Thursday, March 27, 2008

A frank conversation please, not more dishonest didacticism

Regarding the year-long lag in the Wright/Dreams from my Father 'controversy' becoming popular knowledge, it should have been picked up by the major media a year ago, when the magazine started by Pat Buchanan carried a feature on examining Obama's identity. I was stultified by how it continued to hide in plain sight as Hillary (wouldn't one of her media surrogates, say David Brock, give it some exposure?) took a pummeling at voting booths across the country and by major media outlets overwhelmingly supportive of Obama.

But now that much is known, it's the audio and video clips that have been so damaging. Apologists can spin the stories 40 different ways (earlier in the week I heard a putative feminist call Obama's speech addressing the Wright situation a "smashing success" on NPR), but as is said, a picture is worth a thousand words, and the clips are everywhere. I'm reminded of hearing about Nick Berg's beheading on the news cycle and then seeing a video of it [the link is very graphic] for the first time. My reaction become much more visceral after viewing the video, and the story became forever lodged in my memory.

Whether the electoral realignment among younger voters is a surging force for Hillary or can be explained away less extraordinarily, Pat Buchanan's recent column in response to Obama's didactic speech on March 18th captures my sentiment as a twenty-something white male well:
The "white community," said Barack, must start "acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination—and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past—are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds ... ." [Full text]

And what deeds must we perform to heal ourselves and our country?

The "white community" must invest more money in black schools and communities, enforce civil rights laws, ensure fairness in the criminal justice system and provide this generation of blacks with "ladders of opportunity" that were "unavailable" to Barack's and the Rev. Wright's generations. ...

Barack says we need to have a conversation about race in America.

Fair enough. But this time, it has to be a two-way conversation. White America needs to be heard from, not just lectured to.

This time, the Silent Majority needs to have its convictions, grievances and demands heard. And among them are these:

First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.

Wright ought to go down on his knees and thank God he is an American.

Second, no people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans. Untold trillions have been spent since the '60s on welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs designed to bring the African-American community into the mainstream.

Governments, businesses and colleges have engaged in discrimination against white folks—with affirmative action, contract set-asides and quotas—to advance black applicants over white applicants.

Churches, foundations, civic groups, schools and individuals all over America have donated time and money to support soup kitchens, adult education, day care, retirement and nursing homes for blacks.

We hear the grievances. Where is the gratitude?

Barack talks about new "ladders of opportunity" for blacks.

Let him go to Altoona and Johnstown, and ask the white kids in Catholic schools how many were visited lately by Ivy League recruiters handing out scholarships for "deserving" white kids.

Is white America really responsible for the fact that the crime and incarceration rates for African-Americans are seven times those of white America? Is it really white America's fault that illegitimacy in the African-American community has hit 70 percent and the black dropout rate from high schools in some cities has reached 50 percent?

Is that the fault of white America or, first and foremost, a failure of the black community itself?

As for racism, its ugliest manifestation is in interracial crime, and especially interracial crimes
of violence
. Is Barack Obama aware that while white criminals choose black victims 3 percent of the time, black criminals choose white victims 45 percent of the time?

Is Barack aware that black-on-white rapes are 100 times more common than the reverse, that black-on-white robberies were 139 times as common in the first three years of this decade as the reverse?

We have all heard ad nauseam from the Rev. Al about Tawana Brawley, the Duke rape case and Jena. And all turned out to be hoaxes. But about the epidemic of black assaults on whites that are real, we hear nothing.

Sorry, Barack, some of us have heard it all before, about 40 years and 40 trillion tax dollars ago.
Would Obama rather be migrating westward through rutted mud roads with other members of the Luo tribe in Kenya? Would Wright rather be living in Zimbabwe?

The purchasing power parity of the average black in the US is about two-thirds greater than the PPP of the average person in Botswana, the world's wealthiest black country (excluding the oil-rich anomaly of Equitorial Guinea). A black American born today can expect to live into his seventies. If he's born anywhere in sub-Saharan Africa, he'll be beating the odds in making it past sixty.

African slavery in the western hemisphere can be seen as one of the best things to have happened from the perspective of contemporary black Americans and one of the worst things to have happened from the perspective of contemporary white Americans. Crime, poverty, 'failing schools', curtailment of free speech, international embarassment, and the occasional personal destruction of scientific pioneers are among the consequences white America has suffered.

