Wednesday, December 28, 2016

False Consciousness versus the Narrative

The term “false-consciousness” was termed by the Commies as an explanation of why the proletariat, the natural constituency for the Commies, and the purported beneficiaries of communism, were curiously not as enamored with the Commies as they should have been in theory.  One explanation would have been that the proletariat are ungrateful lay-abouts, but given the heroic role the proletariat needed to play in the Commie narrative, that wouldn’t do as an explanation.  Instead, the Commies chalked up the problem to the false-consciousness of the proletariat – they just don’t understand what’s good for them and whose looking out for their interests.

Of course one way to cure people of their false consciousness is to make them aware of it, to convince them of where they sit in the narrative.  Commies have their narrative of course – the class struggle and conflict that drives history, with the bourgeoisie as the bad guys and the proletariat as the good guys.  The narrative purported to be a science – the ultimate success of the proletariat in the struggle and the resultant abolition of class distinctions was a matter of when, not if.  The more the proletariat could be convinced of the narrative, the more likely the narrative would become true, and the sooner the better.

So here’s the thing about that false consciousness.  Think of one of these proletariat dudes sitting on the couch - he’s got a mind-numbing job but it pays the bills and at least he’s self-sufficient, he’s got some football on Sundays for entertainment, and he has a wife and a few kids that have it pretty good.  Now, he knows he doesn’t have it as good as his bourgeois boss, and he may view his boss as a pain in the ass from time to time, but all in all life is good.  Until he’s convinced otherwise.  And if convinced to the desired degree, he joins the revolution, leaves his contentment behind, and starts breaking a few eggs in order to make the societal cake of the future.  In the twentieth century, this narrative and its relative success at recruitment led to 100 million plus deaths.  So maybe the unaware or otherwise unconvinced member of the proletariat was onto something.  Maybe he didn’t suffer from false consciousness.  Maybe he suffered from common sense and couldn’t be convinced to give up a good thing just because someone might have had it a little better than him.

No one uses the proletariat and bourgeoisie terms anymore – but the basics of the progressive liberal narrative is essentially the same: one group of people putting their boots to the necks of another group of victims.  The proletariat has been replaced by anything that qualifies you as a victim – due either to race, gender, sexuality, or religion (if you happen to be a Moslem).  On the other side of this equation you are left really only with white men, who need to “check their privilege,” and who can only really do so by aligning in full force with the liberal progressive agenda.  Any honky like myself who regards the liberal progressive narrative as wrong, counter-productive, and antithetical to freedom, is in need of re-education if possible, or otherwise simply needs to be marginalized as a Nazi. 

If you reject either the narrative itself (a strong form of rejection), or even just the political remedies that the pushers of the narrative are trying to jam down your throats (a weaker form of rejection), you yourself are feeding the narrative.  Your affliction of multiple isms may not be evidenced by how you  treat the alleged oppressed, but because you reject a bunch of crazy stupid policy proposals as being at best ineffective, and more likely highly counterproductive, you clearly are such afflicted.   I think a large measure of the unexpected loss Clinton suffered in the election stemmed from good people being fed up with the narrative and the fact that if they were on the wrong side of it, no matter how nuanced their position, they are considered Nazis.

There are three central reasons not to like the narrative.  First, because in many (if not most) cases it’s not true or otherwise grossly exagerated.  My favorite instance of the narrative being completely crazy wrong is the narrative that claims abortion rights are necessary to combat men oppressing women by impregnating them to keep them economically dependent upon them.  I doubt this ever had much going for it in the category of truth, but if it ever did those days are long gone. Most pro-life men are likely already happily married and/or religiously motivated and are only too happy to help raise their kids; meanwhile there is no lack of pro-choice men who are more than happy to treat their girlfriend’s pregnancy as a problem that is distinctly not their own, and to walk away hands clean if she should happen to make that problem a long-term one.  I’ve known some rogues in my life, and in watching their behavior in singles bars, few seem to have been motivated by a burning desire to tie themselves down with two other mouths to feed and care for. 

