Archive for the ‘Trump’ Category

Identity is not the cause of political polarization. It’s emotions. Some people are terrified and disgusted by the demographic and economic trends in this country. They retreat to racial and other tribal identities to feel more secure.

But pundits like Fareed Zakaria want to blame identity for the political polarization that dominates the U.S. and Europe. They have it all wrong. In a recent article, Zakaria stated that

Partisanship today is more about identity. Scholars Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris have argued that, in the past few decades, people began to define themselves politically less by traditional economic issues than by identity — gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation. I would add to this mix social class, something rarely spoken of in the United States but a powerful determinant of how we see ourselves. Last year’s election had a lot to do with social class, with non-college-educated rural voters reacting against a professional, urban elite

It’s always about group membership, however. This is true whether the group is identity-politicsneighborhood, gender, racial, religious, or ideological. The question is who’s included and how important is that identity to your feelings of self worth and security.

We like to believe that people are driven by reason and deliberation. Most research suggests that this is not true. We have a natural talent, if not a need, to socialize. But our socializing skills and nature have a hard time stretching beyond about 100-150 people. This is the number of people that most hunting and gathering people lived with during the majority of our stay on this earth. This is also about the limit of FB “friends” that we can justly call friends. Though even this is probably stretching it. The creation of state society came with many compromises. We tend to think that the biggest compromise was the limit on individual freedom. We say that we gave up our individual rights in order to secure personal security and progress. But we also lost our our ability to live with and navigate our interactions with people that we knew well and trusted.

Today, everyone, except for some remaining hunting and gathering societies, live in enormous societies with multiple millions of other people. How do we connect to and make sense of all those other people? What do we know about them? How do we trust and communicate with them? The simple answer is that we can’t. It is for this reason that Benedict Anderson once called our efforts to form a national identity as something we imagine.

We think we belong to a “nation” with millions of others. But this is a fiction we believe and only very tenuously. States, nevertheless, see a need to promote national identities as a way of bolstering obedience. The problem is, as we have seen in the Middle East and America, that not everyone believes they belong to what others see as their fictional “nation.”

Right after 9/11, most people in these states believed they belonged to an American Nation. Everyone felt they were attacked by the terrorists…white, black, Asian, Latino, gay, Muslims, Buddhists, etc. They believed, rightly, that everyone shared a common fate. Not more than 10 months after 9/11, we again returned to a country of hyphenated Americans. Why? Because segregation, discrimination, police brutality, and much else, continued to define how they lived. It reminded people that not everyone shared in a common ‘American’ fate or identity.

Thus, it is not that some people glorify separate identities out of thin air. People are drawn to identity politics when they feel like their lives are not shared with others, when they do not share in one common national fate. It is the reality of living very different lives that creates identity. It forces people to try a self-identification with smaller groups, groups that they believe are more likely to secure their self worth and security.

Offense generator

A friend at a mid-size, private, second-tier university recently posted this lament,

“When I started speaking out aggressively in defense of public school teachers eight years ago, based on what I saw in the Bronx where school closings, uncontrolled testing and the demonization of teachers was squeezing creativity out of the schools, I knew, in theory, that professors would eventually become a target of similar policies, but I didn’t think Fordham would be one of those places where the attack took place. Well, I was wrong Fordham’s attempts to resist unionization of adjuncts and decimate the health care benefits of tenure track faculty should be a wake up call for anyone who still believes they are protected by ” the Ivy Tower.”. Any college professor who thinks that efforts to destabilize public education and de professionalize public education has nothing to do with them needs to wake up and smell the cappuchino. Every attack on the autonomy, living standards, health benefits and pensions of public school teachers is going to eventually come home to the universities. For college professors, whether adjuncts or tenure track, there is “Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide” They came for the public school teachers. Now they are coming for you…”

Teachers and professors have to be worried. The corporatization, automation, and austerity budgeting of the teaching professor is taking steam. Eventually, no teacher except for those at the very elite schools will be spared. But it’s important to know why these things are happening. I believe the reason is not that administrators are crass, bureaucratic, authoritarian fools. They may very well be some or all of these things. But the major reason for this attempt to radically reshape education comes from the contradictions of capitalist production.

Education is becoming unmoored from national capitalist economies. A trained, skilled, and professional workforce is becoming a far less important concern for individual nation-states. If our corporations need computer coders, they can find them in India and Africa for far lower wages. If they need sports news writers, they can get good results by sending, through the Internet, the bare facts of the sports event to a writer in Ireland who shapes it into a story worth printing. And that Irish reporter is paid less too.

Education has become unmoored from national economic needs. It used to be that the titans of industry in the U.S. believed it was in their economic interest to make sure that American workers were better educated. Thus philanthropists like Andrew Carnegie contributed to the expansion of public libraries begun by towns and labor groups as a way of educating the public. But today, there are few business leaders who have devoted their wealth to such broad educational purposes, in this country. And both conservatives and liberals seem determined to radically transform education in a way that makes it less educational and less expensive.

I have always thought that there was a distinct difference in the way that African Americans and Latinos experienced racism in the U.S. Europeans wanted black bodies, both to exploit and to perceive them as sexual and powerful animals. Europeans saw Latinos, in contrast, as people occupying land that they wanted. Latinos had to be pushed off, physically and metaphorically, from the land they cherished. That difference produces different kinds of interactions for each group. Whites interaction with blacks is both more intimate and more deadly. You cannot possess another’s body without doing serious damage to them. Whites interact with Latinos mostly by not seeing them, by ignoring them, by wanted to wall them off (a la Trump), and by hoping that they just disappear, even when they rebel and become violent (as this article below suggests).

https://www.citylab.com/politics/2017/04/the-forgotten-history-of-latino-riots/522570/?utm_source=twb

As the author claims:

One common element in these disturbances was a perception that problems in the Latino community were being overshadowed by problems in black neighborhoods, or by other Latinos. In the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami in December 1990, hundreds of young Puerto Rican residents took to the streets after the acquittal of six police officers who beat a drug dealer to death. One resident, Clemente Montalvo, told the New York Times, “We want people to know we exist. Cubans get everything; we get nothing.

Uprising, New Jersey: Rioters in Newark on September 1, 1974, after a Puerto Rican festival at Branch Brook Park. The 1970s saw the greatest number of Latino civil disturbances, according to Fountain, Jr.’s research. (AP Photo/DL)

This was the Latino story in Puerto Rico, the Southwest, Central American countries like Panama and Honduras, and Latin American countries like Bolivia. Everywhere, Latinos were an inconvenient presence. Difficult to work and live with. But needing to be removed if American was going to achieve it’s Manifest Destiny.