14. Thanatocracy: A form of government associated with death, including one founded on politically organized mass killing. This is a common scenario in polities divided by ethnic and sectarian divisions. While the scale of killing was small when compared to the allegedely genocidal scale of death involved in countries like Rawanda or Sri Lanka, the establishment of a new power relationship between the races in the Malaysian polity, post May 13th, 1969, might said to be Thanatocratic.
Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, Papadopoulos’ Greece, Pinochet’s Chile, and Suharto’s Indonesia are the 7 regimes that Laurence W. Britt analyzed to develop his set of fascistic characteristics. Like Umberto Eco before him, he came up with 14 key characteristics, which he construed as fascist and proto-fascist means of obtaining, expanding, and maintaining power. He presented this list in an Op-Ed titled Fascism Anyone? in Volume 23, No. 2 Spring 2003 of ‘Free Inquiry’ as follows – 1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism. 2. Disdain for the importance of human rights. 3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause. 4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism. 5. Rampant sexism. 6. A controlled mass media. 7. Obsession with national security. 8. Religion and ruling elite tied together. 9. Power of corporations protected. 10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated. 11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts 12. Obsession with crime and punishment. 13. Rampant cronyism and corruption. 14. Fraudulent elections.
While, as Daniel Malmer notes this list was not intended to be used to diagnose fascism in present governments, but rather characterize historical fascist governments, it is nevertheless interesting to see how many of these fascistic characteristic apply to the purported democracies of the world.
As a Malaysian, I find that the polity of my country seems to exhibit a good 11 of the Britt’s 14 traits. If this were not worrying enough for the long view, we have just joined a list of dysfunctional nations that have suspended parliamentary rule and instituted emergency powers in the context of the Covid-19 epidemic. This is the first such declaration of emergency since the aftermath of the race riots of May 13th 1969.
According to Bloomberg, the state of emergency was declared soon after some key leaders in the ruling coalition’s largest partner, United Malays National Organisation had called for a fresh election. They also report that the Pakatan Harapan opposition has admonished the Prime Minister for burdening the people with a declaration of emergency for the sake of saving himself. Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs has described the emergency as “totally unnecessary” and that “If you’re not careful, we will slip from parliamentary democracy into a rule by diktat.”
A troubling development in terms of the symbolism of Malaysian identity is the racializing of the colours Yellow and Red following the recent of Bersih 4 protests. The withdrawal of PAS a form the organizing and mobilizing of the Bersih movement and event has resulted in a visible difference in the crowd. There is a dearth of Malay participants, and consequently, the Bersih Yellow has come to signify the ‘Chinese interest’ rather than the intended symbolism of ‘Clean and Fair Politics’. The Bersih 4 march was swiftly followed by a definitively Malay Red shirt rally, filled all the ugly posturing that brings the deja vu of may 13th 1969 to older Malaysians.
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