In our global slide toward despotic unaccountability, three words act as the primary signifiers of the changes in governing and political norms at work around the globe. The words are fascist, illiberal and authoritarian.
Let’s take a look at the dictionary definition of each.
Fascist: A political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.
Illiberal: Opposed to liberal principles; restricting freedom of thought or behavior.
Authoritarian: Favouring or enforcing strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom. Showing a lack of concern for the wishes or opinions of others; dictatorial.
Whether we’re talking about Donald Trump, Viktor Orban, Jair Bolsonaro, Benjamin Netanyahu, Narendra Modi, Vladimir Putin or Daniel Ortega you see aspects of each these dangerous modes of social control being normalized and, in many instances, enacted through executive or legislative means.
While it is natural to be most alarmed by the rise of neo-fascist political parties in Italy, Germany, Poland, Sweden, France, and the UK, perhaps a more dangerous trend is the emerging religious authoritarianism infecting Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and Buddhism. In India, Modi’s BJP has actively encouraged ethnic cleansing campaigns by Hindus against Muslims in northern states. In Israel, Netanyahu successfully passed a new law elevating the citizenship rights of Jewish Israelis over those of Muslims. In Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi has given tacit approval to Buddhist death squads attacking Muslim Rohingya villages. Across the Middle East, leaders leverage the Sunni/Shia divide to redraw national boundaries resulting in the refugee crisis in Europe. In the United States, Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell are rushing the decisive Christianist candidate onto the nation’s Supreme Court. In Brazil, the leading candidate in October’s presidential election is an open supporter of military dictatorship is supported by 90% of white Catholic and Evangelical voters.
Any of these political-religious movements could result in illiberal, authoritarian or fascist governing regimes. Adding the accelerant of religious dogma any of these are much more likely to spread across national boundaries and endanger regional or even global peace.