The struggle is real.
- The line down the middle only exists in reference to the positions of the parties. It is always defined by their argument. There is no state of perfect conservatism or progressivism. There is no platonic ideal for these. It is always defined by the current cultural and political context. You can’t state a political platform for either lacking that context. But they do have basic predictable roles.
- The Venn overlap is what we pretty much all agree on (except for loonies)
- The white horizontal line is “The middle of the road” the somewhat disputed territory we can talk about with bargains and compromises.
- Between the thick dotted lines and the black lines are areas of pretty fundamental disagreement. Moving outward toward either edge comes a less acceptable AND less accepting range.
- The extreme edges (with the solid black lines) are important because they represent the borders of the field where anything further is “out of bounds”
Scientists have been explaining for years that race, as people think of it, doesn’t exist. What we think of as race is just a single frame from a movie of human traits, determined by locality, conditions, and culture. These are traits that are selected for by a group over time until they share many common points. These traits could be as changeable as a cloud over time. The time required would be generations long but our enormous human genome could supply as much variety as people want (to mate with). The group usually doesn’t change though, and continuity is the default. Why?
It is deep in us to identify down to our very souls with our local people, customs and styles. We prefer them and strive to protect them. It is second nature to jump to their defense. A better name for these defended traits is “culture” but we should recognize this use of “Culture” as a deadly serious “this is me, don’t fuck with it” business.
In fact, culture is a bigger and more elemental thing than we’ve grasped. All of us have two overlapping states of being. The Individual self; The daily us, with our stories, personal history, etc. This is the self we identify with. The other state of being is a “cell” in a cultural body. Human animals are preset to focus constantly on their personal journey and struggles. It’s difficult to wrench our perspective upward and look down on the massive being we are a tiny part of. Our culture is an organism made of members. That organism uses culture as the definition of self. This definition is used to recognize those who belong and don’t. It’s a pheromone for the hive; a membrane of inclusion or exclusion. In other words, it is the foundation of the immune system of our cultural, community organism. When a cultural immune system goes on high alert it sees enemies in all that is other. This is the ugly moment that outsiders are described as vermin, an infection, etc. Cultural “purity” and nativism surge, driven both by hatred of outsiders and fear of being mistaken for one.
Culture creates a matrix of behaviors, styles, and preferences. It describes beauty and what makes a good man or woman. The phenotypes of people in a given culture are not coincidental, they are part of the culture. It’s like studying nature/nurture within a single family, how do you know where one leaves off and the other begins? People initiate the culture, but then the culture generates and maintains a particular style of people…who then maintain the culture! It is a chicken and egg cycle. the people shape the culture but no more than the culture shapes the people.
We all feel stressed when placed in another culture that does things very differently. That culture is not wrong for being different and we are not wrong for feeling stressed. If you’ve been lifted out of your Monopoly game and dropped into a game of “Hey, that’s my fish!” or “Twister”, you won’t be feeling quite yourself…literally. You have stepped outside yourself…you are an isolated molecule of your own culture, drifting in the wind far from home. This is why “travel is broadening” it is basic brain stretching and it can feel good or horrible, depending.
Think about the early 20th century immigrants who entered New York City through Ellis Island from all over Europe. These droplets of different cultures rolled as quickly as possible straight for the “Little [insert country here] Neighborhood”. There they could fuse with a tiny colony of their own people; the people whose cooking smelled right, whose voices sounded normal. An ethnic neighborhood might be as small as a single block and kids had to be careful coming and going because if they got caught on the wrong side of the street they’d be behind enemy lines. Even later when groups were more settled and established there’d still be for example an Italian neighborhood bordered by Polish and German neighborhoods. Finally, second to third-generation kids would identify enough as American to not make a point of staying in the neighborhood.
