0316 - Hung. - 2023.10.23
There is a surprisingly straight line between Pinocchio and fascism.
You see, when Carlo Collodi wrote about Pinocchio in 1881 for the children of a newly-unified Italy, the fairytale was indeed intended as a dark warning against mischief and rudeness, with the titular character being (somehow) hung by the wooden neck until dead. This was karmic retribution for his chronic misbehaviour - the initial incarnation of the animated marionette not only lies, but constantly engages in all manner of disrespectful and impish behaviour (including the aforementioned unwarranted insecticide). He goes out into the world and gets into mischief, and thus, inevitably, gets what's coming to him.
This dour fable followed the pattern of other similar stories at the time of simple peasants venturing into the recently industrialized cities, where their provincial bumpkin ways get them into well-deserved trouble. Italy was undergoing a lot of societal changes at the time, and this type of story was a way to encourage Tuscan yokels to adapt to modern cosmopolitan life - to fall in line, so to speak.
It is worth noting that Pinocchio is literally not a real person, he must earn respect and personhood and love and "real" status by being a good little boy - by listening to his father, by studying in school, by avoiding vices, by telling the truth. Only good boys are real boys, only those who behave properly are valid Italian citizens.
The Romans who preceded the Italians had a device that symbolized their unity - a bundle of sticks called a fasces, usually surrounding an axe. You may have noticed this bundle in various modern government emblems, usually clutched by an eagle. The symbolism is clear: a bundle of many sticks is stronger together. The symbolism is also more literal and threatening than that - the sticks were used by the Romans for corporal punishment, and the axe was for capital punishment. Strength is achieved through unity, unity is achieved through conformity, conformity is achieved through threat of violence.
(As a side note, there is an etymological connection between "fasces" and "fajita", because fajitas are made with little strips of meat.)
The Fasces of Revolutionary Action, Benito Mussolini's nascent political party, was formed in 1915, just 34 years after Pinocchio's story was first printed. No doubt, many of these first fascists read the tales as children, and were now old enough to be active politically (though, crucially, too old to be soldiers themselves). The ethos is the same - that of a unified Italy, stronger because of all the little footsoldier sticks that surround the big daddy axe, everyone aligned in the same orientation, everyone being good little boys.
The fasces is an apt metaphor for fascism in many other ways, perhaps in ways that the fascists themselves didn't quite intend. After all, when you assemble a fasces, the first thing you have to do is gather up your sticks and throw away any that appear weak, or that curve to one side. You can use the axe to chop away any forking twigs, making sure that all of the candidate sticks are simple and straight, then you bind them all together in the same monodirectional orientation.
There's another "fa-" word that means "bundle of sticks", isn't there? That's the real message - be straight, or be kindling. Only proper boys are real boys, everyone else is an NPC, and who cares what happens to NPCs?
Fortunately, the weakness of the fasces is the same as the weakness of the fascists. The bundle of sticks is strong together, yes... but only against direct impact from other bundles of sticks. It's still quite vulnerable against fire, against the ravages of weather and time, against termites, against attempts to untie its binding straps, against trickery.
That's why so many ethnonationalists, despite insisting that they want their country to be the strongest and insisting that lefty, socialist, multicultural, progressive ideas make a nation weak, don't want other nations to adopt lefty policies (and therefore become weaker and easier to defeat). Paradoxically, these nationalists want their enemies to also adopt the policies that they say make a country strong, because they'd prefer a straight-on fight of stick-against-stick. It's the strategy game approach to international relations - blue units in blue territory, red units in red territory, a blue unit in red territory can be nothing other than an attack or a trick.
(Note how many vocal antisemites also support the modern state of Israel - Jews infiltrating a gentile enclave are devious invaders, Jews in the Jew nation are behaving properly, doing international politics right.)
So that's the message, I suppose. The best way you can defeat fascism is to curve, to branch, to behave in unique and unpredictable ways. Work at the wrong job. Live in the wrong area. Love the wrong person. Proclaim the wrong message. Refuse to fall in line, even if they threaten to hang or behead you.
And if someone tells you that following their instructions will make you a real person, tell'em you already are.