Second, even for issues where there is truth to the narrative, it’s a distraction from real issues that can be addressed to good effect on a personal level or at the level of the community, rather than politically at a national level.  To the extent the politics of the narrative are successful it undermines the cultural antidote – changes at a personal and community level that are more permanent and lasting.  If you think you are a victim of unfair circumstances, on a personal level this can have one of three effects: 1) it can cause you to work harder to rise above the adverse circumstances; 2) it can cause you to reduce your effort because you feel like no matter how hard you work the deck is stacked against you; and 3) it can cause you to re-allocate your time and talents to fighting the perceived oppression, taking that time and talent away from other endeavors.  Once upon a time the response of many whose oppression was far worse than any alleged oppression out there today was to double-down on their work effort.  Acceptance of the narrative now seems to translate more often into the latter two responses, making people bitter, overly partisan, and miserable. 

Three, the political antidotes never work.  Which in and of itself would not be a problem except that the failure for the political antidote to work is never acknowledged, and instead those peddling the narrative maintain power by claiming the policy failures stem from continued resistance to change from the oppressors.  This in part successfully reinforces the harmful message at the personal level – that you are a victim whose circumstances are out of your control.  Every declining city in America dealing with urban blight and poverty has been run by Democrats who get elected every four years with the same arguments that all that needs to be righted are the selfish policies that don’t tax certain people enough, and/or which don’t distribute benies in sufficient proportion to the right people. 

The liberal progressive narrative requires convincing people that they are victims of all manner of insidious oppression from the deplorables I wrote of prior to the election.  The obvious intention of the narrative is to garner votes in order to right the wrongs.  The narrative does not allow for nuance or perspective – the current injustices of the day are always as egregious as they were yesterday.  If you think it unwise to allow transgendered men to enter ladies’ rooms, you might as well be whipping a slave.  The two are little removed in the narrative. No progress is ever admitted, or lauded. And because there is real progress, the narrative gets ever more stretched to fit a large enough coalition of victims to ensure election.  The narrative is highly toxic to those who believe it on a personal level, and to all of us insofar as it infects our politics.  It seems to only work for humanities professors, who are its chief intellectual peddlers, and the only ones who seem to garner any financial benefit from it. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Deplorables

Back about a decade ago I was trying to put together a book proposal for a satirical look at a branch of academic psychology that was focused on the abnormal psychology of political conservatives, which goes back to at least the 1950s.  The line of research has insights that ring true –but it goes astray in how it bends over backwards to classify as politically conservative any person or group with obviously nefarious character.  So the good guys were by definition liberal, and the bad guys were by definition politically conservative.  There was no set of ideological preferences that made you one or the other, so that the apparatchiks in Soviet Russia were, surprise surprise, politically conservative. 

Among the abnormal psychological traits ascribed to the politically conservative was a view of the world as consisting of insiders (us) pitted against outsiders (them).  The outside status made the “them” less deserving of respect or civil rights or you name it.  Power was rightfully vested with the insiders to be employed for the benefit of the insiders.  As an insight into human behavior in general, it has a lot to be said for it.  Any historically humanitarian tragedy – slavery or genocide – has generally been rationalized by the insiders who perpetrated it on the grounds that the victims were not fully human (slavery of African Americans), or were a cancer upon humanity (Jews in the Holocaust). 

The need to rationalize such barbaric cruelty is a strange back-handed compliment to humanity – we cannot stand the thought of being perceived as murderous or tortuous to others.  But the fact that we come up with a self-convincing rationale is problematic – the smartest among us can talk ourselves into believing anything.  Don’t believe me?  Eugenics was all the rage among the smartest biologists 100 years ago; it was also the driving motivation of Margaret Sanger’s founding of Planned Parenthood – i.e., now that we cannot enslave them, perhaps it would be best to just limit the inferior stock from within the species, which conveniently come in a different color for easy identification.

Ahh yes Hatcher, but we’ve evolved in our moral understanding of things.  No one advocates for slavery, or eugenics, or the Holocaust in America.  Sure, although in many Moslem countries they are batting two for three on these counts, and certainly at the heart of all terrorist activity is a distinction between the believer and the infidel, who in that worldview is entirely deserving of suffering a grisly fate.  