These European immigrants were obviously more acceptable to the white and European based mainstream culture of America. The borders of difference were relatively permeable from both sides and group after group eventually became “Normal People” to standard America. Who found it harder? People whose features weren’t European. Asians found the borders unyielding and the other side of the border all too often, dangerous. But the virtual walls around the many Chinatowns and Japan towns were well maintained from the inside as well. Ethnic neighborhoods are reality islands created by pressure from inside as much as out. Continue reading
As usual, I’m thinking “out loud” here. I guess that means, awkwardly, and in public.
Anyone who is thoughtfully worried by Islam finds themselves in an awkward position. On one side are traditional right wingers who don’t like Muslims because they are outsiders and immigrants. This is just the usual “stranger danger” anti-immigration issue. This group is a range from people who are simply negative about it, to people who could easily be stirred up to violence. This is not a thoughtful and considered position. I want to wear a sign around my neck saying: “I’m not with these people”.
From the left one gets categorized as a racist for expressing fears about Islam. Considering the extreme side of the first group, you can see WHY liberals might go here. But this is also not a thoughtful or considered position. I believe liberals are guilty of being lazy here and choosing convenience and simplicity over a somewhat complex response.
(Just a disclaimer before going on here: Scientifically speaking, race does not exist, but I need to use the terms in play as they are meant by the people using them.)
Islam is no more a race than Christianity or Buddhism. How could it be? It’s funny but both left and right are over simplifying Islam into the same thing. Outsiders. The right is focused on barring those “unpleasantly different” folks and the left is standing up for them, wanting to give a warm welcome. You know, embrace diversity.
By “rounding down” Islam to a nickname for middle eastern people and conflating concerns about it to racism, liberals are engaging in convenient short term thinking. They may also be poisoning the argument in a way that works against their central values. “Islamophobia” as a word is a cork meant to be shoved into the mouths of anyone speaking out. Since Islam is not a race, but a religion this amounts to a war on free thought and speech. It becomes a thought crime to criticize it. And all of this done underneath the banner of letting people believe what they believe.
Minor Thought Experiment:
Liberals, imagine you live in Eugene, Oregon or some other solidly left wing community. Diversity is embraced, alt-lifestyles are accepted. Suddenly a very large stream of outsiders begin moving in, buying houses, starting businesses, running for school board, etc. Consider your response if they are:
- Funded by the Koch brothers
- Jehovah’s Witnesses
For simplicity, imagine all those groups mashed up into one. Imagine their name is “Surrender to the Power”. Imagine they believe overall:
- In sexual segregation and shame based clothing for women
- That a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man
- That once someone has joined, death is the punishment for leaving
- That violence is an appropriate response to blasphemy
They aren’t ALL this strict but it’s generally true. Taken person by person they are all nice enough. But they are sending the message that women in this town seem immodest. And on the school board they want make the curriculum more in line with their beliefs. Don’t be a hypocritical dipshit here. You are going to be worried and upset. That’s because these are beliefs and values that starkly contrast with your own. Education, free speech and equal rights are all being diluted into a mix with the “Surrender to the Power” system. You would be upset because your philosophical system and values are being lost. Your children will grow up in a world less free and open than yours was.
I claim the right to criticize modes of thinking and behaving
America is experiencing a little glasnost toward marijuana use. It’s like a national version of how good it feels when you stop banging your head on the wall. Except of course for most of America where head banging is still the prefered choice. Let me use marijuana as the example standing in for the overall strategy against drugs. We know harm reduction is an approach that does less damage to society and costs less money than the “war on drugs” so why don’t we change and reap the benefits?
The answer is stupidity. There is a type of voter who is scared of other nationalities and has an enormous appetite for punishing wrongdoers. This voter is easy to manipulate by any politician who wants to play those cards. Marijuana was criminalized in 1933 by coloring it as a drug of foreign and lower class people. Mexicans and black Americans. It was said that they would become violent and lose control. Yes, it was the “All Mexicans are rapists” of its time. Continue reading
One of the best minds of the Roosevelt administration outlining fascism in a way that holds up scarily well.
The Danger of American Fascism
- Henry A. Wallace
- An article in the New York Times, April 9, 1944.
