When the tribesmen are dead in their deserts
To make room for alien structures
And kill what you find if it threatens you
—Kate Tempest, Europe Is Lost
For four years, Jeremy Corbyn was smeared in a relentless and savage campaign of vilification and outrageous slander by the British press, much of it orchestrated by liberal outlets like The Guardian (and the New York Times), using a kind of berserker Zionism as truncheon. And so, the dreadful result was predictable: the worst showing of Labour since 1935. But it’s the poor and the immigrant communities that will bear the brunt of what they have wrought.
—Jeffrey St. Clair
Slavoj Zizek has a very specific definition of the Trump fetish. For Freud, the fetish was the last thing the boy sees before he finds out the girl has no penis. For left-liberals, Trump is the last thing they see before they see working-class struggle. How does a fetish function? Rather than deal with what is true and terrifying, we deal with an entity we can grasp, hold and even disavow. Zizek argues that Trump’s election proves there is a class struggle.
What is the typical left-liberal response to Trump? He’s an embarrassment to what America is. He doesn’t represent us. He’s not my President. Now this is odd, is it not? First of all, if Trump wasn’t America, would we need to make that separation? Perhaps it’s more clear in racial terms. Would one hear a Native American saying that Trump isn’t her President? Perhaps, but it would feel redundant, I think. So we see what’s going on here.
Now I think the defense is made with some reasoning behind it. There is a fetish of America itself by the “developed” world, and also by many Americans suffering from self-obsessed white guilt. This fetish really works much the same as the Trump fetish.
Now you hear many horrors that are indeed, horrifying. But I would argue all of them lead back to the role of American Empire. Americans are stupid. Well, where’s the funding for education? Americans are violent. Well, we are always at war. America is a police state. Well, America is the world’s policeman, what is one to expect?
Now, none of this is to exonerate America—it actually is the opposite mentality. By making America itself a fetish we buy into our own form of nationality rather than class analysis. Now, this nationality fetish is self-evident when it occurs outside our borders. But I think it also occurs within America as we disavow ourselves. This disavowal is the most nationalistic of all because it assumes a correct version of America that not only excludes everyone else but many Americans.
Zizek is again good on this concept of white guilt which he correctly claims assumes a universality to the acting white subject when it is implemented.
So what just happened in Britain? Now the popular thing to say is that Corbyn blew it but once again this is too specific. What did the system demand? A Corbyn loss. And this is where, even when he outpaces Sanders significantly, he falls into the same trap when he says how good it is we have democracy or whatever. Now you can’t have it both ways. One can’t say on the one hand that we live in a democracy and on the other hand the rich have complete control of society.
But it’s not just democracy I want to problematize here. Democracy is another one of those civility markers but what is the point of it? Once again I want to parse out these contradictions. So you have the liberals in this country saying, on the one hand, the whole country is racist but on the other hand democracy is good. So racism is good? But I actually think this is what they are saying.
Trump simply doesn’t care. He will only accept an election result if he wins. These are the kinds of things he is saying. But what is the counter to this? Democracy? Now this gives Trump too much credit. The idea that he is a moral failure, which is essentially what the impeachment process is trying to prove, well this moral failure only makes him happier. So if half the country is not willing to have a democratic election then why should the other half argue for democracy? This is not an opposition in practice to this anti-democratic stance which I acknowledge is extremely dangerous. No, the opposite of Trumpism would be also to not accept a Trump victory. We should agree with his claim about democracy not existing but point to him as the reason for his own claim.
Ok, enough on Trump. He is highly dangerous. What I want to talk about now is the concept of a developed nation. Now does this mean a white country? Yes. It’s also a geographical and resource question. We should have to implicate not only racism here but the way resources are distributed too. Because the two are related, but we must also solve both. Some countries rely on a single resource, leaving them very precarious. Others barely have anything of “value”. All I am saying is that these questions about developed nations or whatever is never about the values of such and such citizens. It’s a racial implication but probably even more so simply an expression of the economic value that land provides. Which is why any future with private property is unsustainable.
