Posts Tagged ‘ racism

The Bikecast Episode #54: Whence Bigotry?

The evolutionary psych story about humanity is that war, genocide, and the divisive “-isms” that keep humans in a perpetual state of conflict are inevitable expressions of an “us vs. them” tendency that is simply a part of our biological makeup.

It’s indisputable that people can adopt an identity that is essentially oppositional to another nation, race, religion or ethnic group, but how much of this tendency is nature and how much is nurture?

Only one human trait is truly immutable: adaptability. Children learn very quickly what they need to do to ensure their physical safety. In our dominance based society, a major element of required adaptation is siding with proximal agents in society vs. outsiders, real or–primarily–imagined.

In fact, examining the volume of propaganda that is directed at Americans, from the cradle to the grave it’s unsurprising the kinds bizarre and absurd expressions of xenophobia that crop up whenever the “enemies of America” (or of “real” America) come up in conversation.

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Take, for example, this stream of . . . just really weird comments that popped about on Facebook and Twitter after the last month’s earthquake/tsunami/nuclear meltdown in Japan. Citing Pearl Harbor (Pearl Harbor? Seriously?) as the counter-balance in some twisted version of karma is really, really fucked up.

Anti-japanese propaganda from the Second World War
Where did this enmity come from? There can’t be more than a dozen people alive on the planet that participated in the fighting at Pearl Harbor. Japan has been a more than cooperative American colonial forward base in East Asia for over 65 years. There are very few who derived their prejudice against the Japanese from lived experience, but a quick glance at “educational material” and popular culture should give a clue about where the animosity comes from.

The facts, which one has to dig a bit to find, paint a different picture. The popular depiction involves a ruthless and brutal empire[1] that, in an attempt to enslave the entire pacific strikes out at a peaceful merchant republic. This depiction, crafted, as always, by the victors served to put the United States on a war footing. Pearl Harbor was a story meant to ease the resistance to conscription going into the war, and to ease the collective conscience after Japanese cities were incinerated by fire bombings and, finally, annihilated in nuclear blasts.

The truth is less useful. Objectively, two empires, one small and resource starved and the other vast, expanding and reaching the height of its powers met in the western Pacific. A faction of the leadership of the United States, including large parts of the executive branch, wanted to go to war in Europe and intended to do so by drawing Germany’s Pacific ally into a conflict.

This bikecast/post isn’t intended to address this issue in depth. It requires the kind of care and attention to detail that I can’t generally muster. Luckily, the issue has been researched to death by just the kinds of minds by which one wants important issues researched to death. The evidence is overwhelming and the objections, as far as I can find, are few and feeble (and rebutted). This page of links from the Independent Institute has alot of good starting points for the interested.

In any case, the nature of the war, fought thousands of miles from California against an island nation far and away the technological and economic inferior of the United States required an enormous amount of propaganda. In retrospect, as each new generation of Americans confronts the nightmare of history’s only nuclear strikes, the tale requires an arch-enemy so lunatic that no alternative was conceivable but to vaporize hundreds of thousands of people to bring the war to an end.

And that is the legacy that is echoed in the comments about Japan today. Jingoism generated by a ruling class to support their decisions and those of their predecessors three generations ago.

If we have to demonize the Japanese in order to distract from the reality of the war in the Pacific, how much more demonization is required to justify the enslavement of a race?

African Americans

The answer is, “quite a lot”–11 on a scale of 10 and we see the evidence for this in Western bigotry against blacks. This may be especially true in the United States where racial policy has been an political issue for three hundred years.

How does one justify the perpetual enslavement of a people? They have to be animals, unfit for a place in civilization, unable to control their impulses and desires, a danger to advanced society. If abolition is on the table, a strong and reliable political move is to drive into the public consciousness the most gruesome and horrifying stories of what will happen when the black race is freed.

