Last night I watched the last CNN Parts Unknown on Netflix where Bourdain went to Rome. Much of his inquiry, other than food, was on the left overs of Mussolini and Fascism. Amid the ruins of the Roman Empire (a state that was a religion) and under the shadow of the Vatican (the seat of a religion that is a state) you have the remains of another dream of uniting a society under one all encompassing rule where religion and the state are One Mythic unity.
As Bourdain pointed out, Fascist architecture glorifies the monolithic state and erases the value of unique individuals. Stark and massive, like an abstract machine gods, Mussolini’s public works are deserted. One couldn’t help, at least I couldn’t, see in Bourdain’s “food trip” a subtle reference to Trump as an American Mussolini. Reason and the individual’s power of dissent and say NO to authority is devoured by the Fascist monolith.
One comes to Rome to see the left-over dreams of Empire that the people cough up when forced down their throats. All the people really want to do is eat, drink and make love in the Italian sun.
The Choice that makes history a swinging pendulum is between the Many and the One: do you want rule by the many individuals, or rule by the One. Joseph Campbell traces this either/or choice to the mythologies or social order of the Levant (Middle East religions) and pagan Europe before it became Christina under the Holy Roman Church whose center was in Rome. All the tribe of Europe had to bow to this religious emperor. Of course, it all broke up and created the secular nation state of Europe and America. But still the longing for unity is an eternal force. Parts must have a whole. The spokes of a wheel must have a hub.
When the individual parts get unruly, get violent, the wheel wobbles, and some Authority, some wheelwright is longed for that will restore order to the house. A Father is brought in with a whip to make the children obey. That Liberal Mother has lost control. She just lets the kids do what they want because she loves all of them equally. We need Law and Order. The pendulum of history swings back and forth over who shall control the House, the mother or father. We need an authority who will make us all go to church and be obedient to the Law that is the same in both state and religion. And that is the recipe for Fascism that comes in many uniforms, but it always feels the same.
When the State comes in as the unifying power, the children that identity with the Father feel his power, and they only feel it when they exercise it, and they exercise it by putting down the children who don’t identify with the father. The good sons are against the bad sons. The irony is the both good and bad sons feels they are the good sons: The sons who are one with the Father are Good because they restore the Law of the Father; the sone who are against the Father are Good because they restore the Law of the individual, who feels the power of being a unique individual by rebelling against the Father.