief.
What do we agree that we all need? All of us need love and understanding. Parents should be gentle with their children, firm when needed, and never abusive toward them. We need friends, people we can share our lives with, the good and the bad. Friends don’t always have to agree with us, but they always treat our feelings with care. We need to laugh once in a while. We need sex, and tenderness, from our partners. We need to feel productive, however we define that. We need food, clothing, shelter, health care, treatment of diseases that threaten us. We need a feeling of dignity. We all want to feel safe from attacks, safe from natural disasters, the destruction of our biosphere, safe from criminals, safe from killers of various kinds. We want to live in peace and be treated fairly by others. We want to control our own lives. We want to live in a world where justice rules, everyone’s basic needs are met and bad people are kept away from the rest of us.
An insane criminal court judge I used to know coined the phrase “honor anemia” to describe a root cause of the epidemic of anger, despair, shame and violence that is convulsing our society. Most people feel they are treated as disposable by a profit-driven economic system that clearly favors only the rich and famous. The lack of respect the other 98% of us rightfully perceive is constantly burning us, like a draining physical disease that saps our better nature. The judge, who was greeted as “Your Honor” in all of his favorite restaurants, and who eventually convinced me that he was not just blowing smoke when he claimed he was insane, was certainly an example of the disease he diagnosed as a widespread cause of American misery.
Our better natures are challenged a hundred times a day in our corporate media-driven culture. Scroll through the headlines of your favorite newspaper and try to remember that you are a reflection of the divine. Read one headline too many and you find yourself snarling “fuck that, these Nazi motherfuckers have to pay!” The Nazi reader will have a similar reaction to the headine that finally sets him off “fuck that, these Jew motherfuckers have to pay!” The impulse, of course, is identical.
We go to the dark side when our ability to keep hoping is finally crushed. In many of us, this hopefulness is a tiny, often timorous flame, as fragile as the human soul itself. Take away hope and you destroy the impulse to strive to be better, to dream of anything better than despair and revenge. You wind up joining the Ku Klux Klan, and screaming in the torchlit night, with your equally enraged comrades, filled with the virile mass-murderer’s belief that at least you can go out taking some fucking inferior race mongrels with you. A dead-end dream that leads only to death, but a dream, at least.
There are many more things that unite us than divide us. We all need a home. We will all die. We all grieve and mourn the deaths of our loved ones. We all feel well-disposed toward people who treat us with kindness. We prefer to trust people than to assume that everyone is an irredeemable piece of shit. We all want a better world. We would all at least flinch to see a baby toddle into traffic, or into a river, many of us would leap to save the kid before thinking about it.
The “genius” of Nazi-types is in creating specific, infuriating wedges to drive us apart. Keep us divided, angry, afraid, insulted, ignored, ravaged by “honor anemia,” savaged daily by crushing examples of injustice, informed in a stilted status quo–confirming way by a corporate press owned by a small handful of billionaire sociopaths, and you have fertile soil for an ideology of hatred and revenge. Then the only trick is to keep that rage focused on anyone who denies that dictatorship/oligarchy is the best form of human society. Punish those who tell the truth under oath, criminalize dissent, incentivize partisan vigilantism and violent intimidation of hated, inhuman enemies worthy of only death.
Me, I’m trying to keep my eye on the ball. Someone, I think it was the Jewish sage Hillel, wrote “in a place where there are no mensches, strive to be mensch.” Strive, my dear unknown friends, to be a fucking mensch in your life. It is the best we can all hope for.