When did being entitled become such a bad thing?

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If there’s one accusation that is slapped against millennials more than any other, it’s being entitled. Every time we “whine” about student debt, bad jobs, low wages, unpaid internships… anything, the cries from our critics come ringing out.

Basically, we’re spoiled. We ask for too much and what we ask for, well, we haven’t done the work to “earn” it. We want something we have no right to have. There are plenty of things we get without demand–from our family, our neighborhood, our nation–but the line between what we get and what we want always puts us on the end of already having enough. To demand any more is simply immature and if anything, it’s insulting to a society that is already so generous. To some, it’s even too generous.

Rights
The idea of entitlement is anchored in how one thinks about rights. The way most people think about rights is received by way of an individualist, property-based mentality–that rights begin and end at the borders of a person’s body. Fundamentally, in this view, rights are inalienable aspects of being human and to respect them is to ensure that each person can do whatever they want with themselves and their property.

It makes sense… until you think about the consequences of living in a society. Societies require that people interact and depend on each other far beyond these simple, bordered conceptions. Massive, abstract mechanisms like governments, nations, and corporations extend across the globe connecting, dividing, and otherwise affecting a wide range of people. Every action we take is influenced by the environment we live in, which is for the most part shaped by humans preceding and surrounding us. Our bodies are not borders but porous filters, our individualities crafted by selection and adaptation.

The limited, private property notion of rights serves not to explain how society works but to be used as a cudgel against social progress. It marks, at any time the speaker needs, what is owned as legitimate and what one is demanding as illegitimate. 

A different perspective
Rights are not, the founding fathers notwithstanding, inalienable effects emanating from our core, our souls, or our humanity. In their own time, the founding father’s oppressed all manner of people–were they denying rights they had just proclaimed or do rights simply not work that way?

In my view, rights are better understood as historical, social configurations. You can argue as much as you want that human beings inherently have the right to life, liberty, and property but it is a material fact that for most of human history, most human beings have been denied those rights. Sure, this ideal right might exist somewhere but functionally, it was not existent or at least, not universally realized.

Rights are primarily brought up nowadays in a defensive way. Hundreds of years after our sacred founding, rights are presumed to have been long won. As people rush to bury slavery and segregation under shovel loads of amnesia, they proclaim with the “of course!” power of common sense that all rights are currently sanctified by law and enforced universally.

When people talk about rights then, it is often in terms of defending their rights to privacy, individuality, and especially property. For the most hardcore libertarian, virtually anything abridging their private bubble can be seen as a disruption of their rights–as shown by how many of them claim the very policy of taxation to be theft. Even aside from libertarians, conservatives, and many democrats too, claim something like healthcare for all is simply too much taxation, as though living in a functioning, mutually supportive society is somehow a necessary evil not to be taken too far.

Rights become a barrier to social progress, used to identify demands for something different as something foreign and untrustworthy, as something alien to the already sanctified, pure, and insulated social body. The social body as it is already has what it needs–any demand for more is like a virus begging for entrance. Better for it to be purged.

Social rights
To see rights as historical rather than individual is to see how each right is an artifact of struggle. Rather than being an inalienable property to be realized or denied, rights can be seen as the result of collective struggles demanding something become normal in society–whether that be the recognition of the vote, freedom of speech, or right to bear arms.

Rights are inalienably social, despite how many libertarians might say, with the dead weight of common sense, that your rights end the moment they cross another person’s. In reality, rights only exist socially. The right to think whatever you want, for example, is meaningless unless you also have the social right to express that thought. The territory of right begins at the moment of social expression. 

In this context, rights are not something to be accepted gratefully but are something to be expanded forcefully. Especially in regard to something like medicare for all, when you can see another country’s citizens having won the right to healthcare and taking it as normal, it must be understood that rights are elastic and justice exists under pressure.

We’re entitled and not ashamed of it
Millennials, so often lambasted as entitled, should articulate a positive conception of entitlement that can be held aloft proudly, defiantly. The demand for something should not be a whine but a shout, a shout from many people together in harmony. We will only win social progress when we are comfortable feeling and saying that we deserve it. 

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The problem with balance

Scale

In divided times, it is tempting to reach toward balance as a salve and a solution.

