Despite the histrionic claims in right-wing tantrums, now, or left-wing tantrums, circa the Bush era, the United States of America is not now, and has not yet ever been, a fascist state, and it's not becoming one.|
But, in the last few years, it's come amazingly close to following the historical precedents for one. Actual fascist states have only happened a few times, and while no two fascisms are identical (being that fascism is characterised by ultra-nationalism, and no two nations are identical), there are general categories of circumstances that make them a possibility.
In no particular order (seriously, this is not in order of importance at all, because I'm basically thinking into a DW update window), I shall endeavour to go through them, starting with:
The Alien Within (Usually Jews)
( In which I explain anti-Jewish sentiment as part of fascism. )
In summary: a people who are not like us, but are among us, and they are harmful to society, zomg!
 Fascism, as a term, was coined by Mussolini. However, the Alliance Francaise, despite predating Mussolini's rise by decades, qualifies as a fascist movement if anything does, not least because a lot of Mussolini's philosophy was inspired or taken directly from the writings of the idealogue behind the AF.
Why This Didn't Happen In America
Well, the Jews wouldn't work, because for a bunch of reasons, some of them sensible, some of them kind of insane (e.g. "Israel is a prerequisite for the Rapture"), the American far-right is hard-line Zionist. And you can't really make a coherent anti-Semitic narrative without also going anti-Zionist, so even the most ardent anti-Semites on the American right have to be kind of covert about it.
Communists lost their power as a serious threat with the collapse of the USSR. Some American right-wingers have picked up a narrative that places "the gays" in that category, but the problem with gay people as an ideological hate fixture is that people will, inevitably, have gay family members, or meet people who are "one of us" and then find out that they're also gay, and basically, gay isn't an ethnic group.
A number of right-wing groups and politicians have made something of an attempt with Latinos, and, in localised areas, have succeeded to a terrifying degree. (See: Sheriff Arpaio, who I had a piece about posted on Shakesville before I broke up with Shakesville hard enough that it just took me ten minutes of going through my tags for old posts to remember what the site was even called.)
However, while localised fascism has absolutely taken hold in parts of America, this hasn't worked on a widespread basis. I think the reason is basically geography. America is huge, and immigration is a progression. You can't make the anti-immigrant fervour take hold in the same way in Ohio or Wyoming, because the immigrants aren't a presence there, certainly not sufficient to make people flip out. At the same time, in states like Texas, there are too many *legal* Mexican and Central American immigrants for an overwhelming consensus of hate. There are too many people for whom they *aren't* Other.
Mostly. You still have, you know, Arizona.
So, the Disney movie Song of the South has never been released on home video.|
I have no idea, therefore, why I have clear, if distant, memories of watching it, since I wasn't born until 1980 and therefore definitely couldn't have seen it in the cinema. (Also I remember that I was sitting on the floor for at least some of it.)
I know, now, that that movie is horribly racist and everything, but as a small child, I had never heard of the American Civil War, or a plantation, or any of the context that explains why it's racist. What I remembered of it was mostly Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, with the bluebird, and Uncle Remus seemins so nice, and Br'er Rabbit stories.
How did this happen?
(Oh, hey, my mother intermittently reads this now. Mum? How did I see Song of the South? We lived in Australia! In the 80s! (I refuse to think that I saw it in South Africa, and my sole memory of pre-emigration life is a Disney movie.))
So, there's a certain subset of fandom that seems to make a habit of protesting that Erik Lehnsherr, aka Magneto, is totally JEWISH NOT GERMAN. (XMFC movieverse particularly.)|
It irritates me. He is Jewish AND German.
Not for nothing, morons, but the argument that because a man is Jewish, he is therefore not German?
Is the one the Nazis were making. It's not impossible that Erik would stab you in the face for saying he isn't German, because that's the attitude that killed his family.
Dude is German. Dude is Jewish. These things are not mutually exclusive.
If you're reading this, you're probably a person. Which means that you probably have skin, which will have a melanin component, in most cases. Despite this, some of you will nonetheless qualify as "white", perhaps because "pinky-beigey-tan-sort-of-thing" looks bad on forms.|
Many white people struggle with the notion of "being a racist". Because just about everyone agrees that being a racist is bad, but sometimes, it's so hard to tell, right? What if you're a racist and you don't even know it? What if you're sure you're definitely not one but the question keeps coming up again?
