Published on http://www.counterpunch.org/
“We are all naturally xenophobic.”
— Jim Harrison
“[E]very person now must, and can, ask: Where do I as an individual fit into the global competition and opportunities of the day, and how can I, on my own, collaborate with others globally?”
— Thomas Friedman
The ground upon which greed rests is hard and fast while the ground upon which our moral discriminations rest is soft and fuzzy, mostly so because moral fronts serve the interests of greed. Greed works both sides of our party duopoly, both Democrat and Republican. They join in ignoring the anxieties and fears of both the working-class and the middle class, thus becoming, either openly or by silent concession, supporters of neoliberalism and über-globalization.
Nevertheless, the disillusionment of the Many has found its leaders, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, who though far different in their diagnosis and treatment equally ride the powerful wave of anger and discontent. That wave is now breaking against not only neoliberalism and über-globalization but against the Third Way/New Democrat collaboration advocated by Bill Clinton and one assumes to be continued by Hillary Clinton.
A mixture of greed and hypocrisy, of Uriah Heep fronted by Seth Pecksniff, of real intent and alibi cover up surround all matters attending a bedrock force that has had much to do with the U.S.’s transformation from democracy to plutarchy, namely globalization and its many camouflages.
Revolt against this now remains with Trump and his supporters, its manifesto being what I call über-xenophobia, xenophobia being the mildest preamble to the ugliness of the whole. Sanders’ own manifesto of revolt remained, like moral discriminations, soft and fuzzy, cerebral and un-visceral, while Trump’s continues to drum a message that like all percussion is felt not cogitated. Trump’s own distortions of sentences, of argument and exposition, of language and meaning testify to the fact that his appeal does not lie in conceptual understanding but elsewhere, lower, deeper, darker.
For all that, an angry wave of revolt can be traced to über-globalization and we are left with that in this coming election. Such globalization detaches and seeks to extinguish almost everything historically created and established as distinct identities, whether societal, personal, cultural, historical, or imaginative. The goal of creating a multicultural, multiracial society is a front for the play of globalized, financialized capitalism, which works best without the differing barriers and regulations of different nation states.
Über-globalization is a front for über-imperialism. Wolves weaponized with money and the kind of leverage money buys have been given a free and open range to feast on the many opportunities that lack of money and power offers. The wolves of Wall Street indeed have pounced on what a lowering of the national gates of guardianship has brought to them. We would not now be facing the chasm between Haves and Have Nots if such a ravaging had not taken place.
How a nation imagines itself into community, as Benedict Anderson has described, is not a result of Game Theory, systems analysis or manifesto so we cannot expect a multi-culturalizing of any nation to be a simple matter.
What we can expect is friction, resistance and a deep reluctance to imagine differently. We also can expect that racial identification will not be in this imaginary mix. The declaration that we are all equally human does not, unfortunately, make every race equal in the eyes of any imagined community. Indeed, a fear of difference, whether of skin color, religion, language, culinary passion, dress code or shocking idiosyncrasy, is woven into the cloth of our cultural imaginaries.
Giving well-financed hedge funds carte blanche in their dealing throughout the world is by no means a way to move us toward the Edenic beneficence of the Golden Rule.
A diversity that dissolves the identity of a historically created imagined community has incendiary effects in that community, effects which do not alter the disinterested accounting of profit and loss. Regardless of this disinterest, we see the global play of finance assuming a moral high ground against racism, ethnic bigotry and religious discrimination, achieved not for moral reasons but purely market driven.
Both Liberals and Neoliberals stand together on this moral high ground, Liberals because these, and not issues that indict the workings of unbridled financialized capitalism, are its core concerns, and Neoliberals because these issues take our attention away from the disastrously uneven results of über-globalization’s free play.