Democrats and Republicans hate each other more than ever and pundits bicker even more bitterly. But Democrat voters can be friends and family with Republican voters. The local truth seems like it could be national. And so we advocate for a sense of balance between what politicians come to represent as extreme sides, with an image of the proverbial family dinner in the middle, peace had over mutual bread-breaking.

This is not politics. Balance is a deception.

The spectrum is a myth
It’s sewn into the very way we define American politics: right and left. Not only is it a false binary, it gives rise to a false image of a line with one group on one side and another group on the other. There are supposedly extremists on the furthest sections of each side, with the truth and the best result available only when the most reasonable people closest to the center agree to compromise. The truth lies somewhere in between, as they say. Balance.

But balance is a moving target. Many things that used to be radical are now commonplace and many things that are unimaginable in America are normal elsewhere. The middle is subject to history and geography–to the point that it hardly exists. The middle, when invoked, inspires not only a sense of compromise and rationality but a sense of objectivity and truth. The middle is the eye of the storm and the beholder of truth.

The image of the spectrum induces a cultish devotion to compromise that only leads to a compromise on values and a vision of the future.

Ceding the lead
To anchor centrism as the goal and the truth is to become adrift, movement left up to people who are willing to be principled and forceful. Over the past few decades, the supposed Left, as embodied and entombed in the Democratic party, has drifted rightward. The party that used to defend worker’s unions, for instance, now sees them fleeing toward the Republican party; the party that used to push for higher wages is careful even to introduce a graduated $12 minimum wage. Nancy Pelosi, one of the supposed leaders of the resistance, says without pause that a single payer system will not be part of the democratic future.

Replaced by vision is the idea that politics, and life in general, is a meritocracy and that those who ascend, the most meritorious, are presumed the right to manage the less meritorious. Leadership is defined entirely by personal worth, not by vision or by strategy. When Hillary Clinton became the Democratic representative, much was made of her worth, her credentials, her status, and her experience–all a case for her merit as a politician. As part of the professional class, she was entitled to the same promotion a professional worker waiting in the wings of seniority would presume themselves owed.
Managerial skill does not require leadership, certainly not the kind that necessitates charging forward and changing or disrupting–good management is the achievement of harmony, and in politics that means steering the course to the middle. Democrats, especially since the Bill Clinton years, have attempted to prove their merit by moving the country as close to the middle as possible.

And yet, as we have seen by the devastating strides made by Reagan, Bush, and now Trump, progress has moved almost inevitably to the right. It turns out that when one cedes the ability to lead, someone else will take the reins.

The liberal stain
Republicans have tasted the blood of Democratic weakness and can no longer resist it, if they even wish to. For them, anything remotely “to the left” of their core beliefs can be derided as liberal, and even socialist or communist by association. Largely fact-based and trustworthy news sources like NPR can become, in the conservative framework, propaganda centers for liberal media. Conservative media has fed and grown an averse reaction to anything remotely outside of their comfort zone, such that anything straying from the party line is effectively stained as liberal.

Meanwhile, supposedly propagandistic liberal media stations like CNN and MSNBC take pains to ensure that every topic is debated by opposing views, no matter the truth content of each view. In the search for trust and objectivity, but also in the search for entertaining spectacle, mainstream news poses pundits against each other and abandons the viewer to decide between them. This tactic limits the possible options to two and inevitably makes them seem equally valid–even when one is objectively false.

People grow disenchanted and distrustful of mainstream news when it obscures the truth. People intuitively know the truth exists, even if they don’t know it in particular, so to see hours of screaming reduced to shrugs is to insult the intelligence of every viewer even as it supposedly empowers them to choose.

Vision
Like it or not, “Make America Great Again” is a compelling vision. It is active, collective while also being individualistic, rooted in that powerful active verb and anchored in the imagery of nostalgia. “I’m with her” counters it with little to offer. The singular pronoun is individualistic to the point of solipsism, the object of “with” and the subject of “with” reduced to navel gazing passivity. The wealth of relationships in MAGA–between the individual, the collective, the leader, the nation–easily overpowers the superficial and singular relationship between employee and manager implied by “I’m with her.”

