Racism, Cultural Degradation, and Misplaced Paranoia Article Thread

Discussion in 'Culture' started by Richard Stanley, May 21, 2016.

  1. Richard Stanley

    Richard Stanley Administrator

    The following excerpted article crosses into much of what we talk about on the forum, so I could have posted it on several threads. The premise is that America's Culture War battleground has shifted somewhat away from the religious versus secular dialectic to that between the different camps of secularists, where the animus is even more heated, fueling the mood of the times.

    Before I go further, I should note that the mention of Milo Yiannopoulos should be a reminder that he was really more than just a 'pretty fave, or a shock and awe agent provocateur for the Bannon cabal, but part of the ideological brain trust, and thus adding insulating credence that this really is a 'secular' driven movement, rather than a controlled opposition.

    The author, Beinart, then describes this new 'secular' dialectic, however, I believe that he fails to distinguish between new secularists, of either the right or left, from those who have taken considered positions for far longer and have separated themselves from the right and left paradigms altogether. In any case, the old battleground still persist, but all the energy seems to be within the newer one, within those who have left their church affiliations, still believe in either the old god, or want to go back to even more tribal roots.

    What I have highlighted in red supports my position that Xianity is globalist, and thus Western Civilization, writ large, is globalist and anti-tribal. The very name 'Catholic' means 'universal'. And, as I have stated, both the OT and NT canons have explicit globalist assertions.

    So, and in line with my Apocalypse How post, one is left to ponder whether the Postmodernist kant is correct, and thus we are witnessing a purely organic phenomenon within natural sociological ebbs and flows, or whether there might be some Greek goosing of such by agents provocateur (known to Postflavians as 'sheepdogs')? I say the latter.

    Whatever the reason, when cultural conservatives disengage from organized religion, they tend to redraw the boundaries of identity, de-emphasizing morality and religion and emphasizing race and nation. Trump is both a beneficiary and a driver of that shift.

    So is the alt-right. Read Milo Yiannopoulos and Allum Bokhari’s famous Breitbart.com essay, “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right.” It contains five references to “tribe,” seven to “race,” 13 to “the west” and “western” and only one to “Christianity.” That’s no coincidence. The alt-right is ultra-conservatism for a more secular age. Its leaders like Christendom, an old-fashioned word for the West. But they’re suspicious of Christianity itself, because it crosses boundaries of blood and soil. As a college student, the alt-right leader Richard Spencer was deeply influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche, who famously hated Christianity. Radix, the journal Spencer founded, publishes articles with titles like “Why I Am a Pagan.” One essay notes that “critics of Christianity on the Alternative Right usually blame it for its universalism.”

    Secularization is transforming the left, too. In 1990, according to PRRI, slightly more than half of white liberals seldom or never attended religious services. Today the proportion is 73 percent. And if conservative nonattenders fueled Trump’s revolt inside the GOP, liberal nonattenders fueled Bernie Sanders’s insurgency against Hillary Clinton: While white Democrats who went to religious services at least once a week backed Clinton by 26 points, according to an April 2016 PRRI survey, white Democrats who rarely attended services backed Sanders by 13 points.

    Sanders, like Trump, appealed to secular voters because he reflected their discontent. White Democrats who are disconnected from organized religion are substantially more likely than other white Democrats to call the American dream a myth. Secularism may not be the cause of this dissatisfaction, of course: It’s possible that losing faith in America’s political and economic system leads one to lose faith in organized religion. But either way, in 2016, the least religiously affiliated white Democrats—like the least religiously affiliated white Republicans—were the ones most likely to back candidates promising revolutionary change.

    The decline of traditional religious authority is contributing to a more revolutionary mood within black politics as well. Although African Americans remain more likely than whites to attend church, religious disengagement is growing in the black community. African Americans under the age of 30 are three times as likely to eschew a religious affiliation as African Americans over 50. This shift is crucial to understanding Black Lives Matter, a Millennial-led protest movement whose activists often take a jaundiced view of established African American religious leaders. Brittney Cooper, who teaches women’s and gender studies as well as Africana studies at Rutgers, writes that the black Church “has been abandoned as the leadership model for this generation.” As Jamal Bryant, a minister at an AME church in Baltimore, told The Atlantic’s Emma Green, “The difference between the Black Lives Matter movement and the civil-rights movement is that the civil-rights movement, by and large, was first out of the Church.”