There is wrongness, amorality, meanness, and stupidity that we attach to those who object to a multiculturalism praised as creaing an environment of unity and not divisiveness, to a multiracism praised as nurturing our acceptance of the equal worth of all humanity. However, a wrongness that we trace to a Golden Rule of treating others as you wished to be treated is rebutted or countered first by the axiomatic winner take all of capitalism and the über-globalization that has given it wings. It is also countered by the instinctual human inclinations to fear the stranger, to be wary of your neighbor and seek your own self-preservation above all things.
We are all naturally xenophobic, perhaps because the stranger is the unknown and the unknown is a threat, and we arm ourselves against all threats. Thus, the Golden Rule of reciprocity has the weight of gold because it needs to offset the foundational inclinations of, in the words of Locke, the “crooked timber of our humanity.” It is arguable whether we are all inclined by nature toward goodness or toward the dark side, whether some, all, or no imagined community includes or excludes totally one or the other. A mixture of Rousseau and Hobbes seems to be the case, which reason cannot express but thrives within cultural imaginaries.
What seems to be a common element in cultural imaginaries is a need to form societies that keep the abyss of the appetites and driving forces of our own selfhoods in check. Americans, Tocqueville mused, sweetened the fulfillment of self-interest with a regard for the interests of others. This fronting rationalization has found its way into über-globalization and the financialized capitalism that champions it.
Ironically, however, the play of capitalism conceals its Dark Rule in a zero-sum game of Winners and Losers, its creed of self aggrandizement, under the camouflage of multiculturalism, multiracialism, diversity, political correctness, as well as the deep mystifications of enlightened self-interest.
Here the charge of crazy applies. Follow the path: market rule confounds the Golden rule of displacing your identity and with the difference of others, discriminates most viciously against economic Losers, reinstitutes an economic imperialism under the name of globalization, accepts awards and acclaim for enlightened self-interest, and is triumphant in its support of an anti-discriminatory world in which we all get along, in which LGBTQ and Black lives matter, gentrification, political correctness, are civilizing forces. The promised blessings as well as the many seductions and achievements of globalized cyber-communication become entwined with the Wehrmacht of über-globalization, the former enabling the existence of the latter.
So, in answer to Thomas Friedman’s question as to how I might collaborate with others globally, I believe the answer is I will be ready for such collaboration when a structural change is made in our Monopoly game like economics which shuts down opportunities for wage earners without global investments and which mocks and insults us with the hypocrisy of a level playing field of competition, mocks and insults us with the pretenses of expanding freedoms and individual autonomy when we are surrounded by clear evidence that the wealthy are eating up the world while everyone else is retreating to the soma beguilements of cyberspace.
On the side opposing über-globalization, we are supposed to see the uncivilized forces, the intolerant and prejudiced, the bigoted, xenophobic racists who support Donald Trump, who stand against globalization and its fronts. They surely have had the visceral buttons of the worst devils of our nature pushed by Trump but not first by him. If it is the stupidity of a wage class scheduled for extinction that financialized capitalism plays to its own benefit, history abounds with similar charges against those not born to an elite class, or to wealth, or to an emancipating education.
The kind of education in civics and government that might have given the followers of Trump some defense against his demagoguery of hate and absurdity was suspended in the U.S. because students had previously done so poorly on assessment exams in these areas. John Dewey may have wanted an informed public but when a politics and an economics preserve their dispensations of wealth and power through seductions, distractions and repressions, political education is not a goal but a threat.
To those who argue that freedom to choose and assuming personal responsibility as well as choosing to be self-empowered exonerate the present inequities of money, power and education, I say it is crazy to assume that the powerless can at will choose to be empowered and so determine the conditions of their own lives.
This illusion of self-empowerment is a first obstacle to confronting real conditions on the ground and developing contesting strategies to both über-globalization and über-xenophobia. A political consciousness ruled by a barbarous, uncivil unconscious feeds on the hate that Trump spews.
All manner of discriminations are instilled within the conditions that surround the powerless, and these are conditions that benefit the play of plutarchy. Whatever the level of our xenophobic inheritance may be, and it is at this moment at the über-xenophobic level, plutarchy has maxed it to its own benefit.