“I’m with her”, and the strategy implies, did not die with Clinton’s campaign but is instead a succinct summary of what the Democratic party has done for years and continues to do now, even as they “resist.” To be “with” someone is to identify with them or as them and it reveals the worst kind of identity politics the Democrats have been working with.

Identity politics gets a bad rap, the problems supposedly caused by it too often attributed to the “identity” portion and not often enough to the “politics” portion. Identity is essential to politics, but it should be informative, not formative. The Democrats have instead used identity as the be-all, end-all for reasons to vote. With the Clinton campaign especially, racial and gender identities too have tried to be consumed in this totalization of identity. Whoever you are, if you’re good, if you have merit, you’re supposed to be a Democrat simply by virtue of merit. If you’re at least somewhat good, then you should at least know what’s best for you–leaving it up to them.

This is clearly a losing strategy. People are increasingly alienated and in a chaotic, nonsensical world, they flee either into cynicism or the open arms of the Republicans, who offer righteous anger as a method of making sense of a painful world. To defeat this vision, a competing one must be offered–one that is made compelling not by the supposed merit of who speaks but of what they say. Compelling policies must be voiced, policies that point toward a future, away from the frozen cynicism that has become too well known–policies like medicare for all, universal basic income, prison abolition, anti-trust enforcement, union power, and more.

Balance cedes this territory without struggle. You can still seek objectivity and reject partisanship without at the same time assuming the tepid middle must also be the absolute truth. Politics must be restored to the struggle it always has been–a struggle over the power to distribute the rights granted to us by society. Throw away the idea that voting for someone to get something is somehow wrong–it’s in fact the only reason to vote at all. Instead of balance, seek vision because it will be vision that can organize people behind it. It’s time to abandon party unity and purity to instead focus on building issue based coalitions and movements in order to achieve a particular vision for a particular society.

Reject balance. Revive demand. Hold politicians accountable–to you and to the future.

How to resist despair in the age of trump

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Floating to the surface of our abilities to predict President Trump is the strange fact that some of the most complex analyses of what he was going to do missed the mark but some of the most immediate, simple, and banal have proven devastatingly true.

Is he an evil genius? A bumbling oaf? A Russian spy? A tool of the alt-right? All of that remains to be proven.

But is he impulsive, and will he put people in danger with that impulsiveness? Yes. Without a doubt, yes.

Whether he’s a schemer or a blunderer doesn’t change our reaction: strategy must come before impulse. In power, he has the privilege to listen to his whims–we don’t.

It’s tempting to seek a home in the habits of vindication and satisfaction–on the one hand, to trumpet his mistakes and the other to feel better about yourself for knowing them to be mistakes. But neither leads anywhere but catharsis.

Reclaiming humanism

The era of neoliberal management over the late 80s and 90s taught us that politics is not about vision but about management. This era taught us that politicians were best decided not by the somehow dirty practice of offering their constituents material goods but by their ability to micromanage the details of the government and the economy.

The world was basically already good–it just needed to be perfect.

We’ve inherited this ideology and we can see from the continual lambasting of Bernie Sanders by the Democratic elite that management is still prized over vision. While Sanders offers wholesale change and the ability to see and compare beyond national borders, his plans for universal healthcare are derided as politically impossible–despite the fact that this derision is its main obstacle. Not only have other countries eclipsed us on fronts like these, but this very country at different times has offered even more radical approaches.

Richard Nixon, of all people, once advocated for a universal basic income. 

One of the most famous economists of all time, John Maynard Keynes, thought manufacturing power would correlate with a declining amount of work to do in a week, possibly down to fifteen hours. 

An explicitly socialist candidate once won almost a million votes running for president.

But if the past was almost real, so can the future. The most important fact to take from the failure of Trumpcare, the AHCA, is that people like their entitlements once they have them.

No one did better PR for Obamacare than the Republicans did when they challenged people to think about losing what they had. All of a sudden, not-good-enough care became way-better-than-before care and constituents rose in a tidal wave against their congress people.

This is why Republicans fight so hard, on policy and culture fronts, against entitlements. They know that once they are won, they are nearly impossible to take back. When it comes down to it, people overall tend to like the expansion of collectivism, the building of a more co-dependent society.