    Black Lives Matter activists sometimes accuse the black Church of sexism, homophobia, and complacency in the face of racial injustice. For instance, Patrisse Cullors, one of the movement’s founders, grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness but says she became alienated by the fact that the elders were “all men.” In a move that faintly echoes the way some in the alt-right have traded Christianity for religious traditions rooted in pagan Europe, Cullors has embraced the Nigerian religion of Ifa. To be sure, her motivations are diametrically opposed to the alt-right’s. Cullors wants a spiritual foundation on which to challenge white, male supremacy; the pagans of the alt-right are looking for a spiritual basis on which to fortify it. But both are seeking religions rooted in racial ancestry and disengaging from Christianity—which, although profoundly implicated in America’s apartheid history, has provided some common vocabulary across the color line. ...

  2. Richard Stanley

    Richard Stanley Administrator

    The following excerpted New Yorker article, Are Liberals on the Wrong Side of History, is a fascinating review of three relatively recent books discussing the eternal tension between 'liberalism' and various 'conservative' reactions, and the impact of various philosophers. While the author, Gopnick, of the article and I would disagree about our Postmodernist's grand metanarrative of human Shepherds and Sheepdogs, I find the author's general commentary otherwise confirmatory of the positions and interpretations I have made regarding culture and philosophy throughout our site. I was particularly pleased with the non-excerpted comments about Rousseau's romantic fondness for Sparta. Sparta was a 'project' that appealed to the 'conservative' elites of Rome, late biblical Israel [sic], Nazi Germany.

    As well, the article demonstrates the dangers of the usages of such polemic words, as 'liberalism', which forced Jerry and I to discuss in the blog article. There are different contextual uses for words like liberalism, humanism, etc. Such as Western 'conservatives', especially religious fundamentalists, are inherently in a schizoid framework as American 'conservatives', for instance, are in reality defending an inherently uber-Liberal, Humanist creation, the USA. The article mentions waxing and waning cycles of liberalism and panicky backlash, which I claim are goosed by the 'hidden hand'.

    And so the death-of-liberalism tomes and eulogies are having their day, with the publishers who bet on apocalypse rubbing their hands with pleasure and the ones who gambled on more of the same weeping like, well, babies. Pankaj Mishra, in “Age of Anger” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), focusses on the failures of what is sometimes called “neoliberalism”—i.e., free-market fundamentalism—and, more broadly, on the failure of liberal élites around the world to address the perpetual problem of identity, the truth that men and women want to be members of a clan or country with values and continuities that stretch beyond merely material opportunity. Joel Mokyr’s “A Culture of Growth” (Princeton) is an attempt to answer the big question: Why did science and technology (and, with them, colonial power) spread west to east in the modern age, instead of another way around? His book, though drier than the more passionate polemics, nimbly suggests that the postmodern present is powered by the same engines as the early-modern past. In “Homo Deus” (HarperCollins), Yuval Noah Harari offers an elegy for the end of the liberal millennium, which he sees as giving way to post-humanism: the coming of artificial intelligence that may leave us contented and helpless, like the Eloi in H. G. Wells’s “Time Machine.” Certainly, the anti-liberals, or, in Harari’s case, post-humanists, have much the better of the rhetorical energy and polemical brio. They slash and score. The case against the anti-liberals can be put only slowly and with empirical caution. The tortoise is not merely a slow runner but an ugly one. Still, he did win the race.

    Mishra’s thesis is that our contemporary misery and revanchist nationalism can be traced to Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s romantic reaction to Voltaire’s Enlightenment—with the Enlightenment itself entirely to blame in letting high-minded disdain for actual human experience leave it open to a romantic reaction. In Mishra’s view, Voltaire—whose long life stretched from 1694 to 1778—was the hyper-rationalist philosophe who brought hostility to religion out into the open in eighteenth-century France, and practiced a callow élitist progressivism that produced Rousseau’s romantic search for old-fashioned community. Rousseau, who, though eighteen years younger, died in that same fateful year of 1778, was the father of the Romantic movement, of both the intimate nature-loving side and the more sinister political side, with its mystification of a “general will” that dictators could vibrate to, independent of mere elections. The back-and-forth of cold Utopianism and hot Volk-worship continues to this day. The Davos men are Voltaire’s children, a transnational and fatuously progressive élite; Trump and Brexit voters are Rousseau’s new peasant hordes, terrified of losing cultural continuity and clan comfort.

