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

Putting North Dakota's Economy in Context...

"Revenge of the Squares"?

Brandishing the values of "yesteryears," some Mayberryish place that exists only in conservatives' minds, North Dakota is the nation's economic hot spot. Although it ironically has become hip to write little fluff pieces on how refreshing it is North Dakota, being so neglected by America's elite, has managed to stave off Capitalism's latest crisis, a few contextual points are in order.

First off, the oil. North Dakota has oil. Now this point is almost certainly mentioned by the glorymongerers, as it is in the above piece, but this key fact has little to do with culture and lots to do with luck and new technology that allows access to oil that was once unprofitable to be refined. A quick look through history tells us oil is, at most, a finite mixed blessing. Oil, unlike the infamous North Dakota weather, tends to keep the "riff-raff" in.

Next, we have the State bank. North Dakota is the only state in the…

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…

The Best a Man Can Get

Paralleling the socially conscious corporation is the conservative critique of capitalism. Tucker Carlson, an odious character to be sure, has gone as far as saying family values are being “crushed” by market forces. How is the left going to explain this, let alone fight it, when to your average person the left is indiscernible from a massive corporation like Gillette? The right has already taken a chunk of what it means to be transgressive, particularly in England as they pretty well own the counter-culture, now they are set to become the new anti-capitalists while we cheer on advertisements. This is going to be a rough year.