White. Male. Paranoid.

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source: gouache-design.ru

Powerful white men dominate most, if not all aspects of society in the United States. Is it just because they’re scared?

There’s this thing that I’ve been chewing on for a few years now that has finally come into much sharper relief. I’ve often wondered: how is it that powerful, rich white dudes have not only got such a firm grip on nearly everything but also have, by and large, managed to maintain that grip?

Now, much has been written about the specific machinations that the power wielded by white men has birthed and also how these systems continue to perpetuate their own dominance. But what I’m trying to get at is the underlying emotion or driving force behind the individual choice made by well-positioned white guys to cohere into a force that subjugates, divides and pilfers from the people who, in their own eyes, are underfoot and should stay there.

But of course someone will win and the goal is that it will ultimately be you.

My circle of friends, my partner and myself play a lot of board games. Some of us still go out and drink and pretty well at that. But a quieter night in with friends gathered around the kitchen table sharing snacks and drinks while playing tabletop adventures is more our speed and is especially the case for myself. One of the many things I enjoy about board games aside from the excitement of zero-consequence competition, is how, generally, people’s personalities manifest themselves through game playing.

 

Ferda

Ferdinand is generally uninterested in board games.

 

When we sit there at the beginning of the game, we’re all on more or less equal footing. Same number of cards, same amount of make-believe currency, same level of power. What happens next is usually the same sequence that plays out in many of the games we play. Some of us are little more aggressive, a little more keyed-in. Some of us don’t know quite what they are planning to do next and some of us are perhaps too trusting of the other players and just want to have a good time. (A funny notion that is, to be too trusting.) The quicker to trust among us are often used one by one as rungs while the aggressors make their way to the finish.

One of the weapons in the arsenal of the aggressors is to sow distrust among the other players. The easiest way to incite suspicion is to look at your nearest competitor and draw everyone’s attention to their success as to warn all in attendance that they should be stopped or everyone will lose. But of course someone will win and the goal is that it will ultimately be you.

An even more useful and efficient tactic is to turn everyone against everyone. If they’re too busy fighting each other how can they possibly push back against you? You do this by simply reminding another player, in the moment that they gain some temporary power, that they were wronged by some other player. The best strategy when playing from behind is always to gang up on the leader. But, if you’re the closest to winning you of course don’t want that thought to cross anyone’s mind at all. However, when one tastes power, no matter how fleeting, the natural course, the irrational yet tangentially justifiable course, is revenge. The poetry associated with vengeance is often too tantalizing to resist. Seeing someone who is essentially on the same level as you be punished or pushed back down is imminently cathartic.

Well, they don’t know it’s only temporary but you do.

Another characteristic that comes to the fore in certain players is one of trustworthiness. The players playing the most dishonest game are more prone to distrusting other players. The further into the game they go by thieving and lying the more they expect the same actions to be visited upon themselves. Maybe it’s one’s guilty conscience rearing its head? Perhaps not, but it does speak to a very human capacity to be on the lookout for karmic justice. This serves to only further influence future decision making. As soon as a player begins to look at other players in this light, that’s it. They are coming for you with knives out just as you did them so you better crush them first. It’s the pre-emptive strike. It’s the cop firing on someone that they thought had a gun. “I better shoot them first because if I were them, I would shoot me first.

 

stabby stab stab

Aerating Caesar.

 

It is entirely possible to win any number of games playing in this fashion. But there will come a time when the other players catch on and silently agree to come for you. At just such a juncture the best you can hope for is that you have enough silly little tokens or game pieces to withstand the assault. Or, you can call for a momentary truce with one of the horde in order to stave off destruction. Well, they don’t know it’s only temporary but you do.

If you are one the players trailing far behind your options become severely limited as the game wears on. You will find that you have to choose between continuing to play in earnest or playing your cards with minimal interest in hopes that the game, so far out of your hands now, will be over soon.

Many of them find the darkest impulses of humankind woven into their fabric and should be seen as suspect from the outset.

Particularly in the Americas when white men conquered and eradicated native peoples it was done with deceit and brutality. With campaigns finished, battles and wars won, systems were then put into place to keep tabs on the remnants of those they had dominated. They did this out of fear of retribution. They confined them to the reservations where they could keep an eye of them for fear that their named enemy was planning on returning the favor. In most cases this was simply not true, the people pushed into the margins wanted their homes and families and to live in peace, not to march into white settlements and put dwellings to the torch. We told ourselves these stories and lies after the fact in the form of John Ford movies to retroactively justify our own paranoid actions and the benefits derived therefrom as white people.

