Archive for the ‘Oppression’ Category
Here’s a general example taken from all capitalist societies, the prototypical one from which all hierarchies are derived – fatherhood. There are different levels of socially accepted ways to “feed the family”. One way that is socially accepted is to take a position in a corporation that exploits the third world. Due to the constraints of “fatherhood” (as the father views the constraints) he must take part in exploiting the third world because the alternative (not exploiting the third world and therefore making less money) makes him a bad father.
But even that might not be enough, and he may need to undertake actions that offend his own country’s ruling elite to make even more money. Again, all due to the institutional constraints (as he views them) of fatherhood.
In capitalist societies men want to become fathers precisely so that they can become dominative. That is to say, men recognize their own desire for power and the positive impact that fatherhood has on their quest for power (social status, sexual value, etc.) insofar as it places conditional constraints on them that individually, they desire. So men (and women, to the extent that they too “feed the family” and that they desire to couple with men who do) want to become dominative, they want to extort, coerce, and exploit. These might even be called “family values” within a capitalist society.
I’ll pass over the example of Brad Will for the sake of brevity, but look into it for some insight. Or Eugene Debs.
I want to cover one more issue in my time in this post – wife beating. The left is a joke on this issue, precisely because the left is imperialist as well (most of the left including Naomi Klein is capitalist) and not committed to socialism.
The American people, like all other people, strain for socialism. There is constant tension against capitalism, even in the corrupt American society (corruption itself implies a tension, a two-fold identity). Capitalism requires a husband to be dominative and a wife at the very least to be complicit. To the extent that that husband desires to not be dominative, often for socialist reasons, animosity is generated by the situation he finds himself in. That is to say, dislike for capitalism directly leads to bad marriages, and abuse of wives. Yet I’ve never heard the left even mention this primary aspect of wife beating, preferring to treat it as a personal problem (a kind of moral failing of men). The left apparently fails to note that in non-capitalist societies, such as that of indigenous Americans for example, there is very little if any wife beating. Women in America know very well that capitalism and imperialism produce wife beating as an inevitable side effect, which is one reason why the issue receives so little serious examination. American women have decided that imperialism is more important than their own bruises.
This is an excerpt from a recent email:
One problem I have with your critiques is that they seem to project a society where the elite carefully construct the news and entertainment delivered by the mass media in order to keep the masses ignorant and distracted. I believe only a very small part of that. Certainly there are some elements of the media (e.g., Fox News) that are essentially right-wing propaganda machines, but I think most of the media delivers exactly what the public wants. Why do people watch Judy Judy, Maury Povich, American Idol, etc.? I have no idea, but many people apparently find them entertaining. I don’t think they’re brainwashed into watching this stuff, nor do I think the elite has a great deal of control over the choices the public makes.
I’m not at all surprised that you believe that – it’s the same belief the “journalists” themselves have.
Here’s the basic way it works:
Abuse the populace. This occurs primarily through economic policy and structures (neoliberal capitalism) and political structures whereby the vast majority of the American people have virtually no political power and also through key secondary measures such as the corporate media. One example of media abuse is the inane political debates that don’t deal with substantive issues, or when they do ask a reasonable question never follow it up.
After this abuse has been established and the populace is beaten down they become more receptive to additional abuse. The abuse becomes internalized. So, for example, one secondary measure of abuse by the elite is the extremely unhealthy food served in America. You might think – “that’s just the choices of Americans”. Not exactly. Even if Americans were being abused in any number of other ways the elite could encourage Americans to eat healthy. So let’s take two micro-factors – the vending machines where I work at Meijer’s and the counters where Meijer’s workers directly serve food (as opposed to food off the shelf). The vending machines serve horrible food – overwhelmingly high in saturated fat and high in sodium at ripoff prices. Just the prices alone prove that the corporation sees their own employees as nothing more than wage slaves. Workers like to buy food directly from Meijer’s workers (such as at the deli counter) since it serves a social purpose as well as a health one. These foods likewise are high in saturated fat and sodium and cost-poor, although not as bad typically as the vending machine food.
Meijer’s recently had an ice cream social, where they served cake, ice cream (where they offered a sugar-free option which was of course high in saturated fat), and pop.
Besides the social effect previously noted, there is also a social effect in food selection. So once some despairing wage slaves eat unhealthily because “their own” company encourages them to, this causes subtle peer pressure on their peer group to imitate that, in the sense that eating similar food produces solidarity.
One thing the elite is “good” at is “do as we say, not as we do”. So while they are encouraging terrible health with their actions, like financing yet another McDonald’s restaurant, they “urge” people to eat healthy. So right next to the long lines of vending machines in the break room there is a poster promoting healthy eating. This eases their own conscience and offers them a kind of public relations point, to argue against any detractors or critics. “See, we care! Hear the words that come out of our mouths!”
But let’s get back to the point in which you are technically correct – the choices Americans make. That is to say, despite the despair they feel at their condition, despite their onerous mindless tasks which lead them to looking forward to a delicious if unhealthy meal, they could, in theory, still eat healthy. That’s like saying that they could, in theory, climb Mt. Everest. And people such as yourself, in a privileged position with a relatively good life (whatever complaints you might have about that life), say that they “choose” to not climb Mt. Everest. That’s absolutely correct. It’s also irrelevant. If I take away water from a shark and place that water 100 meters away, does the shark have the “choice” to wiggle it’s way to the water? Absolutely. But how many sharks will succeed at doing that? And who should we be critiquing – the shark for “failing” to make it’s way to the water or me, for taking the water away?
The reason you don’t see what the elite are doing and that when you do see it you make excuses for it are twofold – you benefit from the elite in terms of your privileges (as you said, love of the “good life”) and through propaganda your eyes and mind have been turned away from the actual actions and effects of the elite. Serious critiques of the elite are very difficult to find – and the critiques that can be found without great difficulty are very limited in scope. I’m probably one of the better critics of the elite (although it’s difficult to say) not because I’m impressive but because the competition is so anemic.