If integration is on the table, the wise move is to tell these stories again. To create and fund “science” that supports racist conclusions, to integrate racism into every possible aspect of society: education, religion, community organizations, etc. The politician willing to do so and support others in doing so can have a long and prosperous career, since no one pays any heed to the wars he starts and the money he shunts to his supporters and allies.

The legacy of nationalized racial policy is what we see around us today. Racism isn’t a biological inevitability. It’s the result of an explicit policy of centuries of fear mongering for political power and financial gain.

The Entire Non-Christian World and The non-English-speaking Americas

Nowadays, our attention is turned to (at least) two new enemies who, we are told, seek to despoil our country. The muslims (or islamo-fascists) and spanish speaking central/south Americans and carribean islanders (aka mexicans or illegals).

Popular stereotypes of these people differ radically between 1900 and today. I go into some hand-waving detail in the podcast about my perception of these changes. Suffice it to say that the fanatical muslim and job-stealing mexican are inventions of the last 40 years. They were created specifically to allow monstrously inhumane treatment of human beings and vast appropriations of stolen money to the military-industrial-prison-security-congressional-complex. The amount of energy and effort being put into the new stereotypes assure us that, in 100 years, people will still be clinging blindly to these beliefs.

And why the energy and effort? Greater fear and anger associated with these groups means more power given to the police, military and surveillance state and votes for anyone who promises protection from these “threats.” Nobody can speak against this most destructive of enemy imagery and hope to be taken seriously by the corporate media much less have any chance at political office.

To sum up, the quantity and ferocity of enemy-making propaganda has to be such that virtuous choices like withdrawing western troops from the middle east, allowing free travel over the southern border (or not going to war in 1941 or not owning black persons before 1865) are unthinkable.

We’re still reeling from the propaganda of the past, and new bullshit is being constantly heaped on top of the old. The perpetrators and agitators are those that benefit from hatred–those whose actual crimes: mass theft, kidnapping and murder, necessitate the creation of unfathomably evil foes. Only by projecting their own wrongdoings onto others can the perpetrators escape from scrutiny. Not only can they commit the most horrific crimes against humanity, they can do so in the name of protection people from the harmful other.

In the podcast, I reference Lloyd DeMause who makes a similar argument with regard to enemy imagery historically directed at children. Here’s a page of his online books. I’ve read much of The Emotional Life of Nations and listened to some of the Origins of War in Child Abuse. Also, here’s a current example ad hoc ratcheting up of enemy imagery in wartime as various minorities are targeted as foreign mercenaries. Oh, and the movie I was trying to think of was Lawrence of Arabia

  1. [1] no argument there, btw

The Bikecast Episode #15: Rand Paul, Racism and Moral Priorities

I’ll keep the background notes short for this one. If you didn’t see Rand Paul make an ass of himself on the Rachel Maddow show (I didn’t either), here are the clips: Part 1, Part 2 . I still haven’t watched them, but I read about the aftermath in ye olde blog-o-sphere the next day. I have a pretty good idea what happened: a right-wing candidate opened himself to a charge of racism and the left, having psychologically suppressed the conscious recognition that “their” party is in complete control of the most racist institution on the planet, exploded in a cathartic release on said politician.

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It’s a challenging task to be progressive in the united states today–I guess it always has been. The racist war on drugs and a racist war on terror haved destroyed millions of lives based on the accidental attributes of birth. That the drug war is racist almost goes without saying, but it’s said so well here that it bears repeating:

Except, obviously these policies are designed to cause immense suffering, to be hugely and disproportiately punitive, and to be monstrously racially unjust so as to maintain a persistent, racially segregated, socially inferior underclass. You think it’s a coincidence that the creation of the DEA and the passage of the Rockefeller drug regime and its imitators came right on the heels of the Civil Rights era, you fatuous stooge?

As to war, black and latino americans are intentionally mandated to attend the worst schools on the planet. Military recruiters feed on the broken results of a racist school system and the victims are sent off to fight other non-whites 10,000 miles away from home.

