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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

The Dam

It is naive to expect that the redistribution of wealth from you and me to the very rich will be stopped on the initiative of the very rich, whether they are called Trump or Obama.

If there is any hope of stopping – or maybe just reducing a bit – this redistribution that’s been going on for 40 years, it will arise from our efforts. We need to build a dam, and it will have to start out by being an emotional dam that will prevent our energy and feelings from flowing towards the very people who are our class enemy. 

Because they have already built such a one-way dam that prevents them from even noticing the humanity of somebody like me and you. 

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13 thoughts on “The Dam

  1. “We need to build a dam, and it will have to start out by being an emotional dam that will prevent our energy and feelings from flowing towards the very people who are our class enemy”

    Based on what? The things that come to mind immediately that can be stronger than money and unite people in a common goal are Blood and God.

    How will a diverse multicultural post-religious society be able to unite?

    US political culture provided a space for common cause but that depends on heavy childhood indoctrination on the superiority of US values while US education is also about dismantling that.

    Class doesn’t work either because class in the US doesn’t really work as an organizing prinicple across racial and/or regional boundaries.

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    • “How will a diverse multicultural post-religious society be able to unite?”

      • We all know what I’d prefer: class solidarity. And I agree it’s a dead concept in the US.

      I’ll keep thinking.

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  2. DWeird on said:

    Back during the last economic crisis, the husband of my mother’s tailor friend cut wages across the board rather than lay people off when sales went down. His workers resented this to the point that they cornered him near one of the machines and beat him up. He killed himself shortly after.

    During my grandfather’s generation, around a hundred thousand Lithuanian ‘class enemies’, mostly farmers who were comparatively better off than their neighbours, got stuck into animal wagons and transported to Siberia to have them try to farm ice.

    I do not think the “class enemies” concept, if it ever picks up enough political momentum to become relevant again, is ever going to be applied to anyone but people in the immediate vicinity that are ever so mildly better off than you are.

    That’s just my unease with the phrase itself.

    More to the point, I am not sure what this line of thought actually means in practical terms. For example, I personally am not emotionally involved with any of the political heads – the most intense emotion I might feel is mild irritation. There is no emotional energy flowing from me to any one of them. I am also likely one of the least politically informed and politically active readers of your blog – I doubt that anything of major importance would be accomplished with my attitude writ large.

    And if it’s the narrower idea that you should not personally identify with politicians, then it’s an old ineffective idea (or we wouldn’t keep having the same problem) that needs significant retooling to be useful rather than a fresh new one needing excited exploration.

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    • \ I do not think the “class enemies” concept, if it ever picks up enough political momentum to become relevant again, is ever going to be applied to anyone but people in the immediate vicinity that are ever so mildly better off than you are.

      A good point.

      In Russia (and in USA potentially?) the concept has traditionally gone well together with the position “a good tzar / Stalin has bad servants and only needs to get informed to stop criminals enriching themselves and exploiting us.”

      In addition, class solidarity has been powerless compared to ethnic solidarity for decades in the first world countries, including my country – Israel. The one way the former concept may regain power is by uniting with the solidarity of blood. For instance, in Europe and America, Jews have been and still sometimes are presented as the ones in charge of the banking systems and responsible for economic crises and for general lack of a Paradise on Earth.

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  3. Well, I did not fully develop this theory, so do not whack me too hard, please. But I was thinking a lot along the same lines recently:

    —class solidarity has been powerless compared to ethnic solidarity for decades in the first world countries—

    Maybe we have to consciously dilute and discredit the idea of the “nation”? Why are these only the “nations” that have the right to self-determination, for example? Let’s grant this right to any group, any “imaginary community”… “Palestinians are not a real nation”? – great, all the more reasons to grant them the right of self-determination. Etc.

    It seems that nations, traditionally defined, are not a match to transnational corporations these days. And by now the first-world nations seem to be more about exclusion than about anything else. About defending the piece of the pie that somehow landed on their lap in earlier years, from “strangers”, however these “strangers” are defined. So maybe instead of resisting the demise of the nations we have to joint it and support it, but not in the sense of just joining the flow led by corporations, but consciously trying to guide that process towards some sort of global class solidarity?

