♪ Feelings, Nothing more than Feelings ♫

There’s an old joke that goes, a psychotic thinks 2+2=5.  A neurotic knows 2+2=4 but he hates it.  My various brain scientist friends can, no doubt, explain what is wrong with the joke, but it does make a certain point: 2+2=4 whether we like it or not.

The first time this sort of thing came up was on another blog, years ago, during a discussion about the religious right, politics, and stuff like that. I am fascinated by the way people’s ideas change in response to broad, social, real-world events, and made a controversial statement that provoked heated discussion. You know, like it does.  Many people took issue with me, and some of them made strong arguments.  What knocked me down, however, was one comment that said, in essence, your position offends me, therefore it is wrong, full stop. I believe my mouth literally dropped open.

Then a month or two ago on my Facebook page, there was a discussion about an issue that, in my opinion, is nothing short of vital: in considering police murder of unarmed workers, poor people, and minorities, do we address it as a human right being denied those who are at risk from the police, or as a privilege granted those who are not?  The different answers reflect different views of the nature of society, of the role of the police, of the mechanisms under the surface, and lead to vastly different methods of struggle.  If we care about police violence, we must consider it.  The discussion, quite properly, expanded to the more general approach of human rights verses privilege discourse.  And then someone said, with the exact air of playing a trump card, “When you tell me that I am being denied basic human rights, you make me feel I am not human.” Just…wow.

It’s happened since then, more than once, especially when I’ve exercised my sense of irony.  That question—irony—ought to come down to, “Are you imposing irony as a means of sneering, or are you exposing the actual irony that exists within the conditions you’re discussing?”  That is the key question.  The former cannot advance our understanding, whereas in the latter case, well, sometimes, to refrain from being ironic would be to distort the circumstances—the irony is right there.  For example, one guy on Facebook is justly outraged by those who respond to police murders by saying, “what about black on black crime?” and yet this same guy cannot hear about Israel’s attacks on Palestinians without saying, “What about those other people who attack Palestinians?  Why don’t you talk about them?”  The irony is there, all I’m doing is pointing it out.  And, more and more lately, the response to this sort of irony (for the record, not from this individual) is:  You must be wrong because your opinion makes me feel bad.

There have been occasions on this blog where it was painfully obvious that the responses were generated by hurt feelings.  For example, my opinion is that ideology has a class basis, and I feel the most important thing we can do when attempting to understand an ideology is to determine what social class it serves.  So, am I surprised when when people are offended by my discussion of petit-bourgeois ideology?  I am not.  Nor am I pleased that they are offended.  But their offense (and my feeling about giving it) is neither here nor there in terms of whether I’m right.  I mean, none of us, I think, set out to hurt anyone’s feelings, and rudeness is usually an indicator of political bankruptcy; but we have to ask: in discussions that are aimed at coming to a better understanding of society with the aim of improving it, just how important, in a given case, are someone’s feelings? I imagine many scientists felt some level of offense and even outrage when Einstein introduced the General Theory of Relativity, thus calling into question a great deal of what they believed. They did not, however, spend much time telling Einstein his ideas were offensive, the burning question was: Was he right?  What can be called a scientific approach in the most general sense, ie, an effort to determine the objective laws that explain social activity, must, in my opinion, be the foundation of any effort to make things better.  Thus I am baffled by statements that boil down to, “I reject your analysis of the social role of the police in capitalist society because it makes me feel bad.”

To be clear, I am not saying, “You are wrong to be offended.”  On the contrary, there are beliefs and opinions that ought to offend us; we’re dealing with politics, which means with human lives, with people being hurt.  But our offense, whether ideological or personal, whether objectively valid or only subjectively, is not an answer to whether something is true or false.  Recently, a politician opined in so many words that there were no significant contributions to technology or culture by anyone except white people.  If that doesn’t offend you, something is wrong with you.  But the offense doesn’t get us very far; when someone collected a list (a long, long list) of the contributions to culture and technology by various Asian, African, Indian, and Middle-Eastern societies, that was a far better answer than the outrage and indignation we felt.

The only explanation I can come up with, is that underneath such attitudes is the idea that we cannot understand; that time spent striving to learn the objective causes of racial oppression, of imperialist war, of police violence, are wasted. We can’t know, we can’t understand, so let’s instead concentrate on what we can understand: our feelings.  To put it another way, if there is no objective reality, just a collection of subjective opinions, than it is reasonable to conclude that feelings take precedent over other considerations.  I reject the notion that there is no objective reality, and, indeed, nearly all of my opinions flow from this rejection.

Or else, maybe, it is simply a massive sense of entitlement that says, “I get to say whatever I want, but no one has the right to make me feel bad.”

I will say this as succinctly as I can: If I or someone else makes an ironic remark that hurts your feelings, then the next question is: is the irony being used to cover up the lack of a thought-out position, or is it exposing irony that truly exists in that situation?  If the former, yes, by all means, call me on it—I’m far from perfect in this regard.  If the latter, then it may be time to reconsider your stand.  If it is not irony, but a political position, and the only reason you don’t agree is because it makes you feel bad, I cannot help but wonder how much you’re involved in social issues in order to improve the world, and how much your agenda stops at feeling good.  And if the latter is really all you care about, well, that makes me feel bad.