It’s one of the more ridiculous propaganda points to say that the elite does what they do based on what the public wants. The public wants socialism – the elite gives them neoliberal capitalism. The public wants universal health care – the elite gives them neoliberal health care. The public wants democracy – the elite gives them plutocracy and corporatocracy. The public wants an end to the war in Iraq, the elite gives them perpetual war. But when it serves the interests of the elite, they machinate their way into “doing what the public wants”, like leading them to despair and unhealthy food, then “serving the interests of the public by giving them unhealthy food”. So after I take water away from the shark I “serve the interests of the shark” by putting sand under his belly.
Here’s a good analogy – let’s take an abused child. Through abuse a child’s consciousness can be changed to accept the abuse. He internalizes the abuse as “normal” and might even look forward to it, as the one time the parent is giving him any attention, despite the painfulness of the attention. So then once the abuse is internalized the abuser can correctly say “I am just giving the child what he wants”. Just putting sand under the belly of that shark.
Judge Judy and the like are the exact same thing. Abuse of the consciousness. Television offered a kind of hope for Americans – as you may recall since you grew up during the early days of it. A hope of national communication – of a greater consciousness. It was of course inevitable that this hope would be exploited by the elite, and sure enough it was. Advertising soon permeated the medium, with it’s irrationalistic propaganda which seeks to drive consumers to products regardless of need or even want. The rise of neoconservatism in the 1970s saw a rise in abusive television, which perhaps started with The Gong Show and culminated in shows like Judge Judy. So, yes, you’re right that Americans might “choose” Judge Judy as opposed to “choosing” an insipid soap opera, “choosing” to fill their minds with irrelevant facts like on “Who Wants to Be an Millionaire?”, “choosing” a show where one is put to a lie detector test to determine infidelity with the spouse sitting right there, or “choosing” to shut off this television.
Let’s look at other elements of television – besides residual effects of the hope that Americans felt with that new medium those several decades ago:
Television is very noisy and hyperactive. In a non-careful critique it might be called “energetic”. It’s easy to see television as larger than life, especially for those people leading abused lives. It’s like any other human institution – once something is seen as larger than life (such as the institution of the presidency of the United States) abuse is sure to follow.
Americans are atomized to an extreme extent, far more than in any other country. Many Americans interact more with technology than they do with people. This lack of human contact, especially intimate human contact, draws them into technology further, as a relationship they can control through the market. Television is a kind of very active person, chatting away constantly, doing tricks and entertainment.
It surely isn’t a good thing, but I believe there are few societies in which more than a small percentage of the people have the inclination to be involved in politics in a meaningful way. I think far more people don’t vote simply because they’re disinterested than because they’re discouraged about the possibility their actions could make a difference.
Again – your belief is no surprise at all, for the previously mentioned reasons. It’s easy to see that you’re wrong, if you care to.
Look at Venezuela. Contrast the political activity of the Venezuelan people ten years ago to today. 10 years ago were they “disinterested” or “discouraged”, in the ways in which you mean those terms?
Since that would probably require you to do a research project, let’s not take water away from you and instead keep you in water with this example:
The political activity of Americans in the 1960s versus that of them in the 1990s. Hmm… quite a difference there. Hmm… let’s see… in the 1960s Americans had hope that some leftist variant (some variant of socialism) could be instituted. In the 1990s they did not. Or that is to say, in the 1960s the shark had water and in the 1990s that water had been taken away from him through neoliberal pursuits, as well as global events.
Here’s an easy way to see it – humans do what is good for them to do. Humans don’t do things that make no difference in their lives. People don’t vote not because they’re “disinterested”, but because voting makes no difference. Contrast the difference in political power between a “voter”, a CEO of Exxon Mobil, and a senator, in America. Now contrast this with a truly democratic system, in which each human has equal political power. Whatever other things you might call the current system, it’s not democratic.
Of course senators are not representatives of the American people, but even if they were they would be illegitimate. The American people don’t need political representatives – they need direct political power. They need to have their will directly implemented.
When I was teaching high school in Ann Arbor, I was surprised how difficult it was to get most kids to think seriously about political issues. At the same time, there was a broad undercurrent of environmental concern that wasn’t around in my generation and that I found quite encouraging. People may be cynical about politics and believe their personal actions won’t make a difference, but they are conscious of major policy dislocations and ultimately exert influence to change them. (I think the course of opposition to the Vietnam War went much the same way and now it’s beginning to happen with Iraq as well.
There was plenty of opposition to the war in Vietnam prior to 1968, but it was irrelevant because the elite weren’t opposing it (with rare exception). However, in 1968, the liberal elite began to oppose the war in Vietnam out of fear of the draft as well as “high cost”, which means money that is going to the conservative elite rather than to them. Opposing the war was an economic decision since too many people in power weren’t profiting from it, so the war had to go.
Vietnam taught the elite two things – they need a private military force to eliminate the draft and they need to unify the interests of the liberal and conservative elite, so as to not cause them to be in opposition on issues of vast profit-transfer, with war being by far the best mechanism thereof. According to subsequent history they learned these lessons quite well.
It really doesn’t matter what high school kids think, as your own experience could teach you:
The American Elite stands against global warming, as long as there is profit in it. Most “solutions” being talked about in America are market-solutions – carbon credit trading, new technologies, and the like. Very little progress has been made against the largest perpetrators – the coal industry, nuclear industry, energy-eaters like the livestock industry. Even this, which despite the profit involves risk, was only accepted long after your high school students were interested in the environment. People have been interested in the environment for a very long time. Throughout that time vast pollution has happened.
I, ignorant as I am, have any number of solutions. One is to shut down all coal-producing plants after buying them out (at fair prices, not those recommended by the industry) using taxpayer dollars, making any new plant illegal, and giving training to the workers to ease their transition into a new industry. If taxpayer dollars are lacking for such a move, end the war in Iraq which will free up countless billions.
Expand public transportation. Invest in renewable energy. I don’t need to go on – in America you can find plenty of sources more knowledgeable than I to talk about market solutions to possibly avoid human catastrophe.