Well, have no fear. Auntie Sami is here to help. Here are some tips on working through this dilemma. And we're not, here, going off that ridiculous assertion that "everyone's a little bit racist" - one, because I don't think that's true, actually, and two, because it implies that that means being racist - if just "a little bit" - is somehow, therefore, okay. Which it isn't. So here goes.
"Racist" has a clear definition, and I don't fit it!
I looked at a webpage today. The webpage's author was totally a racist, and she denies it on the basis that "this is the definition of racism":
"a belief in the innate superiority of a particular race; antagonism towards members of a different race based on this belief."
Well, not exactly. Certainly that's a reasonable definition of racial supremacist attitudes, and it's a reasonable definition of one form of racism, but it's more-or-less equivalent to defining Christianity as adherence to Catholicism, and... not so much. Like Christian denominations, there are many forms of racism, and while some are hard-line evangelicals or rigid Roman Catholics, others are mild-mannered sorts who think overt displays of their faith are rather tacky.
Racism encompasses a lot of other things, many of them subtle and unconscious, some of them not involving antagonism at all.
Real-World Extreme Example: It was once, and for many years, standard practice to take the children of indigenous Australian families away and foster them with white families. It was felt that this would provide the children with much better lives. There wasn't antagonism involved - it was a sincere conviction that the black children would be better off living with white strangers than their own families.
This was, however, incredibly racist.
If you find yourself quoting a definition like the one above to prove why something you're doing is totally not racist, it's probably quite racist indeed, and you're probably a racist.
But I have black friends!
Whether or not you are racist is not determined by how you treat, or even whether you have, black friends. It's determined by how you treat, think about, and react to strangers. Of course you're nice to your friends - everyone is. And being a racist won't stop you having friends of a different race, because that person will, in your mind, be either an exception, or possibly a token trophy of your non-racism.
Because racism isn't about individuals, not really. One racist isn't even a problem - the problem with racism is the systemic toxicity it causes.
Sure, that person called me a racist, but that happens to everyone sometimes!
Have you noticed that that statement sort of assumes "everyone" is white?
But that's a side-issue. The actual thing of this is: no it doesn't. Getting called racist is sort of like the Ian Fleming count. Once is miscommunication, twice is time to do some careful thinking, three times is you're a racist and you need to shut up until you've done some serious reading on Racism 101.
Hmm, I've been quiet again, lately.|
I have posts vaguely percolating in my head. About beauty, about people, about thinking, about travel shows and Top Gear. Note to self, write them.
Oddly, my impulse to post right now is mostly to do with wanting to do *something* to offset the discomfort I felt, because there are certain words with which I am not comfortable, at all, even when I know why I'm using them.
For example, entering Nigger as a search term makes my skin crawl a tiny bit, even though what I was actually doing was looking up Dick Gregory's autobiography on Amazon. I want to read it, I'm thinking I might order it, and yet, I'm not sure I would feel comfortable having that on a shelf where people could see it or reading it in public, even though it's the autobiography of a civil rights campaigner.
Twitch. And yet. But. Twitch.
That's words for you.
Especially since that isn't even a racist word of my own socio-cultural background. That's an American racist word. Neither where I was born nor where I grew up did I ever come across someone who would use nigger as a racist slur, that I know of.
(And yet, a word that has similar degrees of racist baggage in my socio-cultural background turns up in plant nurseries here - as the "kaffir lime" tree. Which also makes me twitch really a lot. Because in my socio-cultural background nice people don't use that word.)
Then again, in the eastern states there's a chain of Indian restaurants called "Curry Munchers". When I worked at directory assistance I nearly hung up on a customer who said that, until she - understanding my shocked and horrified reaction - explained hurriedly that no, it really was called that...
Dec. 21st, 2010 @ 09:10 am
You know what's hilarious?|
Racists like the "Council of Conservative Citizens" and a web-group called Boycott-Thor.com are having a collective meltdown over the casting of a black dude to play Heimdall in the Thor movie.