    Of course my theory has at least one very serious flaw: how can one do what I propose and still resist the aggressive nationalism of the nations that decide not to abandon nationalism… I.e. – what to do with the cases where self-determination rhetoric is masking (or not even masking) the nationalism of the neighbor, like DNR/LNR?..

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    • \ the first-world nations seem to be more about exclusion than about anything else. About defending the piece of the pie

      [we should start to] consciously trying to guide that process towards some sort of global class solidarity

      Clarissa, I remember you saying you would not give your Kindle for a sense of national pride (resulting from America stopping being a superpower due to a newfound “moral” behavior abroad).

      Why would / should we in first world nations give up much more for some nonexistent “global class solidarity”?

      Nonexistent since I do not think migrants to Europe and people in their countries are likely to exhibit it. I only began reading about Africa in one chapter of a book re national idea in different countries (1), but got the impression many Africans won’t have this solidarity either.

      Is it again the case of “we, Americans and Europeans, will decide what Arabs and Africans will believe in”? Do you see much class solidarity in today’s Middle East?

      \ Maybe we have to consciously dilute and discredit the idea of the “nation”? Why are these only the “nations” that have the right to self-determination, for example? Let’s grant this right to any group, any “imaginary community”…

      It would result in the division into smaller and even more powerless nation states. Their only hope would be to become a part of something like EU, only much stronger. Reminded me of empires of old with different peoples and provinces. Ironically, instead of understanding their situation, people in Europe supporting their own division do so in hopes to escape globalization and return to ethnic nationalism your program tries to weaken.

      (1) The book is written by a Russian Jew for a Russian audience:

      Сатановский Евгений Янович – Шла бы ты… Заметки о национальной идее

      It can be found online for free. You would want to skip his writing re Ukraine I think, but he does write many interesting things that sound correct, for instance, re Russia and Israel.

      May be, you would be interested in what Russians and Russian-speakers in other countries are likely to be exposed to.

      He has also written “Книга Израиля. Путевые заметки о стране святых, десантников и террористов,” which is also on-line for free.

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    • \ Let’s grant this right to any group, any “imaginary community”… “Palestinians are not a real nation”? – great, all the more reasons to grant them the right of self-determination. Etc.

      The only way to grant this right in practice rather than on paper is by being ready to go to war and send boots on the ground in many parts of the world. What about rights of self-determination in Syria? Why only Palestinians?

      There are Kurds too in Turkey and elsewhere. I do not think EU wants to completely spoil relations with Turkey.

      And, excuse me, but I love how the solution to the world’s problems leads to attacking Jews / my country again. Sure, it would be a Gaza-like state ruled by Hamas or something worse, shooting advanced rockets at me, but we are conducting an experiment here. From a safe distance in EU and America.

      Regarding Palestinians’ views, I have read just yesterday about additional signs of radicalization and unwillingness to have any real peace with me:

      The Signal and the Noise in the Barghouti Op-Ed
      https://ottomansandzionists.com/2017/04/20/the-signal-and-the-noise-in-the-barghouti-op-ed/

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      • Hi el, did not mean to upset you too much, just teasing you, a self-proclaimed nationalist, a little. I just do not give any preferences to any nations and do not care about the “right” of any nation to be the dominant one at any territory. I do care about safety and wellbeing of individual people, including Jewish people, of course.

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    • “It seems that nations, traditionally defined, are not a match to transnational corporations these days.”

      Absolutely. That’s the crux of the problem.

      “About defending the piece of the pie that somehow landed on their lap in earlier years”

      I don’t think “somehow” is the right word here. They worked for it and deserve it while we. . . ya know.

      “So maybe instead of resisting the demise of the nations we have to joint it and support it, but not in the sense of just joining the flow led by corporations, but consciously trying to guide that process towards some sort of global class solidarity”

      Ideally, yes. But people who don’t have a way to define who they are can’t deal and go nuts. And you can’t define yourself without an enemy, the Other. And here we are again in the same round. Man, we need aliens from outer space. 🙂

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      • Attributing higher standard of living of some nations simply to “working harder” is just … a very American libertarian thing to do. And of course it is good for one’s psychological wellbeing to believe that whatever one achieved is due to his/her own hard work. Does not make it true.