None of this has anything to do with cynicism. Is the shark, wiggling desperately toward water or weeping with despair or wallowing in the sand being fed to him, cynical? Is he cynical if he complains? Does it really make any sense to call him cynical? While you call the shark cynical do you have any idea what look the man who took the water away from the shark is giving you? Do you care? As Amy Goodman might say, “Facts matter”. What matters is the truth. What matters is reality. What matters is the human condition. What matters is improving that condition.
I’d like to hear your thoughts sometime on what it would take to arouse the general public from its stupor and take an active (and educated) approach to dealing with society’s problems. Trying to solve this problem from the top — for example, by banning all intellectual garbage from the public airways — would be a lot like prohibition, and the results would be equally disastrous.
I’ll start with a minor point on the “intellectual garbage”:
Judge Judy and the like are not intellectual garbage – they are intellectually void. They are garbage in terms of morality – they actively abuse the viewers.
Americans need to have power to take power. In order for them to have power they need to unite, organize, and exert power. Every democracy in history had a organized populace – countries like Bolivia and Venezuela are democratic to the extent that they have powerful grassroots populist movements, which allow leaders to emerge, just like Martin Luther King, Jr. emerged from the democratic movement in the 1960s.
There’s no easy way for this to happen. It takes constant struggle among the people. It probably never would have happened in Bolivia or Venezuela without geopolitical assistance – the American elite so thoroughly abused and in some cases destroyed these countries that it caused massive resentment and opposition to neoliberal doctrine. Obviously such assistance isn’t available to Americans since we are in the belly of the beast. In Empires democracies only emerge with the fall of the Empire, which typically decays from within rather than is overcome from within. Since the American Empire is in the process of falling, that should give a big boost to any populist organizing.
Another minor point – prohibition wasn’t about solving problems – it was about creating a problem in order for those who sought to solve it to gain power. Let’s take an even clearer example – marijuana. Marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol. But unlike alcohol, it isn’t dominated by large corporations and probably can’t be, due to the ease of individualized raising. So marijuana is illegal while alcohol is legal, which has nothing to do with health and alcohol kills thousands of people every year and injures the health of countless more but that’s irrelevant, because it makes the right people (the elite) money, and that’s worth pretty much any quantity of blood, as 1.25 Million recent Iraqi corpses discovered. If blood is thicker than water, money is thicker than blood, at least in this monstrous world that the elite have created.
Prohibition was a power play by the progressives to try to gain control over changes in society, especially the rise of power of urban immigrants. This kind of moralizing didn’t start with that and it’s been on-going ever since – one example is the “ratings” given to movies. I’ve taken a semi-close look at that and here’s what I see:
For one thing, children are not harmed by the things the moralists say they are harmed by. Nudity has no effect on children. Nudity has zero effect on anyone prior to puberty, and subsequently for children nudity is a titillation with little meaning, and the meaning then develops in them as they mature.
Violence is more complicated. It’s all about context. In most current contexts violence is bad, although it has little effect on children (there’s more effect on adults) since children have little ability to think. But I do think shows that glorify violence have some negative effect on children, although again, the larger negative effect is on adults, especially young adults.
The reviewers also have a ridiculous concept called “graphic”. So for example there is nudity and then there is graphic nudity, which is supposedly worse. I suppose this is some insane puritan notion that I am happy to commit violence against. It’s of course utterly ridiculous especially with respect to children. It leads to the logical conclusion that killing someone is better than killing some in ugly fashion. Since I don’t want to injure myself trying to figure out just what fucked up mind can come to that conclusion I’ll move on:
Pretty much all the reviewers care about is sex, violence, and swear words. Frankly, BAD movies have a much worse effect on children than anything else. Just as with sex and violence, profanity has no real effect on children. It doesn’t matter that the children might say the word after hearing it since they don’t know what it means – they are just trying it out as an experiment – probably trying to irk the puritan fools who are raising them.
Both as a child and as an adult, I’m most benefited by quality and most harmed by a lack of quality. That should be the primary measure of any rating system. It’s tragic that rating systems exist which ban children from seeing great movies that include sex or violence but allow them (often encourage them) to watch crap that happens to not include it. This is not to say that a great movie to a child is the same as one to an adult, although there are considerable overlaps.
In terms of why there is a movie rating system, it’s obviously not to protect children. The same people who made the rating system created global warming and the perpetual threat of nuclear holocaust, not exactly new-human or future-human friendly affairs. The rating system exists to, again, allow the raters to have power over the industry. Children are used, as they so often are, as a pretext, summed up in the classic phrase “Won’t you think of the children?”
Although this article is largely about India, it’s equally true in the United States. India is becoming an imitation of the US in terms of it’s elite culture.
I don’t own a television (haven’t since June 2000) but I watch some at work.
The Judge shows are proliferating on daytime TV. These shows run parallel to garbage “freak shows” like Maury Povich. The singular features of both Jerry Springer and Judge Judy and their imitators is that they serve to demean and dehumanize the poor and the working class. It’s tragedy as spectacle. These shows should be illegal and would be in any moral society. They are far more damaging than a stabbing that can get someone put in jail for many years and they are several orders of magnitude more damaging than smoking pot which can likewise earn a hefty prison sentence. But in a nation run by a ruling class that has killed millions, impoverished somewhere between tens of millions and billions and abused billions, I suppose drawing some logical relationship between degree of damage and punishment is irrelevant.
In terms of daytime TV the best thing on is soap operas. It’s a sad day when that is the case. Soap operas are insipid, worn out, lifeless, and often poorly acted, but at least they aren’t aggressively abusive. Are you aware that there is now a TV show where spouses are given a lie detector test to determine whether or not they are telling the truth when they say they are not cheating on their spouse, with their spouse present (for the reaction shot when the “lie detector reveals the truth!”)
After the sun goes down “reality TV” comes out – nevermind that there is no reality and can never be when the cameras are out and the “real people” become actors. Reality is what happens when there are no cameras. Instead comes more abuse – classically related by Simon Cowl on American Idol but present in one form or another on all of reality TV.