The petty-bourgeois intellectuals are introspective by nature. They mistake their own emotions, their uncertainties, their fears and their own egoistic concern about their personal fate for the sentiments and movements of the great masses. They measure the world’s agony by their own inconsequential aches and pains.” — James P. Cannon

Published by

Avatar photo


I play the drum.

57 thoughts on “♪ Feelings, Nothing more than Feelings ♫”

  1. “But our offense, whether ideological or personal, whether objectively valid or only subjectively, is not an answer to whether something is true or false.”

    I think the interesting angle to explore here is how most people – and I include myself – pick a political, ideological, ethical, or religious (or anti-religious) position first and then look for reasons to justify it later. I believe and more importantly think the available evidence supports my current views on religion, politics, and related topics. But if I’m being honest, I believed and thought the evidence supported my views almost twenty years ago when they were nearly diametrically opposed to what they are today.

    I’m left to wonder whether evidence I am currently misinterpreting will come to make sense to me in the future, and maybe in another twenty years I’ll have views that are different from both twenty year old me and forty year old me. And I’m left wondering if all of my relationships I’m pursuing with objective truths are illusion. Objective truth exists, but we’re all still stumbling around Plato’s cave.

  2. Just mentioning that the Random Quote I got was

    The core problem with the New Left was that it wasn’t an ideology, it was a mood—and if you are susceptible to one mood, you are susceptible to another.
    — Dave Van Ronk

  3. That racist politician said only “white men”. Excluding white women also.

    Changing people’s attitudes and beliefs is extremely difficult. Sometimes I wonder if it can really be done at all.

    “What can be called a scientific approach in the most general sense, ie, an effort to determine the objective laws that explain social activity, must, in my opinion, be the foundation of any effort to make things better.” Sounds like a long way to say, “human nature.” How ironic. ;>)

    The underlining theme seemed to be, ‘I don’t care how you feel, I am right.’ Unfortunately, when dealing with people, how they feel is awfully damn important. To them, that is what is important, not which political system is being sold to them. To be sure, you can use those feelings to promote your cause. But it is the feelings which provide the energy for change. Contented people don’t look for change.

  4. “The underlining theme seemed to be, ‘I don’t care how you feel, I am right.’ ”

    No. The underlying theme is, in spite of how you feel, the question is whether I’m right or wrong.

  5. Much of this boils down to intent, and how it is perceived.

    Certainly, if the intent is either to deliberately instill bad feelings or to simply disregard the importance of doing so, there is a serious problem. “Do you really think you’re going to change minds or win allies with what you just said, or have you simply strengthened the resolve of your opponent to not compromise, negotiate, or give any value to YOU as a human being?” Dehumanization breeds dehumanization. However.

    Determining someone else’s intent is hardly an exact science. There certainly are cases in which it’s pretty damned obvious (and oddly enough, most of those cases are in the deliberately-inflicting-distress camp). But most are not. We’ve all seen how easy it is to be misinterpreted and misunderstood, and how unpleasant it is to be considered the douchebag-du-jour when you didn’t mean to be. That works both ways, though, and all too often people assume they are perfect communicators; that they are in the right and the other person is flawed/stupid/the douchebag-du-jour for misinterpreting.

    This is where social dialect comes in. By this, I mean not just vocabulary, but also whatever the person’s social norms are for where they learned to deal with others, what their own experiences have taught them, and what their dealings with people they (think they) understand has shown them about intent. If dialects are at odds, whose “fault” is it? The speaker’s? The listener’s? The audience’s (if applicable)?

    It’s important to understand where social dialect comes from. Race, gender, sexual orientation, economic class, political class, religion, spoken language, regional body language norms, personal experience, whether the person had a good breakfast… it all contributes strongly, and no single factor is ever dominant. Who can claim to be an expert at assessing all of that, particularly with people they’ve never actually interacted with other than passively watching a video/reading a book/tweeting at?

    For all these reasons, unless presented with strong evidence to the contrary, if someone says “I didn’t mean to offend” I tend to take them at their word. At any rate, I will do so when discussing what’s in the other person’s mind. For factual discussions? Not so much.

    And if I offended anyone in the above tl;dr, that wasn’t my intent. (See how I got all meta there?)

  6. Good post, and interesting read.

    I’ve been saying for years that half of the rancor in political and social arguments would be eliminated by requiring basic logic and philosophy courses in high school. Drumming the principle of charity along with the tools needed to clearly outline and refute arguments into teenager heads should be considered more important than, say, learning the difference between Monet and Manet. The other half might be eliminated as soon as people shuffled off the evolutionarily imbued coils of self-importance and in-group/out-group preference. That would likely take some time… and would probably result in a very boring lot of people as well.

    Speaking of feelings and being offended, I’ve been wondering for a long time now about your opinion on the new wave of “Marxism” coming out of college campuses – I refer here to identity politics movements. It seems to me that regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with socialism as a ideology, this replacement of classes from ruled/ruler to woman/man, white/colored, straight/gay, etc. is folly – even without taking into account their penchant for shutting down opposing dialog through being offended – but I’d love to hear your take. I offer to transcribe another song of your choosing for guitar in return – I quite enjoyed notating “Cheer Up, Hamlet.”

  7. skzb, thanks for the clarification.

