Failing the test, again

Let this paleoconservative writing sink in for a moment: “‘Thirty years from now, the black and brown coalition plans to pit its new brown majority against aging whites,’ targeting Social Security benefits unless whites support their efforts to compel ‘the younger generation of whites to pay the future bills for welfare and education for America’s new Third-World majority.’”[1]

I want you to let this notion of racial conflict explicitly between whites and people of color sink in real hard because at the opposite end of the political spectrum, Rabbi Michael Lerner has repeatedly warned against demonizing all those (largely working class whites) who supported Donald Trump. He notes that many whites have economic grievances, are not racist, did not create systemic discrimination, but have felt abandoned by the Left and by Democrats, who now speak increasingly for just about every subaltern group imaginable except for folks who suffer various forms of economic injustice. The Rabbi’s warning stands on its own virtue; I do not know if he realizes he is also warning the Left against making a paleoconservative prediction true.

Lerner issues this warning and keeps repeating it because he sees whites being demonized. I see it too,[2] which is why I no longer align with the Left.[3]

And I’m not interested in whose violence matters more, let alone about whether there is any moral equivalence. Whether it’s the violence of the police, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, the “alt right,” other white supremacists, any other paleoconservatives, or Antifa, it shouldn’t be happening in this context. The only violence I am willing to countenance in this context is violence with an explicit aim of overthrowing the system. Any other violence in this context is illegitimate coercion.[4] Period. But at least some on the Left accept Antifa violence and stridently deny any moral equivalence.

And I’m continuing to hear about how I’m allegedly ‘privileged’ when I haven’t been able to find a real job in sixteen long years.

Now, I have a number of grievances against the present social order. I blame elites for fostering the divisions among us to protect their own position,[5] for failing to take anything like sufficient action on climate change and other threats to human survival, and for an increasingly likely extinction of the human species that may result. Because elites are too comfortable with the status quo, I believe they can never meaningfully respond to these threats and so I have advocated vegetarian ecofeminism as a sort of super-anarchism that understands all power relationships among humans, non-human animals, and the environment to be problematic, extends moral autonomy to non-human animals, and extends protection to the environment, connecting how we humans treat each other with how we treat non-human animals and the environment.[6] The vegan (I prefer the term, vegetarian ecofeminist[7]) and animal rights aspect of this is crucial—not only is there a commonality in the power relationships,[8] but going vegan is the single most effective action an individual can take to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and other human-caused environmental damage.[9] And my hope, dealt a severe and almost certainly fatal setback in last year’s election, had been that the Left could be persuaded to embrace this understanding.[10]

True anarchism assumes good will and a cooperative spirit and, as indigenous societies have been believed to demonstrate for hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of years,[11] such is eminently within the range of human possibility. In the absence of a coordinating elite, all of us would be required to take the actions we need to take to save ourselves. And a legitimate question has been whether humans who have, for the last five to fifteen thousand years, embraced an authoritarian system of social organization remain capable of rising to this level.

What I’m seeing on the Left now is a failure just like what I see on the right. We won’t even listen to each other. Instead we demonize each other. Which is exactly the opposite of what anarchism demands of us.

Which is all to say that not only, as I have written previously,[12] are we failing the test, but we are doing so out of spite.

That spite is evidently more important to us than our survival.

Note, October 4, 2017: The second through fourth paragraphs have been repeatedly edited since this posting was originally published to make explicit a point about reifying a paleoconservative prediction. This point was implicit in the original but I was, to be honest, having difficulty figuring out how to bring this together. In addition, I have edited the sixth paragraph to help explain the importance of an animal rights and vegan approach to anarchism.

