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Home > English > Alternatives International Journal > 2010 > October 2010 > The F Word

The F Word

Less is more

Saturday 2 October 2010, by Michael Ryan Wiseman

Now that I have your attention, a quick rant on fascism and its growing popularity in the realm of name-calling and political point-scoring. We seem to be throwing the term around a lot these days, lending credence to the old saying that “everybody is somebody else’s fascist”.

The left accuses the right, the right accuses the left, the socialists accuse the capitalists, the capitalists accuse the socialists… the cats accuse the dogs, the dogs accuse the cats, and so on and so forth into the infinity of absurdity.

The danger is not that the incessant invocation of “Fascist!” is besmirching the probably-easy-to-tarnish-on-many-other-grounds-anyway name of whoever happens to be branded as such on any given occasion; the danger is that in being so cavalier with the term we’re diluting its potency and forgetting the gravity of what it really entails. Remember the boy-who-cried-wolf? I don’t want to find us fleeced by a gaggle of goose-steppers because we’re too lazy or intellectually comatose to be a tad more creative and varied in our denouncements. Parched for ideas? Then go old school. Vintage is all the rage with the whippersnappers these days— “knave!” “rapscallion!” “scallywag”! They’re all due for a comeback. Or, if really upset, accuse your target of being the very picture of a [insert randomly assembled invented word here, e.g. platisanctidon] and then deride them for their ignorance of the meaning of said word.

But I digress. Word deflation is a problem, and a problem terribly typical of the credit and consumption generation. In my grandmother’s time, a Fascist was quite literally and unabashedly a Fascist. She measured carefully and rationed while we debt-ridden and loose-lipped-spend-thrifts have become worse even than Oscar Wilde’s cynic— not only do we not know the value of anything, but we can’t event tell you the cost anymore. To keep our pens mightier than swords and our tongues sharp as diamonds and twice as brilliant we have to remember that our highest-calibre words are in both cases the cutting-edge, and even the best of our weaponry will dull from repetitive blunt force. Spare them the tedious and nor will they rust when safely stowed above, ready for use in case of emergency— our swords of Damocles set to rain down upon those who would usurp the throne populi.

And might there be something altogether more ominous behind the upswing in references to Fascists? Maybe my grandmother was right, and what we hate most in others is what we see most in ourselves. The Lebanese have a wonderful proverb to illustrate— if you smell shit wherever you go, it’s probably on the sole of your shoe. Next time you hear someone accuse someone else of being a Fascist, dig a little deeper. Is the accuser wearing a brown or black shirt? Have they a moustache? Are they a chauvinist demagogue in the midst of haranguing an ecstatic crowd with an obsessive preoccupation with its own victimhood all the while claiming legitimacy by no universal standard excepting a pseudo-Divine-Darwinian triumph of the strongest? If you answered yes to one of these questions, especially that last one, run to the alarm bell and feel free to use the F word at your leisure. If not, relax, it’s just a platisanctidon.

But how worried should we really be about our arch-nemeses? After all, it’s not the
baddies that refuse to take a day off that should have us half as concerned as the apathetic on permanent disability and the ignorant on parental leave. If we could solve those two problems the rest would take care of itself.

Well, that’s quite enough for now. It’s a rich issue chalk full of education so I’ll leave you, Dear Reader, to your homework. Have a wonderful conference! We’re off next month to refuel for our special Gregorian Year-end issue. See you in December!