Their reasoning: OMG NORSE MYTHOLOGY IT SHOULD BE WHIIIIITE.
(I think Penny Arcade's summary works.)
The reason this is funny: If they weren't reactionary racist morons, they might have done some basic research, and could make a case for miscasting rather better on the grounds that Heimdall was called "the whitest of the Aesir". Therefore, arguably, making him the black Aesir is a little contra-mythological.
The thing is, you know what?
None of the Aesir were Marvel superheroes, and actual Norse mythology is more-or-less totally incompatable with the Marvelverse.
So get over it. If dude is awesome enough to be Heimdall, which I don't know because I've never seen him in anything but Kenneth Branagh apparently cast him and Kenneth Branagh is pretty damn good so I'm assuming he is awesome enough to be Heimdall, then dude is awesome enough to be Heimdall and therefore shut up, you racist morons. You missed your chance to have the faintest shred of non-racist credibility when you didn't actually do any research on this first.
I only just learned of Yetta Dhinnakal Correctional Centre. It's out in western New South Wales, 70km from Brewarrina. Link goes to an ABC news article that's well worth reading.|
The summary: Ten years ago, the chief commissioner of the NSW Department of Correctional Services read the report from the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody and actually thought about it, and came up with this place. The name means "right pathway" in the local Djemba language.
It takes young Indigenous men who've committed non-serious crimes, like burglary and drug offences, and, instead of throwing them into the prison system where nothing good will happen, sets about breaking the cycle of crime and incarceration, instead teaching the young men trades, skills, and self-respect.
It's working, too.
I almost cried reading the article, because it's one of those things - and there are a few dotted around Australia, but not nearly enough - where you can actually see that even the government is learning. The Indigenous population of this country is in a terrible state, and they need help... but at Yetta Dhinnakal, like all the other genuinely successful programs I know of that are attempting to get the communities out of the cycle of misery that is the legacy of colonisation and institutional racism, the way it's being done is that the government provides infrastructure and support for the Indigenous elders to get the younger generation in line.
What so many people don't even seem to want to see is that this problem was created by whites, but we can't fix it. It just maintains the structures of paternalism and oppression. It doesn't work. But their are Indigenous elders out there, who have the authority within Indigenous culture to bring the younger generations into line, and the will to do it... if given the chance. If the young black men who commit crimes because they never got the chance to know a better path in life are given over to their care instead of locked away.
In an ideal world, programs like this would be there for everyone who commits these kinds of crimes (although the prison industrial complex in the USA would struggle, but that's another, far more depressing post), but as it is, it just gives me such hope to know that it's happening anywhere at all, because these things have knock-on effects of their own; the young men who go to Yetta Dhinnakal will have a positive effect on their own children, and on their communities, and the success of the program will make it more likely that others like it can be set up.
A related example, to explain what I was alluding to above: the problem with endemic alcoholism in some Indigenous communities in northern Western Australia is being improved by "grog bans", where mid- and full-strength alcoholic drinks are banned from takeaway sale. Allegedly this has been bad for some local businesses, but the local communities have found it very helpful; bans are made at the request of the communities.
There's just a profound difference between "you can't have strong alcohol because the white man says you can't be trusted with it, because you're an irresponsible child even if you are old enough by law" and "you can't have strong alcohol because the elders disapprove of it, and forty thousand years of tradition says they're in charge, son, so suck it up and learn to like it".
At some point soon I need to write a squee post about Leverage, because at least some shows are actually awesome.|
The latest round of fail has hit. Many people have commented, in detail and with eloquence; I don't have much to add that will be particularly new, I think, but... you know. If nothing else, I think the more voices in opposition to this kind of thing, the better.
I am bemused by this one, though. There's a mindset in play that I just don't understand - seeing tragedy, real tragedy, unfold and reacting with the thought that it's just an irresistably good background for a fanfic. The lack of empathy is astounding. The arrogance - thinking that she could do that, and do it in good taste, or is it just that it didn't occur to her to tread carefully at all? I don't understand.
Or does suffering just not count unless it happens to people like her?
