Saturday, October 4, 2014

Hatred is a Much More Dangerous Disease than Ebola

From over here in fortress America, we watch large portions of the world tearing itself apart over the same old tribal, racial, ethnic, sectarian, linguistic and nationalist hatreds that have driven generations to kill their neighbors for - well, for generations. We watch the death and destruction, the inexplicable atrocities and the irrational madness that grips entire societies and makes it impossible for them to live together in peace. They are locked in a seemingly eternal dance of bloodletting so bizarre and convoluted it's necessary for their leaders to tell them simplistic stories of magic and betrayal to make the children follow their parents into the charnel house. And we sit on our couch, clicking over to CNN to see today's bloody images and cluck in our superiority and diversity, seldom even noticing when we equate inhumanity with sub-humanity. "The world is a crazy place" we say to each other. "Sure, we have problems over here, but surely we'll find a way to work them out without resorting to industrial scale murder". And with that we click over to "American Idol", smug in our reassurance that we are a better, more rational, peaceful people, and eventually we will prevail over the madness.

There's a hoary old saw about not being able to see the forest for the trees. It's a useful metaphor for describing the inability to truly see a problem that one is party to.  About being so close to chaos that it looks like stability. When you think about it, for all the ultimate irrationality of the madness in places like Syria and Gaza, there is at least an inherent internal consistency to it. Those people are NOT like us. They DON'T believe what we believe. It's THEM that hate us - we're just fighting for our survival here.

Now look at the budding civil conflict in America. Based on nothing historical, nothing even real, we have created two 'sides', each 100% invested in the destruction of the other. Each side developed an ideology, originally a framework for public policy debates, but now growing into something larger and uglier - an identity, a community, a belief system, an entire self contained worldview that increasingly cannot even tolerate the existence of the other side. With typical American inability to grasp the concept of irony, and with the American's passionate embrace of crude marketing-speak, these tribes have chosen the names 'Liberal' and 'Conservative'.

Now, of course you're saying 'but mikey, it's those right-wing fascists who refuse to compromise, who won't allow any governance that doesn't further their radical agenda', and, of course, you're right. But that doesn't change the calculation - if there are two sides, and one refuses any kind of compromise, not matter how one-sided, is that functionally any different than if BOTH sides embraced that same doctrine? The problem here is not that one group is wrong and one group is right. Go ask the Sunnis, the Shiites, ISIS, al-Assad, General Sisi, Bibi Netanyahu, any of them who is wrong and who is right. There is NEVER anyone in a tribal conflict that will say upon a moment of reflection "y'know, those other guys have a point, we're really being assholes here, but that's the way the world works".

The point I'm trying to make here is we have, as Americans, created this imaginary tribal structure out of public and economic policy arguments, and instead of solving them the way nations always do, we have built out an entire cultural identity around these disagreements. And one of the key premises to these tribal identities is that the other side represents an existential threat to 'our' way of life and 'we' cannot live alongside them, they must be destroyed. Now ask yourself: How does this story end? Is there a path back to an America where elections mattered and leaders governed? Perhaps I lack imagination, but I can't see it. We're one, or perhaps two, triggering events away from widespread bloodletting. You see it in conservative rants against 'socialist libtards', but rest assured, there are many liberals who quietly nod their heads, load their magazines and mutter "bring it on, bigot".

When it happens, due to the unnecessary and destructive 2nd amendment, it will be loud and bloody. But there will have been no logic to it. No historical basis, no linguistic basis, and while ethnicity will have been a factor, it won't be the basis for the civil war. The basis for the civil war will be a set of lies, assumptions and beliefs that were allowed to build themselves into something seen as utterly worth killing one's neighbor over. And a century later, historians will still be struggling to explain how we let this happen.


  1. But mikey, I says.

    You are giving us the "I don't care who did what to whom, I'm gonna stop this car if you kids don't stop fighting right now!" talk.

    1) But it is kind of important to know who is doing what to whom when we're talking public policy.