The left cannot acknowledge these blindingly obvious truths. The people they spent unfathomable time and energy pushing into power could stop both these and a whole host of other evils with a few pen strokes. They won’t because they don’t oppose racism, they oppose not being in power–i.e. the benefactor of wealth and privilege that benefits from racism. 

Asking their elected officials to actually combat racist policies would quickly lead to the realization that their elected officials don’t give a shit about righting racial injustice. Since this course cannot be pursued, the problems must be ignored at all costs. As a result, the political left must project the actual instantiated evil perpetuated by a democrat controlled executive and legislative branch onto whatever acceptable target makes itself available.

Besides being a target of projection for the evil progressives detect in their political heroes, the attack on Rand Paul serves a second purpose. Three truths cannot be brought under rational examination if the state is to maintain its control:

State capitalism is an inefficient, unjust, and anti-human way for an economy to be structured.
War is everywhere and always evil.
Violence, and therefore government cannot sustainably resolve social problems.

Anybody speaking these truths must be ridiculed to the greatest degree possible. Supporting #1 will bring charges of communism or stalinism. Supporters of #2 will be shouted down as naive accommodationists (what about the Nazis?) or racists (what about the the Civil War?) and those supporting #3 will be called, among other things, racists. In many cases, of course, they are! That doesn’t affect the truth value of the statement.

Rand Paul may not have supported the Civil Rights Act had he been in the legislature in 1964–maybe because he’s a racist. Barack Obama is actually enforcing racist laws, presiding over one million plus non-white prisoners and murdering thousands of non-white humans because on their race. Which of these two deserves to be the focus of our scorn, moral outrage, and condemnation?

Rand Paul may be a tool, but he’s not a war criminal (at least not yet).

Good further reading:
The IOZ trifecta:

This article is OK
but this comment is especially worth reading:

The Bikecast Episode #6: Seeing the Forest for the Trees

The United States government may not be Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Russia, but to overlook the fact that the state has racked up 10s of millions of victims in just the last several decades is an amazing feat, yet that is what virtually every state apologist does and continually so.

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The Slate article that is the focus of the first 1/3rd of the bikecast:

This is a mock-the-teabagger/fear-the-teabagger piece. The issue I have isn’t with his complaints about the teabagger’s limited political vocabulary and crude art skills. I’d like to see a realization that the United States government is murdering/disppearing/caging/torturing enormous numbers of people and that it doesn’t goddamn well matter what you want to call it. Mocking people for mismatching the ideologies of the worlds most terrifyingly evil states while voicing support and apology for one of those states is . . . well, poor prioritization to say the least.

I had a similar subjective experience reading this post. While it wasn’t the point of the piece (the point was, again, mocking someone for being . . . actually, I’m not sure in this case), he mocks a third writer for comparing the American army to the wehrmacht (as a good thing). Of course, the American army is quite comparable to the wehrmacht, an argument I make here. But Thers cannot conceive of this–cannot allow into his mind a model in which two armies each killing untold stacks of people have equal fucking moral standing (see the comments for supporting evidence).

To be fair, it was kindof ambushy because I was writing tangentially to his original post. He’s still wrong. I extend the same apology to Ron Rosenbaum, but christ can we please at least acknowledge reality while making fun of the goofball right-wing?

I hypothesize that, were McCain to have been elected, there would be no tea party. There would also not be angry leftists threatening revolution and secession. To put it another way, the tea party is threatening armed insurrection in opposition to the welfare state (painting with a broad brush), but the left will happily (more or less) go along with a regime that is raining down death and human misery on much of the rest of the globe. I want to see more Vermonts. Leftists, come on now!

If we strip away the concepts of race, religion, and nation, that activities and atrocities of all the powers and super-powers of the last 200 years are largely identical. The notable exception is that only one of those powers has an unbroken “winning” streak with more bodies in the grave and in prison, a greater claim to absolute power of life and death over every inhabitant of the planet, and more complete control of the finances and governments of the other nation states of the world–a superlative in everything rotten and evil about hierarchy, violence, and dominance. And that outstanding state is the government of the United States.