State of a Nation


Fascism has an enigmatic countenance because in it appears the most counterpoised contents. It asserts authoritarianism and organizes rebellion. It fights against contemporary democracy and, on the other hand, does not believe in the restoration of any past rule. It seems to pose itself as the forge of a strong State, and uses means most conducive to its dissolution, as if it were a destructive faction or a secret society. Whichever way we approach fascism we find that it is simultaneously one thing and the contrary, it is A and not A . . .

*José Ortega y Gasset, “Sobre el Fascismo” (1927)


“The term “fascist” was first applied to a political movement combining ultranationalism with hostility both to the left and to established conservatism by Mussolini in 1919. Three years later Mussolini came to power at the head of a coalition backed by conservatives, and in 1926 he began to establish a full-scale dictatorship. By this time Fascism was wisely admired by a plethora of distinguished political and literary figures outside Italy, not all of them on the right. During the economic, social, and political crisis beginning in 1929 Nazism made its breakthrough and came to power in January 1933. While Mussolini set out to create a “totalitarian” society, Hitler embarked on the creation of a racial Utopia, a dream that entailed the elimination of Jews from Germany and military conquest of Eastern Europe. Meanwhile, significant fascist movements emerged in many other European countries and in Brazil” (Passmore 11).


1. A single mass party, led by one man, which forms the hardcore of the regime and which is typically superior to or intertwined with the governmental bureaucracy.

2. A system of terror by the police and secret police which is directed against real and imagined enemies of the regime.

3. A monopolistic control of the mass media.

4. A near monopoly of weapons.

5. Central control of the economy.

6. An elaborate ideology which covers all aspects of man’s existence and which contains a powerful chiliastic [messianic or religious] moment.


o “Marxist approaches to fascism all emphasize its links with capitalism. The most influential early definition was that of the Communist International in 1935, which stated that ‘Fascism in power is the open, terroristic dictatorship of the most reactionary, the most chauvinistic, the most imperialistic elements of finance capitalism’ ” (Passmore 14).

o “For Marxists socialism is the only genuine form of radicalism, so since fascists opposed socialism, they must have been reactionary.” (16)

o Fascism as an anti-modern (Weberian) movement, “resulting from the convergence of pre-industrial elite and the reactionary petty-bourgeoisie” (18).

SPAIN 1938

Epigram, No. B35a

Productivity—it’s always illusive, and yapping at our vulnerable bits. Even if you take off and wander the countryside, as far away from real decisions as the sin of sloth allows. Taking action means to beat the world, faint with gratitude and gifts. No matter the ends of what we mean when we say “it must be done”, what has not will come limping home; will come home knocked-up; and obviously incubating the next iteration of failed expectations. Wanting, making, and seeing is a palindrome series: it is legible forward or back. Whichever direction you go, the meaning is exactly the same.

(And, we know some of these words are metaphors.)

Notational, No. 23

But Hamlet does not like matter. He wants it to melt, resolve into a dew—even the matter of spirits should do so—and yet that dew is matter too. He likes nothing, absence, zero, vacancy, all of which “Nature” abhors and her Law forbids—as we still believe. The word “O,” newly ambiguous with the importation of “𝚘” from Arab mathematics, is uttered more in Hamlet than in any play but Othello. And Hamlet says “no” more than any character in Shakespeare. This hatred of matter on Hamlet’s part is shocking: it measures the greatest imaginable despair. For even the dead are matter. (Is this what generates a ghost in place of the corpse of his father?)

✧ Mary Baine Campbell,Shakespeare and Modern Science”

Matter is the remnants of a bright occasion stashed in the basement. Bits and pieces of something so promising and full of unfettered expectation have been packed up and sealed into crates, boxes that are only moved by the forces of necessity. From one end of a darkened chasm to the other: rearranged perhaps, reorganized, recombined; but still, there will never be tinsel in the hot furnace of any anticipated revelation for these tired things again. Nor a gasp to accompany any connection and release that might fire out from a sudden compression so intimate that it has made new beginnings possible.

This often feels like what I suspect lies at the end of what I return to so often: the terrible renunciation of the illusion of freedom that comes from existing in a world defined by limits, but motivated by a spurious injunction to imagine a life absolutely unfettered. By boundaries. By facts, organized around principles, that say: most of what we think we know is composed of space. That being is lonely in the sense that nothing is really in contact. That we cannot be anywhere doing anything at any moment. Space and time are coincidences that determine where, when, and how we can go next. But there is so little of either available from the start.

