“I have found that, to make a contented slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one. It is necessary to darken his moral and mental vision, and, as far as possible, to annihilate the power of reason.”
— Fredrick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave (1845): 99.
Douglas was probably speaking of the house Negroes of slavery days who lived far better materially than the field Negroes, but his definition fits present members of comfortable class minority humans of the “house” and over worked majority humans of the “field”, both products of our great and diverse multi-ethnic multi-cultural capitalist society. Things have become much better for a minority upper middle class that is more diverse than ever, while the majority working population survives in debt when not sinking into poverty. The material conditions of life are different from Douglas’s time in the 19th century, but all workers are “darkened in moral and mental visions” by capital’s consciousness controlling servants in politics and media. They have replaced the physical whip with the mental bludgeon so as to make us hyper aware of everything but our class position in society while manipulated into looking down on those below us, too rarely up at our rulers and identifying only with what we’re taught to see as “our” minority. These identity groups neglect the most important one; the wealthiest class who own, rent and otherwise operate the majority.
The abuse of individuals and groups that keep minority wealth in power has not changed since this nation’s founding on the backs of England’s poor and peasants who were dumped here to seek a better life than what they had there, and African slaves who had no choice in leaving their homeland having been treated as absolute commodities and purchased outright rather than cheaply rented. Later it was other Europeans and Asians followed in recent history by Latin Americans coming here for a better life. They often suffered hardship beyond current experience – including lynching – before becoming acclimated to their new country, sometimes after a generation or two. Nobody leaves a homeland to escape to a foreign nation unless life is pretty bad in the homeland or there’s an outside chance of getting a job and doing better in a faraway place. The mythology about immigration is a typical sanitizing of a process of rupture with a homeland and all but being thrown into a strange new place, to provide cheap, profitable labor for investors while frequently encountering animosity from those whose jobs they take and who absorb the social cost of immigration. In any case of an influx of poor and working class foreigners to these shores, many benefit while many more bear the cost. Welcome to the marketplace of capital, private profits, and increasing public loss.
Eventually the newcomers, after a generation or so, become acclimated and nationalized, until a new group of immigrants respond to capital’s need for a new cheaper labor force, and the cycle repeats itself. At present and due to geography that affords people from south of the border more ready access than those who had to cross oceans in the past, we are told of ridiculous numbers of illegal immigrants, some as high as 11 million. Alleging a system of laws that allow that many humans to break those laws and get away with it is a stretch but somewhat possible given the marketplace reality. Legal immigrants are cheaper and thus more profitable than native workers, which is why we let them in, contrary to fairy tales, but illegal immigrants are even cheaper and therefore even more profitable. This economic reality is not helped by PC language changing “illegal” to “undocumented”. Given our wretchedly unjust drug and legal system, should a man reduced by circumstances to being a dope peddler be better understood by calling him an “undocumented pharmacist”? Does the economic plight of a woman reduced to renting her body for sex become more humane if we call her an “undocumented sex therapist”? Try escaping poverty by committing felony tax fraud and claiming you are an “undocumented tax accountant.” Word games do not solve political economic problems of the magnitude of millions of humans the world over reduced to having to leave their homelands to try and find better survival opportunities in strange new places. The fact that so many are reduced to breaking the law to escape poverty does not change by renaming the law breaker but rather by changing laws, and before that, political economic systems that thrive under those laws. And that is true when the illegality is forced by the material circumstances of those without economic power, which is the case for most Americans who break the law.
Bulletin for those of us among the comfortable “house” dwellers: the majority of people who rob convenience stores, snatch purses, break into cars or steal packages delivered to our homes don’t do so in order to join country clubs, vacation in the Bahamas or make dinner reservations at expensive restaurants. For further evidence, check our jam-packed prisons and note that they are populated almost entirely by diverse people of minimal, low or no income. Those who advocate deporting immigrants who break the law in entering the country may be heartless bigots, as are some professors, lawyers and elected officials, or just ordinary citizens confronted by a social situation affecting their lives negatively and lashing out in frustration and ignorance, like many professors, lawyers and elected officials. But the blanket application of the ugly and stupid label “racist”, as though immigrants are all members of a race other than humans is more bigoted than those it is applied to by people who should understand the difference between: immigration, a political economic policy which profits some at the expense of most, and the plight of the immigrants, which has been the same throughout American history.
They come as cheap labor, are abused in that capacity, resented by previous generations who finally find a place for themselves and are suddenly reduced, again, to earning lower wages by the competition of cheaper foreign labor, and bearing the social expense attached to introducing large populations to communities without any planning except to use them for profit at that community’s loss. This benefits capital lavishly, along with its professional class servants who frequently gain their own cheap household help, not to mention being able to take cheaper shots at those who make less money than they do and are always fair game for the upper classes to dump on and blame for social problems. Somewhat like immigrants, you might say.
We live in a time in which divide and conquer ruling powers are having a field day in exploiting often legitimate grievances among us by setting up scapegoats that make democracy nearly impossible and continued destruction of people and the planet more threatening than ever. Feelings are important but when we are programmed into emotions being “triggered” by behavioral prods that make us weep and moan about personal or “our” group injustices while remaining in the dark moral and mental state of the opening quote that keep us blind to social atrocities that find us spending trillions on murderous wars and billions on pets, we may need to have our shoulders shaken more than learning new labels to attach to sometimes real problems but which in comparison to mountainous reality are relative molehills.
Sloganeering about fascism, which is not simply some comic book image of an alienated fool with a swastika tattoo, or white supremacy, implying that all who fit the racist label white are somehow equally involved , miss the point, which they’re supposed to and why they were created. The biggest problem is fascist capitalism, private profit supremacy and the domination of a ruling class of wealth and power that must be contested with and defeated for there to be any future for the race. That race is not simply people with testicles or vaginas or light skin or dark skin or who are married or single, but more people with less survival opportunities as that system creates far more profits for an ever smaller group of humans of a ruling class and its professional servants while dumping the loss on more and more members of a “diverse” working class and the poor who need to act up, create democracy and transform the world. Fast, if not sooner.