    2) What compromises are you specifically recommending? Our conservatives have already effectively gutted campaign finance regulations. They are working on making it harder for minorities and poor people to vote. They've gerrymandered the living crap out of congressional districts to the extent that they have a large House majority in spite of winning substantially fewer votes overall.

    3) "The Pope! How many divisions has he got?" - Joseph Stalin

    How many divisions do liberals have? As we've both noted, President Obama is far from liberal. He's protected and enriched the banksters, Bush-Cheney war criminals, continued with the expansion of the national security/police state, and unleashed hell on whistle-blowers. The GOP says, "So what, he's a black Democrat, and thus a Marxist (QED), and we demand doubling down on these horrible policies!"

    4) I think you're missing the forest for the trees. Our problem is greedy rich people have captured the entire government and almost all of our media. So now we have their Democratic party (95 cents on the dollar of the plutocracy's latest demands) vs. the GOP (all of it, and maybe some bonus pennies) as our left vs right choice. Cutting that nickel in half isn't going to fix anything.

  2. You missed the point entirely, Thunder. I'm not suggesting solutions. I'm not even talking about public policy. I'm observing the increasingly tribal nature of American society, how it's structuring itself along ideological lines that is leading inevitably to a violent outcome.

    It's not good to be so focused on bashing conservatives, liberals, banksters and Obama that you can't think about where it's all headed. You need to look up from the hobby horses you're pummeling and think about what it MEANS. Once the killing starts, who started it isn't going to be a question that matters...

  3. You're missing my point. I get the tribalism argument, as I've seen Bob Somerby make it before.

    But how do you confine something like global warming into a hobby horse?

    And what is the compromise between "it's just a bunch of liberal pointy-heads who want government grant money" and "global warming, unlike ebola (or Benghazi, or IRSgate, or ISIS, etc. etc.) is an ACTUAL threat to this country?"

    Or take voting. If we accept assorted one-sided compromises with the GOP on policies that are designed to disenfranchise democratic voters and create a permanent GOP majority, how long would that forestall the domestic apocalypse anyways...if doing this doesn't actually hasten it (e.g. Weimar Germany).

    P.S. My point about liberals (which is what I consider myself) is that they have no actual power in this country. The GOP uses them as a myth to rile up their base and cover for the failure of prior GOP policies that conservative Democrats have embraced. And those conservative Democrats bash liberals in order to curry favor with the corporate press and their owners.

    1. It's not good to be so focused on bashing conservatives, liberals, banksters and Obama that you can't think about where it's all headed.

      I can think about where it's all headed. It's why I mostly just put pictures on my blog now, instead of beating my head against the wall. Frankly, we're a bunch of lemmings, and we're going over the cliff.

    2. Well, politics IS compromise. You're right that most, if not all, the currently available compromises are distasteful or outright unacceptable, but what I'm saying in the piece is that you can't have a functioning political system without compromise. I'm not suggesting that anybody should accept a solution that is unacceptable, I'm saying that the current situation is a clear indicator of how desperately broken the system is, and that's contributing to the outcome, which is really hard to envision without extensive bloodletting...

    3. Not in thunderland. You either be ideologically pure, or be proclaimed stupid.

    4. You either say it's O.K. when Obama sells you out, or you're a purity troll.

      So, zrm, when the corporate whores blow the 2014 elections, who are you blaming?

      Glenn Greenwald? Ralph Nader? Emoproggies?

    5. **SIGH** Nobody says it's ok, Thunder. We say it is the lesser of two evils. Much, much lesser...

  4. Tigris put it best in a comment at Alicublog. More Americans have died this year at the hands of toddlers with guns than have died by Ebola.

  5. The way I see it, the real fight is between the 0.0001% that own everything and the rest of us.

    Not to change the subject but:
    The secret weapon that will beat ISIL:


    I reminded Nimet of the legends we hear of IS militants fearing to encounter women fighters. She replied, “This is not a myth but reality. I personally met IS fighters face-to-face. Women fighters infringe on their psyche. They believe they won’t go to paradise if they are killed by women. That is why they flee when they see women. I saw that personally at the Celaga front. We monitor their radio calls. When they hear a woman's voice on the air, they become hysterical.”