Posts Tagged ‘fear

16
Jan
11

Capitalism and Race

In an older post, I attempted to demonstrate how Capitalism spawns bigotry in terms of both class and race. For this post, I thought I might expound a bit on the latter issue.

 

First, a disclaimer. Capitalism is not inherently racist. It is exploitative, enslaving, and oppressive, but it is not inherently racist.

The key word here is inherently. While there’s nothing about in the tenets of Capitalism that embraces racism (just the opposite- Capitalism doesn’t care much who it exploits), the Capitalist system, once put into practice, adopts the bigotry of the Capitalists. Allow me to clarify.

 

Capitalism produces social classes, the rich, the middle class, and the poor and working class. The rich, often dubbed “the elite” or “the ruling class” by Communists, control society through politics, industry, disproportionate wealth and property, and so on. Now despite the growing multiculturalism we’re seeing across the globe, the ruling classes of various countries still tend be primarily from a single race or ethnicity. Look at America where, despite one of the highest levels of racial and cultural diversity, the upper and middle class remain almost entirely white and Protestant Christian. Now while there’s nothing racist about being white or Christian (though there’s been plenty of racism from whites and Christians), the problem is with human nature. We crave familiarity and are terrified of the strange or unknown. As a result the middle and upper-classes attempt, both consciously and unconsciously, to keep things the way they’ve always been, which often leads to cultural and racial tension.

 

For example, a couple years ago I was in a debate with a woman about the institution of English as the official language of the United States. She was decrying having to “press 1 for English, 2 for Spanish”, and the dire implications of having streets signs and forms written bilingually (though exactly what dire implications would arise she never did enumerate upon). Now as I talked with this woman, it became evident that she was not a racist. She did not believe that her ethnicity was in any way superior to anyone else’s. yet she passionately argued that immigrants must “learn English”. In short, she wasn’t afraid of racial mixing or other people groups, she was afraid of change and the unknown.

 

When you break it down into it’s most basic components, the race/class issue functions like this: the haves are race/ethnic group A, the have-nots are races/ethnic groups B, C, D, and so on. Those in power are race/ethnic group A, the powerless are races/ethnic groups B, C, D, etc. Again, the system is not inherently racist, however, the system almost always becomes racist. The ruling class becomes the ruling race- the lack of diversity spawns an atmosphere of xenophobia at best and blatant, unapologetic bigotry at worst. On the opposite end of the spectrum, resentment (understandably) foments. Again I have to state, even with a system that isn’t inherently racist and people who are, individually open-minded, any social structure that divides us up or separates us from each other will ultimately create racism.

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16
Oct
09

War for Sale

War has plagued humanity since one caveman discovered that using a heavy stick got him what he wanted a lot quicker than his fists did. Since that discovery, humanity has come a long way in the development of weapons, from bronze spears to compound bows to cannons to nuclear missiles. Now of course, there is nothing wrong with this- be it saber-tooth tigers or serial killers, humans will always have something to fight. What is wrong with this, however, is that there are those who take advantage of this fact. I’d call them “human vultures”, but that would be an insult to the birds- after all, vultures don’t attempt to instigate, prolong, or exacerbate conflicts. You probably know these people as the “Industrial-Military Complex”.

Now of course, “Industrial-Military Complex” is a term often misused. Conspiracy theorists warp the definition to describe supposed shady corporations controlling the military, or vice versa. In reality, however, the term “Industrial Military Complex” is simply used to refer to companies and corporations that develop and/or sell weapons for combat (as opposed to hunting and recreation). Now is there anything wrong the research and manufacturing of arms? Of course not- every government in the world has a need to defend itself- to spend money and effort on maintaining a strong defense force is both right and natural. The problem is the Capitalist system allows for all forms of commerce, from advertising to research to fast-food to prostitution. Anything and everything can be produced and sold- including weapons.

Now the issue here should be obvious- if a corporation creates a products (a fighter jet, for example), it isn’t enough to simply have a  supply of the product- you have to sell it; to sell something, there must also be a demand. As you can imagine, a fighter jet isn’t exactly cheap- selling it is going to make you a massive profit. Of course, you’re going to need someone to sell your fighter jets to, and let the facts be faced, people aren’t going to wake up one morning with a sudden urge to buy one. So now you have two options: (1) scrap trying to sell fighter-jets and sell something else or (2) create a demand for fighter-jets (and whatever other weapons you might be selling).

