Who is next?

by Seema Nusrat Amin | Published: 00:00, Nov 06,2018 | Updated: 18:50, Nov 06,2018

 
 

Like honey is the sleep of the just.
– Anne Carson

Nobody is sleeping, nobody.’
– Federico Garcia Lorca

IT SEEMED the dirty heat would never end.
In 1945, the same year Mussolini fails his attempted escape from Italy with his mistress, Ezra Pound is put in a cage in Pisa by the Americans. Versed in Italian Fascist propaganda without being aware of the extent of the Holocaust, and yet ostensibly repulsed by the mainstreaming of thought exemplified by the victors, he is visited by a goddess of his imagination. She rebukes him, asking, ‘What are you doing, groveling here, you. Through what labyrinth of thoughts have you ended up here, a living beast, deprived even of ink.' Pound has since been poetically redeemed: at least by history’s separation of ideology and art. By the grace of his complexity, or confusion, he did not become a ‘Nazi poet’ in the annals of history, he became the father of modernism. Who could blame us? His allegiance was to his muse, not reality. And if one reads his poetry, one would think him deeply critical of politicos and capital, not a statist or populist. Who knew?
Since WWII’s red and black, and sometimes green, branding of the word, contemporary fascism has become a fascinatingly difficult word to pin down, as difficult as Pound’s exquisite Cantos and not-so-delicate position. In an article in The Guardian, Isabel Best suggests that fascism has become an extremely vague word, used to describe everything from authoritarianism to racism. But Fascism is a very particular ‘style’ of politics. Best writes:
Narrow sectarianism plays into the hands of populists. Bosworth points out that the Italian fascists ‘only had 35 seats out of 500-odd in the Italian parliament after the 1921 elections’ when Mussolini became prime minister. The establishment was so desperate to sideline socialists and trade unions that it preferred to ‘give him a chance’. The fasces – or bound bundle of wooden rods, from which the word fascism derives – symbolises strength through unity, and if opposition to fascism is to be successful it is essential to combat like with like.
Best concludes that Trump’s fascism is ‘entertainment fascism.’ I would suggest that Pinochet’s fascism was ‘whitewashing’ fascism. It involved hundreds and thousands of erasures. The famous code words for the end of the Pinochet regime echo louder than the Chilean poet Raul Zurita’s poems: It’s raining in Santiago.
In Dhaka, in 2018: It seemed the dirty heat would never end. But Sharat is here. Birdsong and coolness. We can unclench our jaws. Perhaps, maybe, perhaps, we’ll get half a winter. At least Hemanta promises the sixth season, and dust, and dreams.
On that note, Limon had a dream. It’s been shot in the leg, just once, and the arm, just once, though not quite the head yet. This time by an overeager ‘mob’, not unlike the one that killed the now famous tailor, Biswajit Das. We can suppose it was a ‘Textile’ mob, since that is what the populists decided to baptise Ganoshasto as.
Elsewhere, Naryanganj is in the news again: this time for the deaths of four young men, on a day six dead bodies, including theirs, were discovered decomposing both there and in Dhaka’s Uttara 16. The families of the four claim they were picked up by more than a dozen men with DB (Detective Branch) written on their vehicle.
The number of people claimed to be disappeared in the last four years by Ain O Salish Kendro was reported to be at least 318 in August of this year, during International Day of the Disappeared. Last year, Saugato Basu in The Independent, reported the circumstances of the disappearances of several people from widely different occupations and backgrounds:
There is no trace of Utpal Das, a journalist working with online portal Purboposhchimbd.news and covering news related to the Awami League, Syed Sadat Ahmed Sadat, MD of ABN Group, MM Aminur Rahman, secretary general of the Bangladesh Kalyan Party, Mohammad Rokonuzzaman Rukon, local Awami League leader and mayor of Sarishabari municipality in Jamalpur, Ishrak Ahmed, a student of Canada’s McGill University who allegedly disappeared from the capital, and another student Arafat Rahman. Utpal, 29, remains missing since October 10. His father Chitta Ranjan Das and the editor of news portal Purboposhchimbd.news filed two general diaries with Motijheel Police Station on 12th October and 13th October, respectively, in connection with the incident. Mayor Rokonuzzaman went missing from the capital’s Uttara area on the night of September 25.  Ishrak Ahmed, 20, allegedly went missing from Dhaka’s Dhanmondi area on August 26.
Less recently, Drik founder and photographer Shahidul Alam, still in jail, was picked up by DB, remanded, and is now in a state of occasional appearance. He has been accused of a few things. But not the fascist crime of ‘mixing lies with truth’, as Best notes.
For in 2018, October, there are relations that are not allowed: Fascism CAN NOT exist, just like elections CAN NOT be rigged in anyone’s favour. It is IMPOSSIBLE. Disappearance, by its very nature, can not occur: It is the Erasure of the Erasure. Forget what is forgotten. (Remember to do that.)
The most famous quote regarding the Nazis has been ‘First they came for the communists, then the socialists, then the homosexuals and gypsies, then the Jews.’ Then us. It’s an old fascist game, the Who is Next game.
The arbitrary nature of fascism is its most systematic ethos. Ultra rationalism, a logic predicated on self-preservation both of the group and the state. Taken to the logical conclusion of its certainties, all fascism waves black flags to destroy the ground on which reason stands. The better to eat you, with, my dear, says the big, bad wolf to the naïve ‘populace.’
For my part, I have felt exquisitely speechless, of late. To see millennial — no, digital — fascism emerge with such self-congratulation, both in America and here in Bangladesh. Not knowing quite what there is left (or right) to say: when things have been turned on their head, saying one thing often means the opposite. We’re in the fantasy which functions not beyond but as the code of the real: Freedom is Slavery. Love is Hate. War is Peace. 1984. It’s all been said and done before. Let it rain.

Seema Amin is a writer and lecturer.

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