Unite against Fascism 3
Gene Anderson, Dec. 2016
The time has come to push the unity and cooperation side of this blog. I will have one more depressing thing to say—about the economy—below, but otherwise from now on I will stick to finding constructive ways to bring people together and organize.
The oldest trick in the book is to win by dividing the opposition. The Republican oligarchy used that trick to a fare-thee-well in the election, and the Democrats and left fell for it hook, line, and sinker. Sanders vs. Clinton, black vs. white, women vs. men, every imaginable division was exploited by the Republican high donorship. There is a Chinese story of a heron that seized a clam. The clam clamped its shell on the heron and trapped him. Neither would let the other go. A fisherman came and took them both. That was the 2016 election. Obviously, we have to get beyond that or the US will have one-party rule forever. We might even use the trick against them…but the right is always astonishingly solidary. They closed ranks immediately and almost totally behind Trump the minute he was nominated. The left never could get behind Clinton, and thus gave us Trump instead. (They were only one factor, but arguably the biggest and most decisive one.) The best advice now: reach out to anybody and anybody, particularly if they are in the crosshairs of the right wing—gay, Muslim, black, transgender, or otherwise directly and immediately menaced.
One way is uniting people around classic conservative virtues: patriotism, loyalty, respect for the Constitution, honesty, personal honor, and courage. I wonder how these will sit with the urban liberals. Another way is simple acceptance. Love is not the opposite of hate; the opposite of hate is acceptance of people as they are. Tolerance, valuing diversity, and above all mutual respect are the basic values. This does not mean tolerating or accepting evil behavior; it means evaluating people as human beings, not as representatives of groups. In particular, they are not merely parts of imagined, invented, or socially constructed groups. They are not mere fragments of their religion or their ethnicity or their political party. They are human beings.
Our enemy is hate. It was the reason for the Trump vote—the sole real issue in his campaign. It takes the forms of bigotry, bias, intolerance, exclusionary ideology, cowardly and fearful resistance, and irrational anger. The outrageous amoral greed of Trump and his cronies succeeds only because their supporters and voters are motivated by hate to vote and act against their own self-interest. Most of the hate was directed downward socioeconomically—to the pooor and to poor minorities—but intellectual elites and the Washington “establishment” came in for their share. The Trump campaign spread the hatred around liberally. Core supporters apparently think of the United States not as one country where people work together to move forward, but as a set of hopelessly antagonistic blocs, fighting each other in a declining economy, each one surviving only by taking down the others.
The more general case is exclusionary ideology—the idea that “our” group deserves special favors at the expense of others. This sets bloc against bloc and rewards short-term, narrow thinking.
Thus, the counter is not to be angry or hateful toward Republicans. That merely leads to remarks like Clinton’s “deplorables” that make the situation worse. The only counter is solidarity, reasonableness, mutual respect, and personal responsibility.
The election was about hate, with Trump really having no other issue. Hatred of minorities, Muslims, China, women, Hillary, elites, Washington, mainstream media, and the truth were mixed in a toxic mash. Trump’s victory shows that, unfortunately, people vote their hate—not really news to many political scientists, but apparently news to the Democratic Party. Hatred is a far more important motive than any other, at least in politics. There is a worldwide context, rooted in increasing resistance to democracy because it is associated with globalization and rising inequality everywhere (Fukuyama 2016).
This led to the sad fact that millions of otherwise perfectly good, decent, honorable people—including friends and family of mine—voted for Trump, simply because he tweaked their one weap spot and got them to vote against not only their economic self-interest but also against the 90% of their moral and emotional compass that was not hateful. Democrats, and especially intolerant liberals, should remember this. Hatred is no nicer in a liberal who rejects any and all Trump voters than in a “redneck” racist.
Hatred is also the cause of motivated belief in lies. The astounding propagation of blatant, obvious lies—no global warming, all Muslims terrorists, and so on, things that anyone could see were false—is explained by people believing anything that justifies and shores up their hates. There is also cognitive dissonance to consider; the more one has personally invested in a belief, the more one believes it when it is disproved. This will lead many to become even more hateful to minorities and Muslims when Trump’s presidency fails to deliver (as it certainly will).
What the Democrats should have done, and must do now, is constantly appeal to solidarity, mutual support, and mutual aid in progressing onward. They must also fight lies tooth and nail, always, in every way, at every chance. Zero tolerance. The world simply cannot afford more divisiveness. Hate is the enemy. To paraphrase FDR, the only thing we have to hate is hate itself.
Parallels from elsewhere continue to accumulate. Hungary elected a fascist government recently, under the Trump-like Viktor Orbán. Hostility to refugees, Muslims, Jews, Roma, and others has increased. The government is now engaged in a massive suppression of the media, most recently a shutdown of the left-wing paper Nepszabadsag (Johnson 2016). This follows Turkey’s increasingly savage crackdowns on media and academics, including firing of thousands of academics after the failed coup of 2016. Turkey under Recep Erdogan has also been moving in a more and more openly fascist direction, whipping up more and more hatred against Kurds and non-Muslims.