    Piling blame on Voltaire as an apostle of top-down neoliberalism is familiar from John Ralston Saul’s 1992 “Voltaire’s Bastards,” and the idea of Rousseau, the Genevan autodidact, as the key figure in the romantic political reaction against modernity, even as the godfather of Nazism, was present in Bertrand Russell’s “A History of Western Philosophy,” back in the nineteen-forties. A fan of Voltaire will object that Mishra offers a comically partial picture of him, neglecting his brave championing of the fight against torture and religious persecution. Mishra’s Voltaire is a self-seeking capitalist entrepreneur, because, among other things, he established a watch factory at Ferney—as a refuge and asylum for persecuted Protestants. Casting Voltaire as the apostle of fatuous utopian progressivism, Mishra curiously fails to note that he also wrote what remains the most famous of all attacks on fatuous utopian progressivism, “Candide.”

    The truth is that no thinker worth remembering has some monolithic “project” to undertake; all express a personality inevitably double, and full of the tensions and contradictions that touch any real life. ...

    “Humanism,” for instance, ordinarily signifies, first, the revival of classical learning in the Italian Renaissance—the earliest self-described humanists were simply fourteenth-century experts in Latin grammar—which came to place a new value on corporeal beauty, antique wisdom, and secular learning. These practices further evolved in the Enlightenment to include an attempt to apply the methods of the experimental sciences to human problems, fighting superstition and cruelty by making life’s choices more rational. Skepticism about religious dogma, confidence in scientific reasoning: this, in many different strains, is the humanism of Montaigne and Voltaire and Hume, the kind that John Stuart Mill defined for modernity.

    By “humanism” Harari means, instead, the doctrine that only our feelings can tell us what to do—that “we ought to give as much freedom as possible to every individual to experience the world, follow his or her inner voice and express his or her inner truth.” This sentiment is surely typical only of the Romantic rebellion against Enlightenment humanism, the reaction—which Mishra details at such length—of the figures, including Rousseau, who have been most sympathetic to religion and mysticism and the irrational. (Rousseau is almost the only eighteenth-century thinker who is quoted in Harari’s book.) Enlightenment humanists tended to believe in absolute truths, of the kind produced by experimental science; they gave a fixed speed to light and asserted laws of gravity that were constant throughout the cosmos. If they doubted anything, it was the natural urgings of the heart, which they saw most often as cruel or destructive.

    Harari’s larger contention is that our homocentric creed, devoted to human liberty and happiness, will be destroyed by the approaching post-humanist horizon. Free will and individualism are, he says, illusions. We must reconceive ourselves as mere meat machines running algorithms, soon to be overtaken by metal machines running better ones. By then, we will no longer be able to sustain our comforting creed of “autonomy,” the belief, which he finds in Rousseau, that “I will find deep within myself a clear and single inner voice, which is my authentic self,” and that “my authentic self is completely free.” In reality, Harari maintains, we have merely a self-deluding, “narrating self,” one that recites obviously tendentious stories, shaped by our evolutionary history to help us cope with life. We are—this is his most emphatic point—already machines of a kind, robots unaware of our own programming. Humanism will be replaced by Dataism; and if the humanist revolution made us masters the Dataist revolution will make us pets.

    Yet the choice between “programmed” responses and “free” ones is surely false. We are made up of stories—and we make them up. Harari invokes women’s memory of their experience of labor, whose pain they seem, in retrospect, to underplay, as an instance of our being fiendishly programmed by our evolutionary history, unaware. If women remembered the pain of childbirth, they would not have babies, or not twice. Well, in this man’s experience, at least, women don’t forget the pain of labor—they mention it, often—but they calculate the pain of giving birth against the joy of having a baby and, usually, decide it’s a good bargain. And so they make a story composed of both truths. The narrating self doesn’t replace sense with story; it makes a story that makes its own sense. ...

  3. Richard Stanley

    Richard Stanley Administrator

    The following long excerpt is from an article commenting upon General Kelly's recent typical blinkered bludgeoning of actual historical reality, based either upon his cultural biases ... or perhaps something far more sinister. Namely a desire to further stoke Trump's Samson-esque chaos, perhaps even helping drive yet another Civil War, leading to a dictatorship and Imperium (the dream of Traditionalist Catholics like Kelly and the present WH cabal). In this light Kelly's comments are only a small notch under Trump's open support for white nationalism and other aspects like his dichotomy in responses to white and non-white induced violence. Trump can easily hide behind the appearance of his seeming psychopathic cravenness, while Kelly can hide only behind rose colored glasses.

    However, unmentioned in this article, and the linked serial tweets of Ta-Nehisi Coates is the impact of Biblical Justification of slavery found throughout both the Old and New Testaments, which were debated heavily before and during the Civil War. Unfortunately even black Christians today are still blinkered to the impact of such, as yet still clinging to such as the fictional Exodus 'liberation' narrative while ignoring Joseph's collusion with Pharaoh in enslaving all of Egypt (Genesis 47) after cornering all the markets before and during the 7 years of famine.