    Resistance to change in light of facts is well known and demonstrated. From my lofty position (as I pontificate), it looks like some people have done a mental calculation. ‘If I accept these facts, then I have to change my beliefs. I don’t want to change, so I reject the facts.” The climate deniers are an obvious case. They pretend to be merely skeptical, but really they have an agenda. Same with the cigarette companies, oil companies, etc.

    You can see some of that going on in the discussions about cops killing unarmed black people. Some people seem to have a vested interest in “keeping blacks in their place.” No, it is usually not phrased in those words. And to a slightly lesser extent, keeping poor whites in their place also. As if these people would be a problem if they were not constantly hassled by the police.

    One thing that bothers me (besides the killing, etc) in these videos is that sometimes the person being hassled by the cops is doing a passive aggressive attitude and action. I can understand the desire to be uncooperative, and that it is not justification for being shot, but it certainly doesn’t help the situation. Is it somehow unauthentic (not a real black) if you respond to the cop in a functional manner? Yeah, white privilege. But when I am stopped, I treat the cop in a respectful manner as if he is just doing his job. I do understand that blacks are often stopped for DWB or WWB, etc. It is scary, dangerous (to the black) and frustrating. Then we have cops being TAUGHT to shoot at the slightest imagined provocation and we have the current mess.

    I bring this up because I have not heard any discussion by blacks about whether “demonstrating attitude” is perhaps not a good thing. Maybe they don’t have that discussion with whites? Maybe they would say that they are so full of frustration, fear and anger that they find it really hard to respond in a functional manner. I can accept that. But it doesn’t help the problem. And no, I am not blaming the victim. The cop is still committing murder in many cases. But if I were a black person (or a white person, for that matter), I would do my best to not give the cop an excuse. We instructed our kids appropriately as even white people can be shot.

    Since I have already damned myself with heresy, here’s another thing that doesn’t make sense to me in my whiteness. Why have some blacks adopted the “gangsta” dress and attitude as supposedly the only authentic black identity? Is it just to stick it in whitey’s face? And if it is attitude, how is this supposed to make your life any better or easier? Isn’t it just playing into the hands of people who want to keep blacks oppressed?

    One last heretical observation: Excelsior boulevard has a 40 mph speed limit and high traffic (where I observed this) and people often drive 50. I saw some well dressed black people crossing at night (not at a crosswalk) to get to a nightclub. Walking briskly with their hand out to order the cars to stop to keep them from being hit. Now they could have either waited for a lull in traffic or crossed at a light. They chose to set up a confrontation and take a risk. These people got across OK. But about two weeks later, some people didn’t. The point is that demonstrating attitude carries risk.

    And that is all about feelings, right or wrong.

  8. Nathan: I’m with you. I reject identity politics utterly and completely as unscientific and reactionary. It is a classic middle-class ideology, aimed at advancing the interests of the upper 10% of the population and care nothing about those below.

  9. Of course, note that a lot of stuff that sometimes gets dismissed by some old school leftists as identity politics is actually class politics, just with a less simplistic set of classes.

    To pick a sixties example, a homemaker is self,-evidently in a different socioeconomic class than a salary earner. Even if they have numerically the same income, live next door to each other in identical houses, they are not the same. The source and nature of that income, the factors that affect it, is sufficiently different to lead rational conflicts of interest that need to.be resolved by political means.

    Identity politics is more ‘Hilary/Trump is a woman/man, so am I, therefore…’

  10. Steve:I think not getting shot while going about your normal life qualifies as a basic right, if anything does, so mark me on the basic right not to be shot vs. its a privilege to not be shot.
    I also agree that not getting offended is not a right at all. Trying to think through the things that we find offensive is a really good exercise. It often leads to new insights. It is, of course, easy to get caught up in the heat of an argument.

    Nathan:I completely agree on there needing to be more emphasis on teaching people logic and how to think. There are a great number of people who aren’t equipped with even the basic tools to have a rational argument.

    David Hajicek:While some of the actions you mention may be irritating, none of them carry a capital offense label anywhere.

  11. I think you can use Marxist methodology and apply it to different classes.

    And just like the workers cannot struggle with the middle class until capitalism replaces feudalism, it could be argued that women are in a struggle with patriarchy that needs to be resolved before they can join the worker’s struggle. Or people in colonial nations are in a struggle with imperialism that has to be resolved before or in tandem with class struggles.

    The nomenclature Red/White derives from the Polish Revolution of 1863: White for purely nationalist revolt and Red for national liberation combined with social reform. So there is precedent for simultaneous revolutionary moments from day one.

    And just to be naughty, the “zoological” revolt of 1989 was a necessary precondition to creating the worker’s state as the latter could not develop under Russian imperialism 2.0.

  12. PrivateIron: To make the argument that patriarchy must go before women can join a worker’s struggle, one would have to assume that this ‘patriarchy’ is somehow powerful enough to prevent women from fighting with the workers yet not powerful enough to prevent women from fighting against itself. I don’t see how this could be, regardless of one’s definition of patriarchy. And from all I understand, if a socialist revolution occurs and is successful this patriarchy is eliminated as well. Apologies if I am misconstruing your definition of the word, I’ve heard many, all offered with differing (and in my opinion low) levels of evidence.