There has been a major weakening of woking-class white culture in recent decades, as shown in the disappearance of folk society and the rise of obesity, heroin addiction, degenerative diseases, and alienation in general. Life expectancy has declined. Working-class whites are less hopeful and more embittered. This certainly fed into Trump’s victory. It was, in fact, the major cause of it. Trump offered hope—or at least anger.
This is grounded in a form of defiance typical of alienated working-class white culture. Traditionally, the segments of that demographic that upper-class people call “rednecks” and “poor white trash” (Isenberg 2016) talk about public events in the way Trump does: in exaggerated, confrontational style, with overstatements, outright lies, militant attacks, deliberately provocative racist and sexist rhetoric, and denial of uncomfortable truths. Above all, this discourse style forbids admitting one’s own weakness or wrongness, and forbids giving any credit to opponents. They have to be called utterly contemptible. In-your-face reviling of them is the primary way of arguing. Bullying, showing off, and being tough are the highest virtues. It should be very obvious that this is all a way of dealing with personal weakness. These people are on the bottom, and they know it. The louder the noise, the more obviously they are trying to deal with both their own weakness and social bottom-dog status. Trump appealed with surgical precision to these voters, using their classic rhetorical styles. Clinton had absolutely no clue how to deal with it.
But the working-class whites, and most political observers, were fooled. The real power has gone not to Trump or the workers, but to the giant oil corporations, lobbyists, and campaign donors, and especially the brothers Charles and David Koch. High Country News looked at 236 leading appointments and transition-team members and found 72 of them had ties to the Koch brothers, including most of the Cabinet appointees as well as Vice-President Pence. The Kochs are well known for their outright fascism; their father carried out major projects for Hitler, they were raised by a pro-Hitler nurse, and their agenda all their lives has been straight from that playbook (Mayer 2016). This is no loose use of the term “fascism”—the links to Hitler are numerous and direct. Their policies are allegedly free-market and libertarian, but actually they have backed (strategically or tactically, at least) every fascist agenda from opposition to birth control and abortion to suppression of minority voting to the real cruch: support for government subsidy, support, and backing of giant firms, especially oil firms. They now run the US through a figurehead president.
The economy is facing a risk of depression. Of course there are the immediate risks from bank shenaningans (as in 2008), enormous pollution costs when environmental regulations are repealed, and other upfront problems. But the real danger is structural. The giant primary-production firms, especially big oil, big coal, and agribusiness, will now control the US government, via Trump and his organization. These firms depend heavily on direct and indirect subsidies. From the average American’s taxes, $4000 go to subsidies, tax breaks, and giveaways, largely for primary-production corporations. Big oil corporations got $4.8 billion in direct subsidies in 2015, plus $12.5 billion spent by the US government to clear up oil spills, and an uncertain but much larger sum spent by the US on roads, ports, rail, pipelines, etc., for big oil; the total cost of food stamps and US government welfare for the poor I $7.4 billion (American NewsX, Dec. 15, 2016). And this is without even counting the tax writeoffs and special tax breaks, such as the oil depletion allowance, which are far greater than the direct subsidies.
The enormous profits earned with the help of these heavy subsidies are to a great extent either invested overseas, or simply hoarded there—banked in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Switzerland, and similar gopher holes for finance. Most of this wandering money is not invested in the United States, if it is invested at all. A great deal of it simply disappeared—taken out of circulation for the indefinite future, which is in practice the same as burning stacks of bills. This is “low-velocity money”—in fact, it may have zero velocity. Giant corporations are incentivized to invest in increasing effriciency, productivity, and even in production only when hoarding is taxed heavily. Otherwise, they will be forced by immediate financial considerations to jack up prices for quick high profit, keep production minimal, and hoard the profits.
By contrast, the fastest-velocity money—that which is most immediately spent and put in circulation in the economy—is money given to poor people for survival needs. They have to spend it right away. The people they buy from are usually in need of spending it immediately themselves—for instance, stores that have to re-stock. Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps, all such income goes out into circulation and recirculation right away, or even before it arrives (thanks to buying on credit). Recall also that much government transfer payment money goes to active workers who simply do not make enough to live on. So it is a productive investment, even to those cold-blooded souls who do not see keeping old people and young children alive as productive.
The Republican plan is to give enormous tax cuts to the rich. They plan to end whole categories of tax (such as inheritance taxes). They plan to cut corporate taxes to effectively zero—i.e., a level so low that normal deductions will bring effective rates to zero. They plan to cut income taxes such that few rich would pay. This will be made up for—partially—by ending the transfer payments. No more Medicare, Medicaid, or welfare. Social Security taxes will go to the general fund.