Koreans absorbed a generation of brutality at home that in many ways was worse than the black experience in the US during the first half of the 20th Century, and Jews have repeatedly faced persecution from Christians extending as far back as the sermons of St. John of Chrysostum in the 5th Century, after Jews no longer presented any serious secular threat to the Christian world. Yet today's Ashkenazi Jews aren't exactly languishing at the bottom of American society.

I know I'm making far more than a cultural comparison when I consider Korean and Jewish performance to that of blacks in the US. To expect parity is beyond unreasonable, to the 'credit' of black America. I'm interested in ways of ameliorating the situation at home and internationally. But the lecturing--Jon Meachem of Newsweek called the racial issues Obama had to address white America's "original sin" on last weekend's Meet the Press--of whites makes me boil.

It's hard for me, born in 1983, to think of exactly what racial sins I'm guilty of having committed*. And far from being ashamed of what my fathers have done, I'm awed at the trillions of dollars in concessions they've made, the moral lashing they continue to refrain from giving though it seems deserved, and the merit in society they've foregone in an attempt to integrate a largely ungrateful, underachieving, burdensome, and often downright dangerous minority into the larger majority--goodwill that surpasses in effort and scope any other ever undertaken by a nation's market-dominant majority on behalf of one of its minorities.

*It's not even relevant, but since this is personal, I might as well point out that I've dealt with more urban blacks through work, volunteering, and playing ball (there's a lot of court talent at your run-of-the-mill section 8 housing complex) than many people will meet in their entire lifetimes.


savage said...

Anything other than a lecture is impossible. For a so-called conversation, if had honestly, makes the first steps down the road to perdition; the reality of differences in intelligence and behavior between the white and the black. No, there can be no leveled approach with equal footing. Results favor whites. So if morality is at parity, what else but ingrained differences explains causation? The failures, whatever they be, must lay at the foot of the white, always or the whole narrative collapses.

agnostic said...

It's hard for me, born in 1983, to think of exactly what racial sins I'm guilty of having committed

Supporting boy band and girl band music of the late '90s? hahaha jk.

MensaRefugee said...

Theres no real place for a conversation. You dont have a dialogue with a child.

al fin said...

Even blacks who know that the Wright/Obama world view is delusional are willing and eager to vote for Obama. But sadly, most US blacks eat, drink and breathe the Wright/Obama delusional worldview. They cannot step out of it if their lives depended on it [which in a substantial way, they do].

Audacious Epigone said...

Right, to state that a conversation is needed strikes me as a call to other media powers to begin the lecturing in interest ("white sins", "institutional racism", etc).


My experience has been that it's not actively on the minds of most as they go about their daily lives. When I'm around lots of blacks, pointing out that I'm white (as in "That's why I kicked it out to you instead of putting it up. White guys pass", not "I don't rent my house, I own it") diffuses any tension in the air. They're always very much aware of non-blackness, so not being upfront with it in a confident way never does you much good.

But it is sentiment that can be stoked pretty quickly, as a visit to the right black church shows, as does listening to a hip hop station when the DJ takes calls about political contests.


Heh, well, I liked All 4 One and Boyz II Men, and was a huge Dave Matthews Band fan/concert goer. What could be better for racial integration/tolerance than that?! Four people of African descent (including Dave) supported almost exclusively by white pre-college and college kids, and liberal white professionals... oh, well, I guess I see how that might be perpetuating the problem. I just can't win!

Audacious Epigone said...

That is, four of the five members can trace ancestry back to the continent of Africa within the last five centuries or so. I think he's 'originally' Dutch by descent.

John S. Bolton said...

In case anyone didn't notice it, 'national dialogue' always means 'international monologue'.

al fin said...

Say the IQ threshold for frank and intelligent conversations on this topic is 110 points. That leaves out most people who go to Trinity to hear the BLT message.

There is a limit to frank, intelligent conversation.

Will Trinity goers sit and listen to an honest explanation of why a free society will always stratify by ability, given equal opportunity? Of course not. You'd be lucky to survive the experience.

Audacious Epigone said...


Good point. While personally I very much appreciate the both gentle and clinical approach Charles Murray takes on discussions on IQ in the public arena, unlike during the 17th Century, time is not on the contemporary Galileo's side (and anyway, Galileo was certainly less gentlemanly than Murray!).