    “Basically, it was a failure on our part to find a way not to fight that war. It was because we failed to do the thing we really have a genius for, which is compromise,” the historian Shelby Foote says in Burns’s miniseries. “Americans like to think of themselves as uncompromising. But our true genius is for compromise. Our whole government’s founded on it. And it failed.” Burns’s documentary similarly describes Lee as a reluctant rebel and a “courtly, unknowable aristocrat, who disapproved of secession and slavery, yet went on to defend them both at the head of one of the greatest armies of all time.” In The Civil War, the companion book to the documentary co-authored by Burns, the documentary's co-writer Geoffrey Ward describes Lee as someone who "never owned a slave himself."* In truth Lee opposed neither slavery nor secession, and owned slaves he inherited from his father-in-law, whom he only freed under court order.

    Foote is correct in a sense that Americans have a genius for compromise. As The New Yorker’s Jelani Cobb points out, the path to the Civil War was littered with compromises over slavery. In the Constitution itself, the Three-Fifths Compromise granted political power to the slave states, and the fugitive-slave clause enshrined owners’ rights to their human chattel. There was the Northwest Ordinance, which outlawed slavery in the Northwest Territory but contained a fugitive-slave clause; the Fugitive Slave Act; the Missouri Compromises; the House gag rule banning antislavery petitions; the Compromise of 1850; the Kansas–Nebraska Act, putting slavery to a popular vote within the territories; the unsuccessful Crittenden Compromise; and of course Abraham Lincoln’s own entreaties to the South to return to the Union with slavery itself intact. “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it,” Lincoln wrote to Horace Greeley in 1862, “and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.”

    Lincoln would not be given the choice. But his letter makes clear that any compromise that could have been reached with the Southern states would have been a compromise over the personhood of black people—and, like all compromises before it, merely a delay of the inevitable conflict to come. The seceding states all noted the centrality of slavery in their declarations of secession, and Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens declared, “The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution—African slavery as it exists amongst us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization.” Slavery could persist, or the Union could persist, but ultimately they could not persist together. Only one of these causes was just.

    As my colleague Ta-Nehisi Coates points out, Kelly’s insistence that “it’s inconceivable to me that you would take what we know now and apply it back then” is a blinkered view of history that regards only the opinions of white slave owners as relevant. Both the slaves and the hated white abolitionists, whose movement could not have existed otherwise, knew that slavery was wrong.

    What is strange is that the circumstances surrounding the abolition of slavery and the preservation of the Union are regarded as tragic. The issues debated on the eve of the Revolutionary War were more amenable to compromise than those that rent the Union in two in 1861. Many Americans died in the Revolutionary War; neither the United States nor Great Britain today regards its outcome as lamentable. Few regret that George Washington and King George III didn’t sit down at a table and hash out a compromise. Almost no one wrings their hands today about the uncivil tone of the Boston Tea Party, or the colonists’ stubborn insistence on self-governance.

    That the nation’s rebirth, in which the promises of its founding creed first began to be met in earnest, is regarded as sorrowful is a testament to the strength of the alternative history of the Lost Cause, in which the North was the aggressor and the South was motivated by the pursuit of freedom and not slavery. The persistence of this myth is in part a desire to avoid the unfathomable reality that half the country dedicated itself to the monstrous cause of human bondage. The freedom that the South fought for was the freedom to own black people as property. The states’ rights for which the South battled were the right to own slaves and the right to expand slavery.

    Of course, the compromises did not end there. American reunion was preceded by the violent reimposition of white supremacy in the South, with the acquiescence of the North. The New Deal was shaped by compromises between Northern Democrats and Southern Democrats that limited many of its benefits to whites. Republicans broke with their own abolitionist history, bending to oppose civil rights in exchange for Southern votes. America compromised when it outlawed de jure segregation and sanctioned de facto segregation. Paring back the welfare state and building up the
    [incarceral -rs] carceral state was a compromise [with profitable for-profit private prisons -rs]. Offering body cameras in response to unarmed black people being gunned down by armed agents of the state with impunity is a compromise. This is a significantly abridged list; you can trace the entire history of the United States through political compromises in which black rights are the currency of exchange. ...

    One might also argue that there is no similar Lost Cause for the American Revolution because the underlying Machiavellian motivation for that war has long been satisfied, since the very end of that war, as discussed by Tupper Saussy in his Rulers of Evil. But one cannot make the same claim for the political and financial profits of racial and other discrimination.
  4. Richard Stanley

    Richard Stanley Administrator

    The following long excerpt is from the first of a three part Politico series that seems to get to the heart of how cultural issues are so easy to manipulate ... and thus answer questions as to who lower and middle class whites are so willing to vote against their greater economic and other interests. By pandering to their innate senses of insecurity, with respect to the white rich and/or social elites, they can psychologically feel better about themselves, and ... sometimes get an actual payoff, a cost that came cheap to the elites for what they get in return. This cheap payoff came to lower whites as from better access to jobs, housing, education, freedom from police harassment, etc..