To be humanist at core is to demand more rights for more people. Rights are not and have never been inalienable bits of nature to be recognized but have always been historical material struggles for which we can struggle. What we take as normal now has not always been–and we can transform what seems extreme now, and make it normal in the future.

Finding hope in strategy

Hope is nurtured in pragmatism–not that of the Democratic elites claiming healthcare for all is impossible–the pragmatism of strategy and goals as well as institution and movement building.

There is no clear path to utopia but there are utopian steps available. Every step will be decried as utopian so we might as well imagine big. That’s not to say we should be fanciful. Pragmatism will keep us rooted in making positive, practical steps. Humanism will keep us faithful because each step is essential and the goals they grow toward just.

Trump is a crisis factory and the best way to maintain hope through the malaise is to build to something better, something that doesn’t allow for this to happen again.

Hope-building

Inventing the Future by Nick Snircek and Alex Williams
Learn about the possibilities for full automation and universal basic income.

“Nickel and Dime Socialism” by Matt Bruenig
Learn a shockingly believable way socialism could be constructed–bit by bit.

“Episode 97 – Hollywood Upstairs Medical College feat. Tim Faust (4/6/17)” from Chapo Trap House
Learn the practical steps to making medicare for all a reality.

How Basic Logic Can Prove The Everyday Racism of White Allies

An elementary aspect of modern racism, as evoked by Claudia Rankine in her book Citizen, is doubt. Doubt of one’s experience. Doubt that what one feels accurately reflects what one is seeing. Doubt that a sense of betrayal is substantial.

This is typified by the supposed white ally being racist without realizing it.

When racism can slip into discourse disguised by respectability politics (“if only they spoke a little more articulately”) or by wholesale judgments of groups (“all rap is garbage!”), it can be difficult to be sure that someone is being racist. White allies are always innovating new ways to reveal racist habits of minds that they have not yet questioned.

Whiteness itself is an ideology that fosters inclinations and habits through every day repetition that can buttress and make sensible a larger, racist world view. When needed, the reinforcement felt day to day can be called upon to reinforce much larger systems. For instance, if a white person lets themselves be accustomed to thinking all black Americans live in inner cities without realizing the racist implications, they can train themselves to ignore black voices that can’t be filtered past this worldview.

White allies, despite their proclaimed allyship, are no less likely to be free from doing this.

As a white person, I am no less innocent of making these mistakes but I’ve found, and want to share, a tactic that I’ve found is both useful for catching oneself and for catching others in a way that is undeniable. I’ve used it, again, on myself and others, to break past the initial defensiveness that is so easy to call upon when being called out.

Everyday racism often hides in thoughts that haven’t been followed to their conclusions. Though we might decry racism conclusions, we might not realize the racism inherent to the premises that lead to them. By exposing the logical chain beneath a thought, a thought that may have just seemed like taste or inclination or opinion, one can glimpse the racist machinery beneath.

An example will help illustrate this.

Diversity is a commonly discussed issue across a number of industries. Almost as often, a white person, sometimes a supposed ally, says that the only thing that really measures if someone enters an industry is passion. If someone’s passionate, they say, they’d do anything to succeed.

It sounds reasonable on its surface but let’s break it down, using the book publishing industry as an example.

Premise 1: passion is the ultimate metric for success in publishing

Premise 2: there are fewer minority people than whites in the publishing industry

Only possible conclusion: minority people are less passionate about books

Most people who believe premise 1 would balk at the conclusion. The conclusion is racist but the reason they’d balk is because it sounds racist, whereas premise 1 doesn’t. But, considering the objectively factual nature of premise 2, the conclusion must follow. If the true metric for entering the industry is passion and a certain portion of the industry hasn’t entered… then they must not be passionate enough.

It’s simple. It’s basic. But an essential part of racism is the ability whiteness grants to hold a whole host of contradicting ideas and feelings all at the same time without being forced to see their conclusions.

White allies slip into this easily when realizing the conclusion would make them uncomfortable, say, if it makes their supposedly innocent, liberal industry seem less innocent.

It’s the job of activists, especially white activists in this case, to raise the consciousness of themselves and others by pursuing the possibility of racism, not denying it outright. Racism is a power structure with deep roots and those roots twist around even the most simple intentions and thoughts. By exposing them, we can begin the process of uprooting them.

