Sinister Rotary

AbeLincolnevent2013

Service Above Self

Motto Of Rotary

 

I always stop in at Ed Driscoll’s blog each day.  He is always worth reading.  As a member of Rotary since 1985, go here to view the Dwight Rotary Club’s web site, I have found one of his latest posts quite a hoot:

More seriously, if Keillor’s rhetoric sounds sclerotic and reactionary, it’s because he’s tapping into a nearly century-old tradition of “Progressives” who see no evil on the left; but plenty bubbling up from the right. In his new book, The Revolt Against the Masses, Fred Siegel looks back at Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 book, It Can’t Happen Here, which posited that the Rotary Club(!) was poised to seize American power:

The heart of It Can’t Happen Here is laid out in the opening chapter, which presents the local Rotary Club, with its Veterans of Foreign Wars tub-thumping patriotism and prohibitionist moralism, as comparable, on a small scale, to the mass movements that brought Fascism to Europe. Later in the novel, he has a character explain, half-satirically and half-seriously, “This is Revolution in terms of Rotary.” In other words, Lewis’s imagined fascism is little more than Main Street writ political. When he wants to mock Windrip, he describes him as a “professional common man” who is “chummy with all waitresses at . . . lunch rooms.” For Lewis, fascism is the product of backslapping Rotarians, Elks, and Masons, as well as various and sundry other versions of joiners that Tocqueville had once celebrated as the basis of American self-government. There is more than a hint of snobbery in all this. The book’s local incarnation of evil is Jessup’s shiftless, resentful handyman Shad Ledue, who was a member of the “Odd Fellows and the Ancient and Independent Order of Rams.” Ledue uses Windrip’s ascension to rise above himself and displace Jessup from his rightful place in the local hierarchy of power.

If the book were merely an indictment of red-state nativist intolerance, there would be little to distinguish it from numerous other novels and plays of the 1920s that were part of “the revolt against the village.” Lewis was hardly the only writer of the period to, Mencken-like, describe the average American as a “boob” or “peasant.” What made It Can’t Happen Here compelling was that it showed the boobs working through a familiar institution, the local Rotary, to become a menace to the Republic.

In a 2012 issue of Commentary, building on research for The Revolt Against the Masses, Siegel goes on to note that after World War II, the Frankfurt School picked up the left’s attack against middle America:

“In the over-developed countries,” wrote Herbert Marcuse, who became the most famous Frankfurt School theoretician of the 1960s, “an ever-larger part of the population becomes one huge captive audience—captured not by a total regime, but by the liberties of the citizens whose media of amusement and elevation compels the Other to partake of their sounds, sights, and smells.” He was arguing, in effect, for greater social segregation between the elite and the hoi polloi.

Dwight Macdonald, the most influential American critic of mass culture in the late 1950s, concurred with the Frankfurt School. Writing in crackling prose redolent of Mencken’s, he too argued that bourgeois prosperity was creating a cultural wasteland: “The work week has shrunk, real wages have risen, and never in history have so many people attained such a high standard of living as in this country since 1945,” Macdonald complained.

“Money, leisure, and knowledge,” he went on, “the prerequisites for culture, are more plentiful and more evenly distributed than ever before.”

Macdonald, who was educated at Phillips Exeter Academy and Yale and associated with the anti-Stalinist leftists at Partisan Review, still couldn’t bring himself to support the United States against the Nazis in World War II on the grounds that “Europe has its Hitlers, but we have our Rotarians.”

My dad, who passed away in 2006, was a life-long member of the Rotarian Club, and president of his local South Jersey chapter for a year in the mid-1970s. At the time, I just remember him putting on a gray suit, navy blue rep tie and his omnipresent double-soled black Florsheim wingtips to trundle off to the weekly meetings.

In retrospect, I had no idea how Absolutely. Hard. Core. he was.

Go here to read the rest.  I must plead guilty to implementing nefarious political schemes all these years as a Rotarian.  For example, as the picture at the beginning of this post indicates I have invited dangerous political radicals to our local Rotary club meetings.  Each week I also lead the club in reciting our Rotary four way test:

1.  Is it the TRUTH?

2.  Is it FAIR to all concerned?

3.  Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?

4.  Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

I ask you, what could possibly be more subversive these days?

