20 January 2017

The progressivism of fools

Someone once called anti-Semitism "the socialism of fools," meaning that blaming Jews for socioeconomic problems was going after the wrong target. In the 21st century United States, where the inauguration of the new president has been marred to a probably unprecedented degree by fighting and protesting, most people feel that socialism is the socialism of fools, so let's say that hatred of the redneck is the progressivism of fools in our time. This is something different than hatred of white people, as many whites indulge in this hatred, though rednecks themselves probably see such people as self-hating whites. In at least one sense the stereotypical redneck is not unlike the anti-Semites' stereotypical Jew. Rednecks are presumed to see themselves (i.e., "white people" rather than "rednecks") as a people apart, and are presumed to hold themselves apart contemptuously from the rest of humanity, so that whatever cultural gifts they possess become tools for the oppression of everyone else. History's greatest hypocrites, they are always presumed to desire the subjugation of those who aren't like them or those, like progressive whites, who don't like them. When they appear to hold political power, as they do now by casting decisive votes for Donald Trump in crucial states, the equal standing of all other people appears endangered. Many Americans really believe that President Trump -- he has just taken the oath of office as I write -- and his supporters want to reduce blacks, Hispanics, women, homosexuals, etc. to second-class citizenship, or worse, and when there is no documentary evidence justifying such fear it is assumed that rednecks look upon the rest of us as second-class citizens anyway. Why should they do so? For the basest reasons: they don't like the way others look, talk, dress, pray, etc., without regard for the substance of these differences. Rednecks are presumed to despise difference itself, and if they attempt to advance reasons for their dislikes those are dismissed as rationalizations of their atavistic knee-jerk hatred of the Other.

The redneck has been with us for a long time, of course. H. L. Mencken described him back in the 1920s to the amusement of sophisticated and sophomoric readers alike. Back then the redneck was a joke, to put the best face on an embarrassment, but now that non-whites and women are serious contestants for power, few find him funny today. From the way people have behaved since November, a lot of them want to fight rednecks, while the rednecks themselves, the supposed lumpenproletariat and foot soldiers of neo-fascism, have done very little to contest the streets so far. Maybe that should tip people off that these working-class whites aren't exactly what others fear them to be, that they may have had reasons of their own to vote for Trump that had nothing to do with subjugating or humiliating others. They may not have been good reasons, but maybe they aren't the sort of bad reasons many assume. But there's no sign yet that the opposition realizes this, but if they fail to imagine the next crusade against Trump as anything other than a crusade against stereotyped bigotry, a battle with the redneck bogeyman, then their next crusade will most likely fail unless Trump himself fails so badly that progressives can win in spite of themselves -- and in that case victory probably will prove short-lived. I don't deny that rednecks in the worst sense of the term exist, and I don't mean to say that progressives should stop advocating for equality. But as I've said since November, if you have no other argument to make to the white working class than "Stop being bigots!" you won't stop anything anytime soon. It should not be so hard to come up with better arguments given Trump and his Cabinet, but given how political thinking has deteriorated across the ideological spectrum in this country it can't be taken for granted that we'll come up with something. It's early yet, however, and I'm open to suggestions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The main reason to despise rednecks (and many others) is for the anti-intellectualist attitude they exude. Morons do not solve problems, they create problems.