Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Locus of Instability

After I wrote my last post, it occurred to me that I had completely neglected three men who comprise what is quite possibly the strongest example in recent memory of provoking national narcissistic rage. I am thinking of Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, and Edward Snowden. These three men were responsible for leaking (Manning and Snowden) and publishing (Assange) national secrets of the United States and Great Britain related to the efforts of those nations to rule the world. Manning blew the whistle on American war crimes committed in the name of the “War On Terror.” Assange had the temerity to publish the documents leaked by Manning. Snowden revealed the existence of the “Five Eyes” spy program by which the United States, in conjunction with the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, conducted electronic espionage and cyber-sabotage against almost every non-English-speaking government on earth.

These men did nothing worse than tell the truth about the aims, motives, and policies of the people in power in the United States and its “allies.” Yet the truth they told, combined with the response from those in power, reveals much about the pathology of those in power. In the aftermath of their revelations, these men became the targets of the sort of rage that narcissists express when they've been exposed, after their carefully constructed image of perfection and sainthood has been punctured. In this case, ad hominem attacks (“These men are traitors! Enemies of freedom! Sympathizers with terrorists!”) were combined with ad baculum attacks: “And as soon as we get our hands on these men, we will throw them IN JAIL!!! FOREVER!!!”

The truth they told also reveals the way the rest of the world is viewed by the holders of concentrated privilege in the United States and its English-speaking allies. It appears that in the eyes of the “Five Eyes,” there is a “hierarchy of whiteness and privilege.” It is thus not surprising that the “Five Eyes” should watch China, Latin America (where, for instance, the NSA spied on the Brazilian oil firm Petrobras), and the Arab nations. But the “Five Eyes” were also gazing on the citizens and governments of Italy, Spain, Greece, Portugal, and Germany. What was their motivation? I believe it was to gather intelligence in order to guide U.S. attempts to open the economies of these countries (and of the European Union as a whole) to capture by American and British-owned multinational corporations in the name of free-market neoliberalism. From a business standpoint, such a goal makes sense. But what kind of pathology makes a person want to own and control all the economies of the world? The revelations of NSA spying showed the non-English European nations in yet one more way that they were not the “golden children” of the pathological family headed by the United States.  The white privilege promulgated by the holders of concentrated privilege in the United States is therefore not even for all white nations. Rather, the holders of that privilege want the rest of us to regard it as the sole possession of the English-speaking white nations. 

And within the United States, the masters of white privilege are unwilling to share it even with all of the white citizens of the United States.

When one considers the expressions of the “white privilege” being pushed in this country, one can see clearly why that privilege is not intended even for all white people in this country. Consider the “patriarchy” movement now being pushed by many conservative, Republican-leaning, white male evangelical leaders. Or consider the violent underpinnings of the “men's rights movement.”  Or consider the “manosphere” which harbors such movements, and which provided inspiration to Eliot Rodger's shooting spree in 2014. (See this and this.)  The manosphere is also the source of death threats against women who have publicly objected to the portrayal of violence against women in online video games.   Consider also the effect of Republican support for gun rights on domestic violence in this country , or Republican obstructionism in drafting domestic violence legislation for the military, or the conservative talking heads and politicians who want to repeal female suffrage. I could go on and on.

In other words, it has become quite clear that the holders of white privilege in this country intend that the chief holders of that privilege be white, English-speaking men. Therefore, it is not surprising that they are very frightened and angry now at the emergence of a multipolar world in which one person or group will not be able to lord themselves over another, but in which people will have to rely on politeness in order to get on with their fellow human beings - even within their own homes. One recent expression of that anger is the Tea Party, “a reflection of enormous anger, primarily of white conservative men. They are older, better educated, and economically better off than most Americans...” Many of the outbursts of violent or threatening rage among white Americans are a reflection of “whites' fears that this country and the world are on the verge of losing its Anglo-Saxon domination.”  (Clio's Psyche, June 2011)  

The formal expressions of that rage and fear come from the wealthy and the politically connected, whereas the trashiest expressions come from people like the man whose picture adorns this week's post. Either way, the voices of that rage and fear are not only white, but overwhelmingly male. They long for the "return" of a world which never quite existed, a world in which they imagine they could act like kings without regard to the effect of that kingship on others.  Those who subscribe to the brand of white privilege I have described want the heavy costs of that privilege to be borne, not just by non-white people, or non-English speakers, but by their own women and children. This is hardly the way to construct an enduring society.  It is, however, a good way to construct a society that self-destructs.


kholland said...

The letter to the Leaders of Iran signed by 47 U.S. Senators would tend to support your hypothesis about Kings wanting to revert back to an earlier time. A time when the economic, social, spiritual burden was borne by the non-english-speaking, non-white, non-rich, non-male members of society.

Interesting post.

TH in SoC said...

Thanks for your readership. I will have to read that letter. I've also got a couple of posts in the works which will highlight some of the doofus behavior of some of our other elected officials.