So the American liberal-left is always participating in this concept. Well, other developed nations do X, why can’t we? None of America’s politicians leading us to Europe/Canada are willing to address this contradiction of the military stated above. Now I think the answer to why we can’t have nice things is that we spend our resources taking out the trash for the other developed nations. Why are wages relatively high in the developed world and extremely low everywhere else? Imperialism.
One has to acknowledge a limit on these policies that claim a universal: Medicare for all. Well, not for all. For all Americans. Ok, yes, it’s a positive movement here, I agree. But let’s again dig out the contradictions here. Brexit is a good example. Now I think Brexit is brilliant. But that doesn’t mean it’s not fueled by xenophobic nationalism. And it certainly doesn’t guarantee anything getting better because it really doesn’t have its own good parts in mind with the politicians who are implementing it.
Ok, so another thing. The United States has the most people in jail, the horrible prison system, psychotic really. But is this an expression of civilization or barbarity? Now the leftist would say barbarity but I would argue, much like the right-winger,that it is an expression of civility. Now my irony here is this: that the prison system, even more than something such as universal health care or education, is what makes America civilized. Understand what I’m saying here. Civilization is fascism. These people that Trump or Clinton call thugs, they aren’t. They’re closer to the fetish. What I mean is this: the definition of civility is itself a racist and classist one.
I actually think that mass incarceration in the United States is our substitution for a universal health care. Rather than having doctors who clean out the so-called disease, we have policemen. Now this makes us feel civilized and safe. It’s cleanliness. I agree it’s not a good trade for anyone, but still, you get my point.
I also think the argument that mass incarceration is simply a substation for slavery is also accurate. Look at the racial dynamics here. I am of the opinion jails and police are good, sure. But my point is the way this all is implemented begs for the opposite, no? Which actually makes poor women the most vulnerable here. I mean the system just has no credibility. America may be too racist to even see that, but I digress.
What is the point here, really? The idea of some kind of universal is a false one. Wage theft, property theft, resource theft, earth theft, time theft. What isn’t stolen on the land of the developed nation? Now this doesn’t make all of it a waste of time. Nothing is a waste of time. I mean that last sentence in both its readings.
Certainly, an America more like Europe implies a scaleback of the Empire. Good. But the reason I want to avoid the America fetish here is that we can lose track of the global trends which are alarming. America is most to blame. We are everywhere subverting progress. But that’s not because we’re uncivilized. It’s the opposite.
Ok, so what is going on across the world is the wealth inequality is creating this tension that is having a hard time expressing itself, in some regards. The nationalistic xenophobic leaders are rising because they contain no contradictions. They have something for the poor and the rich alike. Now it is much trickier for the other side. Because of the corporate grip to be progressive at all you have to live in contradiction. Liberal yes but can’t take on the corporate power. So this side is struggling because it’s very incoherent.
So my last point here should hopefully tie this all together. To simply have progressive nationalism without considering imperialism will collapse into fascism because it doesn’t address honestly the problems it relies upon which climate change is exasperating to an extreme hilt. So this isn’t a purity argument, not really. I think the policy of civilization for us, not for you, is not even as nihilistic as the Republican Party here in the US. It has its merits, but it will never be stated because it acknowledges the racism and classism. Which forces one to accept the cruelty or change it, both of which are uncomfortable.
What I’m more arguing is that if America wants to become “civilized” we would be best to treat it how we treat our Empire and make it a global universal because there is only so much one could sweep under the rug. Until that day, America will remain the laughingstock of the people we steal and kill for, until the window of difference collapses into the have and have nots and the objective of class warfare becomes too clear to ignore. When this day comes, all self-congratulation, whether that be nationalism or nationalist guilt, will be far too ideological to be relevant in this strictly material contradiction.