There is always only one reason for abuse – the ruler loses his just authority. This vast increase in abuse by the elite, seen in any number of ways (economic policy, reaction to disasters, causing disasters, manner of “entertainment”, etc.) means they no longer are trying to be a just authority, which means they have lost control of themselves as rulers. When rulers lose control over their ability to create just actions but retain their power very very bad things happen. I see no end to this problem because I see no end to the present configuration of the ruling class. Americans just aren’t responding to this condition. They aren’t turning off the TV, they aren’t doing critiques, they aren’t debating, they aren’t caring. Britney Spears’s “Hit Me One More Time” was quite accurate.
Another sad but I suppose potentially good thing – Americans are more outraged about gas prices than anything else. Truckers have now implemented a major strike. Countless dead in Iraq – no problem. Hundreds of billions funneled from American taxpayers to a few American multinational corporations by way of death and destruction, billions impoverished by American policy – no problem. Gas prices go up a couple dollars a gallon and it’s time to be outraged! I keep hearing that “Americans are a compassionate people”. Obviously this is true – they are outraged at the death of cheap gas. The extinction of a species!
In any case – tomorrow’s another day on the neofeudal corporation plantation of wage slavery in order to avoid further impoverishment. Another day of seeing hopelessness and despair on the people and abuse on the television that “entertains” these people, free of charge of course through irrationalist advertising designed to program their consumption and colonize their imagination. It’s another day of seeing overpriced food that causes malnutrition and early death – the row of vending machines issuing sweets and salts. On the wall next to the machines is a poster that urges a healthy lifestyle, and next to that is one that tells employees earning $7 to $9 that they are “remarkable”. It’s funny how those signs are never present when workers earn $12 to $14 an hour. Or rather, it’s “funny”, since what it truly does is presents a quite effective moral argument that the most just action one can take is to destroy the American ruling class.
I remember reading dystopian short stories. Why were they always set in the future? The dystopia is now. Stories of life in hell should be set in the present. Stories of life on earth should be set in the future. Earth is to me what heaven is to people who fantasize.
There is a followup to Martin Luther King Jr.’s phrase that “There can be no great disappointment where there is no great love” – Love is only fulfilled on a two-way street. On earth that two-way street exists and King’s love comes back to him. In hell King’s love is trampled.
Where are we living?
In Reply to Max Shields:
“I think we’re fine tuning our differences but we have some general agreements.”
Our biggest disagreement seems to be that you believe groups like the KKK derive from fear and hate and I believe them to be derived from desire for material gain, with the fear and hate relating to and serving that goal.
Before I get into direct replies, I want to talk a bit about fear.
The people who are most afraid are those who are attacking other people. American soldiers in Iraq for example are terrified (which they attempt to hide under macho bluster). Fear is never understood for what it is because everyone looks at fear from the standpoint of the victim. The interesting truth of the matter is that perpetrators are far more afraid than victims. Here’s an example:
An Iraqi family is sitting at home having a meal. The next minute their home is bombed and destroyed, and they are all dead. No fear (beyond what is caused by the occupation and any specific issues they have) except sheer terror at the last moment.
On the other side of the equation, amid blaring sounds of Guns ‘N Roses and thoughts of the warm arms of a girlfriend left behind, an ignorant low-educated kid pushes a button, drops a bomb, and misses his target. But despite the ignorance, this kid knows the devastation he is taking part in and the anger that is creating.
Who is more afraid? Well for one thing – the person who is still alive. But another – perpetrators are always more afraid because they are the one committing the crime, and they are the one who take on the moral burden of such. To commit a crime and know that you or your loved ones may pay for that crime years, decades, or even centuries later – that’s pure dread. That’s fear. That’s living in terror.
Post traumatic stress disorder has fear as it’s main component.
Take a close look at the Neoconservatives. The primary element of their composition is fear. They are deeply afraid of the end of the West, the end of capitalism, the end of white rule. They aren’t just afraid of the loss of rulership and the profit that entails – they are afraid of retribution. Their fear is far deeper and more motivating for them than it is for any of their victims.
The KKK works on the same principles. They want to exploit and profit from blacks, so they attack blacks, so they fear and hate blacks. Just as for the American soldier and the Neoconservative, fear does not create their attack, it’s the logical consequence of it.
The school bully who steals lunch money doesn’t do so out of fear – he does so out of desire for profit. But *then* he fears retribution after committing the crime, and if the crime is ongoing the fear is ongoing, and grows, and grows, and grows.
“You’ll have to share your sources on the KKK. Obviously it has served various purposes, but I’m not sure how it provides support for an economics. The core mentality behind KKK is fear, propagation of myths, and self-organization. I don’t see the ruling power elite having a hand in it. But I’m open to new information.”
You’re not sure how it supports an economic program? How about this:
Capitalism requires not only workers, but compliant workers. Capitalists seek to create and maintain divisions within the workforce so as to allow them easy control. So, for example, several layers of management are set up and pitted against one another – the lower layer coveting the job of the higher – the higher having to keep the lower “in his place” to prevent his own job loss. This layering is done right on through to the workers. There are often distinctions between work-classes that appear minor from the outside but are critical for worker relations. Janitors are often on the low end of the totem pole.
So for the KKK to keep blacks “in their place”, which is to say for black workers to be below white workers, is not so much to perpetuate racism but to perpetuate capitalism. To set up a capitalist work-layer based on race institutionalizes racism and gives capitalists a major lever of power, since white workers can then be pitted against black workers – the blacks covet the extra income of white workers and white workers want to protect their (relatively) privileged status.
Take a look at the recent events in Jena, LA, which were imitated around the country, where white students (assumedly) hung nooses from a tree (deemed a “white tree”) after black students stood under it. What’s the point of a “white tree” in the first place? It’s to mark off territory – territory the white students like. For the black students to not stand under the tree shows their deference to white power, and for them to stand under it is in defiance of white power. So white power thus threatened, it retaliates in the form of nooses. Power is about theft and subjugation. Theft and subjugation (by any means) is another phrase for war. The KKK is not a hate group – it’s a war group. It’s part of the ongoing war against blacks to maintain them as an internal colony. It’s about maintaining power and profit.