All this would enormously increase the amount of wealth hoarded overseas, while eliminating a huge percentage of the fastest-velocity money in America. The result would be a collapse of both production and consumption. Anyone doubting this scenario is invited to examine the recent history of oil-dominated countries from Saudi Arabia and Equatorial Guinea to Bahrain and Brunei. Wealth is amassed and hoarded by the tiny oil-rich and rentier elite, while the people do poorly and investment stagnates except in increasing oil production. The governments are also free to indulge in harsh and cruel repression of whole sectors of their population, in ways that would be economically suicidal in a country that needed skilled labor. Saudi Arabia, for instance, virtually removes women from the work force. As has often been pointed out, racism, sexism, and similar bigotries are luxuries. A working economy cannot afford them. They are found where a rentier elite needs to keep large sections of the population crushed in order to maintain its own predation. Slave economies like the old cotton south and sugar Caribbean, oil economies, and a few economies based on heavy industry are about the only economies that succeed that way.
The Republicans also plan to eliminate the minimum wage and pass “right-to-work” and other measures that would virtually eliminate labor unions as significant forces. They also plan to end workers’ protection of all sorts, from anti-discrimination to health and safety rules. All this would reduce wages across the board.
Meanwhile, housing prices are soaring in most of the US, insurance and health costs are skyrocketing, and people are being forced to buy all manner of electronic gadgets. It is no longer possible to find public phones, so for emergencies we have to carry cellphones. A house without a home computer is seriously handicapped in many ways. Expenses for everyone are thus rising fast. All this impacts consumption of all the goods and services that are not absolutely necessary.
The effect of falling wages, disappearing transfer payments, and “necessity creep” in a consumption-driven economy can easily be imagined: depression.
The Republicans will probably respond like most economically-illiterate regimes challenged with the bad results of their experiments: by printing money. The resulting inflation will finish the job of wrecking the US economy. It will never be able to recover; commitment to primary production in a world of rapidly depleting resources and rapidly rising temperatures is suicidal.
In the long run, the elimination of public education and the defunding of a lot of science will cripple the US economically for the long term. The new designate for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is not only opposed to public education, but is committed to a “Christian” education that countenances anti-evolutionist, racist, anti-gay and related “Christian” teaching. She is married to the heir of the classic pyramid scheme Amway, and her brother was the head of the notorious Blackwater firm that indulged in large-scale torture, killing of civilians, and other war crimes in Iraq in the Iraq War (see Edwards 2016). Clearly she is connected to much more than just opposition to education. Yet the future of the American economy over the long term may depend on her.
Edwards, Haley Sweetland. 2016. “The Schoolyatrd Rebel.” Time, Dec. 26, 64-65.
Fukuyama, Francis. 2016. “America: The Failed State.” Prospect Magazine, Dec. 13, http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/america-the-failed-state-donald-trump
Gilpin, Lyndsay. 2016. “Trump’s Cabinet Choices Reflect Deep Koch Influence.” High Country News, Dec. 16, http://www.hcn.org/articles/donald-trumps-cabinet-choices-reflect-koch-influence
Isenberg, Nancy. 2016. White Trash. New York: Viking.
Johnson, Glen. 2016. “Fury and Alarm in Hungary over Death of Paper.” Los Angeles Times, Dec. 18, A1, A4.
Mayer, Jane. 2016. Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. New York: Doubleday.
I take the liberty of attaching a wonderful statement by my friend Pierce Salguero, from his Facebook posting.
A PROFESSOR’S ACTION PLAN FOR THE POST-ELECTION ERA
In the wake of the 2016 election, the core values I hold as an individual and that I believe are emblematic of the academic professions (e.g., multicultural inclusion, critical inquiry, and pursuit of truth) have come under direct attack. I believe that this situation necessitates a coherent and strategic response from any of us who are in a position to speak out. Below is my own personal action plan for the post-election era. I have arranged these ideas, compiled with the goal of maximizing my impact within the limitations of my power, from the personal to the community to the national level:
- MICRO-LEVEL ACTIONS
- SELF-EDUCATION. At the personal and individual level, I plan to educate myself about the deep historical roots as well as the more recent factors that have led to the rise of right wing populism in the US and around the world. I plan to reach out to colleagues in history, political science, economics, sociology, and other fields, to ask for help identifying readings and resources. Although this critical inquiry does not necessarily relate directly to my own academic field, I plan to make time for this and to integrate it into my weekly schedule.
- INTERROGATING PRIVILEGE. I plan to continue to understand, reflect on, and critically interrogate my own privilege as a white, straight, cisgendered, able-bodied male. I need to identify and work to break down my own inherent biases. Where I can, I should leverage my privilege in order to intervene on behalf of those who do not share it. I plan to keep reading, attending workshops at conferences and on campus, and learning from colleagues in who are engaged in this field of study. While these conversations may sometimes be uncomfortable, I need to remain open, engaged, and moving forward in this area.