From Henry A. Wallace, Democracy Reborn (New York, 1944), edited by Russell Lord, p. 259.
- An article in the New York Times, April 9, 1944.
A sixteen minute video on the devastation caused by income inequality probably won’t excite anyone. But this is really clear, concise, even heartbreaking information about the damage it does. I’m not sharing it in a “Let’s all say the usual things” way but because it shocked me. It’s like a clear accounting of the cost.
Germany was a new and very weak democracy. The country was utterly broken due to ruinous reparations for WW1, catastrophic inflation and the worldwide depression.
Hitler was a violent ideologue. He was obsessed with the strong defeating the weak and already part of a group that used shocking political violence. Irene von Goetz writes about the run-up to the 1933 election, “With an army of thugs terrorizing the streets. Brownshirts and SS patrolled and marched menacingly through the streets of cities and towns. A combination of terror, repression, and propaganda was mobilized in every… community, large and small, across the land.” In a decree issued on 17 February 1933, Göring ordered the Prussian police force to make unrestrained use of firearms in operations against political opponents (the so-called Schießerlass)” or shooting decree.” He had also already attempted a Coup D’État.
Trump is a demagogue, an opportunistic infection of American stupidity. He is a swaggering physical coward and a very shallow narcissist. Here is William F. Buckley writing about Trump during an earlier flirtation with running for president.
“Look for the narcissist. The most obvious target in today’s lineup is, of course, Donald Trump. When he looks at a glass, he is mesmerized by its reflection. If Donald Trump were shaped a little differently, he would compete for Miss America. But whatever the depths of self-enchantment, the demagogue has to say something. So what does Trump say? That he is a successful businessman and that that is what America needs in the Oval Office. There is some plausibility in this, though not much. The greatest deeds of American Presidents—midwifing the new republic; freeing the slaves; harnessing the energies and vision needed to win the Cold War—had little to do with a bottom line.”
Intellectually all he has is the equivalent of pocket lint and a nickel, he is impervious to exciting ideas…ideas cannot be exciting or important to Trump, he only recognizes their importance to other people and waves them around like a torch when he needs support.
None of this means he isn’t potentially dangerous, demagogues are dangerous. But can’t we see the difference between a hellbent ideological thug and a self-obsessed boob who lets his unconscious speak for him all the time?
Trump is the white Kanye West. He has no introspective function in his personality. Truth is something that doesn’t worry him because he can’t imagine being held responsible for anything…I mean he is incapable of imagining it! Long term consistency or even coherence do not exist for him except as a branding issue. Past and future is just Trump branding and denying anything bad. I believe he exists only in a teeming bubble of the moment filled with unconscious psychological motivations. Even to himself, he is no deeper than his brand. He is what poor, lower-class Americans imagine “High Class” means. There must be profound internal poverty inside Donald Trump to make him devote every waking moment of his one and only life to making other people think of him as someone important.
Objectively Trump is a proto-fascist, summoning that same authority loving crowd energy that is the foundation of fascism everywhere. It’s dangerous stuff. Possibly more dangerous is what will be brought out in Trump himself if placed in a position of REAL power. That mind and that “soul” could be energized in unpredictable ways. I suspect the biggest danger that would arise from President Trump would be repeated challenges to the rule of law. I believe that he would go to war with restrictions on his power and it would be a critical thing for everyone to take it seriously and fight back from the very beginning. When demagogues gain power the country is lucky to escape ruin.
He will do anything to protect himself but one fail-safe limitation exists in him, the desire to appear “classy” and the desire to be “liked”. Essentially a psychologically broken and unlovable man who cannot bear guilt, blame or the smallest weakness developed a bunch of ugly emotional coping strategies and snowballed them right up to the door of the white house.
For the republican party, the chickens have come home to roost. After decades of pushing their electorate to make ridiculous, terrible decisions, that electorate has undertaken to do it independently for the real candidate of their choice.