Saturday, 17 March 2012

Divide and Rule

We had a situation here a while back when a Maori MP Hone Harawira made a couple of statements about white NZers which created a firestorm of outrage  from the white Right - and from some brown people as well.

The response was that Maori 'racism' is the same as white racism, they cancel each other out, it's  proof that the attitudes which lead to racism are natural to all human beings etc etc .

Apply the term 'racism' to all prejudiced conduct and you empty it of political meaning - which might of course be the agenda.

The old mantra - racism is prejudice plus power -  is often taken to mean that no 'powerless' people can be racist because, whilst they might have all manner of prejudiced views,  they lack the power to adversely affect the lives of the powerful.

But, who - objectively speaking - possesses power and who doesn't?  

Does an unemployed, under-educated young white man from a sink hole estate have more power by virtue of being white and male than a rich, educated black woman - for example? Does his membership of that problematic category of 'whiteness' give him a sort of power by proxy because the country is still governed by and in the interests of a group made up mainly of obscenely rich white men? 

It would be wrong to deny the fact that the advantages of being white trickle right down the social hierarchy - but it's pretty obvious that  they are well and truly diluted by the time they reach the bottom. 

it would be equally wrong to deny the fact that these days, the disadvantages of being black become diluted the further up the social and financial hierarchy a person is located. 

These days - especially for young people - many of the dominant images of style and privilege (access to which has been granted via sport and entertainment for the most part) - are of black people. Take all the black out of youth culture and what's left?  

In the US it's socially acceptable to refer to and make jokes about  'white trash' or 'trailer trash'  - there's an entire sub culture devoted to 'redneck jokes' but  how often do we hear the black equivalent in the mainstream media these days? White racial prejudice does of course rear its ugly head but often commentators who allow their racial prejudices off the leash are censured or lose their jobs. (It has to be said that here in NZ they often escape censure or they bounce back once the story has fallen out of the headlines.)

The counterpoint to the images of black success in the US -  that echelon of stylish, glossily perfect people  epitomized by the Obamas - is not just the poorly nourished, badly housed, drug-dependent, desperate masses of the black poor - but the millions of  poorly nourished, unemployed, badly housed and dentally challenged poor whites who are also shut out of Richistan.  Most of the peoples of the 'feral underclass' don't even get to go in to clean the toilets of the well-off.  Most of them  are, quite literally, surplus to requirements - not even necessary any longer as cannon fodder or servants  or as reminders of what happens if you don't play the game hard enough or well enough. 

There is a far higher proportion of blacks and hispanics in poverty in the USA than whites (25% and 22% respectively), but poor whites outnumber them. An estimated 22 million whites in the USA live in poverty - that's a large and potent source of disaffection and anger.

As more of white America slides into poverty, how much more effective could it be than for the power elite to ramp up that old trusty division by  telling them that the foot inside the boot that's pressing their faces in the mud belongs to a person of colour?  And, cold-hearted cynics that they are, they then point the finger of blame for racism and religious intolerance at  those poor whites who typically produce the most unsophisticated and visibly extreme expressions of it.  

Keep them all at each others' throats.  Divide and rule.

Poor, dispossessed, uneducated whites living shit lives, shut out of the dream that they've been told was their's by birth right, gobbling up all the unhealthy products (physical and metaphysical) that the corporate state sells them, trying desperately to fill the empty holes where community, pride and sense of purpose used to be - and who do they blame? Not the cynical corporate power elite that has staged a coup detat and taken over the world - no, of course not, they blame those other poor people with skin tones and/or belief systems different from their own.

The ideology of racial difference is,  like petroleum jelly, volatile and deadly in itself, but  mix in the white phosphorous of  religious intolerance  - and you have social napalm.

Divide and rule. 

A sense of 'racial' superiority is an illusory compensation for the objective lack of power of the white under class - just as the sense of sexual superiority is an illusory compensation for economically powerless men. 

Divide and rule. 

So -  who really benefits from the twin ideologies of religious and racial difference  - those essential components in the foundations and walls of Richistan? 

The international power elite is still largely white and male, but - just as they don't have any loyalty to country or nation in their pursuit of power and profit -  they will happily ignore skin tone, gender and religion when it suits.

BUT, we only have to look at which continent is still being raped and pillaged, what peoples remain at the bottom the world’s hierarchy of power and privilege to know that, in the cruel and divisive hierarchy of colour, white still trumps everything. 

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