GABlog Generative Anthropology in the Public Sphere

February 21, 2015

Random Political Indexes

Filed under: GA — adam @ 10:29 pm

It is becoming clear that a country can have Muslims, or it can have Jews, but it can’t have both. It may be when Muslims reach a certain percentage of the population, or when the Jewish/Muslim ratio hits a certain point, but (my hypothesis would be) every country does get to the point where, along with the virulent antisemitism imported by Muslims, the host population finds it too annoying, exhausting, and/or dangerous to bother defending the Jews against them. Indeed, when it gets to that point, it becomes convenient, and even obvious, to blame the Jews for the Muslims’ hatred towards them, and other, sedimented forms of antisemitism re-emerge. This is distressing, of course, but what is interesting is that such a hypothesis is unthinkable in liberal (in the broader sense) terms. To imagine that different categories of citizen, different “demographics,” are simply incompatible within a given national society, is confess the failure of multiculturalism (of course) but also the notion of a modern political order as such. Which would leave us without the barest beginnings of a shared political vocabulary and grammar.

Many American blacks will long remember that, not only did a majority of American whites vote against the Obama (a substantial majority the second time around), but they voted in a Republican congress capable of frustrating Obama, and turning the first black President into the abject failure he will surely be seen as. Many American whites, meanwhile, will long remember that we would not have been saddled with the most destructive President in American history without the virtually unanimous support of African-Americans. How many? Enough to show Abraham Lincoln to be the greatest political prophet in history?:

Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

Lincoln, of course, is referring to the war itself, but perhaps it has never really ended, however much the sides, and their respective moral stature may have changed, perhaps that 250 years of ill-gotten wealth has not yet been sunk, or perhaps we have to account for all the wealth made possible by that piled by the bondsman; perhaps the blood drawn by the lashes must be paid by that drawn from guns and bombs and who knows what else—but it is perhaps fitting that an idiotic attempt at racial redemption on the cheap should re-activate the sinking and drawing.

The idea behind the sexual revolution was that once fear of pregnancy and all the surrounding social norms and moral rules tying sexuality to marriage and procreation were overthrown, the pleasure taken in sex would be uninhibited, unobstructed and frequent. But maybe, as reported declines in sexual interest in Japan (for example) suggest, that’s not the case at all. If there’s no desire to have children, there’s no inclination to get married; if there’s no inclination to get married, dating seems pointless; if dating is pointless, all the preparatory activity (flirting, gossiping, going to parties and bars, shopping, attending to personal appearance, etc.) becomes uninteresting. There will always be the random hook-up, but once you get past the point where lots of young and men and women are in close and constant contact with each other (i.e., college), that probably becomes too much trouble to be worth it as well. So, while Heather MacDonald has made a plausible case that the draconian new sex codes on college campuses represent a roundabout, if unconscious, way of restoring a workable sexual morality, it might just as well be the case that these codes are a way of making sex high-stakes once again, and therefore dramatic and interesting. At least for a certain segment of the younger “demographic,” sexual enjoyment relies upon the thrill of creating a new sexual morality—more explicit, micro-consensual, mappable in all of its moves and experiences. In that case, these rules would be nothing more than an attempt to impose a single, fairly idiosyncratic sexual fantasy on everyone else—a particularly noxious form of tyranny.

