Sunday, March 27, 2016

A Counter-Response to Christopher Williams' Criticism


"Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill


        Let me begin by saying that I greatly appreciate Comrade Williams' both cogent and civil criticism of my last piece, “I am Done with Being Made to Feel Like a Social Reject (Part Two): Thomas Jefferson You Are More Right than You Know!” (http://refusetocooperate.blogspot.com/2016/03/i-am-done-with-being-made-to-feel-like_25.html)

        It is always a great pleasure when the exchange of ideas can take place as smoothly and respectfully as it is in this case. Perhaps, such exchanges can set an example for the future and produce a human society that chooses to think before it acts, rather than exploding with unbridled emotion that puts us all in jeopardy. It is in this spirit that I offer my response. I will address each criticism in order.

1.  I'll start with Rousseau: He was basically a bourgeois idealist who pulled his theory out of thin air to rationalize his class interest. Social contract isn’t a thing. People revolt not because of any violation of some supposed contract nor any kind of idealistic moralizing nor abstract appeals to justice. They revolt because of real material conditions of death and suffering that are no longer survivable , quaint moralizing be damned! Revolution happens because of a crisis where the old way of doing things is literally impossible and the material conditions exist for a new way of existing. 

        I understand that Rousseau comes of as a bourgeois idealist, but I do not think this is an entirely fair claim. Additionally, at the same time, I do not believe that he pulled his theory out of thin air to satisfy his class interests. Rousseau was the undisciplined son of watchmaker, whose intellectual understanding of the world was influenced by a Calvinist upbringing, a number of years spent wondering Europe tutoring and working as a secretary, and the unfairly organized social structure of French bourgeois society that surrounded the intellectual social circles and the court of the French Kings. He was not poor by any means, but he did have an understanding of European history up to his time. He knew of the many peasant revolts against feudalism that had occurred in the past four hundred years from his birth. In his wanderings, he had seen the depravity that still existed in the streets of European cities and on European manors, and he had seen the lack of interest in such depravity that had overtaken bourgeois society and the French Court. 


        "The Social Contract" was an effort to understand how such arrangements had come about, and to understand how such arrangements could change. Influenced by life experiences, the French socialite, Madame de Warens, his friendship with Diderot, and what he felt was an unfairly arranged social order. he wrote a treatise that he felt properly defined the nature of human government. He knew how badly the peasant revolts failed, and how difficult it was to institute change in a rigid social order, so he determined that in order for any change to be effected, there had to be a revolt from within the top rungs of that rigid social order. He recognized, like many after him, that the most successful revolts have always been those who had enlightened leaders at the helm. Now, there is a seemingly glaring biased against the poor working classes, who he and others have said were more likely to endure their circumstances than revolt against them, in this statement, but recognize that in his time, the poor working classes very rarely had access to the type of education that he did. This normally led to, as he and others recognized, unorganized and unsuccessful attempts to throw off the chains of oppression. Admittedly, his logic was flawed to a degree, but his idea was developed by others over time, and eventually led to the idea of the Vanguard, as is mentioned by Marx and his contemporaries, and later, Lenin.

2. The American Revolution: Jefferson and his revolution was essentially a bourgeois revolution, and by that I mean it was started, led by, and served the merchant class, it was a necessary revolution as it threw off the yoke of the old feudal system, which is a positive, but to move beyond that we need to move beyond the ideological system that it works within.

3. The Civil War: The Civil War was basically a resolution of the question of what form work under American capitalism would take. It was a question of chattel slavery vs wage slavery, obviously wage slavery won that battle. There wasn't really anything revolutionary about the civil war nor even really anything progressive despite some nice sounding speeches.

        I believe that I can connect these two to my response to the previous criticism. If feudalism's influence over the English American colonies was going to end, it was not going to end because the poorer classes, this being poor wage workers and slaves, in the colonies led a revolt. Honestly, if that had had happened, they would have been much more likely to revolt against the merchant class of the colonies than they would have the king. They had no understanding of the complexities of human society and government. They had been kept poor and uneducated for a reason. The revolt had to be led by the merchant class in the colonies, just as it eventually was in Europe. This, of course, did give way to the rise of capitalism, and the creation of a new class system that would eventually have to be reckoned with. 