One of the problems people have when they think of war is that they think of killing. But really, the Bush Administration would have been just as happy if no Iraqis (except Saddam) had been killed. War isn’t about killing – it’s about power (theft and subjugation). Killing is just a means to that end. The KKK isn’t about hanging blacks from trees, it isn’t about fear, and it isn’t about hate – it’s about maintaining and extending power, profit, and privilege for the ruling class and maintaining relatively privileged status for non-ruling whites. The KKK fears and hates blacks as a reaction to what their own capitalist project is doing to them.
Take a look at the similarity between what war is (theft and subjugation by any means up to and including killing) and what capitalism is (theft and subjugation by any means up to and including wage slavery). Capitalism is the economic version of perpetual war. That’s what “competition” means – perpetual war with certain restraints (usually killing is frowned upon).
Capitalists don’t want corpses – they want slaves. The only value of a corpse to a capitalist is that it makes it easier to turn humans who are still alive into slaves. That’s what Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and other sites are all about – showing anyone who would oppose the American Empire what can and will happen to them. The message is – be a slave or be tortured. The choice is up to you.
“I’m not sure how substantial the power of the KKK is these days. So, I’m not sure they are central to what we both agree on: American colonialization policies and practices in and outside the borders of the US. For instance, Northern US cities have been colonized and yet the presence of a KKK is nil.”
The KKK began in 1866, shortly after the end of chattel slavery. The end of chattel slavery was a threat to whites of all classes, and the KKK was a response to that threat. The KKK stepped in to ensure that blacks would continue to be terrorized and controlled. Jim Crow laws and massive discrimination completed the task.
Nowadays everything is so messed up (from the ruling class’s perspective) that noone in power cares anymore. I guess that’s potentially good news for blacks and other oppressed peoples, but it’s bad news for the human species. What I mean is that white colonial rule is dying. It’s easy to see this in a way – if white rule was healthy they would take care of the environment – if white rule was healthy they wouldn’t jeopardize that rule with the perpetual possibility of nuclear annihilation. Rulers never want the end of the world unless they see their own rule crumbling.
But if they see their own rule crumbling, then watch out. Think of a shrew backed into a corner, but instead of little teeth the shrew has massive armies and nuclear weapons at his disposal. The outcome is sure to be extremely unpleasant. The outcome is found in the hearts and souls of the Neoconservatives and their elite Liberal allies.
“This colonialization is irrational. From the beginning of time, wealth is created in settlements which became cities. Colonizing cities does not make good economic sense. On a local level it does, however. Not all cities are equal and many are finding ways to turn this around and free themselves…but that’s for another time/place.”
It makes extremely good economic sense. It’s utterly rational from the standpoint of a small elite maintaining it’s power, wealth, and privilege. It’s bad from everyone else’s perspective of course. But since the elite control the means of propaganda and most others are just scrabbling along trying to not die or suffer from day to day, they in many cases either can’t know or at least can’t act upon their knowledge.
The point of colonization is the same as the point of slavery – the perpetuation of weakness in the exploited group (a form of genocide). Here’s a rough breakdown of what the ruling class wants:
Obedience to their will. Only in rare cases is disobedience acceptable.
Many, many, variations in the exploited classes. Many layers of managers, many layers of workers, fine distinctions. Separate latinos into certain job classes, blacks into others, whites into others.
Create a buffer class – the “middle class”. Give them substantial privileges. Make them the caretakers (doctors, lawyers, etc.) of the exploited classes so that they can “be on their side”.
Create an educational system whose main method of passage is money. Ensure through job requirements that all good paying jobs require passage through the state educational system which required substantial money to get through in the first place.
The more exploited the class, the more dangerous they are. Don’t worry about the middle class – they will never revolt. Make sure the heavily exploited classes are impoverished and thus have neither the time, nor the strength, nor the hope, in order to revolt. Wage controls ensure that the heavily exploited classes need to work long hours just to get by, and the already controlled classes (middle classes) can have their vacations and short work weeks.
All of this is based on divide and conquer, colonization, maximizing profit for the elites, maintaining control, and all of it comes back to capitalism. Different flavors of capitalism (Neofeudal, Keynesian, Neoliberal) don’t differ all that much – they mostly differ in terms of how they treat the middle class. The middle class will sure tell you how different they are!
“So, why would a city, whose economy has been depleted, be colonized? Who does it serve? From what I can see it primarily serves land owners and speculators.”
You’re talking about physical colonization. That’s not what colonization is. Black colonization is well described in the phrase “escaping the ghetto”. The ghetto is not a place so much as a conflux of social, political, and economic conditions. Colonization may or may not have a physical component.
“American colonialization is a direct descendent of the European system. American expansionism and the use of slaves and the slaughter of the indigenous peoples on this land was an extension of the European imperial empire. As the American Empire took center stage, Europe’s imperialism receded; the birth was accomplished and has gone on full force for over a hundred years.”
Yep – but I hope people understand that it’s not based on racism. The American Empire will die soon, and I fear that people will then celebrate an “end to imperialism”, since they think that only white people are colonists. Meanwhile, whoever then emerges as a global power will meet zero resistance as they go about their own imperial project, and only many years later will people wake up and say “Oh, oh, I never knew!”
Greed and lust for power are universal human conditions (just as are fairness and egalitarian principles), but they can be minimized in effect through social, cultural, and economic policies. What we need is not so much an end to imperialism as an end to the structures that ensure imperialism – capitalism. We need to understand capitalism and break it down – end class divisions – end a heavily privatized world – end hierarchies unless they are mutually supported. This can be done – and with the right local movements linked together in a global justice movement it will be done.
“Brian said: “Racism has nothing to do with a lack of empathy and everything to do with greed, profit, and power. It’s not an ideology – it’s a tool.”
“I didn’t say racism was a lack of empathy. There is a central, system economically based (I think we agree) which is bolstered by racism. The psychology around group think/dynamics that creates the KKK or lynching of Germans pre-WWI, or Hitler’s cadre that had emerged out of WWI, are NOT the racist system, but they are a PRODUCT of it.”
We agree on that, but we don’t agree on what creates the KKK. It’s not true that groupthink created or maintained the KKK. That’s like saying that groupthink created a corporation. Shared interests create corporations, and shared interests created the KKK. The shared interest that involves the maintenance of white and elite white privilege, profit, and power by means of keeping blacks in a perpetual state of terror.