Want an example closer to home?  Look to the abortion debate.  Those on the pro-choice side have long argued that the fetus is just a clump of cells, and that “human” life is only achieved once the baby has checked off a list of arbitrarily defined criterion that you or I might fall short of on any given day.  Even the abortionists cannot proceed with any thought that they are ending innocent life – they rationalize the act to themselves by drawing a distinction between “us” (sentient human beings) and “them” (parasitic clumps of cells who won’t know what hit ‘em).  Again, it is to their credit that they know they need to make this rationalization; it is to their discredit that they so easily accept thinly constructed definitions to separate “them” from “us.”  Don’t think they are thinly constructed?  Take the most committed abortion advocate in the world, and as soon as she wants a baby and is blessed with a pregnancy, she will immediately begin to think of names, to imagine the birth, to envision that child’s future.  No one ever does this for a tapeworm.

But I digress.  The point of this particular post is to talk about the marginalization of one’s political opponents as “them” – something other than “us” – which of course goes hand in hand with thin rationalizations that justify disparate treatment of the “them.”  One might refer to the “them” as the “deplorables,” to pick a word out of thin air.  And, of course, if one were to choose this word from within the in-group as a description of those in the out-group, no one else in the in-group would really disagree.  They might rather you not say that straight to the deplorables’ faces in the month prior to an election where such deplorables (for now) have a right to vote the in-group out, but in their heart of hearts they tend to agree with the characterization.  And the agreement is not merely academic.  To the extent that any slavery advocate concerned himself over the question of the humanity of African-Americans, his position (that they were not fully human) was (not in-coincidentally) held in support of a very specific policy regime.

Any viewpoint that holds the “them” in contempt goes hand in hand with policies and governance that is generally bent on screwing the “them.”  The disparate rights and obligations of the in-group versus the out-group within a society need not be so extreme that the out group will either be enslaved or slaughtered; there are more benign forms of discrimination.  The screwing can come in two relatively benign forms.  First, the laws and policies themselves can be constructed in full knowledge that the “them” will suffer the full costs of said policies, with the “us” getting the full benefits.  Second, the enforcement of the laws themselves is applied unevenly under the thin pretense of prosecutorial discretion, in such a way that the full weight of the law comes down upon the “them” when they transgress it, whereas it is completely unapplied to the “us.”

The deplorable “them” that finds itself opposite both the Obama administration (“bitter clingers to their bible and guns”) and the Hillary candidacy are deplorable in the eyes of the in-group for their “ism-phobia” disease, which is a combination (at a minimum) of racism, sexism, homophobia, and Xenophobia.  It is important to emphasize that mere opposition to Obama or Hillary is in the minds of many from the in-group is all the evidence required to show one suffers from ism-phobia; it is inconceivable to the in-group that someone in this group just simply disagrees with leftist views.  Those afflicted with ism-phobia are so beyond the pale that they deserved all of the IRS harassment they received in efforts to establish their non-profit educational institutions, as everyone knows having the word “Constitution” somewhere in your organization title is codespeak for “Nigger go home.”  Though technically the IRS behavior was illegal and clear harassment intended to quash political expression and education, we must look the other way and not punish those within the IRS for the egregious mistreatment, because such laws and concepts are meant to protect the “in-group”, not the deplorables. 

Now, I know what you are thinking – Hatcher, c’mon dude, you gotta admit that Trump’s followers are pretty racist, which is why they are so hell bent on building a wall to keep Mexicans out etc.  Well, of course, that would be one reason why they might favor the Trump rhetoric regarding immigration.  But it’s not the only reason, and it is probably not the primary reason.  If we accept the theory that Trump’s base is mostly the lower middle-class whites, this is the set of people who are most negatively affected by immigration of low-skilled labor from South America.  They are affected in two direct ways – 1) they often are competing more directly against such labor for jobs, thus depressing wages, and 2) they are much more likely to live in communities where the influx of such immigration stretches public resources, stretching thin, as an example, the resources for public schools that find themselves having to integrate significant percentages of kids who don’t speak English.  (Sidwell Friends, the high school of choice for the Clintons and Obamas, is not having to scramble to figure out how to educate an influx of Syrian or South American refugees without diminishing the educational opportunities of its students.  They may take in a token refugee and give themselves a big old collective pat on their own backs for the broad-mindedness, but this will cost them and their school nothing.)  They don’t have to be racists to oppose a policy that is all downside for them. 