    And yes, one can use Marxist methodology and apply it to other classes. The question is whether this actually progresses or regresses society. Marxism is fundamentally an us vs. them ideology, and applying it to traits that are innate to people is abhorrent to me. Personally, even though I don’t fall under the banner of socialism, I consider it a decent enough movement with real, concrete gripes. I look at identity politics as a sabotage – one which divides socialism into smaller classes… and even worse, it does so along some of the most execrable lines imaginable: Gender. Race. Sexual orientation. If I considered myself a socialist I’d be furious.

    To tell the truth, I’m furious anyways.

  13. PrivateIron: Nathan gave you the real answer, but I’ll also mention, from a methodological standpoint, the “that needs to be resolved before they can join the worker’s struggle” contradicts Marxist method as well as the entire history of the workers movement. The fight for women’s equality, as the fight against racism, must be a part of the workers struggle, both for it to be effective, and to advance the cause of the working class. It’s like the old chestnut from Orwell’s 1984: “Until the proles become conscious, they cannot revolt. Until they revolt, they cannot become conscious.” Except that the process of revolt and the process of becoming conscious are linked, and each plays into the other as the struggle develops. Not, “first this, than that,” but rather, “this is a part of that.”

    And that is exactly why I hate identity politics–it attempt to pull entire sections of the oppressed away from the struggle to liberate all of humanity. It is not only self-defeating, but leads to broader defeats.

  14. Nathan S/Skzb: This deserves a longer response than I can give right now. And hopefully I will follow through in the near future. I think some of this is due to lack of clarity on my part and some of it is actual disagreement on fundamental terms, like what is “patriarchy” and for that matter what are traits “innate to people.”

    I just berated (gently) people on a liberal website for trashing the working class again; so I am industriously working on isolating myself from all of humanity it seems.

    But sorry to have made you furious. It was not my intent to evoke bad feelings.

  15. PrivateIron: It’s the popularity of divisive movements that pick arbitrary human characteristics to separate people that infuriates me, wherever they crop up – just so happens that I believe the biggest source of these currently is identity politics. No need to apologize, I could have been clearer regarding the source of my ire, and also why I expressed it in the way I did under this topic. Writing is not my strong suit – it’s difficult for me to strike a decent balance between brevity and clarity.

    Patriarchy theory is a topic that I’d personally appreciate your view on, but I’m unsure on skzb’s policy on how far we can go down a tangent’s rabbit hole this early on a post, and that is a really deep one.

  16. Steve Halter: I made it clear that none of the things I discussed warranted being shot or killed.

    Blacks are in an emotional contest with the police, to show that the police are being racist and abusive (is this identity politics?) toward blacks. This works best when the police have no stereotype to play against to muddy the waters.

    Similarly, if cops beat, mace or shoot peaceful protesters, it is really obvious the cops are the bad guys. If the protesters are causing damage or violence, then their position is weakened as the moral high ground has been mostly lost.

    Trouble is that cop violence appears to have increased. It seems to be related to the “Bulletproof Warrior” training that has become popular for cops. This training basically justifies killing people given the most minor excuse. The instructor says to go ahead and shoot to kill, and he will find a way to justify it in court. That seems to be what happened recently here St. Paul, where a cooperative black driver was killed while going for his wallet. The police officer had very recently been to one of those seminars.

  17. The police have been known to do a “false flag” operation to justify their violence. Namely pretending to be a protester and throwing a brick through a window (at the RNC in St. Paul in 2008).

    Similarly, the CIA does false flag (Gulf of Tonkin incident) operations whenever popular support is needed to go to war.

  18. David Hajicek:Thanjs for the clarification.
    The trouble with the moral high ground, as you inficate, is when the other side doesn’t care. In fact, when the other sides ethics have as a premise that they are always right, it becomes very difficult to assert otherwise. The other side has then left rational discussion and become, essentially, a religion.

  19. Identity politics works REALLY well. All the groups that believe Trump will target them are racing to the polls to cut their own throats economically by supporting HRC, that utterly reliable servant of the .01%

    It’s almost like the system has put forth Trump like a villain in a Pro Wrestling promotion. If only there was a white knight around. Never mind about those speaches to Goldman-Sachs.

    How does a socialist movement penetrate and disperse this powerful tool, identity politics?

  20. Kragar:That is a base problem with identity politics. The current problem is there is every indication that Trump will actually target all those groups and more.

    Two areas that really concern me with Trump (over and above about 50 others) are climate change and nuclear weapons. I don’t want Trump anywhere near nukes and every indication is that he will merrily fiddle while climate change eats us up. Both of these are existential threats

    Exactly how we (in a US we) have managed to get ourselves painted into this much of a corner is a sad mixture of greed, ignorance and fear.

    Bathed in his currents of liquid helium, self-contained, immobile, vastly well informed by every mechanical sense: Shalmaneser.
    Every now and again there passes through his circuits a pulse which carries the cybernetic equivalent of the phrase, “Christ, what an imagination I’ve got.”

  21. Steve H:

    I am not sure what Trump will do with the military and foreign policy. He has said he wants to make peace with Russia and China and wind down foreign involvements for the U.S. military. I suspect he will not get a chance to do so. If he can get past the comprehensive election fraud and vote-rigging of the DNC, and the fact that wealthy donors have jumped ship on the GOP in droves, he seems likely to go the way of JFK if he moves in the direction of genuinely curtailing the MIC.