 

Strip me of my citizenship if you must, but I must confess that I hate John Wayne.

 

Not much digging is required to see how that same unjustified paranoia fueled the perpetuation of slavery and later Jim Crow which in several key ways persists into the present day. At every step of the way it became a requirement for the survival of the system to defend cruel behavior and if the white masses think that slave uprisings, race riots and Black Panther militias are going to go door to door killing, raping and looting then you can make almost any policy or practice appear not just necessary but preordained. Paranoia sustained and still sustains discriminatory actions because we visited the aforementioned atrocities first. When you are convinced that karma could be trying to come for you it’s not much of a leap of the imagination to re-frame a person of color advocating for change as an enemy agent who wants to exact Old Testament-style justice.

It is in the name of your own ego that those below are to remain below.

Systems are not completely without feeling. Feelings are what drive humans and humans create systems to organize their society in the ways that they think fit. As these systems are created in our own image they are susceptible to the flaws that come along with human feelings and can be easily exploited on the premise of those same feelings. Many of them find the darkest impulses of humankind woven into their fabric and should be seen as suspect from the outset.

If you are a poor man, surely you see yourself aligned with all poor people, do you not? No, of course you don’t. Unless you find yourself at the very bottom as a poor person of color the only comfort you can give yourself is that at least you’re not one of them. At least there is an “other” beneath you and heaven forbid they should ever catch up to you because then, without any direct change to your station in life, now you are at the bottom too. You didn’t fall. The bottom has simply come up to meet you. It is in the name of your own ego that those below are to remain below.

If you are a white woman, at least you’re white. A shortcut we hear all too often in public spheres wrongly gathers women as a single, monolithic entity, when things don’t actually play out like that. True, many of their life experiences as women overlap but as long as a white woman exists somewhere she will always be perceived as having more value than a woman of color. White women know they aren’t in power, but many of them choose to link arms with white men in order to uphold the patriarchy because the paranoia of what happens next if they don’t is too much to handle. In some examples it’s less paranoia and much more representative of a legitimate fear of marginalization.

…but it does highlight how they have chosen whiteness over being women.

All except one female Republican senator chose to support the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh while no female Democratic senators did. This obviously illustrates not only the partisanship of the chamber and of the United States in general, but also that there are women who will continue to enable patriarchy, in particular white patriarchy, if it means that they can still play second fiddle in their own party’s endeavors. They want power within the structure and they rightly calculated that flouting the wishes of their own white male-dominated political party would hurt their standing within their own chosen hierarchy. Now, to be sure, most of these women were already on that track, second-guessing the Kavanaugh nomination was never in the cards for them but it does highlight how they have chosen whiteness over being women.

White men fear loss of status, especially in terms of their peer groups. They, rightly so, want to either maintain or advance. And it so happens that the best means of doing so are by keeping others behind. As long as no one is gaining on you, you win, comparatively speaking.

 

smoke filled room

“Now look here, see. I told that poor to move or be squashed flat by my Packard, see.”

 

The underlying fears white men associated with the prospect of the others catching up range from the mildly delusional to the outright insane. Political correctness is censorship! They’ll tax everyone into the poor house! Women will castrate men! Black people will enslave white people!

If it looks like there’s a chance that the mobs with get the wealth and power that has historically been withheld they will finally buy the torches and pitchforks they need in order to storm gated communities. If they finally get to vote as easily as they should they’ll elect black extremists. Boys and men will have to wear body cams just to prove that they didn’t commit acts of sexual violence.

The country is divided by them and in their service.

Is this paranoia linked to a collective guilty conscience? In the end, I think no. That would be giving powerful white men too much credit and blind the kind of hyper-cynical eye one needs in order to see what the whole thing is really about. I do think that influential white men wet the bed at the thought of falling from grace and no longer running the system as it was designed to and that their every daydream consists of the methods that would keep the system running smoothly or how to best reap the bounties that they have carved out for themselves.

The country is divided, as white men say. But they’re not telling the whole truth. The country is divided by them and in their service. They align themselves with whatever group they need at the time in order to preserve and protect what they’ve built for themselves.

They host rallies for everyone and say that the “other” is swarming the borders. They pull other men aside and say that women are coming for them. They call white women into their offices and say to work with them lest they be confused for someone working against them. They make the temporary alliances that they need whenever they feel threatened and then discard that alliance when its benefit to them is no longer required.

The lengths people will go to in defense of what they feel they’ve earned knows no bounds, especially when fear and paranoia enter the equation.

