Interview in Dnevnik Magazine
Interview by Iskra Korovesovska
Why do you think that fascism eternally comes back?
The return of fascism is a fact – and we have been warned that it will return because it is like a virus, a bacillus in any mass democracy – and as both Thomas Mann and Albert Camus warned in 1947: World War Two is over, but don’t think that fascism disappeared! And they were right as it is returning almost everywhere in Europe. To understand that we are facing the return of fascism, it is important to realize a few important points:
A. We do not live in a liberal democracy, but we are living in a mass democracy, which is almost the opposite of a true democracy. Our mass democracy – as Ortega y Gasset already explained in The Revolt of the Masses – is not a society guided by spiritual values and the quest for what a good society is. It’s in the grip of our basic instincts, greed and fear, the ‘mass man’ is not a self critical individual but follows all fashions and is just one of the herd.
B. Mass democracy is in need of a lot of kitsch to hide the spiritual emptiness, the nihilism which is at its core. Yet, when a society is hit by an economical, financial crisis; when the materialism on which the kitsch society is build is no longer affordable, then the society is fueled by resentment, by hatred, by fear and at that very moment a society opens the door for demagogues with their politics of lies. Part of their ‘strategy’ is to promote nationalism as the True Identity; instead of respecting the rights of minorities they will tread them as scapegoats for the (economic) misery. By lack of any positive ideas and ideals and not interested in them either, all their ‘politics’ is nothing more than constant propaganda; sound bites, twitter, spreading fear and hatred… In short: it is a form of politics used by demagogues whose only motive is the enforcement and extension of their own power, and to which end they will exploit resentment, incite hatred, hide their intellectual vacuity beneath rancorous slogans and insults, and elevate political opportunism into an art form with their populism.
Fascism always thrives on organized stupidity, as the worst that can happen to them is an educated, critical public who will see through their lies, emptiness and slogans. That’s why they hate true liberal education, quality media, real culture.
Now: just look around in Europe and tell me what you see… exactly: the return of fascism.
One of your points during the interview in HRT (Hrvatska Radio Televizija) was that ‘the brain of Western citizens is washed and reduced to a people that are easy to manipulate, people who go to work to take salary and to spend it.’ You also pointed that ‘there are people that are to be able to make profits through this consumer society.’ Where is this taking us?
As I said, the ‘values’ of a mass democracy are not related to truth, goodness, justice, freedom, friendship, to a cultivation of human dignity, but: what is good for the economy? What is good for the power-elites? The lust for money, fame, technology etcetera prevails. Education is no longer the formation of character; helping us to gain wisdom, create beauty, do justice, and to make us real free human beings, that is to say: liberated from prejudice and fear. All ‘education’ is now focused on utility, how to make us useful; and most media is focused on amusement. Put this together and you have the organized stupidity that will turn society in a mass that can easily be manipulated to buy nonsense, to watch nonsense, and to keep populists in power.
How familiar are you with the Macedonian name dispute with Greece? How do you see it?
A bit, only through what I read about it in international newspapers.
I asked you this question because of one more interesting point of yours. As I understood from the TV interview your consideration is that the “national identity should be abandoned”. In the situation between Macedonia and Greece, would it mean that if Macedonians should abandon the identity, the same goes for the Greeks and Bulgarians, who also kept it as their Macedonian identity?
This is indeed a crucial point! What I said on the Croatian television is the following. Yes, every human being wants to know: Who am I? What is it that I want to do with my life? What will make my life meaningful? Therefore: What is it that I value, that I believe in? The answer to those questions is summarized in your ‘identity’: the person you are. Now, what I explain in my book The Eternal Return of Fascism is that in our kitsch society our identity is no longer based on who you are but on what you have. No longer spiritual qualities counts; but materiality: what you posses, and what you look like. The constant compulsion to buy, the so called consumerism, is rooted in this need to buy yourself an identity and then to show it on Facebook where you expect everybody to like you!
Again, when due to an economic crisis the kitsch becomes too expensive, a new surrogate is used by the power-elites: nationalism. Now suddenly your identity is nothing more than where you – by coincidence – were born. More than 2500 years ago it was the Greek philosopher Isocrates who said: “One is not Greek by birth but by education.” Now this wisdom has been forgotten. Isocrates realized how empty, how stupid it is to reduce your own being to the place you were born. Human beings are by definition much more than their blood or the soil they where born. The dignity of man is that we have a spirit and our true identity, the person we should be, is not based on what makes me different from others, but what is universal in all of us: the capacity to cultivate our soul, to live in truth, to do justice, to be a compassionate human being.
But you have to start somewhere so the place you where born and your mother tongue are just a start to go into the world, learn different languages and traditions and open and widen your own being by having a dialogue with others. This is what some of the greatest Greeks like Isocrates, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle wanted to teach us, this is what Aristotle taught Alexander the Great, but this is also what Saint Paul taught us. This is the essence of European humanism and the Idea of Europe. The former Yugoslavia, if it would have turned itself into a liberal democracy, would have been a true example for the whole of Europe. Now it is the sad example of tribalisation, nationalism, ongoing ethnic hatred, and useless discussion about fake identities. The only way forward is to stop all this and to become a united Europe!
In The Eternal Return of Fascism, you point out that ‘this current fascism again allowed the political parties that have renounced their own vision, intellectuals who cherished the easy nihilism, greed for money that is generated by the business world, and mass media that is focused on what people want rather than serving as a critical mirror. These are the corrupt elites that nurture spiritual emptiness in which fascism can rise again’. Does this problem comes from the West societies?
Yes! Not that I think that in other places of the world it is much better – the opposite is true – but we in Europe and the USA do have a cultural-intellectual legacy with universal values: a holy faith in the human dignity of every individual and the need for a cultivation of the human soul through philosophy, art, religion, science. But we are betraying our own civilisation and our highest spiritual values. It is a betrayal by both the intellectuals as the power elites.