October 06, 2018
from Eudaimonia Website
so that Old (North) America Can Be Reborn...
They are perfectly right, of course:
Now, those who have
studied and lived through social collapse have been warning of
precisely such a thing for years (and if only those lamenting the
death of democracy had listened to our warnings, but I digress.)
The answer to that crucial question hides in plain sight.
(North) Americans don't see it, or understand it, yet, though - because it conflicts with the foundational myths they have been taught to believe.
The ones they are socialized into - educated about at school, hear repeated in the headlines, and come, all too soon, and without enough critical or reflective thought, examination of history, to proudly believe in - to accept as true.
And now they are clinging
to just those myths - even while their democracy implodes around
them, like ashes pouring from a volcano of rage, fear, greed, and
That the United States was the land of the 'free' and the home of the 'brave' - that it was the world's noblest experiment - that it was unique amongst nations in being a haven for the wretched - that people ever lived together in some kind of new Athens on the Atlantic.
these things were ever true.
Let me make this point to you backward - and you are welcome to disagree with me, so long as you think about it.
Are you beginning to see my point?
(North) Americans rebel at one precise thing, whenever I mention it - that until 1971, (North) America was an apartheid state. This, they can't bring themselves to accept that term, that idea. It triggers too much shame, fear, guilt - and resentment, perhaps, of the messenger.
And yet, nothing about the United States history is truer.
So let me put it a different way - an even more precise one.
So what was this hierarchy allocating?
The three fundamental political goods:
You enjoyed them in precise proportion, more or less, to your position in this hierarchy:
But such a society is not really a democracy, though it might call itself one - as (North) Americans did - because in a democracy, these three goods, freedom, justice, and equality, are at a bare minimum, things which people enjoy in roughly equal proportions.
When, though, was that
ever the case in the United States?
Hence, even once the
United States legally desegregated - the norms and values that encoded
this hierarchy of personhood never retreated. It never went away.
Instead of ever really eroding, the one which allocated how much freedom, equality, and justice people really received, enjoyed, attained - it just went on being re-enacted, in the daily choices of (North) Americans, over and over again - even if it was no longer legally formalized.
Norms and values die much harder than laws, after all. And so from wherever immigrants, blacks, and minorities came - whites fled.
Whenever it was asked that people invest in one another, whites especially refused.
The hierarchy of
personhood is alive and well today - isn't it just what we see the
Trumpists and Kavanauaghs of the world not just hoping
to resurrect - but, more grimly, relegitimizing and
institutionalizing and formally structuring all over again?
Let's go a little deeper...
This hierarchy of personhood made (North) America an especially weird, strange, bizarre society. What kind? A caste society - made of tribes.
Tribes occupied different social strata, essentially, from which movement was nearly impossible:
A society can either be a place of tribes, sorted into castes - or it can be a democracy. But it cannot be both.
The United States was never really the democracy it thought it was - and still believes itself to be.
Let me put that more
But that country has only existed for forty years or so - and it never really made much progress towards those aspirations:
Why not? The weight of history was too much.
All the while that the United States was organized according to a hierarchy of personhood, it wasn't really a democracy - not even in the most minimally genuine sense.
Then, it was something more like a sham democracy, the fairy tale of one. It was not a place in which equality, freedom, and justice were things that everyone enjoyed a bare minimum, much less an equal proportion, of - the lowest bar we should really expect from and for a democracy.
Instead, it was a place
in which the status and position of some depended critically on the
bondage of others.
Why is that, in the end?
What do I mean?
The foolish and strange myth of (North) America as the land of the free and the home of the brave encourages, perhaps creates and nourishes, the illusion in us that an anti-democratic society, a caste society, its norms and values, its institutions - that old, hateful (North) America - is some kind of distant history, an ancient memory, which existed long ago, like the Pyramids, forgotten in time, that can and will never again return.
But it is a foolish myth
because it is wrong.
A segregated world, an apartheid state. He is still alive, isn't he? He remembers a world of dominance and power and control - old (North) America. It is a boyhood memory for him - a living thing, not a drawing of a long-gone age in a textbook.
And it seems to me these days perhaps that he longs for it. He yearns for it. And least some hims do. He is wishing for a return to the stability and comfort and easy pleasure of that world - a world still within living memory.
A patriarchal, tribal,
subjugated place, where he and those like him were on top. Simply by
inheritance, birthright, and blood.
For all of them, a legally, institutionally, structurally racialized, bigoted, misogynistic, one inflicting very real violence of women, minorities, blacks, the poor, the weak of any kind:
Perhaps a wistfully nostalgic one, something to cherish and prize.
Is it any wonder they
seem to think they can resurrect it?
Is this all a mere
coincidence? Or is something more?
Dominion over every body, every dollar, every muscle, every mind in the land was theirs.
They look at their
boyhoods, and they see total and absolute power. And that glittering
temptation was not long ago enough to be far away enough to preserve
They want to create, all over again, just such a place of institutionalized hatred, of absolute power, of total domination and control.
They have taught their own sons and daughters just such values and norms. And in that way, this stratum, this caste, this tribe never assented to democracy at all.
They only waited, really,
for the very first chance to shatter it.
And during those times, a certain kind of the United States never stopped longing for the world of their childhood - the ugly, hateful, divided world, in which a strict hierarchy of humanity, of personhood, define every single soul in society, and kept them apart.
In that truest of ways, the United States was never really much of a democracy - perhaps not one, really, at all. The great and enduring myth of (North) American 'exceptionalism' blinded (North) Americans to the great and terrible flaw in them - and let that flaw multiply, grow, like a crack through a mirror.
Bang! Now the mirror is
Because the memory of a society in which equality, justice, and freedom were things which only belonged to you in proportion to your position in the hierarchy of personhood - which is to say, not at all, to many - is still a living thing - as close as the fond boyhood memories of the men who think, even now, that women and minorities are not people at all.
And so those who wistfully yearn for old (North) America - it seems that the one thing they desire most is to resurrect it. But like all resurrections, something must die, for old (North) America to live again. And that thing is new (North) America.
And that, my friends,
means that democracy is the brief period the United States had in
between two dark oceans of apartheid and authoritarianism...