...but I wasn't black, so I said nothing...
Everyone knows that famous "poem" (reproduced at the end), so just fill in Women, Gays, Intellectuals, and finally, the middle class. All of those categories, except middle class, are "other" to the right wing/fundamentalist assault; just as non-Wahabiists are to ISIS, just as Palestinians are to Israelis. As we shall see below, the category of "other" transcends "-isms"; it is part of a millenia-old war between orthodoxy and the "heresy" of being healthily aware of your body. "Otherness" also transcends nations - the right wing assault in the US, is only a part of a global recrudescence of religious bigotry, tribalism, and obscurantism.
Global wars have many fronts, and each front has different rules. For example, in WW2, the Nazis treated the British as gentlemen and the Russians as untermensch. in today's class war, the US 1% treats what is left of the educated, white middle class as gentlemen, and the "others" as untermensch. Hence, the casual brutality and slaughter of blacks, the routine denial of the rights of women and gays, and the less-than-human status assigned to "others" across the board.
If you know my writing, you know it is grounded in Hannah Arendt's analysis of totalitarianism, but enhanced by Morris Berman's take on the Naziism as a form of heresy. BLM reminded me of Berman's explanation of the emotional state of the Nazis:
Hohne (a historian) tries to argue the Arendt thesis for the banal and bureaucratic character of the Holocaust, but admits that the Jews were overwhelmed by a "murderous wave of unbridled sadism". "Hour by hour...the SS and their local auxiliaries drove the Jews into gas chambers, beating, tormenting, insulting, and torturing."...There is nothing banal and bureaucratic about this. it takes a certain type of frenzy to make such things happen; and I believe this sort of thing can only emerge from a powerful somatic configuration that is rooted in that profound and painful dichotomy of Self vs. Other, and the drunken aching longing to heal that split.
- Morris Berman, Coming to Our senses: Body and Spirit in the Hidden History of the West
BLM has experienced the physical revulsion, the sadism, the torture that Berman is talking about. (While, pre-NRN, the Sanders wing had been taking the impersonal, intellectual stance of Hannah Arendt.) Somewhat less frequently, women and gays standing up for their rights have also been physically and emotionally assaulted and killed. Recently, the scientists (especially climate scientists) and teachers have begun to be intimidated, fired, and villified - so the assault is climbing Niemoller's ladder, one rung at a time.
My goal here is to re-visit a TL/DR diary on "otherness" and turn it into a vehicle to at least makes sense of the BLM-progressive dustup.
If you don't think we are in Goodwin's law territory, come below the orange gnostic symbol for more exegesis.
Five years ago, I published a TL/DR diary about Berman's views on the body in contemporary America. Here is a brief clip from that, about the notion of "otherness" in our politics.
Only those Democrats on the receiving end of the heretic/"Other" rhetoric have managed to "stay awake" (to use the Platonic sleepers/wakers dichotomy) as the corporatocracy erases the accomplishments of leftwing movements in America. So, the Democratic wing of the Democratic party contains the victims of orthodox witch-hunts, Inquisitions, and defacements: blacks, feminists, homosexuals, Hispanics, leftwing intellectuals, labor unions, and a few outright leftists, like Bernie Sanders[NOTE] (not technically a Democrat).
- arendt (2010), Fundamentalism is the angel dust of the masses.
[NOTE: Five years ago, I included Bernie among the "others".]
Berman's main thesis is that somatic experience, "being here now", being comfortable with having a body, is at the heart of spiritual experience. And, that ossified, bureaucratic religious organizations (including things like corporatism and communism) despise and hate genuine spiritual experience. They label real spirituality as heresy and try to wipe it out. But, since the body itself is the ground of heresy, it always comes back. If there is one thing fundies of all stripes hate, it's their own bodies (Scalia and his cilice - mortification of the flesh); women's bodies(purity balls; temptresses sent by satan); gay bodies (abominations to be killed); and black bodies (the unworthy inheritors of the Curse of Ham)
Despite thirty-plus years of a deepening assault on the twentieth century, a lot of liberals were not on the receiving end of the brutality of that assault upon "others". They were intellectually dismayed, but not viscerally involved. (I said "a lot of", not all. Many liberals have been involved in the push against mass incarceration, and the counter-productive "War on Some Drugs".) But, it's been almost fifty years since the "heretical" 1960s; and millenials are not well informed about what happened then and how it affects today.