        It was reckoned with, first during the Civil War. As Christopher mentioned, the Civil War settled the issue of labor. Wage labor won as the primary tool of Capitalism, but the Civil War was a revolution fermented by the Southern Elite, in their effort to protect their own economic interests. They merely warped the statement in the Declaration of Independence that the Founders used to justify their own rebellion, "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security." They failed ultimately, to preserve slavery, but their rebellion did not end in 1865. Not months after Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House, Nathan Bedford Forrest, and several other former Confederates, formed the Ku Klux Klan. This organization swiftly developed into a guerrilla warfare unit whose sole goal was to reverse all of the progressive Reconstruction measures enacted by Congress after the war. In this, they succeeded. Congress gave up on Reconstruction in 1877, and immediately afterwards, former Confederates returned to government in the South and established a new wage based system of oppression, based on terrorism, which is now known as the Jim Crow Era.
        Now, here is where I tie all three of these together. In the three periods that are addressed, there was a general imbalance that existed between the ruling elite and the poor working classes. This gap was based almost entirely on education. In the Europe of Rousseau's day, in the American Colonies leading up to the American Revolution, and in the United States, before, during, and for some years after the Civil War, the poor working classes lacked the education needed to properly execute an effective rebellion. However, the Progressive Era, after about 1910, began to change this status quo. First, cities, then states, and then the federal government began to pass anti child labor laws and pro public education laws. By the 1940s, at least half of all American children were completing a high school level free public education. To the point now that a public education to the high school level is not only free, but legally mandatory. 
        Despite the many inequities that were endured and revolted against along the way, the poor working classes have a basic education that was not available to previous generations. Further, despite the many glaring inequalities that still exist, the American working class, without that education, would not be able to do as we are doing now. They would not be able to debate the finer points of human government because they would not have the needed education to do so. We can understand what it means to see our fellow working class comrades wallowing in squalor, and we can understand what actions are necessary to help to not only get them out of those conditions, but to keep them out of those conditions. All that is necessary now is a reversing of the plague of apathy that has taken over the educated working classes.

4. Women’s Rights: Kent starts out ok here, but then goes bad, reverse sexism is like reverse racism: it isn’t a thing. What Kent points to here are basically the things that MRA’s bitch about as proof of women being sexist when in reality this is just the negative effects of patriarchy rebounding on its benefactors, at best some of it might be a female backlash against patriarchy but these are all consequences and fruits of sexism itself not some "reverse sexism."

        I had hoped in this section more notice would have been taken of the point that I made about the unsung female heroes of the United States. There are too many women who get way too little respect for the major contributions that they have made to American society. This country would not be what it is now if it were for women like Harriet Tubman, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Fannie Lou Hamer, and many others. The courageous examples that they each set should be required education for both boys and girls in American schools, so that each can know what women are capable of. This would encourage more young girls to push themselves to be more than just the barbie doll rejects that society is trying to create, and would teach young boys to not only treat girls the proper respect but also to fight for them just as hard as they would fight for themselves.


        As for my position on Reverse Sexism that Christopher says is not a thing, I must admit partially, that my opinion on this has been somewhat developed by personal experience. The formal definition of sexism is this, prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex. It can also be called gender discrimination, and this is a problem in both directions. Women, as I admitted, have gotten the brunt of this form of discrimination for the vast majority of human history, but that does not mean that men have not gotten the same treatment at times. If a man goes to the police and reports that his wife beats him, what is the general reaction? It is documented that in many cases, men are laughed out of the precinct. This is sexism. It criticizes the man for not meeting the standards of his assigned gender role as the masculine man that can control his woman. To compound this, if he does attempt to control his woman, perhaps by simply restraining her, he runs the risk of being labeled a wife beater. He is then also subject to possible criminal prosecution, when it was his wife that was doing the real beating in the first place. Worse, she has gotten away with spousal abuse, a state crime, scot free. There is also the divorce issue. In instances where the woman makes more money than the man, it is still the man that is most likely to have to pay child support, lose property, and suffer other financial burdens that he was not equipped to handle based on the arrangement that he had established with his wife. Then there is also, of course, the cliche commercials that make men out to be idiots, drunks, sex addicts, cheaters, and countless other negative stereotypes. If women do not like such cliches, and want to see them put to end, how is it fair that they then do the very same thing to men? Reverse Sexism is a thing.

5. On Police Brutality: There's a lot of good stuff here but strangely Kent talks about police brutality like its a new thing or as if we have a “rising” police state. Reality is we always have had a police state for as long as police have existed. Any knowledge of the history of police demonstrates the classist, and in the US especially, racist roots of police forces and the poor and black who have always been on the receiving end of the boot of the law. It is only in recent decades that such violence has become more inflicted on increasingly less privileged whites and in no small part due to black activist work that people are being forced to face what the oppressed have always known.

        I do not believe that a police state, in the form that I am envisioning, is what has always existed in the United States. In the past, there have been occasions where the military was as police force, like in the Reconstruction Era South, and they did have federal legislation backing them up, but they were not a formal full police force. There have also been formal full time police forces in the United States since before its formal foundation; however, those forces were not militarized. Finally, Constitutionally, a federal police force is not legal. The Constitution has an interesting amendment that leaves the policing authority to the state governments. The Tenth Amendment grants all power not mentioned in the previous articles and amendments of the Constitution to the states, and that includes the power to police the populace. 


        This, however, is not what we have now. We have local police forces that are armed to the level of elite combat soldiers, who are able to enforce federal law at the ground level, and who, are largely granted the same immunity that is given to federal officials. We also have federal agencies whose job it is to police the populace at the national level such as the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, the DEA, the ATF, the Secret Service, the US Marshall's Service, and many more. Further, these technically unconstitutional agencies have been granted vast power to enforce the laws of the United States against its own population. The Patriot Act and the Freedom Act are just two of the most recent examples. We can be arrested, we can be held without trial, our homes can be invaded, our phones can be tapped, our property can be seized, and much more, all without warrant.  This all in no way resembles what the Founders envisioned for the policing of the general populace. In the past, we may have had police in the states, or forces granted temporary police powers, but now we live in a country where we are policed by our own government on a permanent basis. We are watched like we are all potential criminals. The only thing that differentiates this nation from Nazi Germany, is that greater effort is put into hiding that fact from the people.