Lets see if you agree on what I think our arguments are: your argument is that racism is emotional and irrational and mine is that racism is logical and rational. Your argument is that hatred is the cause of racism, and that racism just happens to then serve rational interests (amazingly!). My argument is that greed (rational greed from the standpoint of individualism) is the cause of theft and subjugation, racism furthers the ends of theft and subjugation, and all emotions involved (fear, hatred, and otherwise) are either reactions to this rational project or complementary to it. Is that a fair assessment of our differences?
“I’m saying that the lack of empathy for Iraqi children and the death and mutilation caused by US invasion and occupation is a direct result/product of the economic system that fosters racism. In in its full bloom it is the demonization of the other.”
Right – but I disagree insofar as the other can be pretty much anything. If there were no browns the other could be blue. If there were no blacks the other could be pink polka dot. The other is whatever happens to be most convenient to put on the assembly line of profitability. Whites kill whites for profit, blacks kill blacks for profit, the color money-green is the only true form of racism in the world. When blacks are weak and exploitable they are the other. When Jews are weak and exploitable they are the other. When whites are weak and exploitable they are the other and are then called by a different name (such as workers vs. managers).
Can you ever imagine a white capitalist thinking “Wow, I have this great opportunity for profit but the person I would be exploiting is white! Oh well, I guess I’ll have to move on to the next opportunity.”
That will be the day! Corporations *maximize profits*. The only logical outcome of this is that the victims of corporations are whoever most efficiently feeds that profit maximization.
“Ideology – “isms” tend to be belief systems acted on; a prism by which one sees the world, worldview. That said I’m fine with calling it a tool.”
I don’t think when Americans call Iraqis “hajjis” only when they are killing them can it be said that there is an ideological basis for the killing. Ideology can’t be turned on and off based on a military project. If, however, calling them “hajjis” is a tool to further their killing, torturing, and terrorizing efficiency, then it can and certainly is turned on or off depending on whether the Americans are killing, torturing, and terrorizing them or not at any given time.
“One clarfication of that clarification at the end of the post: I’m not saying that people of color who have been discriminated based on color have not been racially targeted. What I am saying is that racism is not unique to some ethnic or racial group. Slavery created a particular legacy; but it is not the only legacy associated with racism.”
Capitalists of any race will exploit whatever humans of whatever race they can get their hands on. Groups like the KKK make sure that certain races are easier for capitalists to grasp than others – it’s like someone on a life raft pushing a shipmate into an ocean with a shark in it. The shark consumes what’s closest to it first and the white guy on the life raft gets to drink his tea and enjoy his big screen TV. But then the shark gets hungry again, and who’s left to eat now?
Either we kill the shark, or we all die.
“I don’t think racism has its roots in biology per se. That there are distinctions between people, that these distinctions have regional origins doubtlessly is the case and these differences have been manipulated for racial/exploitation. These distinctions are not the essence of racism.”
I think you’re misreading me. They are based on cultural elements of family and society, not biology exactly. If one eliminates all of the propagandized, manipulated effects pertaining to racism 90% of the racism disappears. American soldiers don’t call Iraqis “hajjis” because of a lack of an extended family association – but this lack of an extended family association makes them more susceptible to using the term.
“Racism (ism) is a means to an end. So, how does a KKK get its marching orders? Is it hate created from displaced anxiety coupled with a mythological narrative? I think so. I think the KKK is the result of fear which is the basis of hate. It is the same rooted emotion that serves the elite when the drums of war need bodies to go off.”
Either you’re not reading me or you’re simply disagreeing. The KKK is not a hate group – it’s a theft and subjugation group. It’s a subset of the American internal colonial project. Here’s the process:
1st: Desire to steal and gain power over someone
2nd: Become willing to implement that desire
3rd: Look around for someone to implement it on
4th: Take the first steps toward implementation (insults, discrimination, light oppression)
5th: Evaluate the effects of the implementation – did you face retribution? Were the costs low or high? If the costs were sufficiently low, move to:
6th: Upgrade the oppression – moving to overt theft, light terror, etc. Re-evaluate. Rinse and Repeat until the late stages:
7th: Enslavement, murder, rape, internal colonization, terror.
The final stage:
Implement propaganda so that the victim doesn’t know it’s the victim. Normalize the monstrosity. Create a new reality. Reap the benefits of the exploitation for the rest of human existence (or as long as one is able).
The KKK is not a hate group – it’s a theft, terror, and subjugation group. If there were no blacks in the world groups like the KKK would still exist – they would just target someone else.
Why do you think Iraqis are only hajjis when Americans are killing them? Why do you think blacks are only niggers when whites are committing genocide against them? Hatred has nothing to do with it – profit has everything to do with it.
Hatred comes into play in terms of the perpetrator’s reaction to his own will to subjugate. Once a perpetrator becomes committed to terrorizing someone he becomes committed to hating him, in order to make the subjugation all the easier and ease his own conscience. After all, if one is a mass murderer one wants to be an *effective* mass murderer. It just doesn’t do to love the people one is killing.
The KKK is not a group that hates and then kills – it’s a group that kills and then hates. Or rather, wills to kill, finds a victim, hates the victim, then kills, then develops institutionally toward “hating blacks”. But they aren’t psychopaths – the KKK kills in order to instill fear into blacks – making them more controllable by the interests the KKK serves – white elites within the United States (mainly).
Take a look at the history of the KKK – only after ex-African blacks became established as a weak group within the United States (but after they became potentially uncontrollable after chattel slavery) did the KKK emerge and “hate blacks”.
Or look at another example – Jews. Why have Jews been so often hated throughout European history? The answer is simple – they have been a socially weak group throughout much of recent history and hence have provided low costs, low retribution, toward any groups who sought to subjugate them. Hence Europeans have “hated Jews”. That is to say, they’ve willed to steal from and subjugate them, hated them, and then stole from and subjugated them.
