Skip to main content

Flower power

This past weekend I attended an immigrant rights coalition meeting. It was my first meeting, but friends have been there since it formed in 2006. Its formation was a direct result of the working class movement of immigrants, primarily Latinos, in the Twin Cities area. From what I could tell, the people at the meeting were a mixture of democratic party activists and socialists (although it was hard to tell the difference with some folks).

The reason I bring this up is to examine an exercise we did at the beginning of the meeting. The moderator, in all seriousness, had us draw a flower. Our flower needed at least four large petals, with a smaller petal drawn inside the outline of the larger one. We were then to label each petal. One should be race, one gender, one whether or not English is our mother tongue, and one marking our social class (which wasn't talked about much, if at all). If you are white, male, and speak English, then you were to fill in the outer layer of your flower petals. This means you are an "exploiter" in these areas. If you are female, non-white, and learned a language besides English when you were young, then you were to fill in the inner layer of the petals. You are "exploited." This was taken extremely seriously, with the moderator at one time asking people to stop laughing and think hard about their exploitation situation. I did the exercise, and besides recognizing the general silliness of it, didn't give it much thought until our first break when I talked with a friend.

We both agreed the flower didn't do much other than offer many members a chance to self-flagellate and momentarily ease some feelings of liberal white guilt (doing the project reminded me of reading Tim Wise's recent nonsensical babbling). Of course it is true being a male, white, English speaker gives you an advantage in our society. But what wasn't represented in the flower example was the ability of class, at least when social power is concerned, to largely trump our society's sexist, racist and xenophobic nature. If we objectively concern ourselves with power and exploitation, then this needs to be recognized. In this flawed exercise, a white homeless man would be more of an exploiter than a Latina CEO of a fortune 500 company.

This is worth mentioning if only to reinforce the fact that the main power in our society, just as throughout much of modern history, lies in who controls the surplus value created by labor power. No doubt the struggles against sexism, xenophobia, racism, etc., are extremely important; but they are mainly symptoms of a disease, not the disease itself. Liberal ideologies, and policies, tend to want to put a bandage on a gunshot wound. This is all good and well, I certainly support working for better policies even within the confines of our current society, but it is crucial to understand even if we stop the bleeding with a good bandage, we've still got a bullet rotting away in our body.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Against Empire

It seems like no one outside of the “American Conservative” is thinking about the US as a declining empire. Contrary to what some thought, Trump has no interest in scaling back the US to a “normal” country. That wasn’t what MAGA meant. Quite the opposite, Trump and his goons think the post war international order isn’t US-centric enough. This is where Trump and the neoconservatives find common ground. 

What’s more interesting to me is the Democratic Party, and the liberal/left in general. The Dems are historically the war party, and they have renewed that patriotic passion in the Trump era. The shameful treatment of Ilhan Omar is a good example. This charge of her being “anti-Semitic” for questioning Israel’s influence in US foreign policy is disingenuous and disgraceful. (People are acting like we didn’t already go through this silly “debate” when Walt and Mearsheimer’s book came out over a decade ago. It’s infuriating. These are also the same people who can’t go a half an hour witho…
I’m listening to Christopher Hitchens’ fine collection of essays, “arguably.” I’d read many of these years ago, but had forgotten how good of a writer he was. Listening to him take down JFK is pure poetry. However his post 9/11 theme, that fundamentalist Islam is the threat most comparable to 20th century fascism for the enlightenment influenced democracies, stands on even shakier ground today. His realpolitik version of Trotsky’s “permanent revolution” had our enlightenment influenced democracy with Puritan characteristics as some sort of revolutionary regime spreading the best we can do to some despotic areas. It’s quite a twist that Iraq ended up being a boon to Iran, which caused the gulf monarchies to freak out. Of course Trump and his goons are now trying to make amends by demonizing Iran to an absurd degree. I wonder if America allying itself with al-Qaeda in Syria would be enough to cause Hitchens to rethink some things? Maybe his weird hatred for the Baathists extended to the…

Austerity Ecology and The Collapse-Porn Addicts

I just finished Leigh Phillip’s left defense of humanity, “Austerity Ecology And The Collapse-Porn Addicts.” I think it’s important to frame it that way, as one of the main point he makes (and I fully agree) is that the earth doesn’t need us to survive. What we should focus on is our species. And not just surviving, but prospering, even conquering (I know people don’t like that word, but we ought not be scared of power). Phillips goes through every argument that I grew up with, from green austerity to that overpopulation nonsense, and convincingly does away with them. (I read Derrick Jensen was I was younger and had completely spaced out how truly terrible his arguments are. Embarrassingly bad. When I tried John Bellamy Foster I luckily found him too dense to get through. Just like George Ciccariello-Maher is a caricature of your “edgy” left wing professor, Foster is a caricature of what a Marxist is, tough to understand but you should know what he’s saying is super important!) 

Phill…