        But even to the extent it is true, it is only partially true. A lot of the disparity between counties originates from exploitation of the colonies. By now there are not too many colonies, but there is still both direct exploitation and creating a system where the odds are in favor of the nations that are rich and influential.
        And then there is just the collective analog of a rich kid living on money left to him or her by hard-working parents… Or maybe robber-baron parents. Or something in between, sometimes one had to work hard on being a robber baron.

        Or maybe the parents did not provide the money, but instead provided intellectually stimulating environment, where education was attributed ultimate value? It is very difficult to measure such things numerically, but obviously such things give kids (individual kids or the next generation of the whole nation) an edge…Which the kids in non-educated families do not have…

        In most developed nations this is recognized and the answer is free education (ultimately paid by the taxes from the income of wealthier taxpayers). The international analog of it would be some global redistribution of wealth. Which the people of wealthier nations can oppose and still feel good about themselves only because they attribute this irrationally high value to the “nations”.

        Could it be that this particular belief of your is a consequence of your belief that work ethics is bad (and everything else is bad) in the former soviet union, that got somehow extended to “all non-first-world people just did not work hard enough”? What if you abandon this belief? Could it then happen that you then find something good about the FSU? What bad things will happen if you find something good about the FSU? Sorry for this attempt at psychoanalysis…

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        • Hey, the culture I come from achieved dick, as we all know, so this clearly doesn’t make me feel very good. And yes, I could blame it all on the Russians who, in turn, can blame all their failures on the evil West, but there is a limit to that narrative because if Ukrainians are 100% the product of the Russians, then it’s like we don’t exist at all.

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        • “A lot of the disparity between counties originates from exploitation of the colonies. By now there are not too many colonies, but there is still both direct exploitation and creating a system where the odds are in favor of the nations that are rich and influential.”

          • How about Russia, then? Why is life there such shit when it was a huge empire, exploiting tons of colonies?

          “And then there is just the collective analog of a rich kid living on money left to him or her by hard-working parents… Or maybe robber-baron parents. Or something in between, sometimes one had to work hard on being a robber baron.”

          • I have met many rich kids both back in Ukraine and here. And one thing is true: they are never that successful. And they are definitely never more successful than their motivated peers from really shitty life circumstances. I thank God daily for having been born in a poor country to a poor family. Because I’m so much happier as a result than every single person I know who was born in North America. Every single one.

          “The international analog of it would be some global redistribution of wealth. Which the people of wealthier nations can oppose and still feel good about themselves only because they attribute this irrationally high value to the “nations”.”

          • What makes you think that the result of that redistribution would be any different than the result in the USSr where a sharp division between rich and poor became evident by the end of WWII?

          “Could it be that this particular belief of your is a consequence of your belief that work ethics is bad (and everything else is bad) in the former soviet union, that got somehow extended to “all non-first-world people just did not work hard enough”?”

          • More importantly, I’m a Hispanist by profession. I love all things Hispanic with a diseased passion. 🙂 But. . . but, but, but. I have to deny everything I know, everything I have seen and learned if I say that the reason why Hispanic countries are the way they are is colonialism. There is such an enormous and undeniable similarity in terms of the sky-high corruption, the complex road to democracy and love for military dictatorships among the colonialist Spain and post-colonial Latin America, that I can’t pretend I’m not seeing it. It’s not accidental. It’s cultural.

          But hey, there’s an upside. The Hispanic civilization is producing amazing culture. And the Anglo civilization is not. And that’s hardly less valuable than the super-duper consumerist lifestyle that the Anglos are producing.

          “What if you abandon this belief? Could it then happen that you then find something good about the FSU? What bad things will happen if you find something good about the FSU?”

          • This sounds interesting but I’m not seeing the connection right now. The Russian Empire was a lot worse than the British, the French or the Spanish Empires even before the FSU.

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  4. Only one word comes to mind: “Hopeless” I think the consolidation of wealth and power in the hands of a few is already for advanced. As you point out, Clarissa, redistribution upward has been going on for decades now. At least four decades, I think. And I fear that the pace of wealth transfer is accelerating. Is it possible to stop a runaway train?

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