The Alt-Right Fascist Pathogen

The Alt-Right Fascist Pathogen October 31, 2018

In the reflections recorded in his book, My Life in Christ, St. John of Kronstadt (1829 – 1908) noted that negative, hostile passions could spread through society like a disease:

Passions are contagious owing to our spiritual organization; for instance, malice, even when not yet expressed in words – not expressed by acts, but still concealed in the heart, and reflected slightly in the face and eyes – is already transmitted to the soul of the an against whom I bear malice, and is also perceptible to others; if I am disturbed by passion and my disturbance communicates itself to the heart of another, like a kind of spiritual overflow of an impure current from one spiritual receptacle to another. If you eradicate in yourself your passion against your brother, you eradicate the same passion in him too; when you are pacified he will also become pacified. What a close connection is there between souls! [1]

Anger, fear, hatred, inordinate desire, greed, envy – all these feelings and many others like them may reside in particular people, but, because of the way humanity exists in social relations, they can and are easily exchanged from person to person, becoming, as it were, a mass problem if the root passion is not overcome. These terrible passions can spread in many ways. St. John of Kronstadt noticed how malice can be transmitted, not only by making people share the same sentiment, the same malice, but also by causing strife, causing other people to become malicious in reaction to the spite they felt.[2] What we do in the world does not stay with us. To be a person is to be social, and through our social relationships, we affect others. Sometimes, through our misdeeds and unseemly passions, people will see through us and react negatively towards us, while at other times, they will join in with us and share our malady. In other case, the passion will spread and its harm will begin to affect society at large.

The social dimension of the passions is rarely discussed. We tend to think of passions individualistically. There is, to be sure, proper ground for this, because we know that passions do not exist apart from persons, but we tend to think of persons not as they are, in social relations with others, but as we have made them to be, as individuals cut off from everyone else. No person, however, can remain true to themselves by ignoring the social dimensions of personality; our character develops in our relationships with others. Our passions do not exist in us in isolation, but rather, they attach themselves to us on a personal basis, and affect our personal relations with others, where they can then be shared.

History shows us that societies often are moved by strong passions. Indeed, the great evils of the twentieth century can be seen as a result of the disease-like aspect of the passions which St. John Kronstadt noted. While it is important to keep in mind the banality of evil, where evil is ignored and treated as nothing, allowing it to fester and grow, this is not enough to explain mass movements which form around and propagate such evil.  Hitler rose in power spreading his fear and hatred of the other to his people; they were infected with his passion and were moved by it. If people fought against the passion before it became too strong, it could have been squashed, but once it had been ignored, it spread quickly, causing great damage to the psyche of the German people, leading them in turn, to cause great damage to the world.

If we want to help our society, we must therefore squash any inordinate passions which we encounter within ourselves as soon as we can. In this fashion, we could begin to form antibodies to the contagion, confirming the view of St Seraphim of Sarov that we can save many by acquiring a peaceful spirit within ourselves. We must not accept the banality of evil. When we see it, we must root it out, focusing first in ourselves and our actions, and then helping others overcome such evil as well.

This analysis is rather pertinent to the age which we live in. Once again, like in the early parts of the twentieth century, inordinate passions are spreading across the world. Fearmongering, hate, idolatrous nationalism, greed, and envy are seen being developed all around us, manipulated for unseemly ends. The rise of the alt-right is similar to the rise of fascism in the twentieth century: indeed, it is fascism, a species of the pathogen which we thought eradicated.

As with all such diseases which re-emerge, there are differences and mutations which we can observe, even as there are new places in which the pathogen can be found. We can see this, for example, in the United Kingdom.   Brexit, which threatens the UK, already leaning to the right, has encouraged a  new further-right wing response which threatens to use the crisis Brexit created to further entrench modern fascism in British society.   Likewise, in Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, ,  elected to be the their next president, favors fascist like military dictatorship; and, as is the norm with this pathogen, the anger and thirst for power leads its victims with no care or concern for the world, as can be seen in  Bolsonaro’s desire to remove the Amazon forest.   Similarly, the brutality shown by his supporters to his opponents, reporters, and members of the government represents just another example of the passion which is sweeping the world.

