Monday, June 27, 2011


The last post got me thinking about class antagonism. I didn't touch too long on it because I wanted to get into taking apart the word "militant" and the projection associated with it, but now that I've got some more time, I'm going to look into this class antagonism more.

The funny thing about living in America today is how many people are willing to open their mouth and spout off about stuff that they don't have the first clue about, like their opinion is somehow made fact because they wrote it (in crayon, misspelled) on a sign. Or if you clap your hands, you too can indeed make the red ones go faster. I call this Grot Physics. They live, eat, and breath thought-terminating cliches with such elegance, and practice blackwhite like all doubleplusgood proles, Big Brother would be proud of them. And, of course, there's the weapon's grade projection that goes along with that, which probably makes it easier for them.

But, upon reflecting, one thing becomes clear. Not only are these people not the sharpest tool in the shed, but they're also poor. When they open their mouth screaming about socialism, using it like a child does a "naughty word", screaming about unions, screaming about public education, and screaming about X, Y, and Z (the letters as variables, not the French agents), what they're really doing is hurting themselves. As a liberal, this has given me pause many of times. You want to reach out and get through to them - preferably with a heavy iron object. "I'm trying to help you, stupid!" is the common thought that goes through my mind. And it's not like they don't want to be helped; oh goodness no. The problem is that they're already think they're being helped. And that's a big problem.

Let's turn back the clock for a minute. During the days leading up to the American War of Secession (it's not a civil war, so let's stop referring to it as one, shall we?), escaped slaves finding their way on the underground railroad was a common thing. They would escape from their rich owner's plantations and either find freedom up in Canada or stay in the North. Naturally, this hurt the plantation owners, who were loosing their "property". Which, in most cases, meant they wanted it back. So who did they send to get it back?

They gathered together gangs of poor, White southerners and told them "go get these slaves back." And those poor, White southerners did.

Let's take a look at this dynamic for a minute. You have, on one end, the rich southern plantation owner. He's rich, and he has land, and he's living the high life with all his slaves. On the other end, you have the slaves themselves, who occupy a low status in society, and you have the poor Whites, who are arguably just a touch more free than the slaves are. Now, obviously those poor Whites resented being poor. I know I resent being poor. They wanted a piece of the pie. Modern Conservatives call this "the politics of envy," with the notion that you're just better off being poor or being a slave. And those rich White plantation owners probably weren't keen on giving them that slice of pie. So what's the logical thing here to do? There's a lot more of us, if you count those Black slaves, than there are of those rich White plantation owners. Solidarity, brother! You may be Black and I may think you're the cursed Child of Ham, but you know what? It only makes sense here for me to ally with you to get things done.

And the plantation owners realized that. So they when the slaves started escaping (they'd been escaping from the beginning), those wealthy plantation owners went to those poor Whites and told those poor Whites,"go get my slaves back." There's a power dynamic at work there: those poor Whites are suddenly given more power than the Black slaves had. If they started working with those Black slaves, that power dynamic would go away. Thus, any solidarity that might have existed (providing one was able to ignore all of the other factors at play) was completely shot. And the rich heaved a sigh of relief.

Hit the fast froward button to the present: This same dynamic is at work today. Remember how I said that the teabaggers and the conservatives already think they're being helped, when it's clear to anyone they're not? That's because the rich in this nation - the corporations, the millionaire bankers, the political leaders - have convinced them that they don't need that help, in much the same way that the wealthy plantation owners convinced the poor Whites that they had power: focus on an imaginary enemy. Usually, this enemy is what's best for you in the long run, because what's good for you as a poor person in the long run is bad for me as a rich person in the short run. Thus, things like socialism, unions, and public services become the villains, even though they're designed to help people like the very same individuals who are protesting it. It's the poor being used by the rich to keep the poor poor. If you look hard enough, you'll find this same sort of thing repeated throughout history time and again: the elites, whether they be priests, kings, barons, dukes, financiers, industrial barons or billionaires, have always managed to take a segment of the poor - usually the lower middle class, but also the functional middle class if times are tough enough - and convince them that anything designed to help them (like nationalized healthcare) will somehow hurt them in the long run.

Do you agree with me on this? If you do, congratulations, you're a proponent of Marxist theory. And now you, unlike those poor-to-middle class Whites who are being rallied by the wealthy, actually know what the term means. Of course, education is the first key to combating this; if people knew, if they were learned in these subject matters, they would see. But they're not. And the elites with the power know that, and as long as they can keep these people uneducated and poor, they can keep these people on their side, acting against their own best interests.

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