The Clare Spark Blog

September 10, 2016

Is “America” racist?

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:07 pm
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Clinton at LGBT event 9-10-16

Clinton at LGBT event 9-10-16

In the tumult of the 2016 campaign, three events stand out:

  1. The Colin Kaepernick scandal, in which K’s refusal to stand during the national anthem, threatens further to rouse the “hot-tempered” black nationalist population; and
  2. Ex-President Bill Clinton’s accusation that to claim that America would be “great” again is an obvious Trumpian sop to (poor white) Southerners who value their (dubious) superiority on the racial “totem pole.” (Recall that “the first black president” implicitly hitched onto the black power movement, as did his wife, as did Barack Obama, the real first black president., though Black Lives Matter might dispute this genealogy; see http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/08/opinions/bill-clinton-black-lives-matter-protesters-opinion-garza/ ); and
  3. Mrs. Clinton’s characterization of half of Trump’s base as “a basket of deplorables” after all, she is an (aristocratic) centrist who would never stoop so low.
  4. Sadly, supposedly Republican-leaning media (i.e., Fox News Channel) cannot address the ideologies represented by these widely publicized events, for the moderate men don’t dig deeply enough into dominant discourses, that are always collectivist.

    That is, “America” is a single individual, disgraceful or exemplary, depending on “point of view.” (See https://clarespark.com/2014/07/20/national-character-does-it-exist/).  To those devoted to the welfare state, “America” overcame its racist pass by devotion to “those less fortunate than we,” as Eleanor Roosevelt said. Centrists such as the Clintons are social democrats, with a whiff of fascism in their preoccupation with “race” over “class.”

    Even Ashley Montagu, that progressive anthropologist, despite his obvious flaws, emphasized the socially constructed notion of “race,” focusing on social conditions over hereditary notions of mental and moral character (“race”); see https://clarespark.com/2016/08/13/there-and-not-there-progressives-make-us-crazy-2/.

    There is an obvious choice on how we envision “the American Past, a.k.a., the “American Heritage.” We can focus on the novelty in the 18th C. of The Federalist Papers, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution (especially the Amendments), or we can vent our adolescent wrath on westward expansion and its many crimes.

    The “New Left” (unlike many of their elders in the Old Left) chose the latter path, and we are muddled in that confusion.

    The Clintons and Colin Kaepernick belong in that “basket.”

    ABC News photo

    ABC News photo

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July 29, 2016

Hillary the driven

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 6:52 pm
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Telegraph.co  UK image

Telegraph.co UK image

This blog is a guess at what makes Hillary run. And why she wore a (mannish?) white pants suit during her acceptance speech at the DNC.

So much is obvious, but this blog attempts a peek into her psyche, extrapolated from mine as another good girl with anger issues.

There is something uncanny about HiIlary’s do-gooding, while at the same time undermining her credibility with easily discoverable errors. Like many high achievers, she seems determined to recreate the perfectly happy family writ large. Bill Clinton drove home this theme, by emphasizing his wife’s early prowess as the Great Mother of us all, thus vindicating Hillary’s welfare state (achieved by soaking the rich with their ill-gotten gains).

Remember the part about Hillary lining the drawers in their first tiny home? Chelsea Clinton mentioned drawers too, recalling the day by day notes that her mother left for her, to make sure that Chelsea had a perfect, detail-oriented mom while she was on the road, changing the world by aiding those less fortunate.

Who said that women can’t have it all?

But beneath the smiling surface she shows anger that powerful pundits will publicly admit, like Brit Hume, complaining about her stridency and hectoring tone. I will compare her rage (?) to the feelings experienced by other women driven by the imperative to hold the family together; at the same time, achieving upward mobility as an “independent” woman, and a slightly different political stance from her lower-middle class family (her parents were Republicans, and she began life in their steps). It is one hell of a balancing act.

For a full-appearing biography see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillary_Clinton.

The testimony of her husband and daughter attempted to vindicate Hillary as the steady presence that inspired them. If their appreciation rang hollow (except to the Democrat faithful, the television camera straying to women weeping), the remarks of Bill and Chelsea suggested compulsive perfectionism in Hillary.

Many women who strive to be as good as a man suffer from the same syndrome. By obsessive attention to detail combined with a smiling façade, we attempt the impossible (to be all things to all people).

Ivory soap ad, 1940s

Ivory soap ad, 1940s

Were the media not so undereducated regarding the woman problem, by turns tearing her down or building her up as a Superwoman, they might note that HRC makes errors that are easily discoverable. It as if, oddly, parts of her want to be discovered as a fraud and punished, even as she projects these qualities on her rival for the presidency, while she retains her Eleanor Roosevelt-style image of Ivory soap purity.

January 15, 2013

Golden Globes, Lincoln, Clinton, Hobsbawm

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 9:37 pm
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clinton-harlemTwo events stood out for me during the 2013 Golden Globes award show:

  1. First, Jodie Foster, recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Award, defining her “self,” her “identity,” primarily as both a private person and a lesbian.  It made for surreal television.  If action creates essence, as Sartre argued, then sexual preference is the most significant action in our lives. Such are the fruits of single-issue politics. But Hollywood sells sex and violence, and many men are turned on by lesbian sex, so why should I be shocked?
  2. Second, the surprise visit of Bill Clinton, sometimes known as “America’s First Black President,” ahead of the award that he hoped would go to Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. Clinton not only stumped for Spielberg’s movie, he lauded the virtues of “compromise” (obviously lecturing Republicans who were and would be the butt of Sarah Palin jokes).   (See http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/moviesnow/la-et-mn-golden-globes-2013-bill-clinton-makes-surprise-stump-speech-lincoln-argo20130113,0,1854944.story.)

