Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Socrates talks Class and Identity

A contributor in one of the Alt-Left Facebook groups posed this question:
I only ask that this post be used for actual Socratic self analysis and discussion of issues of patriarchy, institutional racism, ableism and all the isms and oppressed groups, from addicts to poor rural whites to militant urban African Americans. Why should you? Because do you want to be known as the leftists on the wrong side of history? No of course not. Which is why we must constantly critique ourselves, understand our biases, our ignorance (aren't we all pretending to be more educated about leftism even though many here have probably never read a single book by Marx & Crew?), and privileges and ultimately fight for left solidarity and the awakening of the intersectional proletariat. Because even the dogmatically anti-SJW must acknowledge that there is a very real split in the left about this now...and at a time when the far left is growing at an unprecedented pace thanks to Bernie, as well as needed more than ever because of Trump, can we afford to not talk about these issues and instead just create groups that are echo chambers for our beliefs? Shouldn't we attempt to find common ground with the angry radical SJW? For the movements sake we must exit our echo chambers and contribute to the public sphere of leftism.
Truth be told, I don't think that class and identity are so easily separated from one another. If one is to stratify a society, than one needs legitimizing rationalizations for why some people should own and administer the wealth and capital while others should be stuck doing the leg-work required to produce it.  This brings to mind the old Platonic notion of the "noble lie" - the notion of myths used by societies to legitimize their social structures, outlined in Plato's Republic.  Since the above post does specifically request Socratic analysis, perhaps I'll allow Socrates himself to explain:
Citizens, we shall say to them in our tale, you are brothers, yet God has framed you differently. Some of you have the power of command, and in the composition of these he has mingled gold, wherefore also they have the greatest honor; others he has made of silver, to be auxiliaries; others again who are to be husbandmen and craftsmen he has composed of brass and iron; and the species will generally be preserved in the children. 
God has created some people to be superior to others.  The superiors have blue blood, or are God's chosen people, or enjoy the divine right of kings, or God removed man's rib and made from that a subservient help-mate.  As time went on, God didn't wash any more and so "science" took his place.  Some races of people evolved to be superior to others, or the like.  Then these fell out of favor in favor of "meritocracy" - some people just work harder or are naturally more gifted than others.  That explains the difference between billionaires and famine victims in sub-Saharan Africa.

Lies like this echo down through history.  Typically, the only thing noble about them is the strata of society the tellers of the lies come from.  This is the real importance of identity in a class hierarchy.  It is important to deconstruct the lie in order to legitimize a more just and equitable social order. To remake the social order without taking apart the lie that upholds it may distribute power and wealth more equitably, but remain unjust in that it allows old prejudices based on the lie to linger unchallenged and undermine the very egalitarian aims that drove the reformation of the social order in the first place.

The problem with identity politics, though, is that divorced from class analysis, it essentially mistakes the lie for the social structure the lie was told to legitimize.  An unjust social order left intact, the deconstruction of the old noble lie merely becomes a new noble lie all its own.  You could thus end up with a Republic wherein the silver people cast down the gold with the aid of the people of brass and iron, only for the silver people to become what the gold once were.  Or maybe the gold people are left enthroned but the silver, brass and iron people periodically trade places, and are more inclined to quarrel among themselves over who is more privileged and who is more marginalized than they are to actually try to change anything.

That seems to be the problem of the present era.

I just don't think common ground with the angry, radical SJWs is possible right now. The problem is the fanaticism and the "true believer" mindset.  This is also a problem with hard-line vulgar Marxist class reductionists, but they haven't really been the problem in the last generation. The IdPol SJWs have. Back in the days of the old left, the opposite was true.

So there's a lot of frustration with the SJWs now. I don't think this frustration always stems from a mere desire to retain privilege or out of bigotry and hatred towards anybody, though it no doubt does in some cases. But this is impossible to explain to most SJWs without them turning into bitter, caustic assholes. And this is the real problem with them. Their thinking is very closed and very circular. You can't discuss anything with them because their "marginalized identities" make them infallible. Any kind of relationship with them is impossible because they're completely incapable of seeing any kind of heterosexual or mixed race relationship in anything other than ideological terms. And they're not interested in discussing. They're interested in dictating. They're not interested in equality and solidarity. They're interested in supremacy and separation. Their levels of militancy and self righteousness - glorified in the culture of radical leftism, approach Jihadist levels. What common ground can be found with this?

SJWs ask of us how we're supposed to gain the solidarity of marginalized peoples without addressing their issues, but this question can also be put to them. How do you expect cishet white males to ally with marginalized groups who think that their status as victims makes it okay to shit all over, scapegoat and shame their allies all the time? If, after a decade of tumblr and buzzfeed, after a decade of shrill screaming over "white fragility" and "mansplaining" even white male progressives (let alone moderates and conservatives) are giving feminism and BLM the middle finger, well I can't say I blame them. The constant use of the term "entitlement" by the SJWs starts looking more and more like projection all the time to me.  

Which is not to say that white cishet male progressives are without sin vis-a-vis their more marginalized counterparts.  I would counsel no one to be blind in their self righteousness.  At times I really do think my race and my gender doth protest too much.  Would it really kill us to actually give IdPol theorists a fair hearing and consider what they say, from time to time?  And can we honestly call ourselves progressives if we don't?

I'm all for common ground, but this preoccupation with being the specialist snowflake in the drift and scoring gold in the oppression olympics since this apparently implies some kind of moral superiority sure the hell isn't going to succeed where class reductionism and overlooking racial and gender oppression has allegedly failed. Hell, SJWs turn on "white feminists," declare that black cishet males are "the white people of black people" and expel white cis gay males from LGBTQ caucuses for not being marginalized enough. And they talk to me of solidarity? Please. The self righteous and completely self absorbed obsessions with ideological and identity purity on the IdPol left is what drove many of us to think left wing politics needed a reboot in the first place.

Common ground can be had, but everybody has to do their part to make it happen. And honestly, I think class politics IS the middle ground. Class solidarity is a harsh taskmaster where identity is concerned - it leaves no room for racism or supremacist views. Solidarity will fail otherwise, as has happened to tragic results multiple times throughout history. I harbor no illusions that I'm going to have to band together with people of all kinds of racial, sexual or other backgrounds if I'm to have a chance against the powers that be.  There can be no first among equals if it is to truly work. There's a place for obstinate white cishet males to play the victim themselves, and that place is on the alt-right. And if you haven't noticed, we don't like them and they don't like us either.

Class based politics promise no panacea, but offer material improvements for all based on how far down the societal ladder they are. If the lower rungs have higher concentrations of women, minorities etc., then they will be the ones to disproportionately benefit. And maybe that's the best we're going to do for now. Where I see resistance to class based politics from IdPol radical leftists, I see a lot more concern with ego and being recognized as the specialist snowflake of them all than I see interest in actually overcoming anything, and that perhaps class isn't an issue to them because that's a form of privilege they have (having attended colleges and all) and aren't willing to themselves self reflect on.

In short, SJW narratives, no less than vulgar Marxist narratives, become not-so-noble lies all their own.

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