In medicine, a pathognomonic sign or symptom is one which by itself is sufficient to establish beyond doubt the presence of a particular disease.
The work of social scientists is similar to that of physicians: they observe the overt symptoms of society, explore those that are not immediately apparent, analyse their causes, interpret their meaning, establish a diagnosis and propose a treatment. Well-educated and trained social scientists are capable of dissecting the layers of the structure and dynamics of a phenomenon with all the thoroughness and accuracy of a micro-surgeon.
Although fear by its nature has a mind of its own, from a political standpoint, it is a pathognomonic symptom of dictatorship and lack of freedom when it affects a significant segment of the population. For the experienced researcher, fear is now palpable among people living in the United States, the European Union and other parts of the developed world.
The newspeak predicted and described by George Orwell in his well-known novel 1984, created deliberately to imbue words with a political intent and thus generate a particular mental attitude in those who used them, is becoming increasingly widespread and adopted by people in democratic countries. This newspeak, together with neo-inquisition and neo-dictatorship, which are always present due to their inter-relationship and mutual dependence, generate fear and trembling.
This neo-dictatorship is the tyranny of the «weak», and is characterised by the triumph of slave over master morality, Friedrich Nietzsche forewarned in On the Genealogy of Morality. The slave morality is nurtured and sustained by hatred, envy and resentment towards those who possess some kind of power, whether it be based on sex, race, intelligence, sexual orientation, social class, knowledge or a historical inheritance that differentiates that group from the rest.
As with the neo-inquisition, the neo-dictatorship is structured as a diffuse reality: it is not located in a specific centre or person, but is dispersed and diffused among multiple micro-powers. For example, in the present twenty-first century, it is possible to identify the following categories of despotism, among others: the dictatorship of gender, the dictatorship of hate crime, the dictatorship of religious sentiment, the dictatorship of non-Caucasian races, the dictatorship of national identity, the dictatorship of non-normative sexual orientations and identities, and the dictatorship of minors.
In order to detect even the slightest free expression contravening the rules imposed by these dictatorships, which together constitute a considerable majority, a series of observatories have been created in institutions and like-minded social media groups —which all form part of the above-mentioned diffuse neo-inquisition— with the ultimate aim of monitoring, identifying and punishing offenders by applying laws formulated ad hoc for these cases, or failing that, by stigmatising them in the eyes of society for their views, discourse and writing. Such stigmatisation has significant negative consequences for the offenders’ public image, personal and social relations, and professional practice. This process was consummately described by Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America, in a chapter illuminatingly entitled «The power of the majority over thought».
All the forms of authoritarianism that I have cited, as long as they are exercised by those who feel, act and appear weak and frail to themselves or to others, enjoy the privilege of the presumption of truth in their public manifestations, regardless of the nature, place or person involved. In other words, people accept their ideological, theological or biased premises as an act of faith, and do not subject them to critical reasoning or opinion.
As a result, artists are afraid, writers are afraid, publishers are afraid, poets are afraid, comedians are afraid, journalists are afraid, teachers, professors and chancellors are afraid, and philosophers are afraid... This is why men are afraid, and citizens are afraid. They are either afraid or oblivious.
If they are oblivious, they say nothing.
If they are afraid, they censor themselves and others. And remain silent.