Is there any surprise, with the passion spreading around the world, and not being repudiated and stopped, the violence which it brings is also on the rise? This is especially the case in the United States. The mass murder at the Tree of Life Synagogue,  the man who wanted to enter a black church but was unable to, only to go into a Kroger to kill,  and the pipe bombs targeting those who Trump has routinely demonized,  demonstrates the danger we see in other nations also exists in the United States. With a President who praises leaders who routinely tortures and kills their critics, it should not be surprising that his followers, upon hearing his violent rhetoric, will act on them, taking the passion which can be seen thriving in Trump upon  themselves. This can be seen with such groups like the “Proud Boys,” whose violence in New York demonstrates the charm and allure that right-wing violence has attained in modern society; but it must be made known, the Proud Boys have influence with the American border patrol, for the Border Patrol Union encourages and embraces far-right videos like “Killing Free Speech” which includes many interviews of members from the Proud Boys. It is not surprising with the fear and hatred of the other being promoted, we see more calls to end birthright citizenship, with Trump contemplating an executive order he thinks he can implement which would override the Constitution.[3]

There is no easy solution to the mutated fascist alt-right pathogen. It is spreading before us. We must not let it take us over. We must resist it. We must eradicate any stronghold the disease can take in our lives. Christians, and others of good will, must remember the call to love their neighbor, even their enemies; this does not mean we do nothing to stop them, but it means, as we do so, we must always have the right motive before us. Charity, mercy, grace, love, equanimity must be courageously embraced. We must fight against evil with the proper means. We cannot ignore it. We must not let it spread. We must not, likewise, let it infect us even as we fight against it, turning us against ourselves. We must treat our diseased society similar to the way a physician deals with disease: trying to make the body health again, though willing to use strong medicine when needed. Good surgeons care about their patients, even if they must cut into some diseased organ: so we must care about society, including those who have been infected with the disease of our age. Like a surgeon who will do what is necessary (so long as it is ethical) to help their patient’s health be restored, so we must do what is in our power to ethically eradicate the pathogen of the moment. Just as a successful physician hopes to return a person to good health so they can resume their lives, so we should hope we can cure the pathogen in others and help them return to society. This is why, if someone overcomes the hateful fascist disease, turning away from it and seeing the evil which they supported as the evil it is, we can and should work with them: they might have the antibodies that we need to finally squash the pathogen. On the other hand, those who seem to do nothing, either for or against the disease, are in a very dangerous situation, as their unwillingness to act is like those who refuse vaccines: they will only let the disease spread far and wide, and will likely suffer with many others the effects of the spiritual virus due to their own negligence. They are a danger to the health of society; and like those who reject vaccinations, they must be told in no uncertain terms, they have a duty to stop the evil virus spreading around the world today or they will be among those who are at fault for how far and wide the virus spreads.

The alt-right fascist pathogen is spreading.   Let us hope we are not too late and we can squash it before it entirely destroys society – and the world as we know it.

[IMG= Düsseldorf, Rosenmontag 2016, politische Karnevalswagen by Kürschner (talk) 11:37, 8 February 2016 (UTC) [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons]

[1] John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ. Trans. E.E. Goulaeff (Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 2000),97-8.

[2] Communication, certainly, is one of the main means by which our negative, hostile passions can be spread, because it is through communication we enter into a lesser form of communion with others. Which is why St. John of Kronstadt explained, “Indeed between human souls there is too close a connection and communication,” ibid. 98, as a means to explain how and why preachers whose lives are not represented by their words hinder the effectiveness of their sermons.

[3] Not surprising, Trump does not understand how things work around the world, as other counties also have birthright citizenship, including Canada, although many others, with the nationalistic tend, have been working to remove it, such as India and Malta.


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