I grew up as the only child of a journalist mother, so much of my time as a kid was spent in newsrooms, proofreading stories to pass the time. That upbringing had an unlikely effect on me; instead of guiding me into this world of excitement and knowledge that was all around me, it made me want to distance myself from the stress and turmoil that has always surrounded my mother, hence taking me closer to ignorance. That mentality was also paired with an intrinsic belief that society regulates itself independently of any individual input. My hollow familiarity with politics had never made me doubt the structure which I had always inhabited - and it wasn’t until April of 2013, when the so-called Brazilian Spring, or Brazil’s mindless attempt at Occupy, sprouted, that that structure started collapsing before my eyes. My civic ignorance was silenced then, and today I find myself fearing for democracy and questioning the nature of humanity and its cyclical downfalls. Nazism had always felt like a distant concept - it had always felt like a cosmic hiccup in human history that served as a catalyst for progress. Every time I attempted to rationalize 1930’s Germany - and believe me, I did try to put myself in their shoes, to understand the mental pathways that led to their support of Adolf Hitler, yet every time I found myself left with my inability to grasp how things unfolded the way they did. I now look at the rise of far-right extremism across the world, and that makes the whole thing a little bit easier to relate to, but not any easier to understand.
I certainly don’t think that the Holocaust could happen again, and I am not comparing any current political leader to Hitler - but that is only the case because we have been there, and there are systems in place to stop them. The comparison comes not so much from the fear of mass extermination, as from the realization that many of our friends and family would be the enemies, were we in Germany in 1941. Today I am forced to wake up knowing that I am blood-related to people who, seemingly forgetting that they are the products of one of the most racially diverse countries in the world, see their ostensible race as a token of dominance. It is nauseatingly hard to accept that cousins, uncles, friends I grew up with had always cultivated a false sense of superiority to minority groups, some of which I am part of, and some of which I am an explicit supporter of. That mentality was always invisible - they accurately felt that their opinions were inadequate, though the disposition was there. This, I say, is one of the biggest threats that comes from chauvinist leaders; the spreading normalization and acceptance of bigotry. The extermination, were it to happen, would not come from the leaders themselves, but instead from all their agencies of support that are the pillars of our societies. The leaders incite intolerance in order to rise to power, and let their followers do the work within the breach between their words.
Globalized instantaneous information has only been around for a few decades - until then, news were mostly controlled by monopolies that manipulated us into their ideal of social equilibrium. Informed people actively sought out information, and thus were people who already had a dynamical understanding of power and cultivated views that they were looking to prove, or disprove. Today, one doesn’t have to be interested in, or have the slightest care for, politics in order to have access to information and a medium to share their voices. The problem is rooted in the optimization of the media for reactions over verified knowledge - these platforms are built to instigate engagement. This wouldn't be a problem in itself, I believe, were we alert enough to look past this made-up mesh. However, people will accept whatever they are given, and will do with that information whatever their in-group deems correct. They do not care for its content, as this process has become mere entertainment - much like picking a soccer team; whimpering when they lose, roaring when they win. This is perhaps born from an urgent need for belongingness, which has grown stronger with our broadening cyber-fostered alienation. The third layer of the issue lies in the center-left idealism birthed by the very vocal youth that dominates social media. Those who disagree with their views wish to take part in the conversation, and therefore create a more radicalized version of whatever their beliefs are, in order to have a loud enough voice to fight the illusory majority. Those beliefs are then strengthened by groupthink, eventually attracting many neutral and apolitical individuals.
That, obviously joined by people’s profound grievances and frustrations, induces the embracing of authoritarianism as the best bet. We then elect opportunistic leaders who offer urgent change - leaders who constantly create provocative chaos as a distraction from the real threats to democracy. They reflect people’s once closeted bigotry, blaming the collective hardship on those who can be seen as threats. This discourse sounds eerily familiar, and makes me wonder whether these fluctuating liberal and conservative cycles are self-generating. If so, we can only hope that the regresses continue to be less and less destructive as they come about.
Oh, well! :-)