In order to build an intersectional movement that centers race as a defining issue, a higher order of consciousness must be demanded from white allies. Not the higher consciousness of knowing a bit of a history or a few buzzwords, but one shaped by deliberately inculcating the habits of self reflection and criticism, as well as the humility to own up to mistakes when they inevitably continue to be made.

Movements require solidarity. And solidarity requires nuanced understanding.

We’re Winning The Fight That Counts

With Trump not only in power, but recklessly in power, this seems impossible to say. But it can be said: we’re winning.

Have we achieved victory? No–not even close. Are we in a position of power? No. And yet, the progress we have made is a sign that we have begun a process that can result in victory and change, a struggle that can transform politics for the better. The needle is moving–even if only slightly–but now is the time to push it, not bemoan its speed or delay.

Trump is in power and a hail mary from the Russia controversy or any other miracle is unlikely to unseat him. What we have done instead is engage in the shockingly forgotten practice of mass politics.

In the crashing waves of articles from mainstream media outlets about the efficacy and particularities of protest, the forest has been lost for the trees. Protest has been our main way of steering the direction of discourse and establishing the language of discussion and it has worked extremely well.

Protest has made resistance visible and in so doing, it has articulated a non-complacent alternative to Trump’s policies that people can identify with. Protest builds on itself exponentially as its image gathers people to itself. It makes possible identification with an alternative space, a space from which can spring new ideas.

Though this seems conceptual and abstract, this is the long term territory over which the real fight will be waged.

An essential concept for this is hegemony, a term used by the Marxist Antonio Gramsci to describe the methods by which the state achieves consent and consensus of and from the governed. In other words, rather than beating the populace over the head with propaganda until submission, hegemony achieves dominance through a multitude of organizations that instill in people certain ideas about the parameters and meanings of society that begin to seem unquestionable.

Hegemony, like ideology, can be difficult to see but if one clues into when people say something like “Use your common sense!” then you may begin to see it. It’s an assumption that there is an obvious, objective sense common to us all and that this sense, as evidenced by every time someone uses that phrase, is conservative, careful, cautious, and ultimately reliant on the status quo.

Hegemony constitutes the greatest limits on our political imaginations.

Basic income? Use your common sense! People would squander the money.

Universal healthcare? Use your common sense! Service would be too slow and too bureaucratic.

Debt-free education? Use your common sense! Those entitled kids would take it for granted!

The key here is less the truth value in any of these arguments and more the gut-felt instinct to reject new ideas, to purge the imagination. 

This hegemonic instinct cuts across political parties and it is the result of a multitude of material organizations that have their continuances rooted in the maintenance of the status quo. Both political parties have stakes in keeping up their fight on the terms they’re familiar with, even if it means losing–as was shown with the felling of the Bernie Sanders campaign.

The future rests on our ability to construct a radical political imagination and for enough people to be collectively working toward it that it feels real enough for an exponentially larger group of people to join them.

The seed of this new hegemony is the right to explain.

Trump desperately wants the right to explain. Intuitively, he knows its power or at least feels an urge toward it.

He live tweeted throughout FBI Director James Comey’s testimony, warping the statements almost as soon as they were made. 

Every fact dredged up through evidence and testable theory is doubted, deemed “alternative fact” or worse, “fake news.”

Any time doubt is expressed about the power of the presidency or about his ability or about his future, bloviation is used to blow through skepticism. 

Trump wants to explain but here’s the thing: we know we’re winning because we don’t allow him to explain. 

The Muslim Ban could have made sense. Without any outcry, it would have been a simple, clean way to ensure security. And isn’t security paramount? (You should be hearing the siren cry of common sense, the slight tug of an urge that could make this make sense to you. Don’t the words sound right after all?).

To disrupt hegemony, the consent of the governed to be governed in a particular manner and take that as common sense, we must first of all not consent. Protest disrupted the image, made it difficult to believe in fully and easily. Now, the ban’s oppressive nature is just as visible. Even if we haven’t convinced everyone, we have opened an alternative interpretation and barred another one from being generally accepted.

We must remember the temporality that power wants us to forget, the temporality that gives us the ability to imagine. Just as we struggle for change now, just as we struggle for the power to explain what just happened, so do we struggle for a claim over memory. Long lasting power will be constituted by the ability to interpret the meaning of this administration, what this resistance movement was against and what it was for.