    HRC, on the other hand, is a known commodity. She will escalate the wars we have now, starting with Syria, and start new ones. What does it matter how cool is the hand on ‘the button” if the Russians feel so backed into a corner that they end up launching first?

  22. Kragar:Trump says a lot of things–they change with his mood. He’s said he won’t take using nukes off the table as a retaliation weapon against terrorism or Europe.

    I’m certainly not saying HRC is an angel but I wouldn’t say she is a known quantity either. How one acts as part of a team (Sec. of State) isn’t necessarily how one acts when in command.

    I will agree we are in a mess. It’s a lot like walking across a recent lava flow. The bubbling pools of lava are easy to avoid; the thin crust is not so obvious. As skzb has noted, there are other choices out there but as the season unfolds we’ll have to see. Curling up in a ball in gibbering terror seems like a pretty decent choice right now.

  23. Kragar: Identity politics actually works to harm those who follow it? And maybe is supported and funded by those who benefit from said division? Poppycock.

    A certain icon of a racially charged people’s movement living in a home owned by extremely wealthy donors to a certain incredibly wealthy man’s institute while taking six figures from a poor east coast public school system is simply coincidence, you know.

  24. Nathan S.

    Sorry, your reference is lost on me. Who is the icon of the racially charged people’s movement of whom you speak?


    I am not offended by your critique of the petty bourgeois even though it is slowly dawning on me that I am one. What is you proposed counter to the capitalist rulers successful employment of identity politics?

  25. DeRay McKesson. I didn’t completely buy that identity politics was being wielded as a wedge until I read up on his career. Apologies for being obtuse.

  26. I guess where we probably diverge is on the question of whether patriarchy is a mere adjunct of capitalism or if it is a separate, but closely connected system in itself.

    When you tell me the working class will come to consciousness in the moment of revolution, what are the baseline standards for full or effective consciousness? If they come to realize the need to take on and dismantle the capitalist system, does that necessarily mean they have full awareness of the need to dismantle gender and race based oppression? If they undertake a more limited revolution with little or no focus on those aspects of capitalist oppression, is the revolution inherently defective or would you call it a sub-optimal but still positive development? If you can parse revolutionary consciousness like this, then I would say the case is strong that you have separate, interconnected systems, each requiring different revolutionary actions/moments. If you cannot, then I would suggest the lack of awareness of the racial and gender inflected aspects of the revolutionary struggle might be a big factor in the failure of prior revolutions. If that’s the case, then addressing this lack of focus would have to be a central priority in guiding any future movements.

    If you conceptualize gender or racial oppression as a subsidiary of capitalist oppression, one distinguishing feature is how much it would rely on members of the revolutionary class dismantling their own power relationships with other members of the revolutionary class rather than simply dismantling the over-arching system. If you do away with the capitalist state than the security guard no longer has privileges over the janitor. (The employer no longer requires the guard’s services because he has nothing to protect from the janitor.) But if you do away with unfair wage practices of employers, does that automatically translate into men and women doing equal amounts of child care? It helps enable that by making the woman’s outside work equally valued, but it does not automatically force the issue logically. If you need another step to create equality in the home economy and if you can accomplish the dismantling of the capitalist state without that step, then doesn’t it make more logical sense to treat those as two different revolutionary moments of consciousness acting on two different systems of social oppression?

    Some people would argue that domestic economy is a set of disjointed pocket communities and how each of those chooses to arrange themselves is not the business of social movements. Except most of these arrangements look extremely similar to each other. Also, separating domestic and public economy is exactly the sort of thing that feminism argues proves that “neutral” theories are in fact male biased. Domestic economy provides at least one thing vital to the public economy: all of its participants. It also provides a lot of services that allow the smooth functioning of the public economy. The public economy’s relationship to the domestic is in fact quite like the relation of the capitalist state to the worker: it extracts value from the other but aggrandizes its role in the scheme of things, despite ultimately being more dependent on its subordinate than the subordinate is on it.

    It could be claimed that without the overarching capitalist state, the current gender imbalances in the domestic economy will eventually wither away. Feminists are understandably skeptical of whether this is necessarily true. They might also ask why they have to wait.

    This is a huge chunk and barely scratches the surface. I wanted to get some stuff in here about Sojourner Truth and the socially constructed nature of identities, but it’s going to have to hold until I have the time and energy.

    I hope this was more constructive.

  27. Lots of stuff here, an amazing amount of which I agree with, and the rest is on point and worth discussing. So, well done all of you.

    “I am not offended by your critique of the petty bourgeois even though it is slowly dawning on me that I am one. What is you proposed counter to the capitalist rulers successful employment of identity politics?”

    Hey, petit-bourgeois is an analysis, not an insult. I am petit-bourgeois. However, I attempt to identify and reject ideologies that work in the interests of that class.

    My proposed counter is that we fight for class-based unity. We do this by pointing out the dangers of identity politics, the bankruptcy of the methods behind it, the places where we have identical problems regardless of aspects of identity, the places where, for example, racial oppression can only be fought by a united working class, the places where, for example, sexism, works against working class unity.

