The problem with much of the commentary on recent events in Charlottesville in the USA, is that left-wingers don’t have much understanding or sympathy for the Alt-Right.
We don’t have to agree, but we do need to appreciate the internal psychology of the rightist adolescent trajectory.
The attraction of far-right politics for a certain kind of male must be understood, if we are to combat their pernicious ideas.
So, I thought I would share my own story. Not that I am typical, but the general can often be comprehended through the particular, truth through testimony. As a teenager, I was (typically) sad, lonely and isolated. An introvert, I found it hard to find friends, and suffered a lot of bullying.
Right-wing ideas were compensation for my feelings of inadequacy. But, good at lessons, I became interested in military history, fascinated by army uniforms.
And, when it came to World War Two, German Nazi uniforms were, of course, much more stylish and far sexier than the drab British battledress.
Come to think of it, Confederate uniforms of the Civil War were also far more dashing and cavalier than the Union Armies’ sombre dark blue tunics.
This is actually a relevant point, in view of recent proposals to tear down statues of these romantic heroes from their pedestals in the Southern States.
Intrigued by fascist and imperialist regalia, I investigated their iconography and symbols, especially the eagle. If the internet had existed then, I can imagine being sucked in to the alt-right cyberworld.
Meanwhile, Hitler’s book, “Mein kampf”, was republished in Britain, in a new English translation. And I remember my mixture of nerves and defiance as I queued up in W.H. Smith’s bookshop to buy it.
I loved it, reading it avidly. Its combination of hate and resentment appealed immediately to my own anger and aloneness. Johnny-no-mates had found a creed to believe in.
As a victim of bullies, I didn’t want to join with the actual Nazi thugs that is the skinheads who dominated the street violence in our northern town.
Where theirs was a more direct release of teen testosterone, mine was an intellectual compensation for exclusion.
But both represented a political psychology of identity, of belonging, and of idealism too. For the outsider, Nazi ideology meant something bigger than the self.
Patriotism, desire for order, the romance of violence: these all provided avenues for undirected youthful energies.
Slavoj Zizek, points out the aesthetic attraction of the Hitler youth, as in the movie “Cabaret”, where young blonde, beautiful boys sing folk songs to the applause of onlookers in a beer garden.
The homoerotic nuance is clear; and it it has been noted that many white supremacists in Charlottesville also presented clean-cut, well-dressed, respectable images.
In my case, deliverance came through an alternative belonging: Jesus people, Christian hippies, who drew me into their rock’n’roll religious rebellion.
But through whatever means, an alternative mythos is needed to provide a countervailing magnetic polarity to the idealism these youths find in racist ideology.
(Photos: Wikimedia y Pixabay)