When crisis occurs, whether that be from economic or environmental or civil collapse, partial or whole, it is the memories we form and solidify now that will establish the new common sense we reach for to make sense of the world that must be borne from collapse.

When the old way of doing things falls apart, it is up to us to provide an explanation that makes sense and points a way forward through the chaos.

Once this decaying, fraying set of power relations that currently holds together society, as evidenced by the desperate fringe that is Trump himself, comes undone, we must have already laid the groundwork for an alternative explanation to make sense. That is how we establish a new hegemony.

We’re far from being able to afford ourselves confidence but if we continue to organize a willing and active and engaged population on the one hand and build a radical imagination with practical ideas on the other, there’s a real chance we could seize the future.

Liberals Have A Problem With Cruelty

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Paul Sancya / AP

The cruelty of liberals denigrating the generalized Trump voter reveals a doomed loyalty to capitalism.

No, this isn’t a post claiming “This is why Trump won.” This isn’t a post in the dead-horse-beating industry that is white liberals figuring out more ways the Trump election was their fault and more ways to self-flagellate and feel guilty. This is not a post about my satisfaction at having figured it out and blaming all you lesser liberals for having made this happen.

Liberals have a problem with cruelty that extends beyond this recent election but that has since erupted in a clear, exemplified way. Take a look at the comments section on any left-leaning analysis on coal country or rural Appalachia or any of a hundred “Sorry to pierce your bubble but do you want to meet one of these mythological Trump voter?” pieces as published by The Atlantic, The Washington Post, the New York Times, etc. What you’ll find is a comment, probably with many likes, from a liberal, usually white, usually male, usually well-educated and seemingly secure person, denigrating a whole populace that supposedly voted for Trump.

“Hah, coal country can finally take its medicine. The industry has been dead for years and it’s time they wake up. The deluded masses thought Trump will save them but it’s time to move on. Time for these boot-strappers to get an education, get skills, and keep up with the modern economy.”

The ostensible left quickly becomes fearsomely capitalistic when it suits the emotional needs of their satisfaction and vindication.

Never mind that many of these people struggle to maintain a job, to keep working and eating, to sustain. Never mind their children. Never mind the multitude of them that are disabled or sick or injured or exploited.

Fuck them, right?

This is a case of white, educated liberals who believe themselves secure denigrating the desperate and the abused for their own precariousness. It’s rich people mocking the poor.

Empathy, the value to which we purporteto aspire, is immediately abandoned. All of a sudden, it makes perfect sense to demand a fifty year old man, barely able to put food on the table for his family, somehow go back to a school that is somehow available to him and somehow get new skills quickly enough to somehow earn a new living wage in a new industry that is somehow immediately available to him. It defies logic and possibility.

They’d like to disguise this under a self-righteous vindication, this population supposedly gifting America Trump and thus deserving this fate. But this fate would have come just as swiftly with Clinton or any number of Democrats. And further, this is a fate that already befalls a multitude of marginalized groups every day but is for the white liberal a distant, abstract effect. Even as they denigrate the Trump voter as racist to justify their cheering of capitalism, they support the same system that has so efficiently absorbed racism into its workings and just as easily squeezes the humanity out of other, more diverse industries as well.

The threat of job dissipation is as imminent, unimaginable, and inevitable as the threat of climate change. Just as we cannot seem to slow emission, we seem unable to slow the capitalistic growth that devours jobs in the maw of efficiency. Before we even argue the inevitability of mass automation, which I do consider a likely future, we should understand that the growth of capitalism has already outpaced the growth of humanity.

We have citizens who have worked for decades in certain industries who have had their entire livelihoods taken away from them. We abandon them with little social safety net, little security, and no practical way to renter the economy at a different point. We train people to search for security and then abandon them in the same moment we steal that security away.

At a certain point, the economy stopped serving people and we started serving the economy. When liberals jump to denigrate these workers, they jump to the side of rampant growth, exhorting the economy to outgrow a segment of its population.

The ostensible liberal cheers for capitalism, thinking that he is the exception or the exceptional, that he will either be spared or his intellect or skills or education will vault him over the wave.