    For those deeply committed to this fight–I mean *deeply* committed, in the sense of wanting to make it your life’s work, I would look into joining the Socialist Equality Party. For the rest of us, we need to be aware that there are times when it simply necessary to take a stand if one is to be a decent human being, and the rest of time try to dig around and determine what class interests lie underneath the propaganda we’re fed, and, sometimes, point that out to others around you.

  28. Patriarchy has been around for literally thousands of years. Simply look at ancient societies, the Torah and the Bible. The leading roles of women have mostly been written out of history or downplayed severely. Yes there are exceptions like the Celts.

    So it is no wonder that women have been given less power, both in the workplace and at home. While this benefits corporate capitalism, capitalism is just taking advantage of a system already in place.

    One issue is whether the child is valued or not. If the child (not the fetus) has value, then the women’s role as mother has value and she won’t be penalized for it. If the child does not have value (as seems to be the GOP position), then the child is a tool of oppression for the mother and family.

  29. Steve Halter–

    From her track record as first lady, senator, and secretary of state, HRC is about as much of a known quantity as we could have. And what we know is that she is aggressive to the point of blood-thirst in waging wars on and launching coups against foreign governments on the neo-con hit list. On domestic policy she is abjectly loyal to Wall Street, Pharma, and private Health Industries and quite literally was on the board of Wal Mart. In her personal practices she is so paranoid and secretive that she set up a private email server while at State, presumably so she could turn that cabinet into her personal cash machine for deposits into the Clinton Foundation’s accounts. And this is supposed to be the more reasonable among the two we voters have been presented with.

    skzb–thanks for the response. I am going to be able to properly spell petit-bourgeois by the time we are done. As for your proposed counter, it makes sense. I will keep doing my part.

  30. Kragar,

    It is possible to interpret Trump’s statements as a desire to make peace with Russia and China, though that is not an interpretation I support. It is not, however, possible to interpret Trump’s statements as a desire to wind the MIC down, as he is unalterably committed to significantly increasing military spending.

  31. PrivateIron: Wall o’ text incoming, apologies in advance.

    “I guess where we probably diverge is on the question of whether patriarchy is a mere adjunct of capitalism or if it is a separate, but closely connected system in itself.”

    You and I, at least, diverge in whether patriarchy exists at all currently in the west. If I accepted that premise, I think I’d agree with much of your post. As it is though, please allow me to explain. I’m going off a dictionary definition, here – “a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it”. (If this isn’t your definition, apologies.) Is this system de facto or de jure? I’d eliminate de jure immediately – I can think of no laws today limiting women because of their sex, other than regarding who can show off nipples in public (if you know of one, do tell, but I know quite a few laws going the other way).

    De facto is a bit more complicated – and I don’t want this post to run on too long so I’ll address the biggest two reasons I’ve heard in favor: the gender earnings gap and percentage of women in certain fields (which includes positions of political power). As to the much repeated earnings gap, when hours worked, experience, and position are taken into account it shrinks to negligibility. “Percentage of women in certain fields” evidence assumes two things: One, women have less agency and ability than men when choosing careers, and two, that number one is caused by societal pressures. This is countered in my mind by societies in which in which we’d both agree women have fewer choices producing a higher percentage of women in STEM fields than western nations. More women are now graduating college than men, and at least as far as STEM goes have a higher chance of being hired. As far as politics, I wouldn’t call one to four ratio of congresspeople and senators “largely excluded”, and a higher percentage of women vote than men. If you have more arguments (or reasons why I should reconsider my stance on these), I’d love to hear them.

    “But if you do away with unfair wage practices of employers, does that automatically translate into men and women doing equal amounts of child care?”

    Why is this a good thing to strive for? Striving for a society where anything and everything is perfectly equal would be tyranny – and who has final say on whether everything’s equal? I guess my biggest question is, if one believes the patriarchy exists, under what circumstances would one know to stop “correcting” for it? I’m of the opinion that the best we can do is shoot for equality of opportunity. Equality of outcome is a terrible thing to be working towards – reminds me of Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron”.

    Women act differently than men on the average – I suppose we’d disagree on how much is societal and how much is genetic. I can only say that I personally cannot ascribe these differences to a societal boogeyman and cannot back the need to fight it through unequal lawmaking (or other drastic means) when the social science backing it is messy by definition – lacking in repeatability, reproducibility, and falsifiability. All I can support is making sure laws and systems are in place to give redress to those discriminated against… I cannot back teaching women learned helplessness.

  32. Women are 20% of Congress, 12% of US state governors, 10% of the world’s billionaires, and 4.4% of Fortune 500 CEOs.

  33. It’s an interesting thought experiment. If Trump agreed to spend even more on the military, but refused to employ it in the middle east or to support continued proxy wars against Israel’s regional rivals, would the CIA still arrange for him to meet with a tragic mishap? I suspect the answer is “yes.”

  34. Same answer for Sanders if he had won the nomination. So in a way I was relieved for his sake.

    “Worse case of suicide I ever saw. He shot himself in the back twice and in the head 3 times.”

    There was a recent death ruled a suicide by nail gun. 7 nails to the chest, 5 to the head. Or close to that.

  35. Nathan S.: without disputing your analysis of the wage gap, is it cool if I fly the “citation needed” flag here? I cannot myself, off the top of my head, cite evidence to the contrary, but I have not seen an analysis which would indicate that the gap is negligible.