While the topic of human biodiversity inches toward greater intellectual tolerability, the relative size of that intellectual arena contracts as it is replaced by the degenerate garbage you reference in your most recent post.

Anonymous said...

I simply don't understand how you justify, intellectually & morally, taking as givens the notions:

1) that 'race' can be isolated as the primary factor accounting for disparaties among populations in wealth, IQ, intellectual/cultural achievement & social mobility;

2) that 'race' SHOULD be isolated as the primary factor accounting for these disparities; i.e., that espousing these assumptions -- to the exclusion of contradictory assumptions -- can or will make the world a better place, or

3) is otherwise justified as a moral imperative that is either all-encompassing or that necessarily trumps or displaces other moral imperatives;

4) that one given population -- e.g.: 'white', or 'of WASP heritage going back to the Mayflower', etc. -- possesses either the intellectual capacity, clarity of observation, or moral authority to characterize and even to QUANTIFY the hypocrises, or the latent or empirical (in-)capacities of other populations;

5) that in so characterizing and so quantifying, population #1 gets to criticize population #2;

6) that the putative evidence and interpretation upon which this criticism is built provides a basis upon which pop #1 can or should assume either that the condition their criticism identifies is a naturally occuring tendency, either innate in some or all self-contained populations (or 'races'),

7) or that it is the necessary or likely by-product of a governing ideology or political program or stance;

8) that there's internal coherence to a logic claiming that in acting upon this criticism, pop #1 therefore gets to demand 'fair treatment', in effect replicating purposely the SAME tendency or behavior of pop #2,

9) or in effect endorsing explicitly what pop #1 had previously criticized as an implicit or furtive corollary or by-product of the governing ideology that resulted in the very 'unfair' condition that had been identifiedand criticized by population #1?

Another way of saying this

-- & I realize the above is either abstruse or comic; either way I hope it demonstrates what I'm aiming to demonstrate (& my rhetorical stlyle here is meant in a gentlemanly and respectful way) ----

is that we've seen the politics of racial and cultural resentment before, and it has never been pretty. Insofar as you critique the Left for engaging in racial politics that you might argue to be in itself an example of the politics of resentment, fine. Irrespective of whether we'd agree on the specific items of that debate, you're on solid ground conceptually.

Where this all starts to lose me is in the very clear sense in which you are surmising from all of this -- ala Lou Dobbs (with whom I'm not comparing you; you've got a good brain & he doesn't) -- that either you, people who look like you, live like you, live near you, with whom you share blood or physical characteristics, is getting "screwed."

This kind of resentment is not only futile, in the way that any resentment is futile ultimately and by definition, but in practice, as it edges closer to its conclusions, it has proven empirically to be dangerous, self-defeating and always ineffective politically.

How do I mean this? One example:

Whatever one's ideology, it's hard to get away from the fact that World War II was to a tremendous extent all about the politics of resentment. Every honest student of history from the Communist Left to the Fascist Right will agree that:

a) most everyone in Weimar Germamy resented the result of World War I. I suppose the nutjob fascist Right might argue that the Jews didn't resent it, but if we grant this arguendo (which is the only way I'll grant it!), there was still in effect a reverberation effect of resentment, because

b) an increasingly right-wing presence of urban Protestant intellectuals & theologans began to direct their resentment politically, morally and theologically at the Jews, and therefore

c) the Jews, who'd after all been effectively emancipated for quite a while resented this resentment.

d) They also resented the Catholics, particularly the Jesuits whom they did not trust. The Protestants too resented and distrusted the Catholics, and along with the Jews, they enacted a spate of anti-clerical laws.

e) The Protestants, for reasons of economics and the issues of political representation (because of the growing size and power of the Catholic Center party), resented the influx of rural Polish immigrants -- overwhelmingly Catholic -- to the eastern part of the country, to work upon the lands of the old class (the landed agricultural aristocracy) --

f) whom (that is, the Junkers) were hated by both the overwhelmingly urban-centered groups, the Protestants and Jews for their continuing lack of economic dynamism and their political power.

g) The rural Catholics, of course, resented the urban Protestants & Jews for the anti-clerical laws that they had passed, effectively persecuting them.