Now let the facts be faced; people who feel secure don’t attempt to fortify their houses or stock up on assault rifles. People only raise the drawbridge when they feel threatened– either by violence or the fear of violence. Of course, it is in the interests of those selling the weapons to promote either (1) violence or (2) fear (which, incidentally, is the definition of “terrorist”). How does one go about doing this? There are a number of ways. You could make sizable campaign contributions to “hawk” (pro-war/pro use of military action as a first resort) politicians. You could make sizeable campaign contributions to politicians in hope to buy their sympathies. You could advertise- try to convince the public that they live in a dark, scary world filled with monsters they need to protect themselves from. You could attempt to- through any number techniques- disrupt the attempts of peace negotiations (after all, the more war, conflict, and violence there is, the more weapons people will pay for).

Now this obviously isn’t right. To feed off of fear and conflict and escalation is- frankly- sick. War is and always will be a tragic but often necessary event in human history. To incite, encourage, prolong, or exacerbate violent conflict for profit is perhaps the height of immorality, and yet by the Capitalist standard the industrial-military complex is not an abomination but simply free trade- the production and exchange of goods for capital (money).

Now my message here is simple. War is being sold to you- don’t buy into it. Don’t be frightened by stories of monsters under the bed when you have the real monsters trying to scare you into buying their automatics and Kevlar. Don’t be imprisoned by paranoia.

Be brave.

11
Jul
09

Fighting Facism

Nearly a century ago, Communist leader Leon Trotsky defined Fascism as “…Nothing but Capitalist reaction…”. A reaction to what? There are a number of factors that can result in the rise of Fascism but in order to understand the events that cause this reaction, we must first understand what Fascism is.

One’s might make the assumption that Fascism is the same as Nazism. This is only partly true. Nazism is a white supremacist ideology that originated in Germany, based roughly off of a twisted interpretation of the works of Friedrich Nietzsche. Nazism can perhaps best be described as a subdivision of Fascism (in other words, all Nazis are Fascists, not all Fascists are Nazis). Fascism itself could best be described as the polar opposite of Communism. While Communism demands the eventual abolition of the state, Fascism requires the existence of an almost all-powerful centralized government. While Communism calls for the abolition of private property and traditionalism, Fascism is based on conserving Capitalism and tradition. In short, Fascism can be described as a far-right Capitalist police state.

From this definition it’s easy to see why people turn to Fascism. Whenever people feel that their traditional values, social/economic standing, or status quo is facing the threat of change, there will be some who turn to Fascism as a form of defense. People, if sufficiently frightened, will trade freedom for safety (or at least, the illusion of safety). However, as Benjamin Franklin once said, “People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both…”. During the 1950s, the US was gripped by the idea that treacherous, subversive Communists were infiltrating the country’s government and infrastructure. Fascists, particularly Senator Joseph McCarthy and his following (though of course, they never indentified themselves with Fascism), exploited the public’s fear and used it to further their own ends, namely by removing political rivals and silencing media opposition by accusing them of having leftist sympathies. At the height of his power, Joseph McCarthy was one of the most powerful (and feared) men in the US, with the support of the FBI and various members of the US government. With promises of protecting the American way of life, exposing the disloyal and subversive, and defending Capitalism from Marxism (by any means possible, no matter how unethical), McCarthy fits all the criteria of a Fascist. Of course, one could argue that McCarthy wasn’t an actual Fascist but a simple megalomaniac who used Communist witch-hunts as a way of seizing power. That may or may not be true- no one is sure of how much McCarthy actually believed the things he said. That aside, it is undeniable that McCarthy led a massive following that actually did believe in the “threat of Communism” and supported and even took part in McCarthy’s Fascist actions.

Of course, the “red scare” of the 1950s is only one example of Fascism; in this case, a reaction to the perceived threat of Marxist infiltration. But people will turn to Fascism for many reasons- take immigration for example.

