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

Notational, No. 21

There is no such thing . . . as unstylised—’direct’, ‘pure’, ‘objective’—sensation, perception, conceptualization, description or knowledge. A thought style is a disposition not merely to think or speak of a collective who share a given thought style, certain entities, categories, and connections will be especially salient and ready-to-hand and others less noticeable or invisible. These perceptual-conceptual dispositions are not ‘biases’, a term that suggests disabling distortions of otherwise clear or direct perceptions. Rather, and precisely because of how they constrain cognition, such dispositions enable what we call facts to be known, what we call reality to be brought forth and experienced.

✧ Barbara Herrnstein Smith, Scandalous Knowledge: Science, Truth and the Human

One can perhaps say a number of things about style, especially within the contexts of thought. Something that conveys an attitude as well as an orientation toward the world, style is projected as much as it is assumed. Style is performative; and any performance is a risk, as all performances incubate the possibility of failure. There is risk at the heart of adopting or developing any style, as the implications are that style leaves an impression. Style makes a psychic mark—it leaves a trace of its occurrence, of its experience. To encounter a style is to encounter something recognisable, even if it is not understood. That way, or this way, methods of connecting discreet elements into configurations that work together to impress is the foundation of a style. A style bears and references a kind of unity.

But a style is not complete. In the sense of a congruence lacking a sense of finality, style might be reproduced; style might be common or rare; stay might be recondite or facile, but it is unbounded. It may also be replayed, with variation, again and again. Unnoticed if it is lacking or ubiquitous, sometimes alarming or enraging if it is alien, a minimum of style might register, but a surfeit threatens to lose its distinction and transition from style to standard.

What makes identifying thought styles so difficult is that they are only encountered as such during rare periods of a person’s life: transitional times; traumatic times; times when we are marshalled by forces that compel or propel us to defend, adapt, or displace. Generally, the frequency we experience them becomes more and more uncommon as we age. As we shift less, learn less, habituate our tastes and the range of our adventures less, so too does the scope of styles we might appreciate or adopt diminish. Intrinsically, style becomes a signature, a calling card, and an extension of one’s own expression to the world at large. Extrinsically, a style arrays with others not of its kind as a spectrum of codes, to which are attached affects and responses equally personal from each to everyone else.

Style may be the hallmark of any organized human exercise, material or immaterial; but it is not an expendable feature of our reality, as the many realities that orbit and overlap throughout our lives define our place and our experience. To think a certain way may seem anything from honorable, to transgressive, to abominable, but the human enterprise is composed of a heterogeneity that permeates all conception and expression from our centre out to the barely coalescing fringes of our species’ margins.

Texture with 3D rendering abstract fractal îrange pattern

A Message

It read: “We are never alone now.”

I did not know the individual who said this to me. We had only exchanged fragments of sentences, which had confirmed that we were both in bed. In another time, in another life altogether, if these words were directed at you by anyone, in any context, alarm bells would sound. The associations of someone implicating you in a kind of coordinate pact, a theoretical superimposition of localities, wed together forever—even the dearest friend, the closest lover, the parent or child who wishes to establish a communion that transcends the limitations of space, time, and individuality—on some level this ignites a panicked, knee-jerk objection from the (not entirely) subconscious:

What do you mean “we” and “never”? I have things to do alone; and I frequently want to be. You can shove off with any sort of idyllic, timeless conjunction! I am quite certain that solitude is part of the deal. The mass of particles that collectively assert that I am me, and that me is an I, is never going to be superimposed and integrated with a yours—you can stay over there. I don’t want you beneath my skin—and I certainly don’t need you lurking about all the time. I need space to do my secret dance, with only the cold, impassive universe of things to stand sentinel around me.

But then I realized he wasn’t addressing me individually. He was articulating a reality that our culture is enmeshed in: the constant access to conversation; the conduits open to other minds perpetually ready to receive.

I really haven’t misplaced my phone in months.

Being together and being in contact have become two radically different things. States of existence that once needed specific circumstances to be true have become unmoored from the foundations of physical position. Wandering intimacies are constantly an option. If you don’t want to disconnect from other minds, from the semiotic telepathy of text and tone, you are, practically, free to make that choice. Within the boundaries of a wired and wireless society, sleep is the only place you need go where you are actually unreachable—at least until the alarm, or the beep, or the bell, or the hum reaches in and fishes you out of unconsciousness before plugging you back into the network.

I suppose many people live like this now. The individual on the other side of the profile I had said “hello” to was stating a fact of life as it stands for millions of people. This was not the earnest assertion of an unhinged mind, desperate to establish an inseparable metaphysical partnership; it was someone who has acquiesced to the forceful suggestion that if you turn it off you’re really tuning out of reality as we know it.

I am unreasonably glad that some part of me remains analog.


Notational, No. 18

I really believe that brotherhood is what makes a man human. If I owe God a human life, this is where I fall down. “Man liveth not by Self alone but in his brother’s face. . . . Each shall behold the Eternal Father and love and joy abound.” When the preachers of dread tell you that others only distract you from metaphysical freedom then you must turn away from them. The real and essential question is one of our employment by other human beings and their employment by us. Without this true employment you never dread death, you cultivate it. And consciousness when it doesn’t clearly understand what to live for, what to die for, can only abuse and ridicule itself.

♦ Saul Bellow, Herzog

The body is not a solitary fact. The system of interrelated organs that pulse and prompt action, which motivates reciprocal engagement, is only distinguished through interrelation of an external order. Other bodies are necessary for our own identities to be. This reality asserts itself from any direction you might approach to validate your own facticity. We are generated out of relationships. Think of the vast heritage of meetings that have occurred to beget each individual now present on the surface of the earth. And the continuity of our somatic heritage is reproduced in the vital need for contact and communication between bodies, in order to assert the singularity of the human self. We need each other as much as we have needed our ancestors.

There is another body that needs to be considered when an individual contemplates the extensions and limits of its own awareness. It is constructed of a virtual anatomy that has come into being through the genesis, transmission, and reception of what has been assessed as culture. Multiply coded, inter-relatable, ever changing, and fiercely compelling, it has grown out of that primal activity of naming things as well as their actions. The corpus of culture inhabits the activities that have accrued (and are accruing) between us. It transcends the limits of any solitary person, any one that exists or has existed. Each mind is the product of many minds.

We may only depart for regions unknown from the shores of collective achievement. Freedom requires a community to, in fact, be a state of being. Eschew the multitude! Fly to the metaphysical hinterlands of self-discovery! Climb the mountain and dig yourself into the summit! Cultivate the transcendent spiral of a featureless infinity! It denies the work that goes into making this radical undertaking significant. We are, none of us, self-corroborating entities. Each must send messages to each if there is to be a dialogue to emulate in the mind. A body that does not articulate and contend with other bodies has nothing to articulate or contend to itself.

herzog letter