h) The urban/semi-rural Catholic clerics, professionals and intellectuals resented the Protestants and Jews for taking up all of the good proffesional, academic and political/bureaucratic posts, effectively demanding that quotas be put in place to guarantee Catholic representation in these institutions.

i) The Protestants resented them right back, for social darwinistic (i.e.: of course, they convinced themselves that their hegemony was an expression the natural order of things; that the Catholics were unfit), class-based, and theological reasons.

j) Additionally, just as the Protestants resented the influx of Catholics into the countryside and greeted with derision the idea of incorporating more Catholic representation in the cities, as I mentioned above, they distrusted Catholic clergy for their 'internationalism', and most of all for their connections to Rome, and

k) Moreover, for the precisely the same reason, the Protestants resented and distrusted the Jews for their 'internationalism', and this particular species of resentment was equal parts i. their migratory nature, i.e. lack of a 'state'/homeland, ii. their ties to 'international finance', and iii. their ties to and propagation of communism.

l) the rural Catholics, both clergy and especially the rank and file, resented the Jews because of traditional prejudice, but also because of their perception that it was 'unfair' that Jews were getting all of the good jobs in the cities and their kind were not.

m) Both the Protestants and the Catholics resented the Jews for practicing atheism, spreading atheism to urban Christain populations, and for vastly accelerating the 'cosmopolitanism' within the cities, which was held as responsible for pervasive moral degeneracy, and for having spawned movements of 'degenerate art', including any and all nonrepresentational visual art, non-tonal music, and just generally stuff that seemed weird and unconservative.

In all each and every of these cases of resentment -- and in the myriad more that we could isolate during the pre-WWII period -- you have a phenomenon that is by definition fuzzy. It seldom has ZERO logic to it, but it also seldom has any workable program for the resolution of the problem embedded within it. After all, 'resentment' is a feeling and not much more than that. It corresponds to an emprical reality, a set of circumstances, a situation in which one has found himself, but absolutely no reflection on the nature of that link to the ourside world iheres in one's circumstance.

Now, I'm not making the pedestrian/too-obvious and-yet-of-course-subtextual argument that galvanizing political coalitions and energies on the basis of either individual or collective resentment NECESSARILY ends in a big horrible shitty war, in crimes against humanity, etc. etc.

What I'm arguing is this: acknowledging for onesself the existence of his or her resentment is crucial in being able to come up with a solution to one's problem. It's possible that in one way or another, this identification could be useful and maybe is always called upon in some diffused way in galvanizing political change.

However: that is NOT the same thing as building a political program on the bedrock of a specific conception of what the resentment has arisen as an inevitable consequence of. It's dangerous, of course, because in the hands of uneducated people, it really does have the capacity to create angry mobs, which almost by definition wouldn't not stand in consistent solidarity with the precise terms of your political agenda, and would almost definitely cross over into the realm of excesses that in fact muddle, becloud, confuse and even CONTRADICT the moral/intellectual basis of or the desired political amelioration of the putative problem you'd set out to address in the first place. By the way, if it sounds elitist for me to talk about the incitement of mob violence, I make no apologies. Although I reject the supposed morality, scientific/phenomenological validity and efficaciousness of racially determinative ideologies, one thing on the other side of that coin is that I believe strongly (and feel the at the evidence is overwhelming on this point) that it is EDUCATION -- and I'm not claiming that this is an easy issue to solve! -- that is the TRUE currency of social mobility, productivity, wealth, happiness, and even capacity to make the world a more moral and fair place. So if thinking that education really is the keystone to a lot of social ills makes me an elitist, so be it. (I'm sick of people on the Left apologizing for thinking they know something better than someone else. It's not really individuals who do that. When the Right talks about the Media that way, as being a bunch of political and intellectual pansies, I COULDN'T AGREE MORE, and the same goes for the majority of Average Joes on the Left.)

I guess I will sum up my point: whatever the upshot of your view of the indisputability and/or use-value of various social-scientific analytics, of quantifiable data / IQ tests / other empirical measures, there just isn't all that much demonstrated or empirical basis upon which to assume that pursuing a political and/or ideological program that trumpets these categories and conclusions/hypotheses is necessarily the best way to rectify the inconsistencies, hypocrises, and lacks of fairness that you identify.