Throughout the 1870s, 80s, and 90s, America was flooded with immigrants. Millions from Italy, Russia, Poland, Hungary, Ireland, Scotland, Spain, etc. traveled to the US in search of a better life. Some, such as factory owners and industrialists, saw this as a good thing- a sudden (and seemingly endless) supply of cheap labor had become available. Some saw this as a testament to the superiority of American democracy and the liberties set down in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. Others, however, saw this as a threat to the known balance of life. The sudden surge of new citizens had upset the previous social order, and in reaction to this, Fascism rose up in the form of the Klu Klux Klan. Granted, the KKK had existed since the end of the US civil war (a reaction to the massive social and cultural changes taking place due to both emancipation and rapid expansion) however, it was the massive immigration of the 1890s that turned the KKK from a mere white-supremacist group to a full-fledged Fascist organization. Before immigration, the KKK’s sphere of influence was limited primarily to the South and parts of the Midwest, the areas where the effects of the civil war were most pronounced. Immigration, however, affected the entire US and during this time, the KKK’s empire expanded across the country, fueled by the fires of racism, xenophobia, and hatred. By the 1920s, the KKK had well over five million members, and was capable of murdering anyone it wanted with no fear of action from the authorities (who often enough were members of the Klan themselves). “Why would any rational society not be horrified and disgusted enough by the actions of these Fascists to take action against them? Why would any reasonable and free society tolerate this?”. Quite simply, fear is neither rational nor reasonable. Even at their largest, the KKK never numbered at more than five and a half million members- a fraction of the general population. The only reason the Klu Klux Klan had the power it did was because the general populace tolerated and accepted them out of misdirected fear. The public, terrified of the thought that their way of life was being taken from them, reacted to the change immigration was bringing by turning to Fascist murderers and terrorists. The Klu Klux Klan, like every Fascist organization, has never admitted to the charges of racism and murder. What we would call racism, a Fascist would call “patriotism” or “nativism” (a word meaning “the rights of a native population [or at least, a group claiming to be native] superseding those of newcomers and immigrants [i.e. ethnocentric racism]). What we would call murder, a Fascist would call “the actions of a non-representative extremist group” (effectively shifting blame without condemning the crime) or even “self-defense” (of the imaginary attack on the traditional values of said group, of course). The admonition of American writer Sinclair Lewis have proven true, “When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross…”. Fascism- even in all its terrorizing, murdering, big-brother glory- will still attempt to pass itself off as the reasonable, patriotic, pious, tradition-oriented movement existing only to serve and protect. Take the words Thomas Robb, the national director of a Fascist group called the “Knights of the Klu Klux Klan”, for example. According to Robb “… Our people- my white brothers and sisters- will stay committed to a non-violent resolution… The hatred for our children and their future is growing and is being fueled every single day. Stay firm in your convictions. Keeping loving your heritage and keep witnessing to others that there is a better way than a war torn, violent, wicked, socialist, new world order. That way is the Christian way- law and order- love of family- love of nation. These are the principles of western Christian civilization. There is a war to destroy these things. Pray that our people see the error of their ways and regain a sense of loyalty. Repent America!”. In this diatribe (for that is what it is, once you cut through the thinly veiled propaganda), key words and phrases stand out: “hatred for our children and their future”, “convictions”, “heritage”, “way”, “the Christian way”, “law and order”, “love of family”, “love of nation”, “principles”, and “loyalty”. All of these words fit with the Fascist creed- the “defense” of traditional values and ideals (in the case of the Klu Klux Klan, an America dominated by conservative, protestant Christian, pro-Capitalist  Caucasians) through any means necessary. Of course, Robb states that actions must be “non-violent”. Quite simply, this is a lie. Robb insists that there is “…a war to destroy these things…” yet insists that his organization is non-violent and based on the love of law, order, and family. When a man- any man- is woken up in the middle of the night and believes that someone is breaking into his house (whether this is true or not), he will get up, grab a baseball bat/fire poker/golf club/etc. and start prowling the house. How then are we expected to believe that such a group as the KKK (with a long history of violence), fully believing that there is a war against their very value system, will not react to this threat (whether it’s real or not). One might as well use that logic to argue that a bear won’t maul you if kick it’s cub, or that a snake won’t bite you if you try to tie it in a knot. To believe that the Klu Klux Klan, an organization responsible for hundreds of lynchings, beatings, hate crimes, and savage acts of intimidation, will suddenly stand back and passively allow their dreams (delusions, is perhaps a better word) of white-supremacy be destroyed is simply ridiculous. Where there is fear (particularly the fear of change), there are those who will turn to Fascism.

