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Sep 16 / Jonathan

Glenn the Peasant

Matt Taibbi, entertaining as usual, on Glenn Beck and his ilk.

The peasant mentality lives on in America

… This is not a simple rhetorical accomplishment. It requires serious mental gymnastics to describe the Obama administration — particularly the Obama administration of recent weeks, which has given away billions to Wall Street and bent over backwards to avoid nationalization and pursue a policy that preserves the private for-profit status of the bailed-out banks — as a militaristic dictatorship of anti-wealth, anti-private property forces. You have to somehow explain the Geithner/Paulson decisions to hand over trillions of taxpayer dollars to the rich bankers as the formal policy expression of progressive rage against the rich. Not easy. …

… After all, the reason the winger crowd can’t find a way to be coherently angry right now is because this country has no healthy avenues for genuine populist outrage. It never has. The setup always goes the other way: when the excesses of business interests and their political proteges in Washington leave the regular guy broke and screwed, the response is always for the lower and middle classes to split down the middle and find reasons to get pissed off not at their greedy bosses but at each other. That’s why even people like Beck’s audience, who I’d wager are mostly lower-income people, can’t imagine themselves protesting against the Wall Street barons who in actuality are the ones who fucked them over. Beck pointedly compared the AIG protesters to Bolsheviks: “[The Communists] basically said ‘Eat the rich, they did this to you, get ‘em, kill ‘em!’” He then said the AIG and G20 protesters were identical: “It’s a different style, but the sentiments are exactly the same: Find ‘em, get ‘em, kill ‘em!’” Beck has an audience that’s been trained that the rich are not appropriate targets for anger, unless of course they’re Hollywood liberals, or George Soros, or in some other way linked to some acceptable class of villain, to liberals, immigrants, atheists, etc. — Ted Turner, say, married to Jane Fonda.

But actual rich people can’t ever be the target. It’s a classic peasant mentality: going into fits of groveling and bowing whenever the master’s carriage rides by, then fuming against the Turks in Crimea or the Jews in the Pale or whoever after spending fifteen hard hours in the fields. You know you’re a peasant when you worship the very people who are right now, this minute, conning you and taking your shit. Whatever the master does, you’re on board. When you get frisky, he sticks a big cross in the middle of your village, and you spend the rest of your life praying to it with big googly eyes. Or he puts out newspapers full of innuendo about this or that faraway group and you immediately salute and rush off to join the hate squad. A good peasant is loyal, simpleminded, and full of misdirected anger. And that’s what we’ve got now, a lot of misdirected anger searching around for a non-target to mis-punish… can’t be mad at AIG, can’t be mad at Citi or Goldman Sachs. The real villains have to be the anti-AIG protesters! After all, those people earned those bonuses! If ever there was a textbook case of peasant thinking, it’s struggling middle-class Americans burned up in defense of taxpayer-funded bonuses to millionaires. It’s really weird stuff. And bound to get weirder, I imagine, as this crisis gets worse and more complicated.

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  1. Ana / Dec 12 2012

    @MistaO: I’ll speak for myself here,for me, my coanrevstive views(socially at least)might be similar to many blacks who routinely vote and identify with liberal politicians.But where I differ with many black folks is that although they acknowledge the attitudes and behaviours that need to be changed in the black community, they are far too concerned, I’ll even say paranoid, about the role and power of “blackness” in their lives. The idea of racism is a stronghold that needs to be broken in the minds and hearts of black people, because it keeps us in bondage. Issues get sifted through the lens of “race”. We will support people who encourage the racial-oppression paranoia to our detriment. It has the effect of obscuring truth and derailing progress towards change in the black community. For example, we get caught up in complaining about police brutality in the community instead of acknowledging that those rates are high because we have greater contact with the police due to our high crime rates.How about when we blame the low unemployment rates of young black males on racism, but overlook the fact that many of these males have not been socialized to accept authority, look people in the eye when speaking, don’t know how to fill out applications properly, dress apropriately, or even contain their aggression when confronted with unpleasant behavior. “Racism” as it exists today is not enough to cause the overwhelming failure we see in our communities and families. What we see is LARGELY due to poor values, morals, behaviours, choices, etc. This is where I find the divide between coanrevstive blacks and “non-coanrevstives” it comes down to the place we are willing to give “racism” in our lives, the extent to which we step up and take ownership for ourselves, being willing to forgive the past wrongs, acknowledge and move forward in light of the progress that has been made in this country, seeing ourselves as fully American rejoicing in the wisdom and the blessings afforded us by the Constitution and Bill of Rights,the role of gov’t in our lives, not viewing the country as you say, as “two markedly separate America’s, one for Whites and those sub-groups and the other for Blacks”.Putting “race” in a lower place gets misinterpreted as [quoting you] “having disdain towards anything black”, “absolute displeasure towards Black people and blackness in general with a subtle motive towards White acceptance”, all sorts of silly things. Just like white coanrevstives have to ignore and press on in spite of being called racist, so black coanrevstives will have to do in spite of all the names hurled their way.The fact that blacks can’t hold a differing opinion without being viewed as a traitor to the race, speaks volumes about the mental and emotional bondage we as a people are in. Not good.

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