I think we can both agree that the Republican Party has egg on its face right now because of its tunnel-vision upon courting the resentments of poor, lower-middle-class, uneducated or otherwise 'marginalized' rural whites. This not only was an arrangement that was always basically opportunistic -- that never really had strong footing in what GOP economic or even moral ideology espoused at its core -- it's also horribly self-contradictory, and we are witnessing its unraveling in the person of Sarah Palin, whom VERY few conservatives of any definition are willing any longer to defend. The only ones who do, to my knowledge, are people like William Kristol, whom I hope we can all agree is a lying charlatan if even we've seen one. The things that guy says with a straight face..... I wish we weren't having to witness McCain essentially emulate that characteristic... So depressing...

But anyway, the contradition at the root of this strategy is observable in the conundrum of 'wining'. The GOP for a long time milked as much milage as it possibly could out of the idea that the Dems are a bunch of winers. Which in my opinion was always at its core -- even if not intended this way -- coded racism that then started to make its way into a description of the bleeding-heart politics of 'liberal elites'.

But the things for which the Left deserved that reputation, political correctness, unthinking, feelings-baseed multi-cultural ideology, which was really always just a patronizing and phony non-corrective to the White Guilt of some in middle class.

No, that time has passed, and now the GOP seems to be falling apart at the seems. I mean, even if McCain and Palin were somehow to win, it just doesn't look pretty for the GOP, because of the fracturing and collision of the very internal contraditions I've pointed to.

And the WWII example is instructive in this heterodox respect: putting aside all of the moral harms that we can ascribe to Hitler's regime, it's almost more urgent at the moment that people who share your political tendencies realize that it DIDN'T WORK; it didn't solve the problem(s) or cure anyone's resentments. Not just because of the contingencies of history. No, that stuff can distract from the often much-more-important History of Ideas, which is often a much more reliable indicator of why things happen the way they do (and something that the charts and graphs you point to are simply unable to provide).

No, the reason it didn't work is because of the nature of resentment. I laid out the ways in which resentment often begets resentment, transfers it, disperses it, etc. However logical the basis upon which you construe the source of either your or someone else's resentment, it's not enough to hang a hat on if you want to solve the problem. Again, this is an arguement that I would concede to be fully available to you to use against certain Leftist tendencies that in effect essentialize people on the basis of race.

But the important thing is that resentment is not a logic and seldom conforms to logic. Despite the attempts that the Nazis made to use it this way, giving in to resentments and attaching them explicitly to this or that target won't and structurally CANNOT provide moral clarity or moral unity to a population. Even as individuals, acting upon the impulses that resentment places in front of us is a loser's game, because right off the bat, its internal contradictions will divide you against yourself. Similarly, as I tried to show in my isolating of various of the strains and directions of resentment in Weimar Germany, it as often as not transfers itself in mirror form to the object of resentment. It's just a never-ending cycle, and it's difficult to see what it solves to make it the central concern of one's political ideology. The empirical evidence suggests that such a politics will exacerbate the problem you'd set out to solve. AT BEST.


Anonymous said...

Two items that I intended to mention just now but fear I didn't make at all clear:

I. Re: the GOP accusation/talking point that has portrayed both the beneficiaries (this is where I observed the coded racism) and the Left-wing supporters of the welfare state as "winers":

The internal contradiction at the root of this strategy is one of the most instructive examples of why, precisely, the Republicans have egg on their face. I forgot to mention the explicit reason for this: it's because -- of course -- the crystalization and routing of rural white resentment toward the stances of anti-urban/anti-welfare state/anti-"elite"

(construed, of course, as cultural rather than fiscal, which is in itself a triumph of GOP propaganda, but another contradiction that's ripe for erosion, especially after the stock market crash yesterday...)

the very galvanizing of this resentment as a means of gaining political capital TAKES THE FORM OF WHINING (which I bizarrely mis-spelled previously in the form of its homophone, which actually refers to a beverage).

Sarah Palin is the apotheosis of this contradiction, and it AIN'T PRETTY. Like I said, Republican pundits and journalists who believe they have a reputation for credibility and/or intellectual honesty to protect are dropping like flies from their previous posture of support for this GOP ticket.

