History 30: Fascism & Communism Explained

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History 30: Fascism & Communism Explained

Reporters ask questions. That’s what they do. Sometimes they ask meaningful and tough questions; sometimes not so much. The answers people give are frequently insightful or, as the case may be, sometimes strange.

In December of 2014 Jonathan Bernier, a goalie playing for the Maple Leafs, was asked his opinion on the importance of Nelson Mandela:

Reporter: Just wanted to ask you, I mean, obviously Nelson Mandela [was] one of the most significant historical figures of the twentieth century. What knowledge or awareness did you have of him growing up or when did you learn of him?

Bernier: Well, obviously, growing up, you uh, he’s one of the most known athletes, uh, in the world and, uh, lot of impact in any kind of sport that he did, and uh…that I, you know, even playing hockey, everyone knows him from being the type of person he was off the ice and on the ice and so, it’s unfortunate that he passed away a year ago, but, um, he changed a lot while he was with us and he’s a tremendous guy.

Here's a link to the interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrAWrsb13bU

After watching the interview I felt a little bit sorry for Bernier…and then I started feeling sorrier for society. We are surrounded by a lot of misinformed and ignorant people. In this case, the reporter exposed one of Bernier’s blind spots (and to be fair we all have them). Some blind spots are harmless but others are problematic, i.e. in order to preserve democracy citizens need to be informed and educated; and we’ve all seen it: reporters asking people random questions on the street testing the public’s knowledge about particular topics.

In 2008 I recall watching television interviews of reporters asking people their opinion about President Obama. Obama was accused by critics of being a fascist and by others a communist. People were asked to explain what fascism was and nobody could. Likewise people were asked to explain what communism was. Again, nobody could provide a cogent answer.

The answer from one person was telling: “I don’t know what fascism is I just know it’s bad and it’s what Obama is.” Such is the power of the meme: for this reason I wrote this article. I wanted to provide the students with information related to the context, principles and nuances of communism and fascism. If for no other reason, students can read this article, learn a few technical terms, and then cast more philosophically accurate aspersions towards politicians they don’t like.

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