The Italian Election and the Impermanence of Democracy

This weekend Italians elected their first fascist leader since Mussolini.   

Far-Right Nationalist Giorgia Meloni Elected As Italy’s First Female Prime Minister. NBC News

Fittingly, Giorgia Meloni’s election happened in the centennial year of Mussolini’s triumphant march into Rome that marked the day of his takeover. 

It has been said that Italy often leads the way in European politics (Hitler followed on Mussolini and admired him) and that is not a happy signal.  But it is a reminder of the tenuousness of democracy at this moment in history.

The Buddhists talk about the impermanence of all things.  They are right of course.  All things are impermanent.  Things come and go.  Evolution happens, everything evolves, some things last longer than others, but all things are impermanent.

Democracy too?  Is democracy showing visible signs of impermanence in our time?

Former US marine and CIA officer Elliot Ackerman tells GZERO Media‘s Ian Bremmer that the next big challenge will be how free nations of the world respond to the rise of authoritarian regimes.

There is the rise of authoritarianism in Hungry and Poland and Brazil and the recent occupant of the White House refusing to leave office gracefully and convincing millions that he did not lose an election.  And a political party declaring that what happened on January 6 was “legitimate political discourse” and denying that anything untoward happened (even though hundreds of Capitol Police were violently attacked and several persons died).

Susan Sontag defines fascism as “institutional violence.”  Mussolini defied fascism as the marriage of government and corporations.  Today’s tsunami of voting rights restrictions being passed in numerous states represent the former and certain powerful media moguls are committed to the latter. 

There is a theocratic supreme court committing institutional violence toward women and their bodies and even the medical system in general, threatening to put doctors in prison for heeding their clients’ needs.

This same weekend a new book emerged in the US, called We Are Proud Boys: How a Right-Wing Street Gang Ushered in a New Era of American Extremism.  The author, Andy Campbell, relates the story of the Proud Boys, America’s current version of the Brown Shirts of Italy’s past. 

Proud Boys march for the former occupant of the White House, Washington, DC, 112/12/2020. Photo by Elvert Barnes is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

They are the ones whom Donald Trump urged to “stand back and stand by” in a presidential debate.  Both Ann Coulter and Roger Stone praise them, Coulter naming them as “brawny, tattooed brutes.” Campbell explains that the Proud Boys have “proven that you can make it as a fascist gang of hooligans in this country, as long as you make the right friends.” 

The Proud Boys founder, Gavin McInnes, 52, declared in Spring 2016 that “I want violence.  I want punching in the face.  I’m disappointed in Trump supporters for not punching enough.”  The Proud Boys represent, says Campbell, “a full embrace of domestic extremist violence.” 

Surely the upcoming election is a test of the permanence or impermanence of American democracy.

See Matthew Fox, “Opus Dei,” in Fox, The Pope’s War: Why Ratzinger’s Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved, pp. 106-124.  

And Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul & Society.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: Giorgia Meloni speaking at the 2022 Conservative Political Action Conference in Florida. Photo by Hermann Tertsch and Victor Gonzalez on Wikimedia Commons.

Queries for Contemplation

What are your thoughts about the impermanence of all things?  Is that another way of talking about the Via Negativa and the practice of letting go?

Recommended Reading

The Pope’s War: Why Ratzinger’s Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved

The Pope’s War offers a provocative look at three decades of corruption in the Catholic Church, focusing on Josef Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI. The final section in the book focuses on birthing a truly catholic Christianity.
“This book should be read by everybody, not only for its ferocious courage, but also for its vision for what needs to be saved from the destructive forces that threaten authentic Christianity.” ~ Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope.
“In the gripping The Pope’s War, Matthew Fox takes an unwavering look at the layers of corruption in the Catholic Church, holding moral truth against power.”   — Jason Berry, author of Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II

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12 thoughts on “The Italian Election and the Impermanence of Democracy”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, You tell us of the election of the first fascist President in Italy since Mussolini. Then in speaking of the Buddhist teaching of the impermanence of all things, you say that “some things last longer than others, but all things are impermanent.” Then you ask the question: “Democracy too? Is democracy showing visible signs of impermanence in our time?” Well, it sure looks like it when you look at the countries which have taken a extreme right turn–and they are waiting in the wings in our own country–just wait and see what happens if they don’t let Trump run again, if he tries… Though Susan Sontag defines fascism as “institutional violence.” Mussolini defied fascism as the marriage of government and corporations–remember: When Corporations Rule the World? Their people now, you know? You ask us today, “What are your thoughts about the impermanence of all things?” I totally agree with George Harrison, that “All Things Must Pass.” Its just part of the natural cycle of the earth. And Yes! It is that another way of talking about the Via Negativa and the practice of letting go.