I have been rereading the British communist historian Eric Hobsbawm’s The Age of Revolution 1789-1848, (1962) partly because he makes much of the transition from feudalism to capitalism. His emphasis on social property relations at the expense of individual biography (except in the case of Napoleon, whose ambition and military genius changed Europe forever, bringing it out of stable, rooted, feudal, collectivism into the sad, bad, uprooted world of bourgeois  individualistic profiteering), was exactly how I was taught history in graduate school at UCLA.

Here is one example that illustrates Hobsbawm’s grand method. He is describing the economic relations that determined the American Civil War– no room for “compromise” here (nor for the women and men who comprised the moralistic abolition and antislavery movements, or the drastic political realignment that led to the Republican Party and its first Republican president, elected on a free soil platform):

[Hobsbawm, p.179:] Only one major obstacle stood in the way of the conversion of the USA into the world economic power which it was soon to become: the conflict between an industrial and farming north and a semi-colonial south. For while the North benefited from the capital, labour, and skills of Europe—and notably Britain—as an independent economy, the South, which imported few of these resources) was a typical dependent economy of Britain. Its very success in supplying the booming factories of Lancashire with almost all their cotton perpetuated its dependence, comparable to that which Australia was about to develop on wool, the Argentine on meat. The South was for free trade, which enabled it to sell to Britain and in return to buy cheap British goods; the North, almost from the beginning (1816), protected the home industrialist heavily against any foreigner—i.e. the British—who would then have undersold him. North and South competed for the territories of the West—the one for slave plantations and backward self-sufficient hill squatters, the other for mechanical reapers and mass slaughterhouses; and until the age of the trans-continental railroad the South, which controlled the Mississippi delta through which the Middle West found its chief outlet, held some strong economic cards. Not until the Civil War of 1861-65—which was in effect the unification of America by and under Northern capitalism—was the future of the American economy settled. [end Hobsbawm quote]

JodieFosterchild

Considering his gratuitous snipes at “backward…hill squatters,” “mechanical reapers” and “mass slaughterhouses”,  is there any doubt that Hobsbawm was more emotionally attuned to medieval collectivism and the peasantry, than to a modern world dominated by mass death, greed, and machines, notwithstanding his sometimes defense of the bourgeoisie as producers of the new industrial working class that would climb the mountain to socialism?  Does that same ambivalence characterize the business of Hollywood movies and television?

(Illustrated: a rural version of Jodie Foster, child actor]

September 7, 2012

Charisma and Symbolic Politics

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 6:21 pm
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This blog analyzes the tricks of populist demagoguery as revealed in the Democrat Party National Convention, 2012 (for part one of this series, see https://clarespark.com/2012/09/05/proto-fascism-and-the-democrat-peoples-community/.)

The Leader flatters the audience and holds them close to him with “family” rhetoric. Both Biden and Obama began their addresses with professions of uxoriousness and adoration of their children and struggling, benighted ancestors. Such first steps in their speeches develops an intimate relation with the audience, who are now “included” in the dedicated happy family. Charisma now emanates from the Leader, for solid family ties are manifestations of the erotic in our natures (while ignoring such obvious items as sibling rivalry or generational conflict).

With such tactics, the deified Leader as either Good Father or Good Mother,  has resorted to powerful symbols, generally symbols that infantilize the audience with promises of unity—a unity that cannot be obtained through rational arguments, for the Leader has jammed together persons and groups with conflicting interests (see https://clarespark.com/2012/09/05/proto-fascism-and-the-democrat-peoples-community/).   Republican opponents, meanwhile, are demonized as “splitters” who, in their devotion to cerebration (rationality and empiricism) heartlessly look after their own interests while “hating” and abandoning the target audience, now represented as “the middle class”—notwithstanding its working class elements. And workers are incorporated into “the middle class” through promises of home ownership, better public education, and preferential treatment for minorities and illegal immigrants through such transparent tactics as affirmative action and Dream Acts.

We have seen these tactics before. In the 2004 address to the DNC that catapulted young Senator Obama to celebrity, his main appeal was the vision of unity: there would be no more red states or blue states, only the United States. (Thundering applause.) But that was a childish wish, and not even Charles Krauthammer, the redoubtable critic of Obama’s narcissism (and whom I revere above all other pundits), nails him for this utopian, regressive fantasy.

For real material issues divide our polity: crony capitalism versus capitalism based solely upon merit—the merit of a superior performance or product; government as Big Daddy or Mommy versus local control, self-reliance and personal responsibility; Keynesian demand-stimulus to conquer economic downturns versus unleashing the power of business/free markets through lower taxes, the removal of excessive red tape, and free trade; overweening executive power versus the traditional separation of powers in government.

Above all, the charismatic leader wields magical powers: in describing the President’s role in the killing of Osama bin Laden, Biden declared that the President said DO IT, and justice was done. Bible readers will recognize the Creation of the world and the love of neighbors above oneself.

A man of the People

I have been thinking about pundits and television hosts, even those on Fox News Channel. Why do they not identify populist tactics as I have done? It is not only that they prefer clocking a horse race to significant analysis of the conflicts that really do divide us. It is not only that they profess to be “fair and balanced” as all moderates are supposed to be. Perhaps they too have reached the pinnacles of the media business through manipulating the audience through physical attractiveness and stylishness, but more, through an acceptance of “politics” as they are. Their tactics may be a more subtle form of bullying than partisan Democrats who regularly assault “the money power,” but they are bullies none the less, pleasing the boss and short-changing the audiences that keep coming back for more.

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