Two Conflicting Currents

The challenge facing the body politic of the US of A today is one of two conflicting currents. We have already slid into a plutocratic oligarchy. There are few citizen / officials among us, and most of those only at minor local levels in non-influential communities and regions.[1]

Most politicians are professionals; they either settle into a career as an elected official, or they seek appointments to high office, or they serve in advisory / lobbying positions to those who are elected, or they serve in organizations that facilitate the elections of others.

By nature -- by very real, very human nature -- these people are disinclined to dismantle the system that gives them value (read “$”) and worth (i.e., pride).

So be it: At least try to be competent at your job and realize that killing the golden goose by starving it to death so you will have more grain is a foolish strategy.

Nearly a century before the French Revolution erupted, the more observant members of the aristocracy (which includes high ranking clergy) could see the storm clouds coming. Thirty years before that storm actually broke, French kings were assigning their best and brightest scholars with the task of figuring out how to head it off before it reached them.

The scholars’ answer was invariably “Curb the power of the aristocracy and tax them fairly.”

The aristocrats did not want to hear this and while many gave lip service to the idea of reform, in actuality they worked to prevent such reforms from happening.

And then one day everyone lost their heads…

Fortunino Matania - just a little off the top CAP

That is the first current affecting America today: The rise of powerful moneyed interest and individuals, consolidating wealth and power into the hands of a tiny few, and even though they could easily afford it, thwarting all efforts to either use their fabulous wealth in the service of their country and others, or allowing access to opportunities that they jealously guard.

That latter part ties in with the second current in this country: Racism.

Racism is the original sin of the Americas. White Europeans did not see Native Americans as their political / intellectual / moral equals; they were savages to be destroyed or subjugated.[2]

The Europeans laid claim to two continents[3] that were already inhabited by vibrant cultures, nations, empires, and civilizations.

The Europeans used those cultures’ pre-literate Neolithic status as justification for stealing their lands, brutalizing their people, and marginalizing them in the new societies that sprang up on these shores.[4]

Everybody -- even later voluntary immigrants -- came to the Americas looking to become rich.

The thing was, none of the Europeans wanted to work for it.

The real owners of the Americas were landed gentry back in Europe: They paid their kings handsomely for the right to “claim” vast tracts of land already inhabited by Native Americans, then either unleashed mercenaries to subdue those populations (viz. the conquistadors) or exported debt-slaves / indentured servants to till the land and send wealth back.

In Central and South America, where local cultures were more tightly organized than much of North America, the mercenaries simply knocked off the old bosses and replaced them as the new bosses.

The peasant classes of South America tended to shrug and go along. As a result, even though there was discrimination between light skinned Europeans and dark skinned local populations, there was also a porous membrane separating the two and while rare, not uncommon for locals to intermarry with invaders and to rise to positions of prestige in the new cultures being formed.

Not so in North America.

The English colonists[5] were essentially grave robbers.[6] They moved into areas where native peoples had already cleared land for villages and farms, had already established well marked trade routes.[7]

Despite this, and despite the assistance they received from surviving local tribes and cultures, the English held only a tentative grip on their colonies.

A big part of the problem was that the colonists were either debt-slaves (as mentioned above) or had borrowed heavily from the landed gentry in order to finance their colonies (i.e., the Pilgrims) and were expected to start paying that debt back immediately.

English colonists died by the hundreds, by the thousands. Their absentee landlords back in Britain recruited as much cheap labor as they could in the form of the Scots-Irish.

And oh, my brothers and sisters, what a woeful tale the Scots-Irish have to tell! Highland Scots scorned by their lowland cousins and their English neighbors, rounded up and forced to colonize Ireland by their English lords, the target of literally centuries of hatred and abuse from the Irish resistance[8].

Starving and under constant attack in Northern Ireland, the most desperate of the desperate came to North America --

-- where they continued to be scorned and abused and ill-used. Even William Penn, otherwise as shining an example of European enlightenment and Christian charity as one could hope to find in this story, took advantage of them, luring them to the western-most area of Pennsylvania to provide a firebreak of farms between the native peoples regaining strength and the pacifist Quaker who were easily victimized by native raiding parties.

The Scots-Irish were supposed to be a barrier to said raiding parties, Penn the pacifist being perfectly willing to let them kill & be killed in order to protect the Quakers.

Instead, they took a look at the still disorganized and poorly equipped native populations west of the Alleghenies and Appalachians and decided, “Hey, we can take ‘em…”

…and take them they did.

While the New England colonies were growing a middle class and importing cheap (and despised) Scots-Irish to do their dirty work, the Southern colonies were attempting to bootstrap themselves up to aristocratic levels.

The American South was ripe for large scale plantation farming, but that sort of enterprise required lots of manual labor.

English labor died too quickly and, while alive, typically proved too difficult to deal with.[9]

Native peoples were unwilling to work for Southern plantation owners, and when the owners attempted to force them to work the fields, the native peoples tended to just melt into the forest and never be seen again.[10]

It befell the unfortunate victims of African tribal warfare to be the next round of immigrants brought to the Americas.

They were viewed, quite literally, as sub-human.

They had to be, because what kind of monsters would knowingly send first thousands then tens of thousands then hundreds of thousands then literally millions of human beings to their deaths just so they could live fat & sassy?

African slaves were viewed as a consumable commodity. Their owners simply didn’t care if they died by the droves so long as they got the cotton and jute and sugar cane and tobacco crops in.

