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Sunday 31 July 2005

Governance / Power Systems

Israel has successfully pressured Germany into reducing Jewish immigration. Israel has pressured Germany into reducing options for Jews..

I don't get it. The whole Zionist thing. It's supposed to have something to do with the Holocaust, but apparently they want Germany to be less welcoming to Jews. Oh, and to crush Palestine. Feh.

Countries all behave badly. Nationalism and in-groups and out-groups make it worse. Israel has a lot of power and a lot of nationalism and an apartheid-like system of in folks and out folks, so of course they're behaving badly. The US does too. States are self-perpetuating entities, so the interests of the state are put in front of the groups they claim to represent or protect. The only place for Jews is Israel. The only place for Americans is America. Come home. Stay home. These forces which theoretically lead to empowerment for the groups contained actually lead to empowerment only of a ruling class. This use of division to empower a ruling class seems to be a fixture of many governments, but I want to explore it in the capitalist system.

It's a widely held belief that all men benefit from patriarchy. I don't think this is any more true than the idea that all Jews benefit from Zionism. Patriarchy has within it rigid gender constraints. For men to superior, one must be absolutely certain who is a man and who is not. Therefore, genderqueer or effeminate males suffer under patriarchy. Systems like the Boy Scouts exist to give special advantages and leadership training to young men (the girl scouts are a parallel organization, but their equivalent to an Eagle Scout isn't known to the populace at large and does not generate the same respect. The systems are not equal in society.). However, the Boy Scouts in the US are closed to atheists and especially queers. Gender performance must be in the strictly heterosexual, manly sense.

I want to argue further that patriarchy harms all non-owning class men. They gain some power over women, but their total power would be greater if they worked in solidarity with women. Economic discrimination against women drives all wages down. Patriarchy causes men to earn less, because of negative wage pressure caused by sexism. Racial discrimination similarly hurts the wages of white workers. There are those who argue that all white people benefit from racism, and this is true when a white person is in direct competition with a black person for a limited resource, for example, two applicants, one job. But most things in life are not zero-sum. As a whole, whites suffer economically because of racism.

During slavery, plantation owners created a job position called "overseer." The took poor whites and put them in supervisor position over slaves. This insulated white owners from the physical hazards of owning people and it created hostility between poor whites and slaves. This was brilliant on their part as the poor whites and the slaves had many more interests in common than oppositional. Both would have profited tremendously if they had joined forces against the owning classes. In the same way, modern owning classes quietly stoke the patriarchy and the "culture wars" and laugh all the way to the bank. The divisions among the non-owning classes only serve to make the owning classes stronger.

If it were enough to have women in power, Margaret Thatcher would have brought feminist utopia to the UK. The Bush administration, the most diverse ever, would be brining about racial harmony and peace. Israel would be a utopia of religious tolerance. Racism and sexism are the tools of classicism. Looking at the Bush administration, it's easy to see that ideology and class status are more important factors for leadership than sex or race.

The us-against-them mentality of some who are most directly affected by power systems can be empowering to their membership. Separatism is a valuable way to create organizations where the leader of of the organization gains some power in the society at large and thus gives a voice to those discriminated against. However, for all the value of affinity groups, different people must work together and must convince those outside of their groups of the value of their struggle. Smashing patriarchy would be a good fight whether or not patriarchy hurt men. However, having men involved in the fight as allies or in their own affinity groups will make the war more winnable. It is crucial to win allies and to thus to recognize how power systems create a disempowered hierarchy below the owning classes.

These systems depend on some sort of sense of innateness and of group membership handed down by god. Race is socially constructed, of course and somewhat mutable for some individuals. Gender, though similarly socially constructed, is thought to be another "natural" category, however, this is again mutable by some individuals. The ability of people to "pass" and to change genders shows the folly of the patriarchy and capitalist power systems. Obviously men don't have the divine right of kings if some who are born physically female can join their ranks or if 4% of the population is born intersexed.

In summary:

  • Power systems benefit national leaders and the owning classes and harm the non-owning classes
  • Patriarchy and racism hurt their targets but also harm whites and men and society as a whole
  • The non-owning classes must band together in favor of diversity and equality to raise our status as a whole
  • The categories used to oppress are us are socially constructed and mutable. Those who cross them weaken, rather than reinforce, them.

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