Hamlet says “no” so much because he voices the denial that begs to be vocalized when you encounter a hard “no” yourself. Or a “yes” that means “no” when you hear it. Assertions and negations are flying about us all the time; and these answers that ring in the ear beg to be denied from something deep and steadfast within. When something is not possible, when something is asserted in the world and we are forced to contend with it; and that thing amounts to being a being, which we can’t avoid—and maybe do not accept no matter how reasonable or graceful it might be to do—”no” is sometimes the only sane thing to say. The matter of articulating the rejection of matter, or some matter, makes everything that much harder. What do you want to say, without deception or equivocation, when the options are worse or worst?

We are confined. These atoms do not prevaricate the way we would like them to. We are packed up. You can say “no” to any matter, but at its most fundamental, it does not hear—it only moves.

Fragmentary, No. 29

In one of my favorites of your drawings, two Popsicles are talking to each other. One accuses, “You’re more interested in fantasy than reality.” The other responds, “I’m interested in the reality of my fantasy.” Both Popsicles are melting off their sticks.

✧ Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts

Fragmentary, No. 28

This reciprocal determination operates elsewhere as well, although by other means and with other aims. It involves a double displacement, which renders a concept plausible or true by pointing to an error and, at the same time, by enforcing belief in something real through a denunciation of the false. The assumption is made that what is not held to be false must be real. Thus, for example, in the past, arguments against ‘false’ gods were used to induce belief in a true God. The process repeats itself today in contemporary historiography: by demonstrating the presence of errors, discourse must pass off as ‘real’ whatever is placed in opposition to the errors. Even though this is logically questionable, it works, and it fools people. Consequently, fiction is deported to the land of the unreal, but the discourse that is armed with the technical ‘know-how’ to discern errors is given the supplementary privilege of prepresenting something ‘real.’ Debates about the reliability of literature as opposed to history illustrate this division.

✧ Michel de Certeau, “History: Science and Fiction”

A Retrospect of Prospective

As I was trying to write about the past, I decided that I’d rather rework something I’d written about the future, in the past; but that’s something especially relevant this time of year. Maybe it’s tradition. Read it here.


And one of the miners made a speech about capitalism using the analogy that “it’s like, say, a man gives you a lemon tree . . . “ (I think he was possibly Australian—but evidently, living in New Zealand.)

“When do you have the time to pick the lemons? Before or after they are any good? Because having the time available to pick them when they’re ripe—not too hard, and not too pulpy—is not very likely. And what are you going to do with those lemons? Do you think you can turn those lemons into profit or prestige? Not very likely. You don’t have access to the lemon market, which is owned by the man who gave you the tree!”

. . .

It was a good speech. There were slides.

Fragmentary, No. 27

Looks like what drives me crazy
Don’t have no effect on you—
But I’m gonna keep on at it
Till it drives you crazy, too.

✧ Langston Hughes, “Evil”

Fragmentary, No. 26

Lecturing in Japan
Stephen Hawking was asked
not to mention that the universe

had a beginning
(and so likely an end)
because it would affect

the stockmarket.
Speculation aside,
we all need a prehistory.

According to Freud,
we do nothing but repeat it.
Beginnings are special

because most of them are fake.
The new person you become
with that first sip of wine

was already there.

✧ Anne Carson, “i wish i were two dogs then i could play with me”

Fragmentary, No. 25

The moderns confused products with processes. They believed that the production of bureaucratic rationalization presupposed rational bureaucrats; that the production of universal science depended on universalist scientists; that the production of effective technologies led to the effectiveness of engineers; that the production of abstraction was itself abstract; that the production of formalism was itself formal. We might just as well say that a refinery produces oil in a refined manner, or that a dairy produces butter in a butterly way! The words ‘science’, ‘technology’, ‘organization’, ‘economy’, ‘abstraction’, ‘formalism’, and ‘universality’ designate many real effects that we must indeed respect and for which we have to account. But in no case do they designate the causes of these same effects. These words are good nouns, but they make lousy adjectives and terrible adverbs. Science does not produce itself scientifically any more than technology produces itself technologically or economy economically.

✧ Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern