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February 16, 2020 / Congau

The Fascist Mind

Fascism creeps into a society when the law becomes an obsession. When private citizens not only strive to obey every minute detail of the law but also endeavor to keep their fellow subjects in line, this poisonous ideology is seeping into the mind. It can make your perfectly normal civilian want to play the police and while feigning responsibility inflict injury on his neighbors. He forgets that the law exists for people and not people for the law.

Suppose you knew about a crime. Nothing very serious, maybe one committed by an adolescent offender at a thoughtless moment, but still serious enough for the law to demand a punishment. You felt quite sure that the youth wouldn’t do anything like it again, and you knew it might hurt his future if he got something on his record. Would you turn him in?

I sincerely hope you wouldn’t. The dilemma illustrates the two different attitudes to law, and I’m tempted to call one of them fascist since it has been an identifying feature of actual fascist states, but unfortunately, it’s all too normal in our comparatively liberal societies.

The law is there to prevent crime, but when a crime has already been committed, it has lost its force. A law cannot undo a crime, and one crime cannot undo a law either and after the crime is a fact, the criminal can still be saved.

The police must catch the offender and the judge has to convict him, or else the law would lose its power to prevent future crimes; the threat of punishment must be real. But as private citizens we wouldn’t weaken the power of the law by not denouncing a criminal. If you let your neighbor go, you save him without any damage to society.

The fascist mind wants to punish for the sake of punishment.

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