    As for a 4 to 1 ratio not being “largely excluded,” all I can say is that we do indeed have different definitions there.

  36. One thing is certain: Trump has refused to stay in his lane when it comes to criticizing the Washington D.C. foreign policy consensus. It is one of the reasons he was able to run rings around the other Republican presidential contenders. My favorite example was during one of the 9 man debates that featured Jeb Bush. Trump criticized the war in Iraq and said GW sold it to the U.S. public using a pack of lies. The crowd in the hall booed, Jeb threw a fit then promptly quit a few weeks later. It appears that the folks at home were lapping it up.

    Trump will likely have the same advantage over HRC. If Trump wins, what he does once in office is certainly hard to predict. An HRC presidency, on the other hand, seems like a known commodity as discussed.

    Gender equality? I think the women of the .01% have excellent gender equality, all that a vast fortune can buy. The domestic policy for the vast majority of women in the U.S., maybe not so great. Child care, welfare, just employment environments and a living wage, access to medical services, all could use improvement. It beats being a woman in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Honduras…

  37. One thing my wife noticed is the effect of WWII on woman’s role in society. Women were needed in the factories making airplanes and munitions as well as running things. After the war, America had a problem with women competing directly with the returning soldiers for jobs. The solution was to press down on the women very severely and explain to them through propaganda, that their role was as mother and homemaker.

    We are just recently getting out of that suppression of women’s roles, with women being in full competition with men. Obviously, some men don’t like this.

    I’m surprised that Will Shetterly hasn’t commented on this string. He had some good links on the subject. To summarize, women make less money in general, but are paid at basically the same hourly rate at men for a given job. Namely women on average work fewer hours than men or get lesser jobs. Lots of reasons for this, not all prejudice.

    One last comment, women are not as aggressive in general, in working / negotiating for higher salaries. Again many reasons.

  38. Daylist: Not really wanting to jump in here, but I do feel obliged to point out that there is a wide gap between “excluded” and “equal.”

  39. Matt Doyle: Strange. Please elaborate on how the consensual division of household labor between two fully grown adults has relevance on the assertion that women are getting unfairly paid by employers.

    Considering this artist’s hyperbole on gender stereotype, I’d say him forgetting the last two panels where the man mows the lawn, repairs the car, patches the roof, and removes a spider from the bedroom after working 12 hours is evidence of internalized misandry. (joke)

    In terms of patriarchy in regards to the institution of marriage, or if you have a penchant for social economics, I’d recommend this if you have a half hour to listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w__PJ8ymliw . Not saying I agree with all of it, but she makes an amazing amount of sense… if you can get over the slight Canadian accent.

  40. Are women oppressed in today’s society? I am going to come down on the side of yes.

    Where I differ from many, is that I do not focus on those women in entitled positions who are, perhaps, less entitled than men in similar positions, but rather on the extra oppression of working class and poor women.

  41. Nathan: my first post got stuck in the moderator cue, perhaps you didn’t see it? I’d prefer to address points in sequence.

  42. doylist: The CONSAD study done years ago would be a good start: http://web.archive.org/web/20131008051216/http://www.consad.com/content/reports/Gender%20Wage%20Gap%20Final%20Report.pdf . Politifact wrote a half-decent article referencing this study as well as others, if that’s more your taste: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2015/jul/15/politifact-sheet-gender-pay-gap/ . Neither indicate to me that action needs to be taken.

    “As for a 4 to 1 ratio not being “largely excluded,” all I can say is that we do indeed have different definitions there.”
    Hmm. Would you consider whites “largely excluded” from the NBA? Same ratio. If you would, would you consider it… unfair?

    skzb: I tend to agree, though an argument could be made that poor and working class women have it better than poor and working class men at this time, and this arrangement slowly reverses as one goes up the socioeconomic ladder. Oppression… if only there was a unit to measure the damn stuff.

  43. Nathan:
    “Neither indicate to me that action needs to be taken.”

    Okay. I’m familiar with the Politifact article already, and have seen CONSAD referenced in several places. You and I have very different thresholds, in that case, for what we see as significant and worthy of action. Which does not, as far as I can see, leave us too much to argue about – we agree on the facts, but one of us sees a problem in need of correction, and one of us doesn’t.

    Re: comparing Congress to the NBA: so, there are some inherent problems in comparing elected positions to interviewed positions to performance-based positions to begin with. And the role of race in athletics is its own thing, fully worthy of consideration and discussion at length. But while I see the situations as an apples and oranges comparison – i.e., the underlying causes behind one gap are not remotely similar to the social forces leading to the other – the short version (too late!) is that I *do* see both as symptomatic of underlying social inequities, both tied to class, as well as to perception/aspiration/the way we are taught the things we are taught as children. From the general sound of your discussion points, I think you and I would differ extremely about the specifics, but yeah, they’re both unfair.