Because try as I might to think the best of this, because I always want to think the best of people, I can't. Someone said, "Racism aside, it's just tacky." Which, it is, it is tacky as half-dried superglue but this racism is a stain that just won't come out. It seeps through the text - I looked - and it's woven too deep in the premise, because at the bottom of it all is that to her, the Haitians aren't people. They're props.
If they were people, this story couldn't exist, because it would be too riven with pain for the bright, shiny romance to come through at all.
There's just no excuse for that.
So, Rachel Maddow asked Rand Paul about his view on the Civil Rights Act and his belief that it should not have desegregated private businesses such as restaurants by law.|
An aside: Rachel Maddow is, in some respects, a vastly better woman than I, because in interviews such as this, I would very quickly reach the point of saying: "That's not what I asked you. I asked you [question]. Can you answer that question, please?" "Uh-huh. And [question]?" *interrupts* "Yes or no. [QUESTION]?" Which would probably make me come off as kind of a jerk.
I won't go into the ramifications of how wrong he is. I'm pretty sure anyone reading this is likely to be aware of the ways in which racism is perpetuated by allowing its open propagation.
I just finished reading a book called The Day of the Barbarians, by Alessandro Barbero. It's an account of the circumstances surrounding a battle in the late fourth century, which was both the culmination of a barbarian uprising and a turning point in the history of the Roman Empire. (I recommend the book, by the way - I might make a separate post on it at some point.)
The Roman Empire, at that point, prided itself somewhat on its integration of many, many ethnic groups into the Empire. By the fourth century religious tensions were causing more trouble than racial ones, as far as I can tell - Catholics vs Arian Christians (which is a whole 'nother post in itself), and the pagans were still around - but there was still some genuine and serious racism around. If you were tall and blonde, you were inferior, because tall and blonde meant barbarian. Real people were short and dark. (This was, after all, an empire with its roots in the Mediterranean.)
This isn't my expert area of history, by the way, and the book I just read was focussed on conflicts between the Roman Empire and the Goths, so I'm not sure where Africans stood in the racist hierarchy of the Empire; I suspect that may somewhat have varied by region. In Egypt, for example, it was probably a lot higher where many black people would have been traders or immigrants than in Constantinople, where most of them would have been slaves. People didn't seem to travel that much, but slaves went *everywhere*.
Possibly this was safer than keeping them local, mind you. The barbarian uprising the book is about received no small amount of assistance from the fact that *everyone* in the region, pretty much, had Gothic slaves. As a source of both manpower and intel, this was invaluable.
On the subject of slavery, if only because I sometimes struggle to remember that no, really, slavery is recent, I recommend the excellent Ta-Nehisi Coates's recent post: Sacrifice. No, seriously, read it.
Anyway, the thing is, there were a lot of ostentatious speeches and so on touting the wonder of immigration, of how Romanised the barbarians became, and how they strengthened the Empire as soldiers and as farmers and workers. Racism was in some ways a threat to the success of the state and they deliberately worked against it.
Nothing changes. And yet, progress does happen. I'm just sayin'.
Meanwhile, the issue of libertarianism is involved in all this.
Libertarianism is bad. I've written three chapters of a novel I really should finish at some point partly on that topic, but if you really want to see why libertarianism is bad, you should look into EVE Online.
EVE Online is internet spaceships, but it's more than that. It's essentially the universe libertarians want - it's the free market, unrestrained capitalism, and personal liberty unrestrained.
And you know what?
It's a fun game, but the universe itself is a dystopian hell where money is power, life is cheap, ordinary people don't matter (player characters are not ordinary people, but they ruin - or take - the lives of many of them), and might makes right. Got a problem with someone else? The only way to settle it is often violence, and there's always collateral damage. One of the Empire factions, the Amarr, is pro-slavery, whereas another, the Minmatar, is founded by former slaves. They're at war. Player characters on both sides fight over slavery, too... and the collateral damage is significant there too.
I saw an argument erupt at the Intergalactic Summit after ships from Ushra'Khan, an alliance of mostly-Minmatar player pilots who are vehemently anti-slavery (motto: "We come for our people.") destroyed a ship which turned out to be carrying a cargo of slaves, for example.
I think one of the things I love about EVE is that it's basically an ongoing counter-argument to libertarianism.
