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Why the Idea of “Poisoning the Blood” is So Dangerous to Democracy

Why the Idea of “Poisoning the Blood” is So Dangerous to Democracy

To the Nazis, I would’ve been a subhuman. Not just because I’m not a member of the “Aryan” race, though, ironically, enough, that term originates from the place my ancestors are from, the Indian subcontinent. It’s because my blood literally turns to poison. I joke about being a vampire, but it’s not a joke: I have a rare condition called Porphyria. Too much light, and my blood cells burst, and turn to iron dust, which sends me into organ failure. To the Nazis, my blood would have been poisoned, as they imagined it was for so many disabled people.

Now. Why do I bring all that up? Trump’s new line, sure to be repeated, over and over again, is that “they’re poisoning the blood of our country.” And what’ll happen is this: an initial outroar, as is happening now, and then, sighs and shrugs of despair, as it’s normalized, having been repeated over and over to the point it’s just a permeating line, thought, idea, part of everyday life, cheered on and applauded as if it were perfectly…normal.

When we hear political figures enact moments like these, we should all pause. They are among the most dangerous things that can happen to a society. I don’t just mean the “line,” because they’re hardly just “words.” Words have meanings, and here, we see referenced a range of theories and ideologies, and those aren’t “just words,” but have led to some of history’s most repellent periods. Nor are these just words in a purer sense: they’re at the center of rituals, and bond a movement together, in sadism. This isn’t just rhetoric—rather, it’s social action of a certain kind, transformation, of beliefs, attitudes, minds, and possibilities. So we should all take a moment to…

Remember. Just why moments like this are so profoundly dangerous. It should never be normalized, as we all know it will be, so speak of the “blood” of a nation being “poisoned” by those it considers…

What does it mean, anyways? Why are these words-which-aren’t-words, but rather, form of ritual violence, the classic scapegoating ritual made new, by purifying and absolving a community—that which we should guard against, and pay a great deal of attention to?

Ideologies. Theories. Meanings. Let’s delve deep into this little sentence together.

“Poisoning the blood.” What does it imply? That some blood is poisonous, and some isn’t. In other words, that there are two “races.” Those of pure blood, and those of impure blood. But that’s hardly all—those of impure blood can “poison” those with pure blood, whereas the opposite isn’t true, which is what “purity” means.

Now. In what sense can blood be not just “poisoned, but “poisonous”? The implication is that this sort of blood contains within it pathogens, which can infect the pure, too. But those pathogens aren’t ones which cause physical illness, like the flu, or even some form of communicable cancer. That, after all, is hardly what fascists are afraid of. Rather, these pathogens are of another kind entirely—an even more dangerous one: they cause moral infirmity.

The blood of the poisoned won’t give you cancer or make you blind. But it can, according to this ideology, make you many, many things, which are worse, because these things make you weak. It can make you lazy, or foolish, or greedy, or believe in the wrong creators. It can make riddle you with vice, instead of lifting you to heaven with virtue. This pathogen the impure carry can give you a moral illness—and in that way, it can bring down a society from within. The blood of the impure, in short, transmits weakness, and weakness is death.

But how can that be? Note the implication, if you really want to grasp the ideology. The pure carry none of these burdens. Their blood doesn’t contain the etiology of moral illness within it. No currents of greed, stupidity, violence, infirmity, laziness, surge in the pure’s bloodstream. They’re like golden beings, made of virtue. So why do they suffer? Why have things gone so wrong, because after all, we’re discussing demagogic appeals, which surface and triumph in hard times? Because the poisonous blood of the impure has begun to rot society from within. Perhaps it even carries a kind of curse within it, and the only way to redeem such a nation in the eyes of creation, or destiny, is through…


And that is where history’s bitterest chapters begin. From the Holocaust to genocides in Africa and Latin America and onwards. America already stands at this precipice, and make no mistake about that, because otherwise, one permits the normalization of all this. And what is “all this”? Hate.

Now. Let me put that into perspective for you. Where did the Nazis develop this bizarre ideology? You see, what distinguishes fascism as a modern ideology is that this sort of thinking was new. Who did the Nazis study to advance their own theories—ones that, as I’ve discussed with you, marry the moral with the biological? America. Modern day America—that means, at least in this context, America as a slave and segregated state. They had to study America, for a reason, and let me come back to it’s sordid history of justifying slavery and segregation, after I explain.

These theories and ideologies were the justification, too, for American slavery. The slave was an inferior. In the blood. That went from mere ideology to iron-hard legality, right down to defining how many drops of blood it took to make a person no longer a member of the literal master race. And in this context, America was almost unique.

