Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Word of the week- fascismo

Here is one of the most famous Italian words (along with pizza, mafia, and ciao)- fascismo.

The word was coined by Benito Mussolini and regime philosopher Giovanni Gentile. The latter's ideas were unfortunately not as gentle as his name (could be overcompensation). Among other reasons, they chose it because their view of Italy was foolishly that of a new Rome. It derives from the Italian fascio (bundle), referring to the ancient Roman fasces, a bundle of wood which is tightly wrapped, with a handy axe incorporated. It is shown in the photo on one side of the 1924 lira (two years into Mussolini's dictatorship). The fasces is said to symbolize both unity through strength and the state's power to punish. Its use is not restricted to Italian fascism, or any fascism- it is even found in many American monuments.

Fascism is both one of those words that has become so common as to lose meaning, and a word fraught with significance and emotion. What do I think its basic meaning is? I believe it simply denotes the subordination of human value to brute force or its derivatives (and the "derivatives" parts is where it gets tricky). In this sense, fascism is a never-ending peril, and not just for Italy.