WE are taught that history is linear, but it’s not. It goes around and around in great big stupid circles, repeating itself like a drunk at a party.
The only difference is each cycle has better technology, rather than better humanity — because here we are again, the global rise of the F word unfolding before our screen-blind eyes. It’s not like it’s around the corner, a possible threat, something to be wary of in the future. No, if fascism were cancer, with genocide being stage four, then we are already at stage two. Aggressive and malignant.
Obviously, it’s far easier to ignore it, the caged children, the drowning brown people, the rescue ships not allowed to dock, because it’s summer and the sun’s out and it’s the World Cup and life — for those of us lucky enough to be born on the correct side of those arbitrary invisible man-made lines we call borders — is good. Even when it’s bad, it’s good — there is no war, no starvation, no absolute poverty, none of the stuff that drives people to leave their homes and families and venture into distant hostile environments. Like Europe and North America.
This is not meant to bum you out, as you enjoy your cold beer and wonder who will make it to the semi-finals. You and I — we — have done nothing wrong. We have not voted for the fascist in the White House who hates immigrant children (and whose own mother entered the US illegally), or the Italian one who hates the Roma, or the British idiots stirring up hatred despite their grandparents fighting so valiantly against the F word in all those long, stupid wars that ended with everyone fervently shouting ‘Never Again’. And yet here we are, led by the US, bang in the middle of never again.
Powerful, ongoing nationalism. Disdain for human rights. Identification of made-up enemies as a unifying cause. Obsession with national security, crime and punishment. Rampant sexism, cronyism, militarism. Controlled mass media, corporate power protected, the intertwining of government and organised religion. Disdain for labour unions, the arts, intellectuals.
This is not some random list — it’s from the US Holocaust Museum’s early warning signs of fascism. Like when you smell burning but ignore it, and the next thing the house is on fire, and so is next door’s. But how does this matter to Ireland, our lovely island with its progressive laws, its educated citizens, its steady disentangling of church and state? We’re nice, aren’t we? Daycent, like?
Of course we are. Until you see reactions on social media to the news that we will take in 25 people from migrant rescue ships. ‘What about our own homeless?’, scream people who routinely step over the homeless. ‘Charity begins at home’, howl the uncharitable. Twenty five; is that the best we can do? Ironic, given how our vast global diaspora was initially born of desperation. We need to be careful. History — and the F word — is never linear.
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