Moreover, rich liberals and conservatives alike, with their respective string of credentialed letters following their names, only benefit economically from having a large influx of nannies, house painters, landscapers, etc. lowering the cost of outsourcing these services.  Those crossing the border aren’t exactly competing for management jobs at Google.  It is highly convenient and self-serving for the well-off set to ascribe dissatisfaction with current immigration among poorer whites to racism rather economic self-interest; and to conversely ascribe their own tolerance of current immigration policies to some admirable embrace of multi-culturalism rather than their own economic self-interest. 

(You could say the same argument applies to lower income blacks, and I would agree with you that it should.  But this set is so misled by the likes of Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and others to believe that their economic troubles are first and foremost the result of racism, rather than policies like the mimimum wage or the current immigration non-enforcement, that any suggestion of racism motivating opposition to immigration makes them ignore the much more plausible economic reasons for such opposition.)

With respect to the issue of immigration and its disparate effects, the troubling politics of the issue is not so much that there is a policy that has winners and losers – most do; the troubling politics stems from the efforts to discredit and intimidate the losers from any ongoing opposition to the policy by branding them as a bunch of racist troglodytes.  These intimidation efforts are in large part successful with mainstream Republicans, who feel like they have to preface their beliefs with a twenty-minute apology.  This is in part why Trump has been so successful on the issue of immigration and trade – he makes no apologies because none are required – and those who support him do so in large part because he pays no lip service to the presumption of their guilt.  (I say that without necessarily agreeing with their policy preferences, especially with respect to trade.  No apology is necessary because it is valid for people to vote in their own economic self-interest.)

On the flip side of advocating policies that come at the cost of the “them,” there is the more troubling demonstration that laws – both formal and informal - are not meant to be evenly applied to the in and out groups.  In many ways, this is what political correctness amounts to – it is a shadow legal system that concerns itself with opinions and otherwise legal actions rather than crimes (which is what the formal legal system covers).  Political correctness uses social sanction to enforce approved behavior and opinions.  Some people get a pass from the full aggression of political correctness; others get no quarter.  Brendan Eich, as an example, was forced to resign as CEO of Mozilla when it came to light that he had made political donations to a ballot initiative to preserve traditional marriage.  Mozilla, during his tenure, was regarded as a very gay-friendly place to work, but that didn’t matter.  Eich’s clear policy preference was no different than the stated policy of the Clintons for just about forever, and for Obama up until the time Biden spilled the beans on what Obama really thought.   Three of these four in the minds of the in-group that relies upon political correctness deserve to be president; the fourth, clearly a member of the out-group, deserves to be denied employment anywhere. 

Political correctness, as obnoxious as it is, is at least not the instrument of a national government that was set up to provide citizens equal protection under the law.  The rule of law – the idea that no one is above the law, and that its application is independent from your circumstances as a citizen – is fundamental to trust in government.  In the wake of the obvious dereliction of duty on the part of the Department of Justice and the FBI regarding Hillary Clinton’s criminal negligence, no one can credibly claim that the in-group has not perverted the rule of law to favor one of its own.  And if you don’t believe that this has occurred, I encourage you to google Andrew McCarthy and read everything he has written on the subject – he is a former federal prosecutor who skewers every thin rationalization of both the highly unusual process of the “investigation” as well as its result. 

I can see why the left is scared of a Trump victory.  It would mean a crushing defeat to their status as the in-group for both its policy benefits and its “rules for thee and not for me” ethos.  But if Hillary ends up winning this, we can expect to see more of the same – slandering of any opposition, and four to eight years of an entire industry dedicated to soft-pedaling the shameless double standards the Clintons live by.  You may think Trump is a disaster, but if you don’t think of Hillary as a disaster in her own right, you are part of the problem.

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