The Anatomy of Fascism In Duterte’s World
By Edgar Lores
“The strategic adversary is fascism… the fascism in us all, in our head and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.” — Michel Foucault
I came across Robert Paxton’s classic study “The Anatomy of Fascism” which examines fascist movements in the twentieth-century.
The study admits fascism is difficult to define and, indeed, the dictionary definition is a mouthful:
Fascism is an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.
In Paxton’s view, the difficulty can be lessened by comparing the various forms of fascism that emerged in the last century, and by inferring their commonalities. According to him, the different forms — notably the rules of Benito Mussolini in Italy and of Adolf Hitler in Germany — share seven “mobilizing passions.”
The seven passions are:
- The primacy of the group, toward which one has duties superior to every right, whether universal or individual.
- The belief that one’s group is a victim, a sentiment which justifies any action against the group’s enemies, internal as well as external.
- Dread of the groups decadence under the corrosive effect of individualistic and cosmopolitan liberalism.
- Closer integration of the community within a brotherhood (fascio) whose unity and purity are forged by common conviction, if possible, or by exclusionary violence if necessary.
- An enhanced sense of identity and belonging, in which the grandeur of the group reinforces individual self-esteem.
- Authority of natural leaders (always male) throughout society, culminating in a national chieftain who alone is capable of incarnating the group’s destiny.
- The beauty of violence and of will, when they are devoted to the group’s success in a Darwinian struggle.
Let me examine whether these passions are present in Duterte’s world, and what these passions augur for the country.
The primacy of the group. In Duterte’s world, individual human rights can be sacrificed for the sake of the collective.
The universal rights to life and liberty, as well as the rights to the assumption of innocence and to due process… all of these are made subordinate to the purported welfare of the group.
The seductiveness of the notion of group supremacy in fascism lies in its resonance with Utilitarianism’s rule of “the greatest good for the greatest number.”
Marxian utilitarianism has established for all time the dire consequences of unthinking surrender to the seduction. Communism, the God that failed, caused the deaths of 65 million in the People’s Republic of China and 20 million in the Soviet Union through famine, disease and systematic violence.
The logic of victimization. In Duterte’s world, the victims are the common folk who are seen to be at the mercy of the enemy who are the criminal elements.
This simple dichotomy has given rise to the sentiment that any vigilante tactic against the enemy, including the use of immediate lethal force, is justified.
The tactics, far from being adjudged unlawful by the norms of civilized modern society, are seen as necessary… and even heroic.
The decadence of liberalism. In Duterte’s world, the prevailing political philosophy of liberalism, which emphasizes freedom and equality, is discarded in favor of the philosophy of Hobbesian authoritarianism.
Duterte has promised to declare a revolutionary government if things do not go his way in the first year of his term. And, of course, they will not.
Paxton observes that revolution is an intrinsic, though ambiguous, concept in the fascist lexicon. Duterte intends to use revolution as the moral vehicle for change, but he fails to examine, and to tell us and himself, whether his revolutionary methods are ethical.
In Duterte’s proposed solution of a top-down revolution, the free political institutions of Congress and the Supreme Court will be shut down.
From his view that, I might add, many of us share, these institutions are responsible for the decline of the nation: the once august Congress turned into a house of do-nothings and corruption, and the once lofty Supreme Court turned into a shop of justice for sale and undelivered justice.
We have no idea how long the shutdown will take. Certainly, the Supreme Court can be reconstituted almost immediately by appointment. How about the Legislature?
Among Duterte’s proposals are a parliamentary form of government and a federalist structure. These will entail the formation of a constitutional commission, and the drafting and ratification of a new constitution. Then after the ratification, there must follow the formation of new political parties, the preparation for an election, and the selection of parliamentary members at the federal and perhaps regional levels. At a minimum, we are talking of a year and a half.
Many questions regarding the thorny issues with the current constitution will arise and will have to be resolved.
But, after all is said and done, the burning question will be: if the same people that serve now are elected into the new parliament, will things have really changed for the better?
And another burning question would be: will absolute power be easily surrendered after the taste for it has been acquired?
What is the evidence of history?
Community integration by common conviction, if possible, or by exclusionary violence if necessary. In Duterte’s world — or in any world for that matter — the likelihood of communal integration by common conviction is, well, a well-nigh impossibility.
At present, if there is any common conviction at all shared by Duterte and followers, it would be the belief that there is an overwhelming nationwide crisis that cries for extreme solutions… one of which is the use of exclusionary violence.