It is very possible to reduce politics to the conflict between those who save and those who borrow. Those who borrow have an interest in inflation, money printing, government growth, and bailouts, while those who save have an interest in more minimal institutions that do little more than protect people and property and stable currency. Beyond these direct conflicts, borrowers are likely to be more libertine or “socially liberal,” savers more continent and “hung up.” The two, moreover, are interdependent—from whom else are borrowers to borrow, if not savers? At the most minimal level, savers are not necessarily dependent upon borrowers, but the greater the discrepancy between savers and borrowers the greater the interest (literally) the savers have in lending—this is what has been known as “usury,” like “price gouging,” a concept completely devoid of all content aside from resentment toward its referent. But lenders must rely upon some agent of force to collect from their debtors, and unless they are to rely upon private security forces (which they do, of course, to some extent), that means the state—at the very least, they rely upon laws that allow for coercion to be used in the collection of debts. Savers had the upper hand politically for quite a while, playing a central role in the emergence and consolidation of civilization: for quite a while debtors were imprisoned, and countries with debts to civilized countries and banks occupied. Saving money, after all, is a most basic form of deferral, and one from which many others flow. Today, lenders are deeply plugged into the circuits of power, but that’s not the same thing as a politics favoring savers: now, those who lend money function as distribution and redistribution mechanisms of the state, getting the new money before anyone else does and when it is worth a bit more. They are the conduits of a political order, one that draws wide support across all classes, aimed at increasing borrowing and keeping later borrowers sufficiently afloat to generate enough money for the earlier borrowers and their political facilitators. The contemporary left struggles mightily to frame politics in terms of the struggle between lenders and borrowers, but are themselves part of the postmodern politics aimed at mocking, demonizing, subverting, and ultimately fleecing savers. The notion of “pump priming,” used to describe Keynesian spending measures aimed at goosing the economy, really better describes the production and reproduction of the borrower class, which comprises a set of historically new psychological types: worshipful of celebrity, resentful of limitations and therefore contemptuous of externally imposed norms, entitled, conspiratorial, terrified of being out of step. When there is a flood, they will loot the store owned by the guy who had the foresight to buy and stock lots of water pumps, their political representatives will denounce him as a price gouger, and their flatterers in the media will immortalize their fist-pumping as they splash through the broken glass. Saving provides the ballast of civilization—how much of it do we still have in the bank?

Foreign policy bureaucrats, and the pundits who feed them their lines, like to say that we should only go to war “in defense of a vital US interest,” or something along those lines. But they never say what we are supposedly interested in, much less vitally, and why. You could make a list: maintaining global free trade, sustaining the flow of relatively safe energy, protecting democracy, etc. But on what grounds could one ever say that some other country’s participation in trade, or accessibility as a source of oil, or another country’s freedom, is a vital interest? Approaching things in this positivistic, ultimately nihilistic, way is incoherent and destructive. We are interested in supporting our allies and weakening or destroying our enemies. (We are all hostage to each other.) How vital the interest depends upon how much that ally can help us fight our enemies, and how much it is willing to risk to do so, and how much harm the enemy can do us or our web of alliances. How do we choose our enemies; or, how do they choose us? That’s another way of asking who we are, which is in turn defined by who is attracted and repelled by us. But, of course, our allies and enemies are always already given (however we might trace back their conditions of possibility), revealing us to ourselves, and we can always start by simply cultivating those alliances and, in confronting those openly committed to doing us harm, clarifying which alliances are worth cultivating. The really difficult question is when to treat non-state actors—private citizens and associations—as allies or enemies. We can answer that question only when we have answered a previous one: do we want to destroy our enemies (and take responsibility for the resulting systemic confusion) or weaken then but keep them in the game. How good a game is it?

One can always deal with evildoers, and sometimes one must. It should be possible to deal with evildoers while continuing to be honest about them—we would only deal with them out of some very compelling interest and we can assume they must see us similarly to how we see them and therefore only deal with us out some compelling interest of their own—an interest that would override any insult our honesty might occasion. In other words, we should be able to say, “you’re a bunch of thieving, murdering, raping SOBs, but we’ve got to go through that pass and if you let us do so we’ll send you enough food to tide you over this famine”—and they would presumably respond in kind, if they really don’t want to starve. We become abject when we assume that dealing with evildoers requires that we not call them what they are—first of all because we thereby communicate that dealing with them must be of greater value to us than dealing with us is to them. We are further compelled to treat as a “problem” anyone who exposes the lie we tell to cover our cravenness—and that means not only anyone who speaks honestly about the evildoers but, even more and especially, their victims, whom we must then discredit, slander, and trivialize. But the first lie is the one we tell ourselves, that there is not so much difference between us and the evildoer. But once we tell that lie it becomes true, and thus easier to believe.

Powered by WordPress