CommunityMy FDL

Interweaving the thoughts in three different reads this morning.

White Picket Fence (photo: kaiyen/flickr)

I am a white male. I grew up in a rural part of NE Ohio that was nearly all white middle class. Both my parents had college degrees and both worked in professional fields. My knowledge of and experience with those who are blue collar was limited to my aunt and uncle on my father’s side of the family and a few friends.

After my father passed away,  my mother moved us down to South West Florida, which at that time was a mix of Northern transplants and Florida natives IE those born there.  Nearly all of which were white and most middle to upper middle class. We mostly shared the same world views and ideals.

There were Blacks and Seminoles in the area but I only recall meeting a few Seminole kids in school and I do not remember seeing many (if any) Blacks downtown. It was – as far as I could see – a white world.  At least that part of it. I had no negative experience with any other culture as I had little experience with any other culture. But this also meant that I could not easily relate what it would be like to be part of any other culture. I have no way of knowing what it is like to be of any other culture, to have their world view or attitudes.

My family went to the local Lutheran church – my father’s religion, though he himself did not practice it. This was largely symbolic as I never believed any of it and was later to learn that my parents did not either. It was completely white middle class.  Both of my parents were also in Europe during WWII and brought a lot of their experience there and attitudes with them. My mother also spent a good deal of her youth over seas as well, and conveyed this to us.

This is my background.  Add to this that I have had in interest in radio and and electronics which lead me at an early age to listening to international Short Wave Broadcasts and Amateur Radio. Where in my favorite thing is to be able to talk with people in other countries.  As an aside most of them refer to you as “my friend” and express more passion in the conversation than I get from talking with most American Ham Radio operators.

So when I read posts from David Seaton, I can relate easily from where he is coming from. Like his latest post.

This combination of technical and commercial perfection combined with a lack of elementary common sense is what makes him the perfect metaphor for America today… with the rest of the world tagging along.

And the subject of Pam Spaulding’s front page post.

Chad Nance who is a freelance journalist in Winston-Salem and is covering the election here in NC, recorded the wife of NC Sen. Peter Brunstetter confirming that she believes that Amendment One’s destiny is not only to save marriage, it apparently also has something to do with white power preservation. (!)

Which runs along the same lines as what Alngela Merkel expressed a few years ago concerning Germany’s attempts at a multicultural society.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has courted growing anti-immigrant opinion in Germany by claiming the country’s attempts to create a multicultural society have “utterly failed”.

Speaking to a meeting of young members of her Christian Democratic Union party, Merkel said the idea of people from different cultural backgrounds living happily “side by side” did not work.

She said the onus was on immigrants to do more to integrate into German society.

“This [multicultural] approach has failed, utterly failed,” Merkel told the meeting in Potsdam, west of Berlin, yesterday.

Her remarks will stir a debate about immigration in a country which is home to around 4 million Muslims.

Last week, Horst Seehofer, the premier of Bavaria and a member of the Christian Social Union – part of Merkel’s ruling coalition – called for a halt to Turkish and Arabic immigration.

All speaking to a single thread – a similar view, that of the white Anglo Saxon cultural world view which is especially prominent here. A view that Chris Hedges has expressed is bound to destroy those who hold on to it.  One not of American exceptionalism, but of white exceptionalism.

When the most basic elements that sustain life are reduced to a cash product, life has no intrinsic value. The extinguishing of “primitive” societies, those that were defined by animism and mysticism, those that celebrated ambiguity and mystery, those that respected the centrality of the human imagination, removed the only ideological counterweight to a self-devouring capitalist ideology. Those who held on to pre-modern beliefs, such as Native Americans, who structured themselves around a communal life and self-sacrifice rather than hoarding and wage exploitation, could not be accommodated within the ethic of capitalist exploitation, the cult of the self and the lust for imperial expansion. The prosaic was pitted against the allegorical. And as we race toward the collapse of the planet’s ecosystem we must restore this older vision of life if we are to survive.

The war on the Native Americans, like the wars waged by colonialists around the globe, was waged to eradicate not only a people but a competing ethic. The older form of human community was antithetical and hostile to capitalism, the primacy of the technological state and the demands of empire. This struggle between belief systems was not lost on Marx. “The Ethnological Notebooks of Karl Marx” is a series of observations derived from Marx’s reading of works by historians and anthropologists. He took notes about the traditions, practices, social structure, economic systems and beliefs of numerous indigenous cultures targeted for destruction. Marx noted arcane details about the formation of Native American society, but also that “lands [were] owned by the tribes in common, while tenement-houses [were] owned jointly by their occupants.” He wrote of the Aztecs, “Commune tenure of lands; Life in large households composed of a number of related families.” He went on, “… reasons for believing they practiced communism in living in the household.” Native Americans, especially the Iroquois, provided the governing model for the union of the American colonies, and also proved vital to Marx and Engel’s vision of communism.

Marx, though he placed a naive faith in the power of the state to create his workers’ utopia and discounted important social and cultural forces outside of economics, was acutely aware that something essential to human dignity and independence had been lost with the destruction of pre-modern societies. The Iroquois Council of the Gens, where Indians came together to be heard as ancient Athenians did, was, Marx noted, a “democratic assembly where every adult male and female member had a voice upon all questions brought before it.” Marx lauded the active participation of women in tribal affairs, writing, “The women [were] allowed to express their wishes and opinions through an orator of their own election. Decision given by the Council. Unanimity was a fundamental law of its action among the Iroquois.” European women on the Continent and in the colonies had no equivalent power.

This ethic that dates back to the Holy Wars and Crusades. That white Anglo Saxon protestant world views should trump all else is destroying the planet. A belief what we here and Europe to a lesser extent is keeping us culturally, socially and even scientifically back in the late 19th century at best. Getting past this arrogant, self righteous view is paramount to any chance at advancing and the trick is to do it with humility.

Here is the problem we face though.  It is very, very difficult for someone to come up with ideas and/or solutions to problems for situations of which they have no personal experience. It takes someone with immense empathy and insight to do so. It’s the main reason why AA and other 12step groups have been successful where the  medical and psychological fraternity has not.

It’s the reason why I can no more relate to what it is like being a poor Black or even a poor white is like in this country or anywhere else, as much as I would like to.  Why Bill W. said in founding AA, “I need another Alcoholic” someone who knows what it’s like that can relate.  And why economists have no more a clue as to help main street than the local barber does to fix a BMW.  It’s where too many on the left fall flat.

And it’s why any and all attempts of forcing other groups and cultures into adopting our ways of thinking and our world views and repressing and treating them as some how inferior to us and vice versa is not just morally wrong, but also destructive to them and to us.

We need to learn how to accept people as they are first. To work on understanding where they are coming from. Then helping people to help themselves but only when asked.  Sometimes the most difficult thing to do is to NOT stick our noses in where they are not wanted.  After all we might just learn something from them in the process.

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