Even the Poor Use Division

Recently, I’ve been taking advantage of calibre’s news function, which allows me to download tons of newspapers and magazines from around the world. One thing in common – whether it be an Indian paper or an English or American magazine – is the repeated references to the effects of inequality and the neoliberal structures that encourage it being on its last legs.

They use as proof Brexit, the Trump campaign, anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe, the reignited desire for trade tariffs and other policies that have caused the lower classes suffering from capital flight to begin to protest. More important, they’re protesting at the pain points of global finance.

The problem is that nationalism and racism has bubbled up. Poor white Americans look down the street and see others – some of their own race and blog-image-16oct2016-1bsome of others, but they mainly see the others – receiving help from the government while they trudge along in low-paid jobs with little-to-no healthcare and no fathomable way out without help. They blame it on the others – immigrants, those of a different color – because they can’t see, and don’t feel they can do anything about, the wealthy who are truly ruining the world.

So we divide between those who want everyone to benefit, those benefiting, those not benefiting but deserving to and the wealthy. But the wealthy ensure the former three groups fight, and they exploit any difference (be it racial, national, political) that will cause a split in community – especially a community interested in returning power to the people and establishing greater equality. I talk not only of Republicans and activists but also of Democrats and academics. They all benefit from our divisions. This is shown in my reading, and I swear I don’t seek these things out. For instance,

The emphasis on subjective experience, however, positions race firmly in the category of identity politics. . . . Teaching methods meanwhile encourage students to “reflect on the way two social identity markers . . . have informed their development of self”. Students come to be seen as representatives of a group: “the African American Muslim student” or “a Latina student”. Yet the more race becomes reified the more it becomes entrenched in academia. Decades after segregated schooling came to an end in the United States, education is being re-racialized by campaigning academics who criticize policies that, in the words of one contributor to Stead’s volume, make “race matter while pretending it does not”; colour-blind teaching – which takes no account of students’ ethnicity in selecting course content, teaching and assessment methods – is “an ill-conceived notion” that “serves only to ignore identity in any true sense in exchange for the simplistic sentiment, ‘We are all human’”. We have moved a long way from Martin Luther King’s dream that his children “will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character”. Today it seems that not judging someone according to their skin colour is a “microinvalidation.”

The embedding of race in the academy does no one any favours, and jargon won’t help us to fight racism on campus, let alone in wider society. Black students and academics in privileged positions can become tied into a narrative of victimhood where acknowledging social progress in tackling racism undermines their sense of identity. White students are told to listen, chastised for remaining silent and instructed to recognize their privilege.[1].

Even the conservative commentators, though they blatantly disagree[2] with our remedies thanks to their support by the wealthy, are talking about the failures of neoliberalism.

The Spectator (UK)[3] on Trump, Brexit and politics in general as reality TV:

The financial crash and the migration crisis are two seismic events which created aftershocks that are still shaking western politics. The old order has lost its authority; a new one has not yet emerged. Into this vacuum step freaks and fist shakers, parading before cameras that promise to turn them into stars.

In a story on the control of ICANN, the organization in charge of issuing Internet domain names, by the United States government, which still controls the group because it is based in the U.S., there’s another discussion of neoliberalism.[4] This is from an Indian journal:

The ICANN model is a concern not just because of privatisation of governance of internet’s key global resources. This model is widely considered by adherents of neo-liberalism as a forerunner to similar privatisation of governance in other sectors as well. ICANN is presented as an exemplary and pioneering neo-liberal governance model. In such a model, basically, big business-led (largely co-opted) “stakeholder” groups hold the final decision-making powers, towards entrenching dominant power structures.[5]

It seems no matter what I’m reading, neoliberalism – and its failure to provide adequately for the population beyond the wealthiest – pops up.

[1] Joanna Williams, “Racial awareness.” The Times Literary Supplement, 12 OCT 2016.

[2] Democrats disagree but pay lip service in order to garner votes from the lower-classes.

[3] Fraser Nelson, “Britain has no reason to be smug about Trump.” The Spectator, 15 OCT 2016.

[4] Particularly that the U.S. does still control ICANN because it is based in the U.S., and, thus, is subject to U.S. law. This is despite Ted Cruz’s doomsday rants about giving up control.

[5] Parminder Jeet Singh, “Internet Governance: Is the Internet Really Free of US Control?” Economic and Political Weekly (India), 15 OCT 2016.

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