"Every age has its own Fascism."
Madeleine Albright, a refugee from Nazi Germany and Communist Czechoslovakia, opens her book, Fascism: A Warning, with this quote from Primo Levi, himself a survivor of the Holocaust. What is the difference between fascism in a country, and mobbing and bullying in housing?
In her service to the United States as Secretary of State and as US Ambassador to the United Nations, Albright met and negotiated with strongmen, dictators, and other dangerous rulers. She narrates the modern history of nations taken over by fascism as a warning, because she is watching what she believes to be a replay of the takeover of a country by fascism. This time it is the United States.
"What makes a movement Fascist is not ideology but the willingness to do whatever is necessary---including the use of force and trampling on the rights of others---to achieve victory and command obedience."
"A Fascist is someone who claims to speak for a whole nation or group, and is utterly unconcerned with the rights of others, and is willing to use violence and whatever other means are necessary to achieve the goals he or she might have."
Listing several undemocratic leaders, Albright describes them as
...willful men [who] see access to high office not as a temporary privilege but as a means of imposing their own desires for as long as they can. In public statements, they display no interest in cooperation outside the specific groups they purport to speak for and represent. They all claim for themselves the mantle of "strong Leader: they all say they speak for "the people": and they look to one another for help in further enlarging their ranks.
In my study of bullying, I have come to understand the dynamics of mobbing, when a leader uses bullying and group dynamics to attack, demean, disrespect, and ultimately get rid of a target. They trample on the rights of their targets. And these dynamics, writ large, can affect whole populations and lead to ethnic cleansing, genocide, the Holocaust, and war waged on civilians with war crimes and crimes against humanity---such as we see in history and on the news every day.
The founders of our country revolted against an oppressive king, and set up rival institutions (executive, legislature, court) to assure a balance of power among them. Our institutions are being tested, and Albright has warned us where this can lead---to Fascism in America.
As citizens, we need to pay attention to the lessons of history as depicted so clearly by Madeleine Albright. In the nation, we have the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I share the alarm of Madeleine Albright because so many of the nation's elected representatives ignore daily attempts to get rid of and suppress some populations, to tolerate and even applaud the attempt to deny fundamental rights of free speech and the press, and to undermine the laws and procedures that are the backbone of our free society, the safeguard of our liberty, and protection against tyranny.
While our efforts through the Stop Bullying Coalition to eliminate bullying and mobbing where people live in multifamily housing may seem like a very small and insignificant arena compared to such evils, it is a stage where we can act to preserve decency, respect, and democracy.
When mothers come to the United States seeking asylum, their children are ripped from their breasts and taken away. In housing, all too often the person who speaks up for their own rights and the rights of others can be bullied, mobbed, and evicted.
In housing, we are seeking a way to enable people in housing---including landlord, management, staff, and tenant---to cooperate on creating a social compact that assures the rights of each person, with accountability for failures and transgressions.
No one is free unless we are all free.
This is democracy. This is what we do.
- Jerry Halberstadt, Coordinator, Stop Bullying Coalition
- Mary Margaret Moore, Independent consultant and former Director of the Independent Living Center of the North Shore and Cape Ann
- "Phoebe," an elderly woman living with disability in a small public housing complex
Madeleine Albright, Fascism: A Warning, New York: HarperCollins, 2018. Quotes in this text from pp 239, 245.
Children separated from their mothers: See the stories at https://www.azcentral.com/staff/16901/daniel-gonzalez/