  44. Kragar:I’ll certainly agree that neither candidate is ideal. HRC represents essentially the status quo and that seems to serve the interests of oligarchy–although it is important to separate fact from 20 years of Republican propaganda.
    Trump lies about everything but seems pretty consistent on supporting war crimes and extra constitutional actions. Most likely his administration would be a massive reversal of basic rights and crony theft. Of the two, my judgement tends to say that Trump has a higher likelihood of quicker disaster,

    The question is how is this problem (candidates that don’t really benefit the majority of the people) get addressed, One answer is that historically (every single time) there is some sort of collapse–either a revolution or outside force that causes a reset of the system. Many of these times, this reset doesn’t make things better and a series of unfortunate episodes ensue. It would be nice to avoid this.

    One current problem is the massive amount of propaganda that presents the interests of the oligarchy as either the best choice for the average person or obscures the results from those interests. Most of this propaganda falls apart with a little examination and so, part of the answer seems to be training people to recognize lies when they see them. This requires a certain amount of effort that many people seem unwilling or unable to expend.
    The various Socialist parties in the US seem to be generally representing a decent direction but seem to be unable to gain much traction. It seems like this is again a problem of massive counter-propaganda.

  45. doylist: The reason I used the NBA, tenuous a metaphor as it is, was twofold. Firstly was precisely to see whether you considered it under the the umbrella of systematic inequalities. Secondly, I wanted to show a situation not utterly dissimilar, one that had no corrective action taken – other than to remove discriminatory restraints – that resulted in the “oppressed” being allowed to flourish. I don’t think a country where women have no legal restrictions on their ability to become senators or congresspeople (or anything else) and where women make up the most powerful voting bloc needs to help the process along, either by forcing women in or patronizing them by basically saying “You can be a member of Congress too, you know!”. Someone who needs to be cajoled into a career makes a terrible worker, and Congress is terrible enough as it is.

    “I *do* see both as symptomatic of underlying social inequities, both tied to class, as well as to perception/aspiration/the way we are taught the things we are taught as children.”

    If you’re saying we should be letting children know they can grow up to be anything, that’s been happening for a while… and is a whole ‘nother subject of debate. As far as things taught as children, women make up the majority of adults that impact children’s lives – there are more single mothers than single fathers, and 80% (again? sheesh) of K-8 educators are women. Are these women unwilling dupes in this system of social inequity? I find it difficult to believe that women are being systematically socially conditioned to not want to be in positions of power or to choose lower paying professions, just as I find it difficult to believe that the few percent unaccounted for in the earnings gap is a result of systematic oppression and not a combination of statistical anomaly and immeasurable differences between the sexes.

  46. > It is not, however, possible to interpret Trump’s statements as a desire to wind the MIC down

    The thing about identity politics is it is actually not merely possible, but inevitable, that his statements will be interpreted that way.

    What happens is first you identity with the powerful figure. You are them and they are you. What is good for them is good for you, their victories are your wins, their defeats your humiliations.

    So if you want something, they must want it.too. They may say, or do the opposite, but that doesn’t matter; there is always a rational explanation. in Trump’s case, this is usually ‘he is bullshitting’, though sometimes you will have to fall back on ‘he knew nothing of the action of his minions’ .

    Evidence is distant and explainable, wants are direct and undeniable. Guess which one is the trump card?

  47. 1soru1–

    When I speak of identity politics, I am refering to political rhetoric and policies focused on a specific subset of the working class to the exclusion of others, not identifying with the strong leader. Transgender bathrooms is one example in current use. Too many minorities being on welfare is another that Reagan and Clinton employed with great success. Such identity politics divide rather than unite the working class, provide a veneer of difference between the two U.S. political parties of corporate power and psychotically violent foreign policy, and distract from the more important issues of income inequality, global warming, and the inherent and unreformable savagery of capitalism.

  48. 1soru1:While not exactly the identity politics under discussion, I think that is a perceptive insight into why some people seem to feel the need to have an authority figure. This need (the seeking of authority) has always baffled me.

  49. Steve H:

    Go ahead and google George Lakoff on Donald Trump. Lakoff is a cognitive linguist or something like that, and he has cranked out a few good articles in the last couple of months about the psychology of the strong leader model as it applies to Trump’s 2016 campaign. I found them quite instructive.

  50. Kragar:I’ve seen that before. Lakota would, of course, analyze Trump supporters in that fashion since it his theory.
    I think there is something there although everything is always more complicated than simple models make them out to be.
    It has always seemed odd to me that people are allowed to be parents with no particular training. Proper education of children and potential parents could help out in a lot of areas.

  51. To expand on that a little, it is trivially easy to pick counter examples where the strict parent (note Strict Father is even easier as some conservatives have single moms) raises a non conformist child and vice versa. So, the Strict Parent is only a single factor and lends some percentage probability towards becoming Autocratic leaning in mindset. Other factors would relate to the rest of the environment (region, family, teachers, etc), genetics, exposure to various diseases, head trauma, …
    Add all of those things up and you’ll get some sort of probability curve towards being conservative or not or religious or not, blog posting or not, …

  52. I think the strict-father view of the family unit and therefore the role of government as analzed by Lakoff greatly helps to understand Trump’s appeal. For one thing, Trump’s particular policy proposals are irrelevant because he is the strict father who will figure it out.

    On the other hand, like many mainstream academics, Lakoff appears to be something of an apologist for the Democratic Party. So I certainly see room for critiques. Whether, occasionally, free spirits emerge despite being raised in strict-father households is largely irrelevant, nor does it negate the fact that millions apparently see the world and government in this way.

Leave a Reply