II. The second item I needed to clarify is a complex topic, but it can be summed up this way:

cosmopolitanism is a two-way street. In the discourses of this blog, I detect a hint of anti-cosmopolitanism, specifically as regards the media. Now, as I mentioned, you'll get no arguement from me on the basic point that the media are very close to useless in this country, that it's getting worse and worse, and that it's probably almost as responsible as the shittiness of the education system for the fact that the American voter doesn't know anything about anything, and that some voters are as likely to choose their candidate on the basis of digging her eyeglasses as on the basis of whether, indeed, she's any smarter than a cocktail waitress.

However: the media, to the extent that we mean its cosmopolitan nature, its serving of a self-styled cosmopolitan class, and pushing of cosmopolitan interests: we can't fool ourselves into thinking that we can 'accept' or 'reject' it willy nilly.

That's because cosmopolitanism -- and I realize I'm not defining it, but part of my point is that it doesn't have any one definition -- bespeaks, refers to and is part and parcel of an economic, intellectual, cultural, etc. universe which has placed its stamp upon ALL OF US.

By this I mean, at the very least, anybody who's writing and thinking and discussing on this or any political blog is by definition in some part someone who has been AT LEAST AS emancipated by cosmopolitanism as he has been inconveniences or screwed. I say "at least," but frankly, it's more likely that almost anyone having this discussion has been emancipated by it more than pushed down by it.

This isn't to say that cosmopolitanism -- like global capitalism, with which it is inextricably linked -- is fair in its distribution of emancipatory phenomena like education, quality of life, occupational satisfaction, social mobility, etc. I mean, I'm on the Left, and I'm basically the last person you'll meet who will sit around singing the praises of global capitalsim.

But I'm also aware that, by definition, my criticisms of it acknowledge my embeddedness within it. And, frankly, the phenomenon that in its most idiotic form -- the realm of caricature -- of "White Guilt" or "Liberal Guilt" or "armchair activism," etc., this phenomenon actually stems both intellectually and morally from THAT VERY COGNIZANCE. Before the Left lets it become a basis upon which to pat itself on the back, a self-caricature -- which I'll fully admit, it often does -- the basic intellectual reflex makes TOTAL sense. Which is to say, that with an understanding of the unevenness of the distribution of wealth, privilege, opportunities for social mobility, etc., that come along with recognizing one's embeddedness in that system, a recognition that is undeniably true, comes the thought: "how can we make these disparities less gargantuan?"

Now, obviously, this is where you and I begin to part ways ideologically. And that's fine. But just at that very basic initial recognition, I think it would be difficult to argue that a Social Darwinian or meritocratic or even racially determinative ideology, that any of these ideologies are less guilty of hypocrisy than is a liberal/Leftist at the moment of his acknowledgement of his embeddedness in a system that includes this disparity.

To say that it's bad to acknowledge that is basically to thrust yourself WAY WAY to the Right, bordering up very closely against fascism, which I'm under the impression you gather as farther than you'd advocate going.

And yet, a certain umbrage-taking that you display either on behalf of yourself or others seems to me basically to miss this central issue. To put it another way; whether you like it or not, your engagement in these discourses makes you, to some degree, a part of cosmopolitan discourses. From here, you don't have a available to you a non-self-contradictory option that says: fuck the whole thing, let's give each 'racial population' its due.

Why can't you do that? Because insofar as you're a participant in this discussion, you lack the moral authority that it would take to gather together political support or even intellectual support for such an idea. You can't go back to an 'un-cosmopolitan' past

-- that's the illusion that the GOP is using Sarah Palin to sell to its base; a move that I think fundamentally is in the interest of fundraising rather than of winning the election, but which also is indisputably selling to people a SPECIOUS ILLUSION, and we know it!

-- and you certainly don't have the ability to argue for a pre-cosmopolitan utopia. Why? Because your sophisticated, educated rational cosmopolitanism reveals to you immediately that such a political program is fundamentally dishonest intellectually. And as for a "post-"cosmopolitan in the world could this begin to be achieved without addressing first and foremost the various injustices, inequalities and contradictions inherent in the present, cosmopolitan era?

I mean, Marx was wrong when he predicted the proletarian revolution, but he was right about something that the Right agrees with him on: cosmopolitanism, world capitalism: these phenomena are NOT REVERSABLE. They can be stunted; they can be tamed here and there, they can be subject to political protections that act almost like dams in a river, not stopping the flow but rerouting it in one direction or another. But it can't be reversed. To reverse it would be to reverse history itself.

