A reluctance by Liberals since the Reagan administration to target the wealth divide and the economics that creates it can be traced to its own investment in the maintenance of that order. Thus, the root problem of a transformation of a democratic republic into a controlling plutocratic order wearing the mask of a democratic republic continues to be eclipsed in the Liberal view by inequities and injustices. These either are the dark productions of this root problem or buried deeply in the worst devils of our human nature and seemingly beyond the recuperative powers of politics. We can say that in the view of our duopoly we are glorified by wealth and the greed that lubricates our desire for wealth and so, never tainted by it.
The Haves, Liberal or Neoliberal, want to attach the worst devils of our nature to the Have Nots, though like the taint of riches, racism crosses all classes. That darkness of racism within the American soul is not owned only by a struggling working class but as Ta-Nehisi Coates argues, pervades all of white America regardless of class. (“The First White President,” The Atlantic, Oct. 2017) Coates reminds us that it was not the financially crippled who voted for Trump but those that had a higher median income than Hillary’s supporters did. It was not then being on the wrong side of the wealth divide that brought voters to Trump, not a cry for a fair share of the pie but something else. Whites, Coates concludes, responded to the racist call of Trump, a clear clarion call they heeded.
“Few national liberal politicians,” Coates writes, “have shown any recognition that there is something systemic and particular in the relationship between black people and their country that might require specific policy solutions.” What these policy solutions might be separate from a political confrontation of and opposition to the exploitations of an unfettered capitalism have not arisen. What were the policy solutions Australians enacted on behalf of indigenous people who still have a life expectancy lower than the non-indigenous? What policies have solved the territorial, social and ethnic apartheid in Paris? And in her fight for justice in Myanmar did Aung San Suu Kyi attend to a policy solution for Rohingya persecution and now genocide?
The US’s congenital defects of Native American extermination and black African slavery push it to the top of the list of societies deeply haunted by a past that has not dissolved because its legacy has been exploited repeatedly for political reasons. The instincts of the worst devils of our human nature have been pandered to so a politics of power can pursue the single obsession of such power: its own interests. In short, racism is the mean tool that a politics made mean by its economics employs to keep such economics in place. We need to condemn and prosecute the underlying structure that finds it useful to enlist votes by engendering hate.
Racism lingers on in the American mass psyche not because it is an endemic feature of human nature, despite our inherited fear of the strange Other, but because a politics emerging from economic and therefore power inequities has found it useful to keep it fired up. We are not having problems with the worst devils of our nature because they are inherent, insoluble devils. We – “we” not “I” – live within our own mediating constructions of both world and self and therefore these worst devils are our own creations. Our nature is as fixed and unmoving as Galileo’s opponents thought the heavens were, and so, not fixed at all. We are in motion, certainly not as rapidly as cybertech, which proposes its own robotic transformation of our human nature. The precarious change in planetary climate is also our own creation though physics beyond our own “worlding” is rapidly diminishing human agency. Our “worlding” has a perverse need to feed our worst devils, and that “worlding” is metanarrated by an exploitative globalized capitalism.
Fighting the issue of economic inequality and the injustices that follow by focusing on the symptoms rather than the causes of such seems supernally quixotic at best and infernally evil at the worst. If Democrats have become a party of a reformation of our nature, they have not succeeded in confronting the agency of our deformity, namely, the “cash nexus” they have silently and hypocritically kept functioning. The absence then in our politics of any such confrontation means that there is no opposition to racism and the dark calculus supporting it.
The fact that a booming economy and low unemployment of postwar American did not obliterate racism and segregation would indicate that attacking the abuses of capitalism would not have kept Trump from being elected. Racism would survive a socialist democratic turn in American politics but such a turn would undoubtedly have given every race and every minority increased visibility and leverage in the democratic process, occurring quite axiomatically from a wealth/power connection. Every racial and ethnic minority in the dividend recipient class has the kind of leverage to which American electoral politics responds. Why would not an increase in economic well-being increase the political leverage of every race and every minority? Money talks in a capitalist society regardless for whom it is talking and the more equitable the wealth distribution the more power and its talk is equitably distributed.
We remain, however, resistant to both any approach to an equitable distribution of wealth and to any change in our deeply rooted racism. And that resistance has its own dark psychologies.
I think our oft cited visiting Martian would observe that the wealthy are better at concealing their dark imaginaries, perhaps because they have the means to exclude and separate themselves from the “deplorables.” Because the wealth of the wealthy accrues from the production of those whose lives seem tacky, dysfunctional and messy, some gestures of generosity and warm reception must be made by the wealthy. The optics of exploitation is tricky business, one Trump does not care about but others, with curated and restrained pathologies, do.
The Have Nots are in a different situation. In those who are even worse off than they see only people competing for their jobs, people indifferent to the American drive to appear at least middle class. The fear of being evicted from the country which illegal immigrants experience parallels the threat of being homeless, of being a Loser that a Win or Lose meme has instilled in an American mass psyche that once applauded “working class heroes.” There is no room for the latter to adopt the benefits of diversity and equal justice that would benefit all immigrants.
The Have Nots and the Have Less Each Day have no restraints on their hatred of those who threaten them. Profits are not affected if they openly express their animosities and prejudices. Their hatred is a free thing that affords them satisfaction. Hatred targets clearly and powerfully the malefactors and the malfeasance, the primal causes of misery. And it does so in a way that no Sermon on the Mount can do, most especially when the paths to a reliable, honest understanding are blocked by those who benefit from such hatred. Hatred has proven to be the most effective electoral tool for those, in both parties, who will not stand for the economics that created them to be exposed.
This article has been excerpted from: ‘Riches, racism and recuperation’.