  2. Avatar

    Thank you, Mathew, for bringing to our attention, how topsy turvy matters are becoming in our own country and throughout other countries in our world. If we don’t recog-nize (rethink) countering them, through our own positivia, Divine experiences, what we psychologists call cognitive dissonances, can continue to raise havoc with our emotions. Our equanimity (balance) is disrupted for us and everyone on the planet to act responsibly in our responses.
    “The major problems in the world are the result of the difference between how nature works and the way people think.”
    The only way out is spiritual, intellectual, and emotional revolution in which, finally, we learn to experience first hand the interloping connections between person and person, organism and organism, action and consequence.” Gregory Bateson
    “The first step towards the release of outer world conflict is the release of our own conflicts within our own inner mind.” Dr. Darryl Luke Pokea Meditation: Healing the Inner World First – Meditation and Mind Body Spirit Connectedness (

  3. Avatar

    The notable role of impermanence, is an element of existence; that everything fluidly flows into a continuous unfolding, evolving, emergence of becoming. Thanks to this impermanence, as Thich Nhat Hanh has revealed; everything is possible. Impermanence, at a heart level, is surrendering to the kenotic constant procress of transformation, which leads to freedom; through the awareness of and the letting go of our flawed attachments and destructive view of the illusions of permanence, which stems from our false passions of somehow, someway fulfilling our desire to powerfully control our fixed and static ideals of security and stability; which humanity has attempted to build everything upon.

    The impermanence of existence and its fluidity, as the continuous unfolding, evolving, emergence of our becoming is not designed to be painful. It is our own resistance to these constant fluxes of change that causes our disharmony. Impermanence, when embraced, teaches us how to live ALL moments, both pleasant and unpleasant, negative and positive, dark and light; which we all encounter and experience in life, as precious opportunities that shape the often hidden potential within, yet to come into being.

  4. Avatar

    Regarding impermanence, two of the most important crises that humanity is presently facing are climate/environmental catastrophe and the rise of authoritarianism. Carolyn Baker in her recent book, “Undaunted: Living Fiercely into Climate Meltdown in an Authoritarian World” (2022), profoundly reflects on the interrelationships between these two world crises :
    “… On the one hand, climate meltdown could destroy most or all of life on the planet. It obviously has the potential to make Earth uninhabitable… At the same time, however, when we consider that as democracy, or even the appearance of democracy declines, so do nearly all concerns regarding ecosystems and any sense of Interbeing and caring for each other. Autocratic societies eventually lose all interest in even the pretense of caring for the environment and grow increasingly rapacious and avaricious with the natural world.” (p.134) (capitalism has not been much better – D.M.).

  5. Avatar

    This post seems to be promoting a rather passive observer position toward the inevitable demise of democracy. Yes we can watch it happen and be rather philosophical about it, or we can respond to the events threatening democracy with a call to action, which I prefer as the more moral choice at this point in history.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Arden, You write, “This post seems to be promoting a rather passive observer position toward the inevitable demise of democracy.” Read earlier posts and you will see that Matthew is anything but passive. He has been an activist for years. But there is a time to for action and then a time for reflection on our situation in order to act more affectively. That place of reflection on the demise of democracy we call the Via Negativa. But we do not stay there, we move on to the Via Transformativa where we do justice-making and work towards the transformation of society…

  6. Avatar

    To engage, or not to engage: That is the question, as Hamlet would say. With Arden Mahlberg, above, I concur. On the domestic front, I am glad we have law enforcement to investigate, arrest and confine those who disrupt the freedom and personal integrity of fellow citizens. Internationally, I have deep admiration and prayerful support for people like the Ukrainians who resist with deadly force violent Russian invaders. Not all are called to non-violent resistance, which worked very well for Gandhi and Mandela. God sorts it all out. We are all called to prayer.

  7. Avatar

    I believe we are all called to action, prayer being one form of action. It is wise to consider that democracy is at risk as another impermanent idea and institution. And it is wise to consider what we are called to do about this risk. As I have said before, many states have already gone too far in alliance with the dark forces of authoritarianism at the national level in Congress and the “Supreme Court”. Yet we need to be open to surprise and the possibilities of good coming from this evil. And pray that enough people will resist at the voting booth that even attempts to suppress their votes will not succeed. There are many ways of encouraging people to vote, of registering new voters, and of supporting the independence and courage of supervisors of elections and the people who work with them against the constant threats against them. There are pockets of grassroots here and around the world that are working for truth and justice quietly.

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