    The bargain, with variations, is basically this: “Once upon a time, down South, a rich white man made a bargain with a poor white ... ‘You boss the nigger, and I’ll boss the money.’” (Lillian White)

    But, now those low skill white jobs have been disappearing since Reagan's time, and the system became ripe for a new cycle of faux populist exploitation.

    At the end of the article is a discussion of how Trump has worked the same basic technique, which I'll post separately to my Trump thread.

    From: https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/12/31/trump-white-working-class-history-216200
    Yet if Trump defies history, paradoxically, he has also resurfaced questions that historians have long debated, including some that many considered settled for many years. In this sense, Trump hasn’t just defied history; he has changed it—and he has changed the way that we think about it, forcing us to look back on our past with a new lens.

    This Politico Magazine series, to be published in three installments over the next few weeks, will look at three historical debates that simmered on low heat for years, until the historic presidential election of November 2016 brought them back to a boil. These debates are foundational. They concern race and identity. National character. The dark side of populism. They drive at the core meaning of American citizenship.

    The first in this series, perhaps the most fundamental, centers around the white working class. Are working-class white voters shooting themselves in the foot by making common cause with a political movement that is fundamentally inimical to their economic self-interest? In exchange for policieslike the new tax bill, which several nonpartisan analyses conclude will lower taxes on the wealthy and raise them for the working class, did they really just settle for a wall that will likely never be built, a rebel yell for Confederate monuments most of them will never visit, and the hollow validation of a disappearing world in which white was up and brown and black were down?

    If they did accept that bargain, why? Or are we missing something? Might working-class whites in fact derive some tangible advantage from their bargain with Trump? Is it really so irrational to care more about, say, illegal immigration than marginal income tax rates?

    These are good questions. They’re also not new ones. The historian W.E.B. Du Bois asked them more than 80 years ago in his seminal work on Reconstruction, when he posited that working-class Southern whites were complicit, or at least passive instruments, in their own political and economic disenfranchisement. They forfeited real power and material well-being, he argued, in return for the “psychological” wages associated with being white.

    Since then, the issue has inspired a vibrant debate among historians. Until last year, most agreed with Du Bois that the answer to the question was not so simple as “yes” or “no”—that whiteness sometimes conferred benefits both imaginary and real.

    In the age of Trump, we’re once again pressure-testing Du Bois’ framework. As one might expect, it’s complicated. White identity pays dividends you can easily bank, and some that you can’t.


    In 1935 Du Bois published his most influential treatise, Black Reconstruction, a reconsideration of the period immediately following the Civil War. One of the historical quandaries that Du Bois addressed was the successful effort of white plantation owners in the 1870s and 1880s in building a political coalition with poor, often landless, white men to overthrow biracial Reconstruction governments throughout the South.

    “The theory of laboring class unity rests upon the assumption that laborers, despite internal jealousies, will unite because of their opposition to the exploitation of the capitalists,” wrote Du Bois, who trained at both the University of Berlin and Harvard, and whose grounding in Marxist political economy taught him to view politics through the lens of different but fixed stages in capitalist development. “This would throw white and black labor into one class,” he continued, “and precipitate a united fight for higher wages and better working conditions.”

    That, of course, is not what happened. In most Southern states, poor whites and wealthy whites forged a coalition that overthrew biracial Reconstruction governments and passed a raft of laws that greatly benefited plantation and emerging industrial elites at the expense of small landowners, tenant farmers and factory workers. “It failed to work because the theory of race was supplemented by a carefully planned and slowly evolved method,” Du Bois wrote, “which drove such a wedge between white and black workers that there probably are not today in the world two groups of workers with practically identical interests who hate and fear each other so deeply and persistently and who are kept so far apart that neither sees anything of common interest.”

    Du Bois famously posited that “the white group of laborers, while they received a low wage, were compensated in part by a sort of public and psychological wage. They were given public deference and titles of courtesy because they were white.”

    Decades before so many white working-class citizens of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin—to say nothing of Alabama, West Virginia and Mississippi—cast their lot with a party that endeavors to raise their taxes and gut their health care, Du Bois identified the problem: Some wages aren’t denominated in hard currency. They carry a psychological payoff—even a spiritual one. ...

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