Of course the Klu Klux Klan still exists, as does racism and hate crime. Fortunately, however, the KKK is barely a shadow of its former self. No longer a unified group and having long since lost any credibility or respectability among the general populace, the Klan is- at most- a tiny (yet still toxic) fringe group and a sad reminder of a part of American history we’d rather (but cannot and should not) forget. Of course, one could argue that Fascism in the US didn’t die with the Klan but transferred to the industrial-military complex (an issue to be discussed in a later post), however one could just as easily counter that (like McCarthy) these groups themselves are not Fascist, but would merely benefit most from a Fascist or Fascist-style government.

“So what’s the point of all this?” one might ask, “The Nazis, Klansmen, McCarthyites, and Blackshirts are dead and gone and the Neo-Nazis and Skinheads are few in number and have most of the population turned against them!”. Now that is partly true. Yes, the KKK’s power is broken but there has been increased growth in their numbers, and while estimate believe that there are about eight thousand KKK members currently spread across the country (which is about eight thousand too many, if you think about it). Please, keep in mind that while the Klu Klux Klan is a nauseatingly racist and potentially dangerous organization, I am by no means advocating any physical attack (no need to lower ourselves to their level). According to US law, everyone has the right to peaceably assemble. To use the KKK’s own tactics would not help defeat Fascism but help lead it to victory. After all, if we violently attempt to preserve our value system from those who would change it, we ourselves become Fascist.

So why write a lengthy explanation (and condemnation) of a dead ideology? Because Fascism isn’t dead!

Yes, Hitler is dead, as is Mussolini, and Disney (yes, Walt Disney was a supporter of Nazism), and countless others. Fascism, however, survives and has recently taken hold in Europe, primarily Britain. Like America in the 1890s, Europe is currently experiencing a similar wave of immigration. And as the power of the KKK expanded in 1890s America, so has the support for various Fascist groups in Europe. Take the British Nationalist Party (BNP) for example.

The British Nationalist Party (founded 1982) is the quintessential Fascist organization. The BNP is unconditionally pro-Capitalist, nativist to the point of ethnocentrism (“Sink the [immigrant] boats!” has become a BNP slogan), violently anti-leftist (The Propaganda Director of the BNP was convicted for attempting to plant a nail-bomb in the headquarters of a British Communist party), and vehemently anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic, anti-racial mixing, and anti-Homosexual (while none of these last four are technically Fascist, they are traits commonly found in Fascist organizations). “So Britain’s got a Fascist party that actively spreads propaganda and in some cases, perpetrates acts of violence- America has the KKK and neo-Nazis groups, but that doesn’t mean they’re about to win seats in the Senate!”. In America, that is true. Not so in Britain. Earlier this year, two seats in the European Parliament were won by the BNP, and the party has made increasing strides in both popularity and elections (which are small victories, but victories nonetheless). Let the facts be faced, in Europe, Fascism is rising again.

So what’s to be done? How does one go about fighting Fascism?

Fascism, one must remember, is a social, economic, and political system based on fear. People turn to Fascism when they are afraid, trading freedom, rights, and privacy for security (or at least, the illusion of security). The easiest way to combat Fascism is to combat fear. If people are afraid that immigrants are changing their way of life, remind them that it’s the immigrants who have uprooted themselves to become part of the society they’re moving to. If people are afraid that Communism (or general leftism) is threatening them, explain that they will probably benefit from the socio-economic and political change. If people are afraid that they may lose some of their traditions as a result of change, instruct them that just because something is tradition it doesn’t mean it’s right, important, or useful. Attacking the roots of Fascism (fear, xenophobia, ignorance, and racism) essentially wipes Fascism out before it can take root, and keeps it from spreading if it already exists. Protests, anti-Fascist (also called “Antifa”) groups, and general participation in counter-Fascist movements also helps. Indeed, even having a basic education about Fascism helps in combating it.

Let there be no mistake, Fascism, while battered and broken, is far from dead and buried. The world is changing and many across the globe are turning to Fascism out of fear. I submit that FDR was right when he stated that “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.”. In short, it not we who should be afraid of the Fascists- it is the Fascists who should be afraid of us!