Saturday, February 16, 2013
Racism. Part 1
Racism in all its guises represents a universal need to explain human weakness. We look at what others have and see in ourselves the inadequacy of our own existence. Instead of being satisfied with striving to better ourselves, too often we are driven by malice and greed. Or we are provided with an expectation of superior virtue which justifies all of our subsequent actions. For example, central to Islamic theology is the belief that the Muslim has already reached ultimate perfection in all that is human. What an ethical catastrophe that makes for its adherents. We are disappointed with what we possess and jealous of the success of others. We expected that as the twentieth century progressed we would eradicate prejudice but instead, fly-on-the-wall programs and growing global insecurity remind us of our deficiency. In its organized way racism is no more than a grubby political tool that serves to unite ‘us’ against ‘them’ by explaining our individual as well as our collective failures.
We may look at individual occurrences and see similarities in Uganda (Black against Indian), Rwanda (between Tutsi and Hutu), Europe (against Romany and Jews); Swedes against Finns, Protestant against Russian Orthodox, in fact in Europe the list is endless, Turkey (Kurds and Armenians), Iraq (anyone not ethnically Arab and Muslim; Shiite verses Sunni), Sudan (Arab against Black), Palestine (Arab against Jew), Gaza (Muslim against Jew) and Egypt (Arab - Muslim against Coptic Christian).
Violent acts of racist expression, as well as the petty construction of a narrative of discrimination are encouraged by society because the perpetrators know they will not be punished. How similar is that to the low level bigotry here in Western society where we too often sacrifice sensitivity to free speech? Selective discrimination and legalized violence encourage the bigot. It all has to start somewhere.
That is not to say that society totters on the brink of anarchic self-destruction. If the urge to destroy were instinctive then our species would be extinct. If violent action were the natural character of humankind there would be no need for anthropologists to study anything other than ‘civilized’ society because a self-destructive spiral of violence would have obliterated pre-modern societies. Laws regulate and control, they are essential to the orderly cooperation between large units of people living in close proximity to each other.
We are psychologically conditioned to respond to change with stress reactions because instinctively we know that it represents a threat and not the natural inclination of the human condition. The outcome of war tends towards order otherwise it would weaken the society that wages it and eventually lead to its downfall. This is the reason that a responsible administration values stability and not chaos. The human condition is predicated upon predictability and not flux.
Violence is unnatural and harmful, and bigotry is learned. So we try to create justification for both by fashioning a narrative that first rationalizes fear then justifies discrimination. It is by these means that legitimacy is given to a perceived or concocted threat.
Comfort and intelligence does not inoculate us against hate. Intelligence does not immunize us against the cultural baggage we carry with us; it far too often afflicts us and drives us to speak with our passion rather than with our brains.
The articulation of bigotry on an organized scale is usually orchestrated by people of wealth and education. Too often I have debated with people whose knowledge was based on blind acceptance of lies, and propaganda that has been manipulated to create a new reality based on falsehood or less than half the story. The bigot only wants to be reassured by their comfortable prejudices. They will seek out whatever reinforces their perceptions and will deny the obvious deception or outright mistruths because their certainty makes precision of fact irrelevant.
Recently I became embroiled in a ‘debate’ on twitter, we reached an impasse and my adversary demanded that I look at four maps – they allegedly showed the spread of Jewish and Arab populations in Palestine prior to 1948. I ignored the first three as I did not understand them. But the final map was of 1948 mandate Palestine and was colored completely black except at the top, along the northern coast starting with Nahariyah and hugging the Lebanese, Syrian and Jordanian borders down to Tiberius.
The color black represented Arab Palestine; the white dots that speckled the northern border represented the Jewish communities of Palestine.
The map was a lie.
According to this map there were no major Jewish concentrations of population in any of the cities prior to 1948. Jerusalem therefore did not have a Jewish majority from as early as the year 1828; Tel Aviv and Haifa were both Judenfrei.
The Palestinian-Arab-Muslim narrative is based on the total repudiation of Jewish history.
My twitter accuser (for according to her I was a ‘racist’ and ‘evil’) is a seventeen year old White Dutch female. She is not just Israel’s problem, not only an antisemite but she also represents the bigger issue of racism. Grab the child and fill their head with lies and deceit and two more generations (if she reproduces) have been corrupted, their minds and hearts poisoned by mindless hate. This acolyte of bigotry is the foot soldier of the present struggle and the future war. She is immune to the truth, closeted in absolute faith.
The fascist-racist, my Dutch interlocutor, was only interested in a dialogue if she could control the narrative. The self-worth of the fascist-racist is increased by our debasement. That is why they readily ignore the truth. They have not abandoned the totalitarian personality’s need for human sacrifice as a means of validating their delusional superior virtue. How far has their poison infused society? The acceptance of their lies as truth is the observable measure of society’s contamination as this toxic venom travels towards the centre. In the new era of Western McCarthyism the Liberal / Left agenda is racist by its indifference to Islamism and Arab colonialism. We ignore their complicity in this war against humanity to our peril.
The ubiquity of the media and now also the social media helps to prepare us to act in accordance with our fears, they also prime us on how to respond. It is far easier to spread a lie on the web or though twitter than it is to undo the damage it causes.
We are fortunate to be living in a time when we can be part of history and in our own lifetime we know that we are participants in an ongoing drama. The terrible downside to this intimacy with history is that many people view history as nothing more than their personal statement of particular prejudice and this is highlighted by journalists for whom the story is more important than the truth. In homage to Political Fascism many modern day journalists are content to repeat the lie as if it is truth; the more often they repeat it, the greater the prominence afforded to the lie, the more likely it is that the lie becomes the truth.
As an example: Racists often use the argument that Jews who suffered during the Shoah should not behave unfairly towards others (specifically Palestinians – who are defined by their racism to exclude people of Jewish Faith). In fact, this line of reasoning is almost universal in its acceptance amongst the educated Western classes. This ethereal halo effect is an illusion, the purity of those that suffer, is a perverse and wholly invalid argument. I have only ever heard it applied to Jews. We would never dream of telling an African American that because they were once slaves they should be innately more peaceful, more tolerant and more accepting of pain than their White or Latino brothers and sisters. We do not ever demand they turn the other cheek. It is counterfactual to claim that suffering ennobles and thereby creates conditions of tolerance towards those people that persecute or threaten you. That is completely daft!
And intelligence? Being smart far too often carries co-morbid conditions such as arrogance and haughtiness; an intelligent person will rationalize a tendency to disregard the truth because it conflicts with a chosen path and this can easily be justified by reference to a higher purpose that ignores the facts.