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. 

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