Archives for category: Social Criticism

You know how Muslims are the new communists? Lurking insidiously in the shadows, just waiting to impose Sharia law or clitorectomies or whatever onto the hapless, civilized population of the West? Muslims are the new and improved version because they look and dress differently from us, which is about the absolute worst thing a person can do. There are, however, analog purists out there who never quite gave up on the red scare, furious that McCarthyism is being used against the president with wiretaps instead of against liberal arts majors. Just as with the wiretaps, and McCarthyism in general, anyone who believes that there is anything legitimate to be found in any of these claims is a moron.

As with all morons, they come up with catchy names for their moronic ideas. Enter Cultural Marxism, the belief that every progressive idea has its roots in Marx, and that a sinister cabal of Jews (yes, Jews. It’s always the Jews) are trying to destabilize the world with their commie Jewish ways. Marx’s end game, as interpreted by these Jews, was to infect the culture of society rather than the economy. Kinda seems like a nice way of blaming Marx for gays and women’s lib, on top of the Cold War and Obama. Cultural Marxism is the moron’s way of not having to think too deeply about anything, since all the problems in the world can be blamed on a single, simple thing: the Jews… I mean, the commies.

Well, morons, you’re in luck. You know those damned socialists wanting government reform to implement higher welfare rates? Those dirty Cultural Marxists! Fortunately, according to famous actual communist Rosa Luxemburg, anyone who wants the government to implement social change is not a true communist, because “State control is penetrated with the exclusive interests of the ruling class.” No communists is going to want government intervention; the entire premise of communism is a worker’s revolution against the whole capitalist system. The government is too influenced by corporate interests to be of any value to the communist cause.

How about those 99%ers who want a $15 minimum wage to help the poor because of their Cultural Marxist leanings? Turns out, one should not “struggle against the mode of distribution, … [but] against the mode of production.” Thanks for clearing that up, Rosa! Communists want workers to own the means of production! Redistribution of wealth… ain’t communist! So relax.

Luxemburg calls these folks “Opportunists”, and her ire is directed at one chap in particular, Eduard Bernstein. This is my gift to you: the most popular dude in American politics, “Bernstein” Sanders. Get it? He’s not a communist; he is, at best, an Opportunist, according to real-life Marxist sources.

“But… but…!” you might stammer, “All that talk of capitalism being the worst! That’s gotta be Marxism!” And you’re right. Marx was not particularly fond of capitalism. You know who else isn’t fond of capitalism? Donald Trump. Trump wishes to eliminate NAFTA, something that created wider markets for American businesses. Under NAFTA, companies can sue governments whenever those governments try to implement regulations that get in the way of profits. This mostly happens against Canada, usually whenever we try to implement environmental protections. Companies having more power than governments is like the capitalist’s wet dream, and Trump wants to get rid of that. He wants to regulate markets! Isolationist policies stay the invisible hand! Trump is about as Culturally Marxist as anybody, given the amount of evidence and intelligence it requires to use that label, and if Donald Trump is a Cultural Marxist, then nobody is.

At this point, it should be clear that if anyone unironically says Cultural Marxism, you can just stop listening to them, and move on to other, more productive things.

What might cause you some concern, however, is a poll of Americans in 1987 which showed that about half believe that, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” is in the American constitution. Here is what it really says:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Now I know what you’re thinking: it mentions welfare; the constitution must be Culturally Marxist! What it doesn’t say is, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” which is actually Marxist. People just thought it sounded like a truth that we hold to be self-evident, and figured it must be in there. What this tells us is that even if people don’t like Marx because morons keep attributing his name to nonsense, they tend to like Marxist ideas. Guy just needs some rebranding, I suppose.

Stop worrying, Cultural Morons. All those things you think are Marxist, like welfare and gay rights, aren’t, and all the things you love, are! So grow a beard, throw on your nicest red sweater, grab your hammer, find someone with a sickle, and go forth to seize the means of production. Workers of the world, unite!

Post-script: On second thought, Karl Marx was Jewish, so maybe there’s something to this whole “Cultural Marxism” thing after all…

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You know who perpetually sucks? Those jerks in the out-group. They’ll never be as cool as us in our in-group. They’ll always be the Other, and as such, we will literally never care about them. At worst, we’ll go out of our way to kill every God damned one of them. Remember, it’s not because we’re jerks; it’s because they’re jerks.

Us and them have always been at odds, and that conflict has resulted in quite a lot of really tragic things, in hindsight. However, it’s a mentality that’s difficult to escape. Jonathan Haidt posits that there are five moral frameworks with which every human is imbued: harm, fairness, in-group, authority, and purity. The last three are often rejected by liberal-minded individuals, or at least not given as much weight, while all five are embraced by the conservative-minded, though the first two are generally less weighted than for liberals. Haidt suggests that while a focus on the in-group, authority, and purity can lead to terrible outcomes, they are needed for social cooperation in the long term. Cohesion requires solidarity, and solidarity requires some degree of enforceable rigidity.

We need union. We need to be a part of a group. We are social creatures. The nature of that group is important, however. Conformity within the in-group is problematic. Conformity means that abnormal behaviour, even benign abnormal behaviour, becomes stigmatized. Michael Warner describes a modern reality where gays are becoming part of a sterile “normal”, where they will be accepted so long as they blend in to the sexual status quo. Marriage is encouraged because it offers a legitimacy to a gay relationship, even if by doing so it still delegitimizes other, non-state recognized relationships such as polyamory, casual encounters, or cohabitation. Deviance is still deviant, and gays are only accepted so long as they conform to the generally puritanical sexual standards of the West. This is obviously despite the fact that homosexuality itself was once considered inherently deviant, and seeking conformity to a shaming culture belittles the underlying goals of the movement.

