Totalitarianism is dead. Its champions like Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Gaddaffi, Suharto are not just dead but passé. We have no place for it and any reference to its proponents past or present like Kim Jong-un is detested by the modern world.
Right? Wrong. The truth is that totalitarianism has evolved, is alive and kicking and is in fact gaining in strength in almost all corners of the world.
It has a new name and a new camouflage – Totalitarian democracy!
Totalitarian democracy creates a charade of liberty and citizen rights but derives its strength from the ‘will of majority’ or majoritarianism- a word gaining prominence in today’s world. It is created by the cunning of the leader who well and truly knows how to light the fire by fanning the sentiments of the majority, use that fire to burn down to ashes any obstacles on the way and then rule over the citizenry who start considering silent cemeteries as gardens of peace.
Liberty, equality, freedom- farcical democratic values in the eyes of such a maniacal leader are manipulated by stroking the primitive banalities of the majority view to create a regime which is totalitarian in thought and action.
In words of Herbert Marcuse in his book ‘One dimensional man’: “Liberty can be made into a powerful instrument of domination… Free election of masters does not abolish the masters or the slaves.”
Totalitarian democracy is just that – a mirage of freedom and equality where in the name of enabling common good, the citizenry gleefully surrenders its rights to its masters. Where the citizens feel that they have done their duty by electing their representatives and then let their elected shepherd decide which direction the herd will tread. Where the leader has the right to suppress and crush the views of any individual or group without fear of any rebuke or reprisal from the collective.
The state through its own apparatus or its crusaders decides what the common good is for the people as it is supposed to rise above the individual. It is beyond the sensibility of the individual to decipher the truth and the state needs to decide between right and wrong.
Any person or institution that does not adhere to the common goal has no right to differ and serves no useful purpose. As a result they need to be silenced or eliminated.
The state decides what is right for you to drink and eat even if it may not be based on scientific evidence but on moral or social norms and one must follow that. If one dissents then one gets punished for rising against the state. Even lynched by the mob!
The state decides who is an enemy or a friend based on political, religious or market sentiments and the individual must follow. Any differing views may make you liable for the charge of sedition and opposing the state. Even being deported in certain countries!
The state decides what social norms should be followed and what are blasphemous. Any deviation can put your life and limbs to risk. I am not talking about the last century or medieval ages. I am referring to modern, vibrant, liberal democracies which are turning into totalitarian regimes.
The list is endless- The French state fighting the Burqini which is worn by not even 0.1% of their population to create Islamophobia, Indian states spending time and energy on cow protection and liquor bans than on issues related to governance, Saudis lashing atheists, Russians and many African and Asian nations imprisoning LGBT communities.
Alas, today, even the greatest democracy of the world is at cross roads and a maniac like Donald Trump is trying to bring totalitarianism to America in its most despicable way. Enough has been written about the abuse, the hatred and the vitriolic agenda of this bigot and demagogue. Enough can still not be enough as he touches a new low every day.
And yet what are more worrisome than the preacher are the followers, than master the slaves, then leader the followers. Donald Trump or people like him neither arise from vacuum nor thrive in one.
It is the people who have allowed fierce hate and anger to be built in their minds based on color, religion, creed and region. Donald has just touched the raw cord and let loose the animal inside from its leash. Trump is not an aberration but a product of the system.
Trump may not even win. Yet what is worrisome is that despite all his failings, millions of Americans support him and would gleefully walk with him to the gates of hell.
America today is a country divided with the religious and conservative right at one end trying to take over the reins of the society. A large section of Americans, the so called Trump supporters see the world with myopic, colored lenses.
They see a Mexican and they see a rapist, a drug dealer or a lowly worker who can be abused and yet would live with fear of deportation and bear all insults.
They see a South Asian and see either a subway or a 7/11 worker with a crazy accent or an outsider who could be mimicked at. At worse, God forbid if they see a Muslim name behind that Brown skin, then cold, hateful eyes are ready to kill if only that was legal. They see an Asian and see their jobs being lost, their factories closed and their blue collar jobs being stolen away from them. It is another matter that their society is the one which has derived the maximum benefits out of globalization.
They see an Arab or a Sikh and they take out their baseball hats and rebukes.
They see a Black man and their hate knows no bounds and the primitive White supremacist tendencies come to the fore. Behind masks worn of civility by many of them which they gleefully remove in Trump rallies but regretfully wear in day to day lives, lays the ugly face of many White Americans nay world citizens who thrive on majority views.
Trump has just crafted all this hate together in one package of Conservative Republican unity to change the shape of American democracy like no one has done.
He uses their words and speaks in their language and relates to them directly like no politician would do. And he adds his message of totalitarianism to it to create a dark, hateful image.
He declares that he will lock his political opponent like any of his idols like Putin or Mussolini would do and the mob shouts – Lock her up!
He declares that he will punish the immigrants all supposedly illegal and his base shouts- Build the wall!
He declares that Islam is at war with America and his followers shout- Ban the Muslims!
Thankfully and hopefully, this is not the real America and Trump will not succeed on November 8. However, he has channeled the hatred of the white supremacist and created a tsunami which has the power to drown not just America but the entire world. I saw it first hand in the eyes of ordinary people in small towns of not just America but even distant Italy which were cold, distant, hateful and mostly angry with me only because of the color of my skin during my recent visit there, as much as I had never seen before.
And believe you me, Donald is his worst enemy. Were it not for his comments against the women folk where his true character came out and a large section of the society distanced them from him, he could have won this election! He still has a chance if any dreaded incidence happens or is manipulated which further drives Americans towards majoritarianism. Or his supporters drive ordinary, law abiding citizens away on the day of the election, an idea which he and his base seem to be actively putting to shape currently.
Hopefully, in times to come, a defeated Donald may die away from public memory but what about his foot soldiers? How would the life of an average Mexican, Sikh, Muslim or a Black man be in America after this election is over? Is it possible that the hateful fire burning in America today based on religion, race, colour and region would die down even in a decade? Will the white supremacists acknowledge defeat or start a civil war in the name of avenging their loss?
These are tough questions and unfortunately the answers look dark enough?
The wounds would need decades to heal and that too if we start putting the balm now.
It is a battle of the century, alas at almost the start of the century and will define how the world will emerge.
A world which bows down to totalitarian leaders or a world which allows individual freedom! A world of fear and hate or one of love and understanding! Only time will tell.