One of the most misunderstood and significant powerful historical movements in recent history is the fascism of the early 20th century. We're quickly moving up on this being a hundred years ago, and the misunderstandings just seem to be compounding about what fascists actually believed.
I've written several times about how fascism is not simply conservatives gone wild, that it was not a right wing movement in any way at all. However, there's an aspect of fascist ideology that bears closer examination because of how chillingly familiar it is.
Something few people realize is how scientific and modern fascism was in its ideology. What they did was take the most cutting edge and latest developments in thought and try to build a worldview and method of government, economics, philosophy, and culture out of it.
The racial theories of the Nazis, for example, came from the understanding of evolutionary theory at the time. They reasoned that if humans are evolving, then some are more evolved than others, and further that it was in the best interest of humanity's future to encourage that evolution while discouraging less evolved people from breeding. This is why Margaret Sanger was such an outspoken supporter of Hitler, at first (and Hitler such a fan of Sanger). Eugenics was very academic and intellectual in the early 20th century; the idea that we should cull out the weak and promote the strong was very popular in colleges and among thinkers.
"Success is the sole earthly judge of right and wrong"
That aspect of intellectuals and academics at the time has been pretty well expunged and Sanger's awful heritage has been scrubbed and sanitized by groups like Planned Parenthood in a manner that would impress Stalin and Josef Goebbels.
The problems go deeper than that, though. All of fascist ideology came from a basic set of presuppositions, or postulates to use a mathematical term. They built the rest of their ideas on this foundation because they all followed from this set of basic presumptions.
The fascists believed that there was no creator, and no absolute authority of right and wrong. In fact, they rejected the very idea that there was such a thing as right and wrong, as most people understand it. Truth its self was totally subjective. They believed what Friedrich Nietzsche theorized: that the world is utterly random and meaningless. There's no purpose or pattern to life, its just happenstance. There is no guiding force, no goal to work toward, there's no plan. Its just random events that happened to produce us.
"I do not see why man should not be just as cruel as nature."
If you abandon God as a creator we're all subject and responsible to, if you abandon the principle that we are all subject to a certain absolute standard of rules and behavior that is outside of us, then this is the inevitable, certain eventual result. Life and existence has no meaning.
Further, Nietzsche argued that the one who fully understands this then understands that the only way to react to this is to laugh at life and impose your will upon it. Someone who can do this, he argued, is "super-man" not merely a human being. A superior sort of human who is better than the rest because he understands the empty reality of existence and has begun to force everything to be the way they desire it to be.
Leni Riefenstahl's film The Triumph of the Will is named that because the basic Fascist philosophy was built around this principle of imposing your will on reality. Nothing has any meaning, so you force it to, not based on some belief in a higher cause, but based on what you insist is real and true.
Truth its self means only what you will it to; there is no absolute truth in any sense except the principle that nothing has any meaning. And the Fascists took this to its most logical and end conclusion: we can do anything to get our ideas in place, and the world will be better for it, because we say so. And if you disagree, who cares, this isn't about right and wrong, its about us having the will to impose what we wish on the world.
Now, consider a moment with me. What is the west's dominant ideology right now? Its not Islam, its not Christianity, its not "live and let live," it is simply relativism. There's no one set truth, only what you believe. There's no one set standard of right and wrong, only what you choose to follow, or the greatest number embrace.
And further, this principle is pushed by the left in modern western culture because they insist they have the best method of doing things. Not because they follow and absolute standard, but ultimately because they simply insist upon it. Most believe they're following some base that all can agree on and is somehow evident, but when pressed upon it, they eventually come to the point where they just say "this is how I see things and I think its right."
This set of standards is usually structured around the principle that we should be nice and not hurt people, but that's as far back as it goes. There's nothing and no one to base that on, just the assertion. There's no absolute, objective standard they appeal to, just that insistence.
And they believe that speaking what they consider truth brings about results: "truth to power." It is a restatement of the basic principle of the triumph of the will, Nietzsche's imposition of the super-man's will upon the world.
There's been several books written on this such as Modern Fascism by Gene Veith and Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg, but the dirty little secret behind the modern left is that they're walking in exactly the same footsteps as the early 20th century fascists for almost exactly the same reasons, from the same influences, and in the same mindset.
"The day of individual happiness has passed."
The way they carry it out is different; few evolutionists think that we should have a "final solution" to help strengthen the human race, for example. But the core ideology is unchanged. This plays out in a lot of different ways, and often the solutions and responses to this can be constructive.
For example, the left has been the primary driving force behind a lot of liberty and societal concern over the years. We wouldn't have had wheelchair ramps and handicap access a lot of places without that pressure. Racism has been just about eliminated in America due to the social pressure, and it is entirely gone against minorities in government policy and law.
So this mindset need not necessarily and inevitably end up the same place the fascists went. It almost never does. But the basic philosophy is shared, and it is that soulless core which led to the horrors of fascism (and communism, actually). And that's something to stop and think about.
*UPDATE: While I appreciate the comments and the link at American Digest, I fear some may be missing the point of this piece. This isn't a bit bashing the political left, and I suppose I didn't do a very good job making that clear. There are some on the political left who don't have this worldview, and are simply very confused or misled.
This is about the ideological left. Some people who are otherwise conservative politically cling to this ideology. This is about relativism and philosophy, about a worldview that is almost universal in the modern west these days.
What I'm trying to do is shine some light on the kinship that the modern relativist has with the evils of the 20th century. Both communism and fascism shared this basic worldview, at their core. And if you reject absolute objective truth and ethics... so do you.