(Full disclosure: My character in EVE Online has a not-insignificant number of slaves - and other people, actually - in her hangar at a space station. This is because I've occasionally found them, one way or another, while running missions and so on. I couldn't bring myself to let them die in space, so I took them back to the station, where - and I swear to you this is true - I made sure they also had large quantities of food, water, soft drinks, consumer electronics, and any other trade good I could find that I thought would improve their lives. If CCP ever put in place - as some players frequently ask - a mechanic whereby slaves can be freed, I am so doing that.)
The qualitative differences in my thought processes between ADHD-medicated and unmedicated is:|
a) whoa, profound
b) hard for me to remember/believe/recognise when unmedicated.
Today I can tell because I've been reading/thinking about the same stuff since before I took my meds, and I can remember what I was thinking about, trying to put into words earlier, as opposed to now, and... yeah. I'm not sure words can describe the difference in experience between my unmedicated, off-the-charts-how-did-you-get-to-28-before-diagnosis self and my medicated self.
Anyway, on to the topic, in which I pick up Someone Is Wrong On The Internet, in the category of RaceFail '09 Version 2.0, The New Failbatch. (naraht is taking the turn as Archivist of the Revolution this time.)
The thread of derailment I wish to cut today: Man, these people are totally over-reacting on the basis of one sentence in a review!
( Cut for length. )
Current Music: This Is Ivy League - A Summer Chill
So, this evening I was reading Keith Windschuttle's article in the current issue of Quadrant: Why Australia Is Not A Racist Country.|
And if I were having less success at being amused by it, I'd be absolutely outraged.
His argument is not only that Australia is not racist now (his assertion of a happy, multicultural nation fails to take into account the success of One Nation, such as it was, or the race riots in Cronulla, but then he seems to be very good at selective attentiveness), it never was. While a critical reading of the article by anyone interested will, of course, provide many examples of why he sucks, and unless you care enough to read the article itself you probably won't care for an exhaustive breakdown written by me, there are a couple of particularly good examples I can't resist.
1) He cites as a reason for the non-racist nature of Australia society the fact that... Rudyard Kipling was popular.
Apparently in his world there was no racist content in Kipling.
Note that I think very highly of Kipling, and am a huge fan of such of his work as I have read. However:
But despite his dirty 'ide, 'e was white, clear white, inside...
Nooo, that's not racist. The fact that Gunga Din concludes: "Though I've beated you and flayed you, by the livin' gawd that made you, you're a better man than I am, Gunga Din." does not mean there is no racist content. (I may have the variant spelling and punctuation wrong, I'm quoting from memory.)
2) Where there is clear evidence of popular racist sentiment, he dismisses it; e.g. when referring to the strong concern of the governments dismantling the White Australia Policy that incautiously fast progress on that matter would cause them to lose office by provoking racist outcry by the public, he says that this fear was simply, "in [his] opinion, unwarranted."
3) "After the early gold rushes, the Chinese were largely excluded by the organised labour movement from the traditional skilled trades, as well as other unionised occupations such as shearing and wharf labouring. Nonetheless, they found their own economic roles. They came to dominate market gardening and eventually had an effective monopoly, growing no less than 75 per cent of the vegetables in the whole country. This led them to become the principal hawkers of vegetables and to control about one fifth of Australia's fruit trade. Chinese also found ready employment in the hospitality industry, especially as cooks. Half the cooks in Australian hotels in the late nineteenth century were Chinese. In the 1880s they dominated the low-cost furniture manufacturing industry, leaving the high-quality end of the market to European tradesmen."
Seriously, to me that reads as an argument in favour of the notion of widespread racism in Australia. Discuss.
4) Windschuttle is a windbag, I suspect a racist, certainly a revisionist (worst of all), and something of an idiot, but he's also a hilarious elitist; more than once in the article he uses the phrase "the lower orders"; what he totally, totally means is, "the lower classes". (But of course, Australia is supposed to be a classless society. The obvious joke about how of course Australians have no class is hereby acknowledged.) Because of course, only shabby proletarians are racist, the intelligentsia could never be so crude.
He's so bourgeois it's wonderful.