Let’s go back in history. What made a slave in, say, ancient Rome or Greece? It wasn’t this notion of “blood,” which was to come much, much later in history, after millennia. Perhaps one had been conquered. Debt, too, could lead to slavery. As could various forms of law-breaking. But the idea that an entire set of social groups were “masters,” and another “slaves,” purely based on “blood”—that would’ve been alien to much of history. Even the conquered were permitted Roman citizenship, after a time, and in that regard, even a demagogue like Caesar was a reformer.

Perhaps the closest analogues we have to what was to happen in modern America, and inspire the Nazis, is the notion of “caste.” That’s much, much closer to “chattel slavery,” which is the idea that some people are just objects, and that subjection is heritable, through the blood. In caste societies, like, for example, those which flourished in India, ancestry was everything—some were warriors, some priests, and those unfortunates at the bottom, untouchables. So caste was a system, of course, of hierarchy—but even in this system, “blood” wasn’t quite the essence that divided one group from another. Some were chosen for faith, some for ferocity, some for wisdom.

The modern notion of fascism is in this regard new. Where did it come from? A close ancestor is the systems of peasantry and “nobility” which came to organize human society in what we now call the Dark Ages. And one reason they were dark is that this division swept the globe. In Japan, Samurai ruled by the sword. In Europe, empires and kings grew. Across the world, a sort of lull in history came to be, in which humanity was divided up into noble and peasant—and this difference was inherited precisely because it was in the blood, and when, after a time, people finally asked “why?,” cleverly, the divine right of kings was invented.

This dark ages system of peasantry and nobility, which we today call “feudalism,” still doesn’t quite capture the essence of fascism, though. Because though it was rare, here and there, a peasant could, through war, or cleverness, or industry, or marriage, rise to the status of a noble. It didn’t happen often, and yet that it did and could tells us that fascism is another step beyond it entirely. Feudalism, too, didn’t bind entire “races” together—the “feuds” were between rival clans, tribes, kingdoms, and it was perfectly acceptable for members of what’d later be called a “race” to be bitter enemies for generations, meaning there was no real understanding of some kind of imaginary shared lineage or destiny.

So fascism is different. It’s thoroughly a modern creation. The Nazis studied America for a reason: they had to. It was the one society which had taken the ideologies and theories the Nazis admired, and turned them into institutions. A rule of law, which said that some people were subjects and some “owners,” permitting human trafficking. Courts, which would laugh at the idea of personhood as a universal human right. Law enforcement, which would enforce “property rights” over people. All that sounds anodyne, so let’s put it into plainer English: families torn apart, lives destroyed, generations in chains, a genocide lasting centuries.

The Nazis studied the example that was the most advanced in human subjection, which, sadly, was America.

Now, that doesn’t mean that I’m “anti-American.” We are discussing tough stuff, and learning from history. These are just facts. The Nazis didn’t study, for example, Athenian democracy, or Rome’s Senate, or ancient tribes in which matrilineal power was transmitted and practiced, though of course they could have—instead, they studied and learned from who they did. And we all know what happened next, too.

So. When we hear political figures speak in these terms, we should be profoundly alarmed. Even though their goal is of course to normalize it. Not just because these are demagogic appeals—in fact, they go far, far beyond that. Athens had demagogues, too, and every period and society in history has. But “blood poisoning” is at the outer limit of the worst possibilities even for demagogues. It represents millennia of advancement in human folly, degradation, and malice. It took human beings millennia to create such theories. That’s why I took you through history.

To speak in such terms, to create modern-day rituals based around such ideologies—these are actions which are at the historical forefront of human malice. Representing thousands of years of development of malevolence, spite, animosity, hostility, vengefulness, resentment, rage. That is how dangerous it is. When we shrug, we normalize all of that—and we shame ourselves in the eyes of all those bitter centuries of history, too.

How do you betray a democracy? It isn’t just by launching a coup. It’s by painting it’s fundamental values as evil. Truth. Justice. Freedom. Rights. To speak of “blood poisoning” is to say that all of things are immoral, not goods, but bads—because they permit the impure to contaminate the pure. The impure are weak, and their blood is moral illness—so what rights or freedoms do they deserve? What is justice, if it isn’t purifying us of them? What good is truth, in science, art, literature, empiricism, reason—if the ultimate truth is that the weak must perish, so the strong survive, and thus claim their destiny as masters?

All this is contained in that. This, my friends, is the real thing. What we’re witnessing now history shudders at. But do we, enough?

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