If paranoia and fear of retaliation are the lifeblood of the society we’ve been born into, maybe what’s required of us all is to retaliate with our money and with our votes. For my fellow white people, is in incumbent upon us to retaliate by giving our support to anyone but the very same powerful white men who hold all the cards. We cannot afford to sit back in resignation and hope that the game, so far out of our hands now, will be over soon.


Alex Biscarner is a freelance writer living in South Bohemia in the Czech Republic.

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The One Where I Prove Racism

good-grief

Instead of getting all ranty about the Confederate flag and whether it’s racist or not and whether the South went to war over slavery or not why don’t I just copy and paste instead? Well, here goes nuthin’:

The Cornerstone Speech, also known as the Cornerstone Address, was an oration delivered by Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens at the Athenaeum in Savannah, Georgia, on March 21, 1861.

Delivered extemporaneously a few weeks before the Confederacy would start the American Civil War by firing on the U.S. Army at Fort Sumter, Stephens’ speech explained what the fundamental differences were between the constitutions of the Confederacy and that of the United States, enumerated contrasts between U.S. and Confederate ideologies and beliefs, laid out the Confederacy’s causes for starting the American Civil War, and defended slavery.

But here’s the clincher:

“Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.” – Alexander Stephens

(via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornerstone_Speech)

So Kermit the Frog, Louis CK and Vladimir Putin Walk Into a Bar…

Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection. The lovers, the dreamers, and me.” – Kermit the Frog

Gotta love that frog. Equality, diversity, understanding. These are things a society must embrace if it is to evolve and survive. An insular society becomes stagnant. And when a society becomes stagnant it gets covered in algae. Or maybe I mean ponds. Whatever.

I think it’s morally right to be in favor of equality, to embrace all races, all castes and all cases. But I think questions of morality are, whether you like it or not, subject to opinion and personal belief. I’m not saying boo-yah to moral relativism, but it’s maybe sort of a thing. Trying to use morals as a guiding principle can be tricky because they don’t always align themselves with the word of the law or other people’s ideas about what is fair and just. Becoming embroiled in a discussion about right and wrong can go on for days and will pretty much kill any party atmosphere. However, when it comes to framing a debate I find that it’s important to use historical perspective and/or scientific data instead of just feeling my feelings at someone. Find the pudding with the proof in it and you shouldn’t have to get bogged down in points of view.

Part of why the United States of America has thrived is its diversity, that old “melting pot” thing. However, as the country becomes even more diverse (whites will be in the minority by 2043), the political divides appear to be deepening as the parties are playing both ends against the middle. We get angry at each other as they get re-elected. (You know, when it comes to America’s representative democracy I actually think that the system works most of the time even if only by a slight margin. But the check and balances process which makes it effective in passing bipartisan laws at the federal level is also what bogs it down and makes progress arrive at glacial speeds.)

Melting pots aren't just metaphors for national diversity any more, now they're great for hosting a swanky dinner party!

Melting pots aren’t just metaphors for national diversity anymore, now they’re great for hosting a swanky dinner party! Remember to put your keys in the bowl!

Phrases like “family values” get thrown around to “defend” the stock-photo-in-a-picture-frame archetype of what families should look like in America all the while we take for granted the good that diversity has brought our country. I mean, could you imagine America without Mexican or Chinese food? What would college kids even eat? Politicians are good at what they do, and that’s feeding us fear to rally their base and that makes good people turn against each other.

But I digress, equality and diversity will save our country and maybe the world if everyone gets on board. To be fair, some regions are further behind than others. Whether it be the anti-gay legislation that’s been sweeping the continent of Africa, the suppression of women in some areas of the Middle East, or the politically-motivated detentions and executions that remain common in parts of southeast Asia. These countries will never sit on top of the heap so long as they stand on the necks of their citizens. The world is too global and too interconnected now for oppressive regimes to call all the shots. (Although, Russia is trying damned hard to prove me wrong.)

love mankind

I should also note that as a trekkie I have slightly dorky reasons for embracing diversity and attempting to foster greater acceptance for all people; and that’s the hope of achieving a Roddenberry-esque utopia as in the Star Trek universe.

The United States is far from perfect, but we do have a tendency to lead the pack in forward-thinking laws that protect the citizenry and make it easier to be who you are. It needs work though. I mean, the military has a huge problem with sexual assaults, gay marriage still isn’t technically legal in a lot of places (way to go Michigan!), and crime and income inequality make it near impossible for non-whites to succeed in some cases. These are just the most hot-button issues of the day but in actuality there are perhaps too many to address here. One on the horizon may be how we define gender as a species as there are more and more high-profile court cases centered around gender-dysphoric individuals and thusly public discourse over the matter is likely to intensify.

