Dr. Dawg

Politically sidelined, Part 3: Silos and Enclaves (2)

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silos.jpgII. Voices from the silos.

Want an unequivocal symptom of the current Left malaise? Look no further than the odious behaviour that somebody finally named: call-out culture. The practice carries a mephitic whiff of Red Guard Maoism. Screaming through loudspeakers (now supplanted by the social media), public shaming, the “criticism and self-criticism” targeting of allegedly errant individuals, attending wank-sessions to discuss whether the two combine into one or the one divides into two…sound familiar?

I hate it. Like most activists, I’ve been the target of this sort of thing—it’s an occupational hazard. Maybe I’ve even been guilty of it. We used to call it sectarianism. Now we find it predominantly in identity politics, in all of the latter’s essentialized, reified, fetishized glory. Can identities be based upon something real, like a collective experience of oppression in a capitalist, patriarchal, racist society? Very much so. But the strategies that emerge need to be open to question and criticism.

Take, for example, the chorus of denunciation aimed at Patricia Arquette, who spoke out about equal pay in the imprecise and somewhat clumsy phrasing of the non-theorist. Her words were parsed, the essentialist insult “white feminism” was thrown around. She was perceived by the hot-headed and the unstrategic as an enemy, not an ally.

She would probably have been better off saying nothing. But would we?

Since I raised Maoism, remember that distinction between “contradictions among the people” and “contradictions between the people and the enemy?” When “the people” shrink to single groups whose borders are, these days, just as zealously policed from the inside as from the outside, everyone else is the enemy.

Fighting colonization? What about re-colonization? Colonizers don’t impose their dominance in some abstract way; they imprison the colonized in enclaves. But now the colonized, in the very act of resistance, mark off that contested “territory,” occupy and defend it, effectively re-colonizing themselves in the mode of anti-colonialist practice. Those enclaves continue long after the more obvious chains are thrown off. The palings remain, the guard-towers, the patrols, the heavy gates. They still look like prisons.

A thought-experiment: what if those imagined communities (women, Blacks, First Nations, presented as monoliths even by people I respect) were pried apart, exposing smaller and smaller sub-communities, each with its specific interests and unique confluences of oppression, all the way down to individuals, who may be oppressed in one or more ways, but in ways specific to them. How would groups even form under the current ethos, let alone confront capitalist/patriarchal hegemony?

But new substances are being invented all the time to divide us all into smaller and smaller resistance groups, and new categories, once invented, are being objectified. “Whiteness.” “Blackness.” “White feminism.” “Black feminism.” Indoor voices are rarely used. Once-useful descriptive terms are now deployed as conversation-stoppers: “intersectionality,” “mansplaining.” I was recently asked to enlarge on my political differences with a sex worker-exclusive radical feminist (SWERF). I tried to do so within the confines of Twitter—and was promptly accused of “mansplaining” my own position!

By the by, SWERFS and TERFS (trans-exclusive radical feminists) object to those acronyms. One even accused me of libel. “We don’t exclude prostituted women,” she said. Res ipsa loquitur. Go ask sex workers or transwomen whether they feel excluded or not by that sort of language. Be prepared for an earful.

When I noted on Twitter that an all-white jury acquitted the killer of Cindy Gladue,* as all-white juries in Mississippi invariably acquitted the killers of Blacks back in the day, I was sternly taken to task: “Black people have repeatedly asked White and non-Black PoCs to stop doing this [kind of comparison], and explained why in great detail.” A Tweeter who joined a conversation about missing Black women dared to mention the current #MMIW controversy in Canada. “Not the same!” She was ritually denounced and then blocked before my disbelieving eyes.

And ever notice how even legitimate re-statements of the lessons of the Holocaust are invariably rejected as “trivializing” it? That’s just another instance of this political malady: “our” oppression is part of “our” history, the construction of “our” selves, and how dare you make comparisons with “your” oppression, etc.? (I use shudder quotes because so very often the people who lash out in this way claim to speak for their entire group, without any evident accountability to it.)

In parsing the various forms of oppression, differences are emphasized, similarities eschewed. The power-structures and supremacist ideologies that generate all of these oppressions are taken for granted. Organize a common front? Hell, no. Build more oppression silos!

If I can anthropomorphize the dominant power-structures for a moment, Hegemony is laughing out loud in a place where the Dom Perignon is always cold, and the Camembert, runny.

* In fact, as later reported, there were nine men, two women and “several visible minorities” on the jury, although no Aboriginal people. I was not chided, however, for this inaccuracy. [H/t commenter Morley Bolero]

[The final part of this article, “In/conclusion,” will appear Wednesday. —DD]

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on April 6, 2015 7:00 AM.

Authorial intent strikes back was the previous entry in this blog.

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