Less than a decade ago, protests broke out across the world.
People took to the streets demanding freedom and an end to corruption. The backlash we are seeing today might simply prove the last gasp of a dying order—one whose sickness shows in its extremism.
The fascist moment that now seems such an eternal feature of the world today, could easily dissolve in the light of a new era of democratic progress.
Beginning with the Iranian Green Revolution in 2009, mass demonstrations roiled across the globe. In Russia and Brazil, Turkey and India, and throughout the Arab world, restive populations took to the streets to demand their rights. Where democracy was nonexistent, people called for the fall of regimes; where it was weak and corrupt, people called for cleaning them up.
But instead of the next great wave of democratization and the consolidation of democratic institutions in developing economies like India and Brazil—an undercurrent seemed to drag us, against our better judgment, into altogether different waters. To a place where right wing populists invoked fascist tropes to make their nations great again.
The forces of reaction were perhaps strongest in Syria. After shooting close to a thousand demonstrators over the course of a few months, the Assad regime taught every would-be protester the world over a hard lesson in what dictators under threat can do. Assad arrested the opposition in the tens of thousands, torturing them to death in his notorious prisons, as detailed by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
Syria became the ground on which autocracies like Russia took their stand. And it sometimes seems as if Putin was behind the scenes everywhere, destabilizing rising democracies like Georgia and Ukraine, funding neofascists in Britain and France, subverting the presidency in America, waging cyber war in Estonia, and like some deconstructionist on a rampage, shattering the very notion of truth itself through a relentless propaganda war.
Yet, deeper more systemic forces were turning the tides as well.
Over the course of a generation in which America reigned supreme, neoliberal economics fueled not just growth but mass inequality as well. This shattered the middle classes that have so often proved essential to the establishment of democracy. It was not just inequality within nations that bit so hard.
Globalization laid bare the inequality that existed between nations.
The increasing ease of exposure to life on the other side fueled immigration. While fears of an impending wave of migrants with little left to lose, spurred wealthy westerners to lift the drawbridges. Genocides broke out across the world, as newer more brutal powers took center stage. The international concord that ruled for a generation under American suzerainty, was shattered to pieces like a ship on a craggy shore.
It is but a short leap of the imagination from this moment to the future, and yet how few of us can span the distance.
We linger, lost and confused, stumbling in the dark, until light breaks through where no one saw it coming. The fascist moment now reigns supreme, but it could dissolve like salt in the tears of its victims in an instant. We could find ourselves once more, invoking the same democratizing forces that brought on the backlash in the first place.
All the same forces, all the same conditions, wait—as if in anticipation on some sign that once given, might unleash the dammed up waters that will sweep it all away.
The first ever global generation is now of age and ready to take power.
A global civil society, formed in the shadows of neoliberal elites is ready to build its own new world order. A planet of immigrants redefining what it means for the urban masses to live together in harmony. A tolerance that changes what it means to be human. An all pervasive will to end inequality.
Sooner or later, the fascist beast will stumble. The forest animals now lying in wait, will rush in for the kill. The end of this fascist moment is a feast for which we all should prepare for—by envisioning what the world might look like had it never happened at all.