Friday, July 1, 2011

Quote o' the Day

Patrick Nielsen Hayden, on a habit of mind that obscures our understanding of oppression:

We might even start to notice that pathologies like this . . . act to hollow out, disrupt, and disempower entire parts of society, and to make it easier for other parts of society to reinforce and perpetuate their privileges. But then we’d have to come up with some terms for these “parts of society,” and start looking at the mechanisms by which powerful people, not being fools, regularly exploit opportunities to better themselves and those they regard as their kind, often by reducing the competitive potential of other cohorts. We might have to begin referring to these contending cohorts with crazy terms like, I dunno, “class” or something. But wait, that’s foolish conspiracy-theorizing. Powerful people working together to maintain their prestige and position! That never happens. Nah, the reason Americans get buffaloed into supporting the highest incarceration rate in the world is that People Are Stoopid.

1 comment:

mouseworks said...

People think the realities they were born into or encouraged by authorities to adopt are the only possible realities for them. The people born to serious money act on that privilege because that's what they're trained to do. They're not necessarily smarter (good feeding helps brain development); they simply learned different things in their lives, had different experiences as children with their teachers than even average manager's children have.

Since most of the time, people survive in their accustomed roles, whatever system that doesn't actively starve or kill large numbers of its members works well enough, and the people without power have their compensations.

People who behave in certain ways, who assume they have the rights to control others, that their control would be useful to the common good, generally get obedience from those around them (mammalian survival skills).

Anyone who can drop out of school and end up Editor in Chief at Tor has social capital and upbringing that many Americans don't have. It protects his reality deflection bubble to identify the powerless as stupid and the more powerful as intelligent people looking after their own interests. He is, after all, a libertarian.

Reality is complex. Political systems have benefits and drawbacks -- even the worst ones that function for more than a decade helped a useful number of people (there are people here who are nostalgic for the Somozas and who did well under their rule and have not done as well since).

If the US is falling into the hands of rich who can't fulfill their role in the social system, then they'll lose their power in the end, but all shifts in power tend consolidate or shift personal power, not really give it up. The rich consider the middle class to be vulgar (managing class, basically, hired by them) but tend to sentimentalize the workers or the peasants. The middle class are a threat to their power; the lower classes aren't.