"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The Thunder On The Left–Belong Or Else!

There is nothing surprising about wanting to belong, especially to socially worthy causes which offer community, comfort, and political respectability.  Sociability is part of the human genome – a configuration which places individual will within the larger context of survival.  Belonging is not a higher good, a demonstration of the better bits of human nature, but an admission of the value of strength in numbers against the enemy, and a way to apportion the many tasks of survival among many. 

When such a genetically-assured drive to belong is combined with a modern drive to matter, to make a difference, then however much we may take pride in our individuality, our uniqueness, or our distinctiveness, we join groups members of some larger group.  It is only in how much importance we place on allegiance to that group which distinguishes us. Relevance, not meaning, is what most people seek.

Even though we may be troubled by existential questions – Why am I here? Where am I going? – we are more concerned with how we appear to others and what we will leave behind.  Self-image and legacy are far more important than existential meaning.

There are some people for whom one cause is not enough, so they become ardent environmentalists who tirelessly fought for clean water, clean air, and a nuclear-free environment; who believe that women have had enough ‘bumps on the noggin’ after so much banging the glass ceiling; and who join women’s groups, academic caucuses,and  feminist associations, and attend conferences for world peace.

These social reformers are for equal-pay-for-equal-work, taking Walmart, Target, and other big box stores to task for their meager benefits and pitiful wages; they become members of non-profit agencies dedicated to the return of national parkland to the wild, and for the reestablishment of wolves, grizzlies, and even wolverines throughout Yellowstone and Yosemite. They fight to stop the decline of rockfish and local oysters in the Chesapeake Bay, a tragedy that must be stopped; and as far as the granddaddy of all social causes is concerned – Global Warming – they are as committed and tireless as Rachel Carson.

For such people the collective progressive solidarity afforded them through marches, protests, online petitions, and group appeals is not only an expression of political commitment but a mantel of philosophical respectability.  It mattered little whether protests and marches had any impact.  The point was sharing in a common, philosophical, universal movement. 

It all comes down to social collectivity – an expression of concern for a common cause which unites thousands into a community of ideas – an identity community with markers, banners, logos, doctrines, and liturgies.  Belonging feels good, feels important, feels useful, and most importantly reflects one’s own goodness.

The organizers of Black Lives Matter (BLM) have been savvy and smart in their campaigns to protest the death of black men in police custody.  They have successfully conflated issues of white privilege, ‘systemic racism’, hatred of the police, dismissal of  Fascist political conservatism and its idolatry of the individual, and the dismantling of the capitalist system which has enabled oppression for centuries and white progressives have gone resolutely along.

So far, so good, but Black Lives Matter has exposed the pernicious and corrosive side of belonging.  If you do not belong, say BLM advocates, then you are complicit in racism. Silence is tantamount to white conspiracy, an unspoken belief in white privilege, and a white cracker hatred of the black man.

BLM  have been unmatched in creating a universality of message – of promoting white guilt among the progressive community and creating a meme out of an identity – Black Lives Matter is now on the lips of schoolchildren as well as concerned adults .  They have promoted the assumption that not only is the legitimacy of BLM sacrosanct, but that all their actions are legitimate and that there can be no opposing views.

Worse still is the fear among these white progressives of not belonging.  Their desire to belong, their excited desire to a real, immediate, serious cause, combined with the fear of social opprobrium if they do not has created a psycho-social juggernaut.  BLM have been quite canny indeed.

There are some of course who see the BLM movement as dangerous and antithetical to the very principles of the Republic.  It is not just a demand for attention to be paid to the black condition – a not unreasonable request – but a whole-scale, passionate, but necessarily emotional demand for an abrogation of individual rights, the disassembly of civic institutions.  Part of the contract in racial reform is silence – any speech derogating the movement, criticizing its actions, or challenging its assumptions cannot be permitted.

Stella Morabito writing in The Federalist has said:
When we get sucked in to the vortex of BLM’s…delusions, whether out of a sense of guilt or ignorance, the results are predictable. Forced confessions. Struggle sessions. The suppression of speech. Stoking of resentments. Accusations of thought crimes…
So, what’s the secret of creating enough woke conformity to get to such an anti-thought point? How does a well-organized band…get people to surrender the right to speak their own minds? To open the door to giving collectivist elites the raw power they crave?
History and fiction are filled with examples of a willingness to suspend reasonable judgement for an idea promoted passionately, eloquently, and persuasively.  Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Coriolanus are but two dramatic examples of the fickleness of the mob.  Hamilton understood how easily people are willing to give up individual, rational thought and judgment to the imprecations of powerful men and insisted upon a mediating body – an educated, temperate, thoughtful group of men with the country’s interest at heart.

Image result for Images Alexander Hamilton

Rather than address the fundamental issues underlying the black condition – community dysfunction, persistent anti-social norms, dereliction of pastoral and political duties, and a corrosive culture of entitlement – protest movements no matter how originally well-intentioned they might have been are too unformed, to singular in their approach, and too passionate  in their objectives for objectivity.  The undeniable fact that there can be no cure for racial prejudice and discrimination without economic equality between the races is ignored.  The fact that no black prosperity or social inclusion can be achieved without directed, specific, purposeful political and private action to promote economic opportunity is dismissed.

BLM have been brilliant in understanding the emotive power images of a clash of class, and culture. They have been absolutely brilliant in their understanding of human nature and the nature of  progressive angst -  feelings of white guilt and the shame of privilege, and a desperate ne - ed to show  doctrinal purity.  BLM have successfully manipulated the media, forced the capitulation of political leaders, and run roughshod over all objectors.

It has been the progressive elite’s complicity which is at at the heart of the matter. It has been this complicity and unquestioned emotional support for BLM which have distorted rational consideration of the real issues of race in America. BLM are doing what any smart, politically savvy, movement should be doing.  They are in the streets, on the airwaves, and intimidatingly visible in residential neighborhoods.  They have encouraged the most outrageous form of protest – not only violent confrontations, but the beheading, defacing, and toppling of historical statues, the occupation of police precincts and the fiery rhetoric of latter-day Stokely Carmichaels and Rap Browns.  It is in your face, confident, motivated activism at its best.

The white progressive establishment has cheered and demonstrated in sympathy but also out of woke callowness.  The issue of racial inequality is real and undeniable; and the reasons for its persistence are complex, and not simply those of white racism and privilege.  Educated, professional progressives know and understand this, but have thrown reasonable analysis and judgment aside for a show of solidarity and belonging.

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