Verdejost on Fri, 11 Feb 2000 16:18:57 EST

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Syndicate: Re: easy labels

Mihajlo  Acimovic wrote to me, I am uncertain on or off Syndicate list, and I 
hope if off he doesn't mind the following quotation:

<< Now about FPOe. I am a person who uses easy labels, but I don`t think 
nazism is something which had happend once upon a time in Germany. I also 
don`t think that a social system has to use the crooked cross symbol or 
completely repeat the social paterns of Germany in the 1930s and 40s, to be 
called nazism. In my views, Haider is a nazi and I have called him so on 
syndicate. >>

My problem with easy labels is multiple:  I know lots of people who toss 
around the words nazi, fascist, commie, red, and other such things, mainly at 
people they don't agree with.  The label is considered sufficient argument 
and evidence to convict, and in the company that those who use these labels 
have, usually the epithet will do.  It eliminates the difficulty of thinking 
or describing what you mean.  "Nazi," historically, describes a specific 
historical phenomenon, one of the uglier of recent times (in my opinion).  It 
involved racism, ideas of how to organise society, was probably peculiarly 
Germanic, was in general a mirror of similar cultures which (in my view) were 
still suffering the convulsions of the shift from agrarian to industrial 
societies, and which tended for a period to set themselves up in rigid 
authoritarian manners (Soviet Union, China, Fascist Italy, other smaller 
places going with the historical flow).  It involved the societal practice of 
setting up the entire machinery of the concentration camps and other such 
things.  To call Haider a Nazi implies not only the possible wish to 
replicate this, but also the historical possibility to do so.  I think it is 
most unlikely that such could occur, and in calling Haider (or others) Nazis, 
Fascists, etc., simultaneously trivializes the historical reality of real 
Nazism, and paranoidly suggests that a small-timer like Haider, could, in his 
own times, replicate the reality of his fellow Austrian, Mr. Schickelgruber, 
of Linz, who perhaps might have been perceived as a small timer himself, 
but....  But history is different, and Haider is not going to vault Austria 
into a world war, set up extermination camps, etc., and to suggest a parallel 
is to err heavily.  Haider may be an ugly racist, populist demagogue, etc., 
but he is no Hitler and even if he were, this is not 1920.  

Ditto for similar slinging of words like Fascist, Commie, Pinko, Red, etc.  
This is an easy out, a way to circumvent serious thought and insert slogans 
and knee-jerk responses instead.  Lorenzo was right - there ought to be a way 
to use, in our time, intelligent means to counter negative political trends.  
He was wrong in using the easy "Nazi" label along the way.  The world is full 
of absolutely terrible problems that need to be confronted and resolved.  
Using dead historical epithets won't in any way do it.  It will only make 
those using the epithets feel a little good about themselves, rouse the 
similar minded to repeat it, and leave history untouched.  

The world is undergoing very major changes.  Among them are immigration 
induced by economic pressures, and in many parts of the world this is making 
for big political stresses - witness about anywhere in Europe, or the US (or 
Canada or...).  I drive my child to school each day here in Rome.  At five or 
six intersections along the way in the rush hour I and all other drivers are 
assaulted by windshield washers, paper peddlars, and others from straight out 
sign-in-hand beggars to those offering tissue paper and lighters.  These days 
they appear mostly to be from Bangladesh and similar geographies (five years 
ago they were from Poland or Russia).  The same is repeated in nearly every 
european city on some level or another.  It is part of "globalization" though 
not a part quite planned for in Davos.  (Though I am rather certain the 
attendants of Davos have their "philipinos" etc. and should have quite first 
hand understanding of it).  

The current pressures about immigration have a hell of a lot to do with Mr 
Haider, as well as numerous others in europe.  It is not an insignificant 
issue, and will only increase.  Saying so and so is a fascist/nazi etc. will 
not resolve the matter.  Haider, Fine, Le Pen and others are only present 
because they represent the views of a meaningful number of their compatriots 
regarding such things as immigration, social change, and so on.  The problem 
is in the human psyche, in adjusting to rapid changes in society, in managing 
those changes.  Leaning on old labels, models from another historical 
situation simply doesn't do what needs to be done.  

I'm tired and signing off.


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