Marx in fact conceptualized his theory of a socialist/communist future by acknowledging up-front that capitalism was a NECESSARY prerequiste to it. That capitalism, and its associated cultural and social processes which we will refer to as cosmopolitanism in fact, argued Marx, was the singlemost important step in what he saw as the eventual emancipation of all humankind from all forms of slavery.

Now, what your politics is presumably aiming for is obviously not the same as what Marx was so brazen as to out and out predict. Still: I fail to see what direction you're headed in or pining for with you political stances. Hitler, in his bid to achieve something that was in many respects an immersion in a nostalgic/utopian mysticism-based national unity, was unable deal with the myriad lingering contraditions of history itself. Even when you decide to simply obliterate a race, and let's say you're successful at doing so, the legacy in the form of memories and images and doubts and moral questions, and etc. always hang in the air or in people's minds. Or in people's guts.

So, what is the way forward, precisely? I just don't see how the ideology you're developing could possibly deliver on that basic necessity: forward, not backward.

Anonymous said...

One final point that's implicit in my discussion:

Anyone who's read their Tocqueville has considered that what the American democratic experiment in effect stood-in, or the hole that it plugged, its analogue in Europe was ARISTOCRACY. And monarchy, etc. But let's stick w/ aristocracy.

What Tocq. observed in American democracy can also help us understand cosmopolitanism: the thing that it replaces is an even MORE unfair system that basically just said: you're an old money WASP so, here, go to Yale. There were no ENTRANCE EXAMS. There was no MERITOCRACY or entitlement on the basis of INHERENT CAPACITIES, no one could have given a fuck.

Now, again, since I'm on the Left, I'm quick to point out that the fact that it's better now doesn't mean that we shouldn't keep pointing out what problems are there now. Or for instance, remind ourselves of the fact that George W. Bush got into Yale, and I'm fairly sure that it wasn't because of his "innate capacities." So, in other words, I argue that "meritocracy" has always been, and is now -- even if it's less so than the era of Horatio Alger -- a MYTH.

Now, I'm sure that a man of your political persuasion is fully acquainted with the Supreme Court case Buck vs. Bell? The famous opinion of Oliver Wendall Holmes about "Three generations of imbeciles..."

Now, seriously, my friend. Doesn't that give you just a LITTLE bit of pause when you polemicize about the indisputablity of racially determinative data?

The liberals against which the GOP rage are always caricatured as being overly complicated, lacking the capacity for a pithy turn-of-phrase (although, now we have Thomas Frank...).

Well, look, I'm no greater a fan of pedantic blowhards than the next man. But seriously, how the fuck could anyone justify exercising anything less than the MAXIMUM care in dealing with issues like this?

History is an important resource and with history as with current affairs, the biggest problem we've got in this country's intellectual conversations is all of the god damn ideological smokescreens and ideological litmus tests. For instance, if Obama loses the election because of insufficient support from Catholic voters....that would just be the ultimate example of bearing ideological blinders.....The idea that a morally responsible person could limit their moral evaluation to the question of abortion, when there are so many moral imperatives that need to be addressed....

If we're going to get anywhere, we're going to need to keep plugging away at the project of finding ways of turning ideological debates BACK INTO intellectual debates. We're so fucked if we don't figure out a way to do that.


Audacious Epigone said...


I'm lost re: cosmopolitanism, how Hitler plays into this, or what my political agenda is assumed to be. This post was simply arguing that the social 'concessions' made in the 60s be reevaluated going forward--they achieved virtually none of their putative goals. The white-black income and poverty gaps are as wide as they were 50 years ago, the illegitimacy and incarceration gaps are larger, affirmative action programs have led to a higher percentage of blacks failing at elite academic institutions than would've been the case without quotas, etc.

I see little danger in assuming any kind of violent white backlash against blacks, if that's what you're somehow presuming I'm advocated (which would be way off base). Exit polls on the Democratic side showed that blacks, in all six states in which the question was posed, are more likely to vote for racial reasons than whites are. The politics of resentment are much stronger among blacks than among whites.

Also, thanks for the refresher on Germany between the wars, I'm reading on that period of time now.