Maybe a change in perception a key first step in finding a solution for a nagging problem. For instance, I know plenty of white, middle to lower class people that probably chart in the middle when it comes to social issues, but might say that a woman seeking equality comes across as “bitchy” or that a person of color who seeks equality is “uppity” or “lazy.” Part of it could be out and out bigotry, you can never be certain. But a lot of it stems from unfamiliarity with the concept of “white privilege” among whites, specifically white men.

White privilege is a term that basically means whites in America are more likely to be born into advantages that other races are not. A mental picture to illustrate the point: Picture small-town America. Red brick buildings, flower beds, a nice downtown and a promenade along the river. Like out of a campaign ad or a boner-pill commercial. Now, populate that setting with Hispanics, Asians, and Blacks. It kind of doesn’t compute, right?

Now, that was just an exercise, but really think about it. Those idyllic small towns in middle America where old people go to retire and young couples start their families tend to be primarily white in population. We can go round and round on why that happens, but the facts are these: So-called minorities are less likely to be born into money. And they are more likely to be living in inner city environments where crime is high, pay is low, drugs are commonplace and quality healthcare is scarce. Whatever your explanation for it is, it exists. White privilege is real and it’s gone on for generations. It allows for greater mobility in life, especially in terms of education and careers.

This is what I’m getting at: If whites can’t comprehend what it means to be born into such disadvantages, then they are less likely to feel sympathetic and see that something needs to change. It’s good, maybe great that the idea has been mapped out, but if more whites just don’t get it than what good is it?

The same can be said for gays and women. Straight white men generally just don’t know what it’s like to not conform to the standards of more socially conservative families or to get a smaller paycheck for doing the same work as someone else. By and large it just isn’t a thing we have to deal with.

HE BLOWS GOATS. I HAVE PROOF.

I for one can’t imagine what it must be like to have people telling you that loving the person you love is disgusting or a sin. I’ve had a few gay friends in my life up until this point and I have never understood how anyone could try to deny them the same rights that the rest of us have. There is nothing unnatural, illegal, or immoral about a same-sex attraction. It’s a part of nature the same as opposite-sex attraction. In fact there are a lot of things that happen in nature that most of us think happen only in German night clubs. (An enlightening, illustrated, NSFW article here.)

There needs to be dialogue and understanding. And it has to start with people like me; i.e. heterosexual white males. As of right now, from birth the best position you can have in life in the United States is being born a straight white dude. Pretty much no one will discriminate against you. You’re guaranteed higher pay than women or minorities a lot of the time. The cops will hassle you a lot less. You won’t be bullied as much. If dudes similar to me start admitting to these truths, then we can start understanding what it must be like on the other end of the spectrum.

I’ve been very fortunate in my life. Which is a euphemistic way of saying that I have a falling-backwards-into-excellent-situations brand of luck. I’m half-deaf and without my contacts in I’m legally blind. But that’s pretty much it. I got teased for that stuff as a child otherwise I just kinda sleepwalked through adolescence and young adulthood and yet I’m doing pretty well for myself. I benefited from loving parents and forgiving friends for sure, but being born white in Michigan in a small town with a great school system was like sliding out the womb with a free pass in hand.

Louis CK is probably the best spokesperson for white privilege there is. I think a lot of people find him offensive (to be fair, some of the stories in his routines are bluer than blue) but when it comes to society and race relations everything he’s saying is long overdue. Not even Carlin touched the stuff that Louis is nailing right now. He comments on white privilege, race relations, and inequality of gender and race and manages to make his mostly white audiences laugh their asses off. And this is all the while he’s throwing in their faces how much they can achieve simply by being white. He tricks people. He hides the truth in between punchlines to make it more palatable. People are digesting his wisdom and truth without knowing it. We need more people like Louis CK.

The biggest reason I feel its important we start being real about shit like this is that income equality is now being felt by the white middle-class just like it was by everyone else before now. Almost a fifth of the income in America goes into the pockets of the top one percent. Read that again, but this time in bold and capitalized: ALMOST A FIFTH OF THE INCOME IN AMERICA GOES INTO THE POCKETS OF THE TOP ONE PERCENT.

That basically boils down like this: Take one hundred people. Give one guy twenty cents. Then get the other ninety-nine people to share eighty cents.

BUH.