The shame of deviance is problematic for more than just sexual minorities. New ideas are quashed because they do not fit with the current paradigm. Information that is in conflict with the accepted group ideology is swept under the rug which means that any output generated can only be considered propaganda. Consider a political party; are they going to champion new research that disagrees with their values? Is the backbencher going to have a say if they aren’t going to toe the party line? Of course not. Social conformity on the macro level is just the expansion of partisanship to a larger ideology.

Can we have union without the perils of conformity? In truth, we cannot. There will always need to be a thread that interweaves throughout society that binds everyone together. However, the perils can be mitigated. Celebrating deviance from the norm is in fact a form of conformity. If everyone is called upon to support diversity, that is in itself a structure of conformity. Consider this quotation from Karl Popper:

Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. — In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.

Relativism fails because it simply becomes an argument for nihilism, but absolute relativism, where relativism is itself something that is demanded, creates an ideology that can be successfully promulgated. There are of course other factors to be taken into account (universal tolerance could potentially lead to the acceptance of child molestation, for example), and to go through a full list isn’t something that I’d like to get into just now, but the basic foundation that Warner suggests is focused on personal autonomy. We decide how we behave, and society as a whole fights for our right to do so.

However, as with the paradox of tolerance, freedom is something that cannot be universal. There are two types of freedom: freedom from oppression, and freedom to oppress. I’m sure you can come up with contemporary examples of each on your own as people aren’t very subtle when they are describing the type of freedom that they are after.  The two are mutually exclusive, and society can only fight for one. Given the nature of Popper’s tolerant society, the choice ought to be fairly straight forward.

Do people know what is meant when it’s said that ‘race’ is a social construct? I mean, I hope they do, since it’s something important to know. Given the increasing frequency of certain news items I keep seeing, the answer is probably not. Race being a social construct means that what people see as ‘race’ is ascribed by society, and does not reflect anything real. To be black in America is to possess ‘blackness’ which is defined by the history and contemporary reality of race relations in America. Blackness is laziness tinged with amoral greed, as defined by Reagan’s “Welfare Queen” rhetoric. Blackness is criminality, as personified by the ‘black culture‘ of the commercialized violence of hip hop, gangsters on TV, and then overtly legislated in the criminal justice system that pegs them as super-predators. In Canada, much of this carries over to our Native population, who must also endure the caricature of the Dead Indian, the feather-wearing Brave that no longer exists outside of its representation of our forlorn past. Most importantly, it is irrelevant to modern society. The more we perceive our Indians to be a thing of the past, the less likely we are to take them seriously today. Whiteness in turn has its own social construction: white people are more civilized (Modernization Theory posits that societies outside of Europe and its descendants are struggling toward a European model of civilization, since it allegedly has already reached the societal peak), and with that gift of civilization, whiteness is generous as it loves to impart that gift onto others (commonly called the white saviour complex). Despite those who seek scientific research delineating innate racial differences, the answer is that we’re all basically the same, and it is only public perception that defines what we call ‘race.’

Which leads to ethnicity. Ethnicity is seen to be the ‘real’ race, since it is linked to a shared culture and nationality. People have an essence of Polish to them, for example, if their grandparents were born in Poland, and they eat lots of pierogi. However, ethnicity runs into its own problems. What happens if someone who is of third generation Polish descent lives in North America and is fully assimilated into North American culture? Do they maintain their Polish ethnicity? Would the same be said of a fully assimilated person of Korean descent? Alternatively, what if that Korean American really loved pierogi and ate just as much as our original Polish family? What if that Korean lived in Poland and participated exclusively in Polish culture? Can there be a Canadian or American ethnicity?

There are two factors that are at play in answering these questions. First of all, outward appearance: someone of Korean descent will never be considered as ethnically Polish simply because they look different. The second is blood: those who declared the assimilated Pole as still ethnically Polish will likely look to ancestry as the chief determinate. In Métis culture, there are those who demand that a bloodline to the original Red River Settlement is necessary in order to be a ‘true’ Métis. So ethnicity boils down to innate qualities derived from genetics, and what a person looks like, irrespective of how much or how little of their assumed culture they participate in. It’s gussied-up race, is what I’m getting at here. It’s the difference between saying black people smoke pot, which is an offensive generalization, and Jamaicans smoke pot, which alludes to Rastafarian culture, but in reality is simply refining a stereotype. Claiming an American or Canadian ethnicity is absurd because of the diversity within those nations, but that diversity apparently does not apply anywhere else.

People have different reactions to ethnicity. It’s almost a trope to ask Asians where they are really from, as if their ethnicity will determine every future interaction with them (Vietnamese people drive like this whereas Chinese people drive like this). Others are proud to be a part of a tradition passed on through the generations. However, participating in rituals, venerating symbols, and basking in the comfort of a common community are the markers of religion, not race. Believing in an insoluble bloodline that creates a human essence is a matter of faith, with all the spiritual significance and potential for destruction that that implies. And just as with religion, someone’s heritage can mean as much or as little to them as they choose. That is always up to them. If you find yourself assuming the importance of someone’s heritage, or making blanket statements about someone’s “culture”, then remember how ethnicity and race are interchangeable, and how this then would make you a racist.

Don’t be a racist.