“If I recall my history American Germans were regularly rounded up by vigilante groups and strung up and lynched/hung in the run up to WWI. That same mob mentality exists throughout history and has been at the root of our image of post-Civil War abolition. It’s fanciful to imagine that had Lincoln lived to oversee the reconstruction, things might have been very different – he’d shown himself to be masterful at exerting tremendous will and determination. But who knows…”
Japanese Americans were terrorized during World War II. Any group that through some event loses social power becomes vulnerable to oppression. Why do you think dissidents in America are oppressed? Is it some inherent hatred of them? Or is it rather that whenever the social group in power is threatened by dissidents they oppress those dissidents?
You might think – how can a group both be weak and yet threaten the group in power? Power is relative – as far as the group in power thinks, any loss of profitability is a threat. So for blacks to strike on the corporate plantation is a threat which the KKK served to eliminate.
Capitalism is about growth and opportunity. It’s especially important to terrorize Japanese Americans during WWII and German Americans during WWI because those are growth industries – when a group loses power there is a profit vacuum of exploitation which capitalism wants to and needs to fill. The same thing during the McCarthy era – the left lost power and then capitalism moved in to exploit them. Even the far left has no idea just how horrible capitalism really is, and the standard left has no fucking clue.
“No, racism is a ideology employed to dominate for economic purposes. The US invading Iraq has at its core racism. Slavery was and is naked racism. Beyond this the American people (all colors) subvert their empathy for their fellow human beings and ignore the horror that this empire reigns in places like Iraq.”
Racism has nothing to do with a lack of empathy and everything to do with greed, profit, and power. It’s not an ideology – it’s a tool. It’s easy to see this – Iraqis are hajjis while the American government is killing them and Iraqis once they aren’t. A worker is liked by his boss while he is working obediently for him and hated by his boss when he’s on strike. Do you honestly think the boss “has empathy” for the worker when he’s obedient and “loses empathy” for him when he’s not? Or rather – does the new social relationship created by the strike change the boss’s emotion toward the worker?
Emotions are *outcomes* of social relationships, not causes of them.
I sense we’ve started to talk a bit passed one another. When I say racism – a term which has been controversial in its definition – I think of oppression. Those who are singled out and oppressed to serve others are facing a form of “racism”. For instance, Israel has systematically oppressed and created conditions of control over the Palestinian people. I would term that racism. Perhaps you would not.”
I agree with your understanding of racism, but I’m saying that racism does not derive from hatred. The relationship between the American government (dominated by whites) and Iraq and it’s government (dominated by “browns”) is a perfect example.
In the 1980s Iraq served as a check on Iranian power. The American government’s policy was to encourage arms sales to Hussein. With Hussein’s ambitions fueled with enough weaponry, he went to war with Iran for nearly a decade.
With Iran and Iraq weakened and the American purpose fulfilled, the next step was engaged – severe economic sanctions on Iraq. This greatly weakened the population and the economy.
And then the next step was engaged, the current step, to militarily and governmentally dominate the country and open up it’s oil reserves to control by American multinational firms, as well as open up it’s critical geography to American military bases which can then strike at areas in the region (including Iran).
None of this has anything to do with racism, except that the American government fuels racism domestically in order (one reason) to create racism so as to move public opinion as well as make it easier to fill the ranks of American soldiers. In order to perpetuate war the American government through propaganda and social policy causes the American people to be racist. And then when war comes that same government invents slurs like “hajji” for American soldiers to use to make it easier for them to terrorize and kill the Iraqi population.
My point is that racism is a convenience, a *tool* of subjugation, and not the *cause* for subjugation. The cause is greed, desire for power, desire for wealth, and desire for domination. None of this would be any different if there was no racism in the world – all that a non-racist world would be (in the absence of other changes) would be one where greed, war, terrorism, power-plays, theft, and subjugation were not based on race. Calling that an “improvement” is at best cynical. The improvement will be to no longer *allow* greed, war, terrorism, power-plays, theft, and subjugation, whether such things are organized by race or not, in the same way as through the structure of domestic society we do not allow crimes through social control and legal enforcement. Crimes still occur, but they are effectively accounted for and minimized in their duration and frequency (at least that’s what a good society does, America is somewhat different).
An objection to this is Europe – where I’ve heard it said countless times that the United States and Europe are allies because Europe is also dominated by whites. That’s ridiculous – Japan is an ally of the US for the same reason (western) Europe is. The reason is simple – both Japan and Western Europe are powerful forces who are also more or less compliant to American wishes. It’s this combination of strength and acquiescence (shared interests) that makes them allies of the U.S., not their race. Israel is in the same category, but is given favorable military treatment to fuel their desire to fight the Arabs in the region. A country that is weak and acquiescent (like Colombia) is treated differently. A country that is weak and not acquiescent is targeted for destruction, and if they have significant resources they are doomed to a quick death, like Iraq. China is treated differently from Japan because it’s seen as a threat, as a country which has the power to potentially dominate American multinationals. So the idea is to use India as a check on Chinese power just like Iraq was used against Iran in the 1980s.
Or take a look at chattel slavery. People make a big deal out of Africans being black and American slavemasters being white, as if that was the cause of slavery. The cause, as you point out, was economic. That is to say, again, greed, subjugation, capitalism. Africans were weak (militarily) and abundant in resources. Perfect for capitalist exploitation. If they were white with the same degree of weakness and resources they would have also been exploited.
The precise nature of the exploitation is based partly on racism. There is still such a thing as racism even without elite creation of it. Racism at it’s core is an extension of the localized family/society model that is geographically and historically centered. So over time races develop that culturally and biologically are distinct. Even in the absence of elite creation, if a person sees two equally injured people lying on the road, he is more likely to help the person of his same race, because he sees that person as a closer extension of his family/society. Likewise, if you see your child and a stranger lying injured on the road, you’ll help your child first. Your child may live and the other may die as a result of your priorities.
So if whites inhabited Africa instead of blacks, would chattel slavery have occurred or some other form of exploitation? Probably another form that was less extreme, I suspect. The real underlying racism fueled the greed and desire to subjugate that was the primary motivation and made the result worse than it otherwise would have been.
But the 10 million whites who were killed by whites in World War I can make quite an effective objection that racism is hardly the “cause” of conflict, as well as any of other countless examples.