The term “exclusionary violence” was originally associated with antisemitism, a one-sided form of collective violence exercised by an ethnic group against another ethnic group. In my take of Dutertian fascism, the term pertains to collective violence that is wielded by the exclusive group that holds the reins of power… and applied against outsiders who are considered to be undesirable elements.
And who are the undesirables? Certainly, this is a matter of definition and differentiation that will be left to Duterte’s mind.
Is this mind to be trusted? I do not think so.
This is a mind that is no respecter of human rights and of political and religious institutions, a mind that is incapable of appreciating the long journey man has taken through time to arrive at modern day’s state of civilized consciousness.
An enhanced sense of identity and belonging. In Duterte’s world, there is only certitude and no room for doubt.
This certitude has attracted a large following of weak and lost souls.
Here in this blog site and elsewhere, observations have been made about the solid sense of identity and belonging these lost souls, now turned faithful true believers, have displayed.
The faithful mirror the confidence, self-esteem and arrogance — in a word, the braggadocio — of their adopted leader.
As is the case with confidence born of ignorance, the faithful exhibit a vacuity of ideas and a deficiency of politeness in the contentious exchanges on social media. Myths are propagated and vituperations abound. In the end, threats of violence issue from the faithful, spewed out in a viciousness of tone and expression characteristic of their unrestrained chieftain.
Authority of a national male chieftain. In Duterte’s world, he is the glorious chieftain who alone can lead the country to its rightful destiny.
Although it escapes this author, the magnetism of Duterte’s macho persona is undeniable as shown by the enthusiastic reception for his candidacy in survey results. It is there for all to see in front-page photos of him with compliant women.
Women are attracted by the aphrodisiac of brute power, and men, like senators Alan Cayetano and Aquilino Pimentel, are attracted by the lure of participation in the exercise of limitless power.
As the prospective powers that will be behind the coveted throne, the two kingmakers and minders hold the mistaken belief that their superior intellect will enable them to manipulate the forceful brute. They see themselves as soft-spoken consigliores to the Mafia boss. But fascistic extremism — as incarnated in Il Duce and Die Fuehrer lunacy — can never be truly contained.
An idiosyncratic feature of Duterte’s self-assurance and magnetism is his coyness. Like a coy pretty maiden who hides her eagerness to wed, he disavows interest in his own pursued goal. He dithered in filing his Certificate of Candidacy, and he openly invited disqualification from the COMELEC or at the invitation of the Church. These acts of indifference, this bit of reverse psychology, are designed to make him look attractive. The hard-to-get and I-don’t-care ploys, to which women often fall prey, goes so against the normal grain of political behavior that it has fanned the flames of devotion and adoration in the needy.
Did I say pretty maiden? More like the charm of a serial killer. He is, after all, a self-confessed killer.
If current-day Davao is taken to be the vision of rightful destiny, we are presented with an idyllic urban utopia of peace, progress and prosperity.
Beware! Spread over the pleasant and placid city are the silk strands of the huge spiderweb of fascistic controls: curfew for minors that can be easily extended to the entire adult population, mass surveillance to identify the targets for death squads, vigilante methods, and summary killings.
The beauty of violence and of will. In Duterte’s world, violence is beautiful, and the human Will is awesome.
Violence is beautiful because it eliminates the problem — almost any problem, really — instantly.
And the human Will is awesome because it is the transformative power that makes dreams come true.
Many believe that Duterte’s future regime of violence and of the human Will… will crystallize into reality the Promised Land of peace, progress and prosperity.
The envisioned Promised Land appears beautiful from a distance. It may be attainable, and we all wish it to be… and perhaps in time we will.
But not in the next six years and certainly not with Dutertian fascism. Duterte’s glowing promise is nothing but a mirage.
As the Welsh hero-politician Aneurin Bevan put it, “Fascism is not in itself a new order of society. It is the future refusing to be born.”
The bulk of Paxton’s study goes on to enumerate the implementation in time of the five stages of fascism within a political system. I will stop here.
I am raising an alert to a probable onslaught of a powerful super typhoon named Digong that will come from the southeast. The alert is for Public Storm Warning Signal (PSWS) Number 5, the highest level which denotes very strong winds and “very heavy to widespread damage.”
The difference between this super typhoon and the natural ones is that… we can choose to avert it.
If we do not heed the warning signal, we may well inherit the wind.