  1. [1]Yggdrasil [pseud.], “Republican Immigration Fantasies,” Occidental Quarterly, November 10, 2011, http://www.toqonline.com/blog/republican-immigration-fantasies/, as quoted in David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Farewell to the left,” Not Housebroken, November 28, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/2016/11/28/farewell-to-the-left/; David Benfell, “Why should I care?” Not Housebroken, February 3, 2017, https://disunitedstates.org/2017/02/03/why-should-i-care/; David Benfell, “The Left may be about to claim a Pyrrhic victory,” Not Housebroken, August 20, 2017, https://disunitedstates.org/2017/08/20/the-left-may-be-about-to-claim-a-pyrrhic-victory/; David Benfell, “The corruption of the Left,” Not Housebroken, September 11, 2017, https://disunitedstates.org/2017/09/11/the-corruption-of-the-left/; David Benfell, “What’s the end game?” Not Housebroken, October 2, 2017, https://disunitedstates.org/2017/10/02/whats-the-end-game/
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Farewell to the left,” Not Housebroken, November 28, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/2016/11/28/farewell-to-the-left/
  4. [4]David Benfell, “On violence,” Not Housebroken, April 29, 2017, https://disunitedstates.org/2017/04/29/on-violence/
  5. [5]David Benfell, “We ‘need to know how it works’” March 15, 2012, https://parts-unknown.org/drupal7/journal/2012/03/15/we-need-know-how-it-works
  6. [6]David Benfell, “‘We have found the enemy, and he is us’ — and our system of social organization,” March 6, 2013, https://parts-unknown.org/drupal7/journal/2013/03/06/we-have-found-enemy-and-he-us-and-our-system-social-organization; also see Andrew Anthony, “Yuval Noah Harari: ‘Homo sapiens as we know them will disappear in a century or so,’” Guardian, March 19, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2017/mar/19/yuval-harari-sapiens-readers-questions-lucy-prebble-arianna-huffington-future-of-humanity; Nathan Curry, “Humanity Is Getting Verrrrrrry Close to Extinction,” Vice, August 21, 2015, http://www.vice.com/read/near-term-extinctionists-believe-the-world-is-going-to-end-very-soon; Dahr Jamail, “Are We Falling Off the Climate Precipice? Scientists Consider Extinction,” TomDispatch, December 17, 2013, http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175785/tomgram%3A_dahr_jamail%2C_the_climate_change_scorecard/; Cheryl Jones, “Frank Fenner sees no hope for humans,” Australian, June 16, 2010, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/frank-fenner-sees-no-hope-for-humans/story-e6frgcjx-1225880091722; Chris Mooney, “These experts say we have three years to get climate change under control. And they’re the optimists,” Washington Post, June 29, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/06/29/these-experts-say-we-have-until-2020-to-get-climate-change-under-control-and-theyre-the-optimists/; Charlie Smith, “Could abrupt climate change lead to human extinction within 10 years?” Georgia Straight, February 11, 2017, http://www.straight.com/news/868051/could-abrupt-climate-change-lead-human-extinction-within-10-20-years; Phil Torres and Peter Boghossian, “The Looming Extinction of Humankind, Explained,” Vice, August 18, 2016, http://motherboard.vice.com/en_au/read/armageddon-comma-explained
  7. [7]David Benfell, “‘Vegan’ apparently doesn’t mean what it’s supposed to mean,” Not Housebroken, April 26, 2015, https://disunitedstates.org/2015/04/26/vegan-apparently-doesnt-mean-what-its-supposed-to-mean/
  8. [8]Steven Best and Anthony J. Nocella, II, eds. Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals (New York: Lantern, 2004).
  9. [9]David Benfell, “Animal liberation: Not the revolution but a part of one,” November 28, 2013, https://parts-unknown.org/drupal7/journal/2013/11/28/animal-liberation-not-revolution-part-one
  10. [10]David Benfell, “We have failed the test,” Not Housebroken, December 9, 2017, https://disunitedstates.org/2016/12/09/we-have-failed-the-test/
  11. [11]John H. Bodley, Victims of Progress, 5th ed. (Lanham, MD: AltaMira, 2008); William J. Burroughs, Climate Change in Prehistory: The End of the Reign of Chaos (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University, 2005); Max Oelschlaeger, The Idea of Wilderness (New Haven, CT: Yale University, 1991). Some skepticism may be warranted here: The indigenous creation myths I have seen all exclude the migrations that scattered humanity across the globe, favoring instead a view of creation that ties indigenous people to their lands. If indigenous folks do not remember their migrations, a move to assert a continuity between indigenous present, on which the claim of lengthy indigenous harmony apparently rests, and indigenous past, to which that claim has been extended, seems to me to lack support. Claims about the past, however, are not necessary to my argument. I only claim that humans are capable of harmonious relations with each other, with non-human animals, and the environment. If any humans anywhere act accordingly, then such relationships are within human possibility.
  12. [12]David Benfell, “We have failed the test,” Not Housebroken, December 9, 2017, https://disunitedstates.org/2016/12/09/we-have-failed-the-test/

Author: benfell

David Benfell holds a Ph.D. in Human Science from Saybrook University. He earned a M.A. in Speech Communication from CSU East Bay in 2009 and has studied at California Institute of Integral Studies. He is an anarchist, a vegetarian ecofeminist, a naturist, and a Taoist.

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