Far too many people believe racism is the cause of social problems. Ending racism may have a very minor positive effect on the total oppression in the world, but mostly what it would do is to distribute terror more evenly across races, which is a pathetic solution at best.
To end terror we need to attack, destroy, and control those who implement terror, theft, war, and subjugation. That’s the early solution. Putting George W. Bush and those like him in jail is a good first step toward a solution. A more stable solution is to create societies and institutions that ensure good practices and values.
This is a reply to Max Shields from Dissident Voice, as here. Max’s words are in italics.
“Brian Koontz, I had not read your post before writing mine. I think we’re saying much the same. I would differ somewhat on the extent to which most American blacks have gained from a largely white driven empire.”
I think it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 billion people in the world living (barely and often not for long) on $2 a day or less. Don’t kid yourself – American blacks have benefited tremendously from the American criminal machine. And they know it – which is why they ask the monster for reparations just for them (and maybe also for the 400,000 remaining indigenous Americans) instead of demanding that the monster give out true reparations to all it’s victims. American blacks don’t want justice – they want wealth. They want to move to a higher rung on the criminal ladder. Check out Michael Eric Dyson as he drools over the possibility of “one of his own”, Barack Obama, possibly gaining the high seat of the American throne.
“The voice for the voiceless?” It’s not American blacks who have no voice – it’s the blacks and the “blacks” of the third world who have no voice. American blacks don’t give a shit about them.
Martin Luther King made a critical error when his vision was one of integration. One cannot change the beast from within – it can only be killed from without. It’s the global population – a global democratic movement that will destroy all forms of oppression including the American empire. And you’d better believe that most American blacks will side with the empire instead of with the global democratic movement. The empire has the wealth that American blacks covet. They just want a piece of the pie that was made with blood, sweat, and so many tears.
“Still, on the whole there is great complicity regarding racism. Experiments by Milgram on authoritarianism in the 1960s showed just how universal some of our worst traits. It just takes the right conditions for us to be willing to hate and kill.”
Emotions are derived from social relationships (both real and pursued). That is to say, if you plan to steal and subjugate someone you hate him in order to make the theft, subjugation, and possible murder all the easier (both instrumentally easier and easier on your psyche). This truth is utterly universal.
“Colonialization, as you rightly note, is not something that happens exclusively to external lands, but also within the borders of nations, in this case the USA. There are issues with nation-states which we cannot readily dismiss. A nation the size with the population of the US is nearly impossible to construct without imposing the very same neo-liberal and imperial approaches to its cities and various poor rural areas as it does tries to do in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East (and to some degree in Southeast Asia).”
“This is very fundamental to the issue of racism in America, but there is no denying that the citizens of this nation are complicit, regardless of color, in the racist, imperialistic empire we perpetrate on many areas of the world where we have military outposts and settlements.”
Right – it’s about who gets the money – and American blacks are in a completely different position from third world blacks. While most of the wealth transfer goes from third world peoples to the American elite, American non-elite, white, black, and otherwise, share in the criminal gains.
“Poor Americans may have some benefits from that set up, but there is a major issue of proportionality.”
If one man steals $10 Million and another steals $1,000, both are criminals. For the latter to say “well, proportionally I’m not nearly as bad” is a weak argument. And, proportionally, black Americans have 10% of the wealth of white Americans (per capita). What percent of the wealth of white Americans do black third-worlders have? And more importantly, how many Americans care? And more importantly yet, how many Americans are willing to do something about it?
“Still, the deep seated willingness to look the other way on the part of most Americans – regardless of color – as we perpetrate racist hegemony cannot be denied, anymore than our at home statistics against minorities and poor.”
Yep – and it has nothing to do with racism – since black Americans hardly care more about black third-worlders than white Americans do. It has to do with “looking out for #1”, the capitalist ethos of utter greed. The most common excuse is “I’m taking care of my family”. A mafia boss uses the same argument.
“Nevertheless, I think we are all capable of changing our world, through local transformation. This can and should be done in solidarity with our diverse cultures, ethnicities and races. Or, we can just keep calling one another racists. Choice is ours.”
We’re not racists – racism is created and maintained solely by the elites who benefit from divisions within the exploited class (per divide and conquer). However, we need to wake the hell up to our own moral failings and recognize the power that we have to improve the world. The world can be changed – but only if we have real solutions and aren’t just lesser versions of the monsters we claim to despise.
America is a racist society and likes itself as such. By contrasting racism with alcoholism (which America does not like) it becomes easy to see this.
For alcoholism the elite (those with positive access to state-supported power) set up Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and facilities, where alcoholics go and receive support and treatment. The idea here is to combat and perhaps eventually to eliminate alcoholism.
In contrast, when anyone stands up and announces he is a racist (see examples such as Michael Richards, Don Imus, Mel Gibson) he is vilified, given attention, and shunned. This is virtually the opposite treatment shown to alcoholics.
According to the American elite, the crime that Richards, Imus, and Gibson committed is not racism, because if that was their crime they would be encouraged to go to Racists Anonymous meetings for support. Their crime is a *display* of racism. That is to say, their crime is to show the world the racist that they are.
If we shunned alcoholics, what they would do is to be alcoholics in private and try to hide their alcoholism in public. Since we shun racists, this is exactly the way they usually behave, and when they don’t they are publically abused.
Except to the industry that produces alcohol and minor related industries, alcoholism is harmful. An alcoholic has reduced, sometimes severely reduced, productivity. He becomes more dangerous. Alcoholism has a negative impact on the economy and therefore the elite does not like alcoholism, despite it’s weakening of the individual.
Racism, however, is a completely different story. While racism hurts the economy as a whole greatly, it helps the economy with respect to the elite, as any slaveowner in the old south could tell you. Racism allows the elite to divide and conquer the working class, as they play one side against another and keep them from unifying to increase their wealth.
The elite don’t have anything in particular that they like about racism, so if some other methodology to divide and conquer or otherwise control the working class arose, in theory racism could be done away with.
But for now, the elite will not show compassion for racists, they will not establish Racists Anonymous meetings, and they will not treat racism as they do alcoholism. Because that could actually end racism, and they can’t have that.