Dark Damp Fascism


While reading Virginia Woolf’s humorous and insightful gender-bending novel Orlando, I came across a section about dampness that speaks to me about the political climate in the US today.

Woolf’s main character, the aristocrat Orlando, lives a couple of hundred years as a man (without aging beyond 30) , then wakes up one day female. (apparently the actor Orlando Bloom was named after Woolf’s character.) Orlando proceeds to live life as a woman (with some cross-dressing as a male in order to move more freely in society) and throughout the novel provides us with a satire on English society, writers and gender rules.

Woolf begins chapter five with a description of a great environmental change that came over England at the beginning of the 19th Century. Woolf shrouds the country in clouds. Then comes cold dampness.

Reading this today I thought about how fear, like dampness, soaks into the frabric of a society to bring about the political disease of fascism

…damp now began to make its way into every house–damp, which is the most insidiuous of all enemies, for while the sun can be shut out by blinds, and the frost roasted by a hot fire, damp steals in while we sleep; damp is silent, imperceptible, ubiquitious.
Damp swells the wood, furs the kettle, rusts the iron, rots the stone. So gradual is the process, that it is not until we pick up some chest of drawers, or coal scuttle, and the whole thing drops to pieces in our hands, that we suspect even that the disease is at work.

With the impending fourth anniversary of 911, I wonder about the dark cloud of terrorism, the fear that our leaders have stirred in us and the rot that it insideiously produces.

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