The Tyranny of False Consciousness
On August 13 – 15, 2010, CounterPunch published my article, “Know-Nothings of 2010: The New War of the Christian Crusaders,” and in response I received a most revealing e-mail reply included below.
The letter reveals the deeply entrenched nativist beliefs that are shared by a sizable segment of white Christians. It is a remarkably articulate, honest and forthright statement of the self-serving ignorance and false consciousness that underlies America’s modern know-nothing movement. It should be careful considered as a testament to the deep moral crisis the nation currently faces.
Dear Mr. Rosen,
Guilt by historical association is a tactic that everyone uses to impugn the credibility of a position or set of positions. Like the Crusader thing. But the Crusaders are long gone and no one wants to see them resuscitated.
It’s not fair to conclude that those who wish a homeland to remain homogeneous possess some moral evil.
Would you find it odd that Koreans steer their immigration policies such that Korea remain largely Korean? Of course not. But it’s apparent that your battle is not with Koreans, or Chinese, or Namibians, or Haitians, etc. Your battle seems to be with white male Christians who possess the seeming audacity to desire a homeland of their own.
Homogeneous societies are much superior to multicultural societies where various ethnicities never seem to integrate. Witness Muslims and Africans in France, Italy and northern Europe – the riots, the gangs, the crime, the unemployment, the constant charges of racism. It never ever stops because these non European immigrants will never assimilate to their respective European societies. The same goes for America. Africans were wrongly introduced to this continent, given their apparent freedom, then fettered by Jim Crow, then given preferential treatment after the Civil Rights era and they are still clamoring that the white man is holding them down. The problem is not with the African-Americans as some suggest. But the problem is also not with white males, as others suggest. The problem is Nature. Certain groups and races of people simply will not adapt to one another. It’s as simple as this.
So why the constant push to have non-assimilable groups get together.
As we will discover soon enough, America is no longer a nation per se. It will soon turn into a hodge podge of competing ethnicities, isolated and distrustful of one another, and interested only in using state power to secure their tribal interests.
Personally, I have nothing against Islam so long as it resides in its homeland. We have no business interfering in the Islamic homelands in the same manner in which Islamists have no business in being in a Christian country. And this is not racism. It is simply the recognition that Islam is not a religion devoid of politics. In time, American Muslims will demand more and more that public policy accommodate their secular folkways. This has already happened in Britain and France and we are fools to believe that it won’t happen here.
The push for a return to a homogeneous America is not the evil you think it is. In fact, it is a moral good for two reasons. One, it supports the white, Christian, European character of America. Two, it encourages all other peoples of the world to create their homelands in their own image. KulturKampf does no people any good. Just look at the remarkable way that Palestinians and Israelis get along. That situation in itself should be the definitive argument against the delusion of multiculturalism.
[I removed the author’s name.]
The letter is most disturbing because of the dispassionate sincerity of the beliefs expressed and the utter ignorance of American history reflected in its underlying assumptions. Like watching Glen Beck and company, the letter reflects a thinking in which what is known or attributed need not be accurate. This combination of insincere sincerity and self-serving ignorance fashions the deeper false consciousness, the hierarchical relationship between self and others, at the heart of the author’s plea. It is the false consciousness that unites the Christian and Tea Party right.
It would be exhausting to detail the mistakes and errors in the author’s letter, but his underlying argument is clear: “Your battle seems to be with white male Christians who possess the seeming audacity to desire a homeland of their own.” Yes, emphatically yes, white Christian, homophobic, patriarchal men do not deserve a homeland, whether in America or South Africa.
[One could also support the writer’s call for a “white male Christian … homeland” for the simple reason that, in the absence of females, this homeland would die out in one generation.]
The oft-repeated call for a mythic “homogenous … homeland” bespeaks the deeper panic gripping not only the author but many within the Tea Party movement and the Christian right. It reflects the crisis that many of their members experience, their lives under attack by forces far beyond their control, a deepening sense of the loss of privileged tied to what Henry Luce called “the American Century.”
The American Century was both a foreign policy of Cold War conflict and containment as well as a domestic policy of prosperity, instability and modernity. Today, the Cold War is over and “jihadist” struggles resisting the imposition of Euro-American capitalism proliferate across the globe. At home, the U.S. is in crisis because prosperity is stuck, instability is a constant and modernity has no future. The Tea Party right as well as innumerable ordinary Americans live these fears as their daily existence. These fears are being dubbed the “new normal.”
Today’s social crisis is much like the crises that preceded the Civil War and gave birth to the original Know-Nothing movement as well as the Christian purity movement of the early-20th century that culminated in Prohibition during the ‘20s. The first movement was a protest against the growing challenges to slavery and Catholic immigration, the second movement a failed effort to halt modernism and the new woman.
Today’s nativists, like the letter writer, are beset by the crisis of capitalist globalization and its accompanying waves of forced migration, whether documented or not. Sadly, nativists refuse to acknowledge the relationship between capitalism and migration, clinging to a perverse notion of male identity (i.e., being independent) that is somehow linked to capitalist “entrepreneurialism.” Instead, they seek to resolve the mounting social crisis by returning the country to a fantasy way-of-life that never existed, a white Protestant homeland, the black-and-white Kansas of “The Wizard of Oz.” Rightwing ideological hacks promote this fictitious solution, setting the stage for a far deeper neo-fascist, racist (and anti-Muslim) upsurge if the crisis continues and deepens.
Many Americans recognize the nation is in an economic and social free-fall. The Obama administration and Congressional Democrats are placating the interests of finance capital while the Republicans cling to the tried-and-failed programs of ruling-class self-enrichment championed from Reagan through Bush-2. Both parties seek to assuage the short-term interest of corporate capital (and their lobbyists who fix legislation) without addressing the long-term needs of ordinary Americans, nor the structural realignment that capitalist globalization is fostering.
The remaking of America that came in the wake of the Civil War and also the Depression and World War II overcame repeated bouts of nativist reaction. America’s growth following both the Civil War and World War II provided the social cushion to absorb nativist fears. Without addressing the long-term structural crisis besetting America today, the country will continue to drift and the panic expressed by the right and the letter writer will only deepen.
More and more Americans recognize that the U.S. is becoming Mexico, increasingly controlled by a third-world type oligopoly, the country’s richest 3 to 5 percent. Whether politician, pundit or astroturf shill, its getting harder and harder to say that capitalism is great while times are tough and wage-earning people must sacrifice. The stock market goes up, but more job cuts are coming.
It is essential that a progressive movement emerge that is not tied to the Democrats and addresses the concerns of poor, working and middle class people, including those seduced by Tea Party rhetoric. Failure to do so may well invite a much more virulently racist, anti-immigrant and religiously intolerant Know-Nothing movement, one both more mean-spirited and violent, and that might capture political power. Americans cannot look to a global crisis of capital to save it this time.
DAVID ROSEN is the author of “Sex Scandal America: Politics & the Ritual of Public Shaming” (Key, 2009); he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.