6. On Revolution: I have little to say here as most of this is pretty well known fact, I will just reiterate the Marxist perspective that revolution is the only means by which liberation of the workers will be achieved as those in power will not give it up without a fight. We however are not really in a revolutionary crisis at this time so fomenting revolution is premature, we should have no tolerance for adventurism. The people need education and mass organization before revolution would be advisable. Currently the American Left is in shambles, the average worker is horribly backward on multiple issues, and the most well trained and organized people in the country are right wing reactionaries. That is a recipe for disaster. The correct recipe is teaching the correct theoretical line and following it up with correct practice.

        I agree that revolution is most likely to the only way that the working classes will every truly get the redresses that they seek. I also agree that this is the case because the powers that be will, much the ruling classes of past eras, not give up their power without a violent and brutal fight. However, as to the conditions not being ripe for revolution, I would argue that if the conditions are not yet ripe for revolution, then it is up to the Vanguard, which in this day in age is the educated working classes, to make the the conditions ripe for revolution. The American left is in shambles, but at some point, they are going to have to come out of their self induced exile and get to work. The right wing reactionaries that Christopher speaks of need a coherent counter-force to battle them in the streets. This is where the left can make the conditions properly rip for revolution.

7. Gun Violence: Kent is largely correct here except for one glaring issue: “ The real answer is to solve the problem of mental illness. If we, as a nation, were to actually take the time to give the mentally ill the treatment that they truly need, they would be thousands of times less likely to resort to violent actions with guns. “ This is ableist garbage. Most shooters are not mentally ill and mentally ill people are far more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators. Laws that disarm the mentally ill just leave a frequently oppressed group defenseless as do most liberal gun control laws which are also frequently racist as well.


        Christopher and I, agree even more on the causes of gun violence than on the necessity of revolution. I think, especially, we agree on the need to educate the people. His criticism comes on how I refer to the mentally ill. I should have had him read my previous piece also.

"I, and anyone else who has this disorder, are no different than anyone else because we have to deal with this issue. I am just as capable of contributing to the advancement of humanity as anyone else. All this means is that for whatever reason, my brain operates a tad bid differently than most people. The disturbance, as I like to call it, causes to me see and interact with the world and the people occupying it, in the extreme, with very little room left for any sort of middle ground. Neither does this make me a threat to society, as some have suggested to me in my lifetime. I, more than others, maybe, was lucky to have people in my family, who, while they never went to the doctor for the issue, knew they had the problem and taught me to deal with it using techniques that they had developed over entire lifetimes. It is in adulthood that I have sought professional help to manage those symptoms that have proven too strong for me defeat alone. I was trained to adapt to my environment, to observe my behavior and adjust myself when I know I am acting out character, and to regulate myself through meditation, reflection, and education. Not everyone has the fortune to get this kind of guidance. They must and should not be stigmatized for that. We, as a whole society, need to express the same compassion for their condition that was shown to me when I was only a child. Bi-Polar Disorder is not something that one contracts because of irresponsible living. It is something that a person is born with, and something that people can be taught to live with, given the appropriate attention. Think on that the next time you label someone crazy."


        As someone who has suffered from mental illness in the past, and still battles with it now, I have to be frank that it is not ableist to say that the mentally ill do not need to be in possession of fire arms. When I was at the peak of my troubles, the first thing that I did, especially after my pistol found its way into my mouth on more than one occasion, was to sell all of my guns. I knew that I was a danger not just to myself, but also to others. I am grateful to have had friends at my side that were able to help me through those tumultuous times and help me to see that fact. It is people that do not have such social support that I am worried about because I have been there, and I know what is going on in their minds. Disarming the mentally ill is not just a public safety measure, it is a measure designed to save their lives also.  Where the issue would become ableist is if those disarming policies were made permanent. Admittedly, this is a sticky issue, because who is to say when someone is ready to to safely handle a weapon of death again? Ultimately, the real solution would be to have no need for any such weapons at all. If people could just get along and settle their differences peacefully, there would be no need for us to have a debate over whether a manic depressive bipolar person should be aloud to own a weapon or not.


In Summary: There are a number of issues that Christopher and I have differing opinions on, but there is one big central issue that we both very much agree upon. We both recognize that this country has some serious problems and that they are not going to be solved by the same people that created them. If anything is going to change in this country, it is the victims of the ruling classes of the United States that are going to have to  make those changes. It is the poor working classes that have to act. We also agree that such is the moral duty of anyone who has the basic education required to be able to make sense of the inconsistencies that exist in this country. On those grounds, I count Christopher a friend and a Comrade, and I thank him for his very thoughtful response to my writing. Solidarity Forever!

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