- RESPONSIBLE USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA. Part of my surprise about the results of this election was no doubt due to my being comfortably ensconced in a heavily left-leaning social media bubble. I plan to break out by reading more widely and seeking out a more diverse circle of contacts. Responsible use of social media also means recognizing its limitations. I need to know when to set down the computer and engage in the real world.
- SELF-CARE. I’ve noticed that this crisis has weighed more heavily on me than I would have anticipated. Stress, anxiety, and depression are not productive for critical inquiry. I am also finding myself in a very judgmental space right now. I need to be able to cultivate empathy in order to understand other people — especially when I strongly disagree with them. For all of these reasons, I need to continue to tap into my spiritual community, and to engage in activities for physical and mental wellbeing. Although it feels like copping out, knowing when to step away to care for myself will make me a stronger advocate in the long tun.
- MESO-LEVEL ACTIONS
- CAMPUS ORGANIZATIONS & EVENTS. In addition to my own private life and personal space, I also know I can be an agent for diversity, equity, and inclusion within the communities of which I am a part. On campus, I have the opportunity to engage with these issues through committees and faculty senate. I can also continue to be involved in mentoring for student clubs, organizing or attending multicultural celebrations, and participating in other opportunities that bring me into regular contact with our diverse student body. I can also organize reading groups, small discussion groups, or public lectures on related issues, both on campus and locally where I live.
- PUBLIC STATEMENTS. I can draft a declaration opposing hate and bigotry, and propose this to my campus administrators and my faculty senate. I can also work to introduce a similar statement as legislation in the townships where live and where my workplace is located, as well as in organizations with which I have a connection. (Note that I must engage in this activity as a private citizen and not as a representative of the college where I work, cognizant of my employer’s policies regarding engagement in politics or media.)
- PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS. I was pleasantly surprised with the proactive stance on dealing with post-election climate taken by several of the professional associations I am affiliated with. Where such efforts are being made, I can support them, and I can utilize the resources and community that such associations provide in order to expand my circle, connect with people who have expertise I need to tap into, and keep myself informed. Where such efforts are not already being made, I can advocate for these issues to be taken up by writing letters to association officers.
- BECOMING A BETTER ALLY. I need to challenge myself to learn more about being a trustworthy ally for my most vulnerable friends, colleagues, students, and community members. I need to continue to read up on this, to reach out to colleagues who are more knowledgable than me, and to engage with the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion on my campus. I can also prioritize mentoring underrepresented faculty, staff, and students on campus, through my professional associations, at conferences, and in other professional settings.
- PEDAGOGICAL DEVELOPMENT. As my courses do not focus on the modern period, I do not often have the opportunity to directly engage in classroom discussions related to contemporary politics. When I do, I need to focus on the analytical tools my discipline brings to the discussion, taking pains not to present an unbalanced account or to state my own opinions as fact. I also need to remain cognizant that students have varying viewpoints and backgrounds, and not abuse my position of power at the front of the classroom. I need to continue to develop inclusive pedagogical methods that actively bring all students into the conversation. An openness to all perspectives is especially important since I want my classroom to be a safe space for dialogue and growth — both for students and myself. I need to seek out knowledgable colleagues who can help me to develop pedagogical methods that ensure I am doing this well and responsibly.
- MACRO-LEVEL ACTIONS
- ENGAGE IN POLITICS. It’s in this arena where I feel the most helpless, but I am recommitting to supporting organizations that promote higher education, multicultural inclusion, civil liberties, and investigative journalism, as well as public academic and cultural institutions. I need to stay involved at the local, state, and national level, and not let myself get complacent in the interim between elections. My support cannot be limited to social media posts, online petitions, and private conversations; I need to contribute materially to the causes I believe in. I am unlikely to be able to support all of these causes financially, but I should do so where I can and seek out other means of supporting where I cannot.
- PRIORITIZE PUBLIC SCHOLARSHIP. Finally, as a professor, scholar, and author who cares about critical inquiry, multiculturalism, and the future of higher education, I need to reach more diverse audiences, across disciplines, both inside the academy and beyond. In this “post-truth” and anti-intellectual climate, the burden is on me to demonstrate why what I do is relevant and important. With this goal in mind, I can write up my methods and findings in accessible ways in blogs, websites, popular magazines, and other outlets with further reach than scholarly journals. I can contribute to the circulation of academic humanities and social science research more widely, which in the long run may lead to deeper public understanding of critical thinking, the role of education, and the importance of the academic professions for civic life in the US.
I am an interdisciplinary humanities scholar interested in the role of Buddhism in the crosscultural exchange of medical ideas. See more at piercesalguero.com.