Thursday, September 30, 2010

Let Them Eat Diversity

From Let Them Eat Diversity by Walter Benn Michaels:
Major social changes have taken place in the past 40 years with remarkable rapidity, but not any in any sense inimical to capitalism. people get more wealthy they tend to become less committed to the redistribution of wealth but there are lots of ways in which they become “more liberal”—with respect to gay rights, antiracism, with respect to all the so-called “social issues,” as long as these social issues are defined in such a way that they have nothing to do with decreasing the increased inequalities brought about by capitalism, which is to say, taking away rich liberals’ money.

...people in the Tea Party movement have a problem that is realer than “White male status anxiety,” ... my point isn’t really to deny the phenomenon of status anxiety, it’s just to point out the extraordinaire eagerness of American liberals to identify racism as the problem, so that anti-racism (rather than anti-capitalism) can be the solution. has been very comforting to discover over the past five or six years that there are plenty of people who have views similar to mine and who are actually better at expressing them.

...Victimization that does not take place through discrimination is invisible and that’s why it’s worth remembering that the vast majority of poor people in the country are White. After all, the country is about 70 percent White and if you look at the bottom quintile of income it’s about 61 percent White, so it’s an absolute majority.

...Today we’re living in a deeply anti-racist society ... officially committed to anti-racism ... which you can tell when Glenn Beck thinks it’s a good idea to couch his criticism of Obama by calling Obama a “racist.” It’s the killing word to say to anyone. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t still racism, it means that there is an important sense in which anti-racism is absolutely the official ideology because no one can imagine themselves to be committed to racism. It’s become a kind of moral imperative rather than a political position, deployed by the Right as well as the Left.

...To be poor in America today, or to be anything but in the top 20 percent in America today, is to be victimized in important ways and in so far as we’re appreciating the characteristic products of victimization, we are not actually dealing with exploitation, but rather enshrining victimization, treating it as if it had value and therefore ought to be preserved. And that’s obviously reactionary.
Interviewer: Like the Richard Geres of the world viewing Tibetan poverty as a commendable stand against materialism.
WBM: Completely.

...You know you live in a world that loves neoliberalism when having some people of color who are rich is supposed to count as good news for all the people of color who are poor. The argument for Obama is he’s there, so I can be there too, but all the white male presidents we’ve had haven’t done much good for poor Whites, and in a country where there’s now declining social mobility (less than in Western Europe), it’s hard to take even the traditional solace in the fact that the empty claim that anyone can grow up to become President now includes Black people. None of this will make any difference unless we start thinking about the politically relevant question, eliminating the gap between the rich and the poor.