But meritocracy is merciless and merit is measured not by worth or character, as this liberal cruelty would imply, but by merit as a profit-making engine. Whoever cannot maintain the circuit that completes the cycle of profit will just as easily be left to the side. Even one trains, in school and life, for the capacity to make profit may eventually find that industry gone. Though we must disagree as forcefully as possible with the decisions made out of desperation, we can’t denigrate the desperation itself.

We need to offer a compelling alternative, a vision of the world that includes them–not by abandoning identity politics but by embracing it in more profoundly radical ways. Interests and identities are not schemas existing a priori in the world, the “white working class” permanently cleaved from the “liberal bubble” or the “urban diverse,” but alliances to be forged through practice and struggle. Interests are organized and built, not discovered; identities are crafted, not consumed.

Liberal cruelty is the manifestation of a latent attachment to capitalism, an unfounded faith that the machinery will destroy your enemies but spare you. Despite their profound electoral mistakes, even the poorest, most desperate Trump voter knows something the most educated liberal doesn’t. Long term, this is no longer about stigma, pride, or jobs. This is about survival.

If the left is to be emergent, if millennials want to push this future forward, we need to emphasize the practice of building interests, forging connections, and organizing movements. Denigrating the poor is not only cruel but a waste of time. The future we’re building rises above petty vindication, above politics as a game with gloating winners and sore losers. We’re in it for the sake of humanity, to save and enhance human life. That’s the vision in which our politics must ultimately be rooted.

 

Capitalism Makes Resources Of Us All

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The circulation of capital for profit, the essential structure that ungirds the machinations of the capitalist system, transforms everyone and everything into potential commodities, resources to be plundered.
Retail workers strain their smiles, forced to use their emotions as tools for affective labor. The customer comes first only as the signal for profit to be made.

Backs are broken in warehouses, moving boxes from one place to another–human bodies reduced to gears for the movement of objects, for the symbolic translation of thing into money.

Women must fight again and again to have rights over their bodies, their very wombs alienated by conservative laws that make abortion illegal, that capture the essentially human act of reproduction into the circulation of capital.

The bodies, souls, cultures, and lands of people all over the world, historically excluded from being the subjects of capital accumulation, are forced to be mere resources, the objects of exploitation. From the appropriation of hairstyles to the appropriation of land, the marginalized other is made to be an object of plunder for the circuitous profit cycles of money capital, symbolic capital, cultural capital–all intertwined in racism, sexism, ableism.

Capitalism commodifies oppression, incentivizes it by tying it to profit, making the marginalized into resources to justify their exploitation. When everything is in the domain of the market, anything can be liquidated into capital. When everything is subject to liquidation and circulation, everything that is not a commodity is a profane waste, a relic in need of a system update.

We are alienated by power itself. We adapt to a system we created. We sharpen ourselves against a whetstone we designed–our beings sharp enough to cut and sharp enough to disappear.

Power isn’t secure like it was in the days of kings. It must constantly be grown or else it can wither, the constant crises of late capitalism capturing everything within the possibility of collapse and disaster.

Profit has become an uncontrollable beast that must be ridden until it throws off its rider and devours it.

It must be re-territorialized, re-fought, re-won, re-done. It must be reaffirmed. Like masculinity, like the nation state, like whiteness, it is in a constant state of insecurity that must be purged of foreign agents even as it must be expanded, colonizing foreign territories.

Growth is paramount and corruption inevitable. Everything becomes a resource to growth, profit that is existentially provisional and contingent upon that necessarily mortal growth. We reach not for the legacy of eternity but for the morality of wealth within one lifetime, the consequences on future generations, the planet, and others be damned.

The world shrinks such that endless growth can seem possible; the horizon suffocatingly near just so that we can meet it, crash against it–seemingly defeat it, again and again, even as we crumble, fragile, against the self imposed limit, the wall. We bury the future under the totalizing growth of the present, possibility itself captured in the domains of debt and growth.

Capitalism makes resources of us all. Structurally, essentially, irrevocably it seeks to eliminate the wasteful human from its brutal calculation. We have to resist capitalism, and imagine an alternative, emergent future–and organize to enact it–or else every resource will be extracted. Including us.