Thursday, March 21, 2019

Anomie, Anoma, Life Goes On Brah!

Glenn Greenwald has found another Pete Buttigieg position he likes.
Typically thoughtful answer from @PeteButtigieg to @ThePlumLineGS about white nationalism, the causes of it, and the solutions for it:
I've used up my free access to Washington Post articles for this month, but Greenwald included screengrabs of some excerpts, highlighting the bits he approved.  Buttigieg said:
As we see dislocation and disruption in certain parts of the country, from rural areas to my home in the industrial Midwest, and in the economy, this leads to a kind of disorientation and loss of community and identity.  That void can be filled through constructive and positive things, like community involvement or family.  And it can be filled by destructive things, like white identity politics...
At another point:
I don't want this to slide into the idea that some of these racist behaviors can be excused because they can be connected to economic issues.  But I do think it's easier to fall into these forms of extremism when you don't know where your place is. 

There's this very basic human desire that historically has been supplied by the workplace. It's been based on the presumption of a lifelong relationship with a single employer.  This isn't just a blue-collar phenomenon.
This is, I think, another iteration of the "economic anxiety" argument that was mooted in the wake of Trump's victory in 2016.  Buttigieg's aware of that, and tries to hedge by rejecting "the idea that some of these ideas can be excused because they can be connected to economic issues," but that's a straw man. There may have been some who "excused" Trump voters by pointing to the stumbling US economy, but the usual motive was explanation, not excuse.  In very much the same way, pointing to worldwide Muslim anger over US foreign policy was not intended to excuse the 9/11 attacks, so critics of Bush's wars tended to try to forestall attacks by saying things like "I'm not one to blame America for everything that's wrong in the world."  It never worked, of course

So yeah, economic anxiety is probably a factor in some racism, and policy should attempt to provide a strong economy, not to prevent racism but because it's what people need and it's the job of those who run the country to give people what they need.  But I dislike Buttigieg's talk of not knowing where your place is.  I mean, my place?  Who decides what my place is?  At best this is a very clumsy way of putting it; at worst it's feudalism, which is also a "lifelong relationship with a single employer."  Capitalism, by contrast, has always regarded workers as disposable materials, except when organized workers were able to force their bosses to do otherwise; but that is the exception that proves the rule.

And what about racial minorities?   Buttigieg, who's a bright fellow, must know that economic insecurity and anxiety have been the norm for African-Americans and other non-whites in the US.  They have not been immune to the appeal of racist nationalism, but they have lacked the numbers and power to oppress the majority. But white supremacy has been endemic in this country since the first whites arrived four hundred years ago; economic downturns may aggravate it, but it never goes away.  I don't know how to get rid of it, or if that's even possible, but I think it will have to be targeted directly.

Perhaps, instead of alluding to highbrow literary totems like Finnegans Wake, Buttigieg should try reading something like Karen E. Fields and Barbara J. Fields' Racecraft or even Corey Robin's The Reactionary Mind: the latter work would inform him that the fear of losing status, no less than money, drives the well-to-do and highly educated no less than Joe Sixpack.  A tanking economy can exacerbate and inflame racism, but I think it's our human nature as social critters, rather than economic anxiety, that produces the us/them dichotomy of which racism is one form.

So, "thoughtful"?  No, and not "heterodox" either.  Buttigieg's remarks are straight outa the Washington Post or New York Times op-ed pages: they're the slogans someone repeats before thinking, as a prophylactic against thinking.  While some of his positions, such as his endorsement of US-imposed regime change in Venezuela, are hateful, some are I suppose arguable, though I'm not seeing much argument.  But they're all totally safe among American elites, and it baffles me that Glenn Greenwald is impressed by Buttigieg.  Read as many of the comments under this tweet as you can stand, for example.  I'm reminded of the way so many people went nuts over Barack Obama a decade ago, and that really worries me.