There is also vehemence in the American mass psyche perhaps grounded in paranoiac fear emerging from guilt.
Even before 9/11, we can observe a vulnerability to recriminations and retaliations, the latent power of which is revealed in a national directive never to apologize. The anger of globalization’s dismissal of occupations and ways of life is an anger that couples with this paranoiac fear, all easily observable in the vitriolic discourse that goes on in cyberspace.
Terrorism expands to paranoia in the American mass psyche because our best hope in regard to others is that they leave us alone. Less wishful is the reality of our suspicions regarding others, a wariness that swells to distrust and dislike. Fear and hatred are ready to ignite. The more we aspire to a love of the other, the more our disappointment leaves us susceptible to both the hate demagoguery of Trump and the hypocrisy of capitalism’s façade of global fellowship.
Trump cannot fulfill his promise of bringing a kind of revenge and retaliation to the disaffected nor can market rule dispel with its globalism every sort of antagonism that keeps cultures, races, religions, ethnicities, and societies apart. It is neither crazy nor stupid, however, to think either one or both can happen. The conditions under which both thrive are deep and profound and we cannot extract ourselves from the present furor to see clearly how, where, and why we are entangled. And yet some things become transparent.
The reality of a legacy of leaning into über-globalization by Liberals seems to have escaped Bernie Sanders. His “revolution” never had a place among Democrats so oriented as they are toward easing the conscience of upper middle class Liberals who do not want their nannies deported or their stock portfolios endangered.
Although the “Our Revolution” continuance of Bernie’s campaign may dissolve into the bickering of what is not leftist enough, Trump’s supporters will surely descend into an elect chosen for abuse, invisibility and extinction. That does not mean they will go away.
We can thus expect that über-globalization will not end as Trump promised but rather continue. The wave of über-xenophobia he rides may roll back, but incited by the continuing drive of über-globalization, it is sure to roll in again. Republicans, once free of Trump, can be expected to stir the same fires in the wage earner’s breast that Trump did, not openly of course, while at the same time mouthing the benefits of globalization to that other segment of the Republican Party, the investor/dividend class.
Perhaps only the media has given these Trump supporters an appearance of electoral strength, and therefore there will be no need for our party duopoly to accommodate them in any way. However, Trump’s troops cannot be dissolved the way Paul Bremer, coalition authority jackass, disbanded the Iraqi army. Xenophobia and worse, fear and hatred continue to rush head on into the mockeries and hypocrisies of an economic imperialism at work, like the Wizard of Oz, behind the curtain of globalization, a directive with the allure of a Beatitude. Which will crush the other are odds the bookies have not yet set.
Perhaps with a Hillary presidency we can expect an attenuation of the über dimension of both xenophobia and globalization. But I expect that any efforts on Hillary’s part will be greeted the way many Americans without health care greeted the Affordable Care Act. It was Obama’s and Obama was the very devil. Hillary’s presence will face the same.
It seems almost certain that a Hillary presidency will remain affiliated with identity politics and cultural warfare, a leaning into a plutocracy that does not need the assist. While Obama’s first gesture, the Affordable Care Act, was not to lean into but transcend the partisan order of things, his belated efforts to triangulate met with an already hostile reception. Hillary will make it clear at the start that she will lean into über-globalization and in doing so intensify the grounding conditions that have fueled Trump’s success. And this will happen in spite of whatever minority groups’ rights and freedoms are extended.
Einstein defined crazy as doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result. We cannot expect any attenuation in our über-xenophobia if the conditions created by über-globalization prevail. We cannot expect a reining in of the forces of globalization if the focus on social and cultural issues, the safe ground a dominating capitalism allows Liberals, continues. These issues cannot be resolved as long as the inequities of globalized financialized capitalism are not faced. And as long as they are not faced, xenophobia and spawn will augment, giving the wealthy Liberals in power a cause that will not upset their stock portfolios and Neoliberals free reign to carry on their economic global imperialism, which does wonders for their stock portfolios.