The twentieth century recovery of the body and the counter-attack against it
If there was one thing the 1960s did, it was to shatter the repressive, Puritanical stranglehold of the dominant WASP culture. That was why it was called the "counter-culture". It was a body-based rejection of a spiritually dead culture living under the threat of nuclear species-cide. That was why the counter-culture symbols were body symbols: long hair, no cosmetics, blatant sexuality, drugs like LSD and psylocybin to generate alternate consciousness - and especially Eastern body practices like yoga and meditation, and organizations which promoted such, like the Esalen Institute. That's why the compassionate child rearing of Dr. Benjamin Spock became such a flash point for fundamentalist outrage - how dare he not punish children!
As in all previous cases of body-based heresy against an entrenched, orthodox culture, reaction started immediately. Given the rapid pace of modern life, it took barely ten years for reactionaries to gain control of the government (i.e., the Reagan mob) and begin to kill the tolerant, polytheistic attitudes that led to the "heresy". This being the United States, such killing would eventually have to go all the way back to the Enlightenment "heretics" who created the US Constitution and Separation of Church and State.
- arendt (2010), Fundamentalism is the angel dust of the masses.
I readily grant that BLM represents the most violently oppressed and stigmatized group of "others", targeted by the vast rightwing counter-revolution to bring back the 1820s in America. I recognize that I, as a privileged white liberal, have never been on the receiving end of the constant, casual violence and discrimination that blacks have.
As a privileged male, I have never had to endure the fundamentalist Inquisition about my body, my personal relationships, my medical condition, or the assumption of my dependence and helplessness that women have had to endure.
As a straight person, I never had to exist in the closet because of anti-sodomy laws or fear of roving gangs of skinheads.
So, yes, all those "others" are in front of me on the queue. But that doesn't mean I'm not on the queue at all.
The assault on education and science is an attempt to rollback not just the last century in America; it is an attempt to roll back the Enlightenment and the Renaissance - to overthrow democracy and return to medieval oligarchy and theocracy. You may be skeptical, but as a trained scientist, the march of ignorance is viscerally frightening. The destruction of all education (higher education by budget cuts and non-dischargable loans; secondary education by NCLB, charter schools, and the school-to-prison pipeline) is creating a generation of angry, afraid, downwardly mobile raw material for revolution.
I am really angry and scared about the historical precedents of today's rightwing nutcases:
1) The Second Amendment was written to empower Southern "slave militias". Armed white vigilantes have been terrorizing blacks for centuries in America. Parts of America have been a free fire zone on blacks for a long time. The fucking vigilantes are back out in the open, beating up black folks, burning churches, threatening the Federal Government with armed gangs. This is a precedent we must not allow to be repeated, because, as per Niemoller, they will come for the rest of the "others" next.
2) Gays and single, pregnant women are being fired just for being gay or single moms. That is the first thing the Nazis did to the Jews - fired them, so they could smear them as a burden on society. Again, do you want to see the Hollywood Blacklist on steroids?
3) The Air Force, and all the nuclear weapons and smart bombs in its arsenal, is the on-going target of a fundamentalist infiltration and takeover. Not a month goes by that some AF general isn't called out by Mikey Weinstein (bless his soul) for violating the Constitution, the Separation of Church and State, the rules of the military, and just plain common sense. The fact that all arms of the military are crawling with fundamentalist agitators is fucking frightening to me.
4) The current rightwing in America is an assemblage of the worst aspects of all previous counter-reactions to heresy. It has the misogyny of fundamentalist Judaism and "celibate" Catholicism; the Inquisitorial theocracy of the "Roman" Catholic Church; the racism and fascism of the Nazis. And, it is a well-organized assemblage, with everyone working on their particular front to undermine and destroy our middle class democracy.
If you read Berman, he presents changes of "mentality" as happening in a single generation, a period of less than fifty years - during which the organizing principle of the society shifts from one mode (e.g., medieval theocracy) to another (e.g., the rise of the marketplace). I really hope that enough of the Millenials still believe in science and democracy, or we are really headed back to the dark ages, in very short order. Our democracy is all but overthrown by corporatism, and Trump is demonstrating that corporatism can harness bigotry to destroy democracy and intellectualism.
Given all the above, if I might quote a (hopefully) non-contentious author:
We must, indeed, all hang together; or, most assuredly, we will all hang separately.
- Benjamin Franklin
What is obvious is that:
- BLM viscerally feels there is a war on blacks.
- Planned Parenthood viscerally feels there is a war on women.
- Act Up viscerally feels there is a war on gender equality.
- Michael Mann and a lot of other scientists and teachers viscerally feel there is a war on science and education.
So can we, like the rightwing, please all fight these wars as a team, instead of trying to dis one other? Disclaimer: if you are a progressive, black, lesbian college professor, you can do as you please.
Peace and love.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
- Martin Niemoller, First They Came