So yeah, we’re all getting screwed together now. Maybe we can commiserate over that and stop worrying about who’s gay or what color they are. If we were to achieve equality and understanding among ourselves maybe we could work together and the rich, old, white dudes running everything wouldn’t keep getting rich off of fleecing the middle and lower class. If petty, prejudiced squabbles are solved we can get back to organizing and taking back what’s owed to us. College degrees are basically high school diplomas now, banks are gouging families with loan interest rates, manufacturing jobs are leaving and we get angry at each other because two dudes in love want to get married? We lose our shit because someone wants in to our country to make a better life for themselves and we accept that women are worth less than men in a work environment, seriously? Is everyone asleep at the wheel?

Imagine he sounds like Harrison Ford's gravelly-throated President Marshall from "Air Force Force": "Get off my border! (Or come and mow my lawn please, oh, and do you think you could do the hedges while you're at it?"

Imagine he sounds like Harrison Ford’s gravelly-throated President Marshall from “Air Force One”: “Get off my border! (Or come and mow my lawn please. Oh, and do you think you could do the hedges while you’re at it?)”

Part of what made America a pioneer in the first place from its founding up until now was the greed and paranoia-fueled covetousness of the rich white people who ran (and still run) everything. The desire to compete, rob, take advantage of the disadvantaged and ultimately win is what built the country (Ask Native Americans, Blacks, the Chinese, the Irish and women). But that sort of thinking and motivation is never sustainable. “Great” societies have always crumbled when the super rich control everything. Does, “Let them eat cake,” ring a bell? Ancient examples include but are not limited to the Romans and the Mayans. Too much power, too much wealth concentrated into too small an area ends in ruin pretty much all the time. Societies that don’t evolve and change descend into chaos in the end, and that’s what’s at stake.

When a small group has all the money and all the control the citizenry gets restless and burns everything to ash. Which is one of the ways a society can come crumbling down. Gotta hand it to the unruly mobs, they really set aside their own differences and set a good fire or two. A decent modern example would be Ukraine to some extent. Yanukovych was corrupt as hell and several opposition parties banded together to get rid of him even though they don’t agree on everything among themselves.

Sidebar: I’m no advocate of brick-throwing or fire-starting. I lived in Seattle for a bit and saw a couple of marches and demonstrations end in vandalism. That sort of juvenile activity defeats the purpose of demonstrating and hurts no one but the workers who have to clean up after the shitheads who break stuff. Terrorizing the working-class only turns people against you. Trashing a Nike store or a Starbucks frightens the hard-working people inside who did nothing to you, they’re just trying to get by themselves. The people who are doing the harm don’t have street-level offices. Leave the workers alone.

Check out my mainest man Nero rockin' out. What's that burning in the background, you ask? Oh, it's just fuckin' ROME.

Check out my mainest man Nero rockin’ out. What’s that burning in the background, you ask? Oh, it’s just fuckin’ ROME.

Another death knell for a society is when they box themselves in philosophically, scientifically, and technologically. They stop pushing for more knowledge, they rest on their laurels and finally they are surpassed and turn to dust. They accept all that they are instead of striving for more. In the States there are a lot of honkies getting their panties in a bunch because they feel victimized by the growing diversity of the nation. Gay marriage is gaining traction, the president is black, and the white majority is eroding. But what they fail to see is that by introducing new people and new types to society, we become much more able to deal with problems that arise. New people mean new ideas, new ideas equal more solutions. Different people have different points of view, and sometimes the only thing you need to solve a problem is a fresh set of eyes.

I’m not a conspiratorial thinker, I don’t think the “Man” is out to get me or anything. But I do know he’s perfectly happy to keep his riches and accumulate more while the working-class dukes it out over shit that shouldn’t matter.

If we can remove the barriers between ourselves and stop seeing the differences in each other real change can take place, maybe. A lot of countries have this view that Americans think they’re better than everyone, and they’re right. We DO think we’re better but we sure don’t act like it all the time. I’m just spitballing here, hell, this whole post is one giant spitball of altruistic gobbledygook; but if we take a second and notice that we all have something in common these days, and that’s the way we’re being screwed out of our inheritance as Americans, then maybe something good could happen probably?

Allow me to get the ball rolling. I know not every can be as fortunate as me. I want to share the world with the rest of you. I plan on being nice until you give me a reason not to be. Don’t step on my toes, don’t tell me or anyone I care about who they are or what they’re worth and most of all don’t deny others the same basic human decency that you expect for yourself just because you don’t get them.

A lot of this post came from my head over the course of a week or so, but in its later stages it was heavily influenced by this article, which I found to be fascinating. And of course Louis CK gets a lot of credit too. I wrote over two thousand words that he could turn into a hundred-word diamond.