Finally, each Rotary meeting begins with the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and an Invocation.  We are lucky that Homeland Security has not locked us up!

 

10 Responses to Sinister Rotary

  • Fascism requires very specific conditions

    1) A stalemate in the class struggle
    2) Widespread economic insecurity among the petite-bourgeoisie, who fear and hate socialism

    In those circumstances, the bourgeoisie will surrender political power to an “independent executive,” in return for protection of its economic power, for the only freedom they really value is the freedom to exploit the labour of others for profit.

  • Don

    I read an opnion piece one that pointed out that the reason the left hates American culture is that it gives the common man, what there theories say can only come from Socialism.

  • Michael

    What you are describing sounds like the mindset of the President and his supporters.

    A thought:

    Most of the Tea Party support is working people. Perhaps the cause of the Tea Party is that high taxes are seperating the “worker from the means of production?”

    Just a thought.

    Suggested reading.

    Put “Fascist minimum” into google. Read a few articles pro and con. You will learn a lot more about fascism than you comment seems to imply you know.

  • Hank

    I was in Paris in May 1958, when the reports came in that Generals Massau and Salan had established a Committee of Civil and Army Public Security in Algeria, then that the paras of the Légion étrangère had landed in Corsica. I saw the garrison of Rambouillet park their tanks in the Luxembourg Gardens, outside the Senate house and I heard President René Coty’s broadcast that he had appealed to “the most illustrious of Frenchmen” to create a government of national safety. A state of siege was declared, the constitutional guarantees were suspended… My generation knows about fascism at first-hand.

  • “for the only freedom they really value is the freedom to exploit the labour of others for profit.”

    Bunk on stilts.

  • Historian Stanley Payne has set forth some identifiers of fascist movements:

    A. The Fascist Negations:
    •Antiliberalism
    •Anticommunism
    •Anticonservatism (though with the understanding that fascist groups were willing to undertake temporary alliances with groups from any other sector, most commonly with the right)

    B. Ideology and Goals:
    •Creation of a new nationalist authoritarian state based not merely on traditional principles or models
    •Organization of some new kind of regulated, multiclass, integrated national economic structure, whether called national corporatist, national socialist, or national syndicalist
    •The goal of empire or a radical change in the nation’s relationship with other powers
    •Specific espousal of an idealist, voluntarist creed, normally involving the attempt to realize a new form of modern, self-determined, secular culture

    C. Style and Organization:

    •Emphasis on esthetic structure of meetings, symbols, and political choreography, stressing romantic and mystical aspects
    •Attempted mass mobilization with militarization of political relationships and style and with the goal of a mass party militia
    •Positive evaluation and use of, or willingness to use, violence
    •Extreme stress on the masculine principle and male dominance, while espousing the organic view of society
    •Exaltation of youth above other phases of life, emphasizing the conflict of generations, at least in effecting the initial political transformation
    •Specific tendency toward an authoritarian, charismatic, personal style of command, whether or not the command is to some degree initially elective

  • Donald R McClarey
    Many of the features of fascism that you enumerate were present only to a limited degree, or not at all, in Pilsudski’s Poland, Horthy’s Hungary, Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, Vichy France, Greece under the Colonels, Pinochet’s Chile and many other fascist régimes, both before and after WWII

  • MPS writes, “the bourgeoisie will surrender political power to an “independent executive,” in return for protection of its economic power, for the only freedom they really value is the freedom to exploit the labour of others for profit…”
    .
    In this class structure that you describe ie., workers and bourgeoisie, what other classes or categories exist?
    .
    Or, more simply stated, who benefits when the working class and the bourgeoisie is pitted against another?

  • Slainté asked, “In this class structure that you describe ie., workers and bourgeoisie, what other classes or categories exist?”

    People like me, of course: the peasantry. Because the peasant interacts with nature, rather than other people, political economists claim that we have “no community, no national bond and no political organization.” In the EU, under the Common Agricultural Policy, however, we have increasingly become minor state functionaries.

  • Well MPS,
    .
    Here are some Newport Rhode Island “cottages” on this side of the pond occupied by nature loving sorts who are fairly progressive in their politics, and who might actually qualify as “peasantry” should the EU’s strict guidelines be adapted and implemented in the U.S.
    .
    http://www.newportmansions.org/explore/the-breakers

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