Dear America

Dear America,

Trump is the least of your problems. Sure, he’s a playground bully, petty mafia, or a dirty old man. Take your pick. But he’s not the cause of your troubles. Nor is it the Russians.

Trump didn’t bring fascism to America. That honour belongs to George W. Bush, when you had vindictive war, torture, and indefinite detention. But you were gripped in atavistic fear of 911 so you didn’t notice. The heroes who tried to keep you honest with yourselves in this period are still fugitives in fear of their lives.

You got Trump because you allowed the Republican party to rig districts and buy elections. A few intellectuals made a passionate case to stop this but were ignored. You got Trump because the Democrats, supposedly the good guys, refused to put forward a people’s candidate. Voters looked at the options for who would screw them and went for the more visceral. You’re doing this again.

Your economy doesn’t work. Things are expensive, basics are unaffordable. The middle class lives a life of 24/7 self marketing, fearful or taking vacations and falling behind, or spending too long in a job. Competition doesn’t work. The innovative tech startups of thirty years ago are now monopolies, suppressing or absorbing everyone else. Like half a century ago, you idolize people who go to space but your day to day is an assault of brands and consumerism.

You have a healthcare system that doesn’t work. Your schools don’t work. Transport  doesn’t work, and no Uber is not a reasonable way to provide it. Work doesn’t work, for most people. The gig economy only makes sense because of rampant class divisions. You have no welfare system, and use the army to absorb otherwise bereft young people. Like the Romans.

As a nation “you’re not racist but…” Nobody is foolish enough to claim superiority for whites, but you treat African-Americans as non people. Police is an occupying force. Because you have so many non-people people you can’t conceive of any kind of sharing or collective solutions to problems. Not with them! For fear of the other you curse yourselves to live without public goods.

People pack guns and shoot children in schools, or just each other, and this is somehow normal. The price to pay, apparently, for freedom. Freedom from some imagined socialism or uprising that will never come. Or some supposed existential threat. The existential threat to life on Earth is you and your survivalism. You live in festering, unjustified fear and think yourselves ready to start a revolution, which you don’t do.

Anyway, see you soon!

 

Racism is about human rights and feminism isn’t

Racism is seen as a violation of minorities. Allegedly, it has defined perpetrators and victims. Two categories. That people are rigidly divided into categories is taken as given, and fighting racism is supposed to be about limiting and maybe one day reversing one category’s depredations on the other. It’s not supposed to be about universal rights but about protecting black people and other minorities from whites.

That’s wrong. It’s an unhelpful and misleading conception of racial conflict. Seeing it as a category conflict serves the wrong agendas. In fact, the crime of racism is about denying rights that are universal. That white people are the perpetrators and blacks usually the victims is of no bearing on the nature of the injustice. The correct formulation of racism is that people form groups based on arbitrary identifying traits, the groups fight, and it happens that certain groups become habitually victimized. The correct course of action is to frown upon loyalty to arbitrary groups and instead embrace all people as moral beings. The response to racism is to be universal.

Feminism is supposed to be a violation of universal human rights. Respectable formulations of feminism are not gendered. In law, rape is about people forcing sex upon other people. It could be two men, and from that viewpoint the crime could only be defined in terms of fuzzy universal rights. Emancipation of women is uncool. Equal opportunity is polite. Equality is supposed to mean the same access to some abstract rights that no-one is going to get too worked up about.

That’s also wrong. It is a massive appropriation and dilution of the movement. Feminism is not about universal good behaviour. It’s brutally gendered. Violence is being perpetrated by men upon women, because of the different reproductive biology that defines the categories “men” and “women”. Men wish to claim control and extract reproductive benefits from women while dumping reproductive costs on them, or rather evading their share. Everything about feminism is about redressing this gendered crime. Visions of the solution are not symmetric, and to say that they are is complicit. Credible feminism isn’t about defining universal abstract rights. It’s about rebalancing the benefits and costs of reproduction to be more just, specifically between men and women.