If most of them died in the process, well, there was a whole continent full on the other side of the Atlantic just waiting to be shipped over…

Tensions arose in the American South between the plantation owners (the oligarchs) and the Scots-Irish.

The Scots-Irish had found a niche for themselves in the mountains and swamps and remote areas of the North American colonies, far from the prying eyes and interfering hands of their English overlords.

They did not “cotton” to a new batch of home grown overlords arising in their midst.

The plantation owners faced two problems: Keeping the local Scots-Irish from rising in insurrection, and maintaining control over their African and later African-American slaves.

With evil ingenuity, they found a solution by pitting the two problems against one another: The despised Scots-Irish were repeatedly assured that Hey, you may be poor, but at least you ain’t black!

And this sense of self-pride, of self-worth, this sense that dadgumbit, they were somebody! made it possible for those Scots-Irish to work against their own self-interest and instead become the enforcers for the plantation owners, the posses that tracked down escaping or rebellious slaves, the militias that drove out the remaining native peoples, the overseers and slave traders who maintained a constant level of terror, the armies that attempted to not only preserve slavery but extend it across the continent.

God damned fools.

The only thing the Scots-Irish had left to lose was their sense of specialness, their privilege of being white.

And as they have repeatedly demonstrated, they are willing to fight and kill and even die rather than surrender that, no matter how better off they would be to do so.[11]

Nice job, America.

Now, let it be explicitly stated that the problem is not solely that of the Scots-Irish: The absentee landlords in England were already flaming racist asshats when they started their colonies in North America, virtually every group of European immigrants after the Declaration of Independence was signed has come with a sense of exclusiveness among other whites.

But the sense of white entitlement that was deliberately and purposely crafted by the rich among poor Scots-Irish in order to make them more pliable to exploitation has spread.

Today in the United States it is hard to find a person of predominantly European heritage who does not feel some sense of white entitlement / privilege.

Absolutely this applies to those described as “progressive” or “liberal”. Too often, even though guided by good intentions, they cast themselves as the quite literal white knights come to save the besieged others.

Predicting the future (already a mug’s game) is even harder because of these two conflicting currents.

People are people, regardless of race / color / class / background. The rich are no smarter, no better, no more moral or ethical than anyone else.

All they are is richer.

And because they are not smarter or genuinely morally superior, they steadfastly refuse to see how their policies and practices are leading to a tipping point, a tipping point that historically the rich have not liked when it finally arrives.

But the countering current is the inherent racism of the United States.

It was one thing when non-whites[12] represented 88% of the country, and the remaining 12% “knew their place” (i.e., knew how precarious their position was and behaved accordingly to avoid even worse persecution).

It’s another thing now as demographics show us rapidly approaching -- even without additional immigration -- an era when non-Hispanic whites will only account for 49% of the population.

If this were pre-Revolutionary France, I could tell you what would happen before 2100 if changes weren’t made.

But this is the United States, and the two currents are tugging against each other.

And the situation may get a lot, lot worse before the moment comes when racism as practiced in this country is finally dislodged for good.

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[1] Even at those levels, one finds an enormous amount of organized political activity aimed not at representing the local citizenry but reinforcing the control of those on top.

[2] Yes, there were exceptions, but they were the rare, not the rule.

[3] Three if you want to add Australia to the mix.

[4] Like the Polynesians, the Native Americans, isolated by two vast oceans for tens of thousands of years, were exceptionally vulnerable to diseases that Europeans and Asians had long since developed herd immunity to; while plagues could ravage populations in Europe and Asia, they could never kill enough people to completely destabilize those cultures. By contrast, a minimum of 90% of the Native American population died of plagues and diseases before ever encountering a European face to face, and in certain parts of North America (i.e., New England) the death toll ran as high as 97-98%! That’s the equivalent of our civilization dropping down to Mad Max levels.

[5] There were many, many nations attempting to establish colonies in the Americas, but Spain and England were the most aggressive in trying to extend their influence and control. A pity, because on average the French and Dutch tended to do a much more humane job of dealing with native populations, and had their policies been dominant, the history of the world for the last 500 years would be vastly different.

[6] Quite literally, according to the Puritans’ own accounts of their first years at Plymouth.

[7] The hagiographic stories depicting the Pilgrims carving a new nation from the wilderness are just that: Hagiographic stories. The Pilgrims’ own journals and records describe the New England area as “park-like” with vast open fields a carriage could ride over smoothly. But nobody likes to think of their great-great-great-great-granddaddy simply moving in on some dead native family’s farm, so the legend of the stalwart ground-breaking pioneers was born.

[8] Don’t fall for that malarkey about religion being the cause of the problems in Northern Ireland, “The Troubles” began centuries before Martin Luther cooked up Protestantism.

[9] They had this outlandish notion about being entitled to certain “rights” by virtue of their being English.

[10] English colonists often did the same thing. The myth of the Lost Colony of Roanoke was conjured up by the absentee landlords in England to hide the fact their under-equipped and cruelly exploited English colonists had simply deserted and joined a local native tribe.

[11] This racism also manifests itself in fierce anti-intellectualism: Tell a racist that facts and logic dictates a change, and they will dig in their heels to resist if it means losing their specialness. They would rather reject all facts and logic (other than those which bolster their prejudices, of course) than run the risk of making a change that would cost them their privilege status even if it has no real negative impact on their lives.

[12] And non-Christians; while there’s some old fashioned religious bigotry in the US, most of the hate against non-Christian religions is based on the fact they’re typically found in non-white communities.

 

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The Last Night For A Teddy Bear Spy