22 October 2008

Joe The Plumber, Or Dog-Whistle Politics, Part Two

Originally wrote this as a comment to the last essay-lette I wrote on this topic, and posted to a blog on my page at I-Power. The commentator left three YouTube videos featuring Joe Wurzelbacher, aka Joe the Plumber, as well as a couple of text comments indicating that he agreed with Mr. Wurzelbacher.

Well, saw the last of those video comments, an interview he gave the Toledo Blade after the last Presidential debate, and, to be blunt, Mr. Wurzelbacher didn't say anything in it, that I haven't heard, read nor seen on-line a thousand or so times before, whether out of the mouths of politicians, pundits or so-called ordinary folks like Mr. Wurzelbacher.

Frankly, that kind of logic, thought and rhetoric bores me to tears and then some, because they are so familiar.

Half of what Wurzelbacher says in the Toledo Blade interview is practically imbibed along with mother's milk in many European-American lower-middle-class and working-class households, and is based, like it or not, in a couple of sentiments also commonly found in those homes, the first being "Thank God We're White", and the second, as articulated by the late James Baldwin in a 1987 Playboy essay, "Poverty is for niggers."

All the talk about personal responsibility, pulling oneself by one's own boot-straps, and all the rest of that comes from those sentiments, plus a feeling of entitlement to whatever resources that are available, and all the rest of it is just so much blah-blah designed to cover that.

I've no respect for Nazi-skinheads and assorted other racists, but I will say that, though some of them also try and goop their nastiness over by saying that it's about "White Pride" rather than good old-fashioned race hatred just like Mother used to make, I prefer their brand of logic and rhetoric, simply because they make no bones about their hatred, don't try to pretend they're good, and one knows exactly from where they're coming.

That's the only area in which I find people like that preferable, but, nonetheless, they are, for the most part, relatively honest about it.

There are, and have been, for the past two, nearly three decades, now, a decidedly upwardly skewed redistribution of wealth in this country, and a fair part of the world besides, and Mr. Wurzelbacher and other folks like him either don't see it, or don't want to see it, plain and simple.

Hell, if they could get in on the gravy train, they would, and with both hands outstretched as far as possible to get every little bit they could.

But, they've neither the education, the skills, nor the social and business connections required to make that happen, and, some very great exceptions aside, never will, plain and simple.

Doesn't stop 'em from dreamin', though.

Point is, considering that incomes for the vast majority of Americans, middle and lower-middle-class, working-class and poor have essentially stagnated or barely kept pace with rising costs in every area of life over the past thirty-forty years, such dreams are silly and wrong-headed.

Tax cuts for the one percent of Americans who belong to the upper and upper-middle-classes don't trickle down much to the rest of us, as, in many cases, the money that comes from those cuts is socked away in tax shelters and other forms of investments designed to benefit their holders, but that are essentially held back from the rest of the economy.

Those at the top layer of American society have no real love or regard for folks like Mr. Wurzelbacher, you, My dear Picidae, me, nor anyone else outside of their social circles whom they don't know, and why should they???

They don't know us, except as a sort of generalised mass of people, and one, and I don't care from part of the ideological spectrum one comes, can love people en masse and mean it.

Love is an emotion, as fickle and changeable as any other.

Respect and regard, while more reliable, come only through a certain amount of inter-personal contact, which most upper-class Americans have with lower-class ones only in the roles of master and man, employer and employee, and whatever other term one might want to use for that kind of relationship.

Hard to have anything in the way of genuine respect for someone when they are, though it is rarely explicitly said, one's social and economic inferior, and vice versa.

There's dependence, sure, fear for one's position and one's living, definitely, and a combination of the two built into every interaction between people from different classes.

But, I would say that it's pretty rare to find examples of genuine regard and respect between members of those classes, because of the way in which social and economic relations in this country are, and have been, from the beginning of this country.

Add in race, gender, sexual orientation, and any number of other factors one could care to name, and the anxiety levels and social tensions rise accordingly.

Ultimately, the idea that all Americans are just one big group of "pals" who are more or less equal in terms of rights, duties, etc, is a pretty laughable con-job.

There are significant differences between Americans, as in any other human group, that can be named, and won't bore you with a laundry list of those, and those differences are found within these various groups, as well as between them, and to over-look those and say that some Americans don't have it better than others, is an epic con-job, especially on one's self if one actually believes it.

Many of these differences are ones that have been created by past generations of Americans to benefit themselves and theirs at others' expense.

This continent was conquered, plain and simple, by fair means and foul, by Europeans and their descendants, who used every trick in the book that they knew to do it, and then some.

American capitalism couldn't have enjoyed half of the expansion it did in the mid-and late 19th Century and early-to-mid-20th Century without the use of cheap labour, whether it was slave labour in the pre-Civil War South, working-class Americans fresh off the farm and European immigrant labour in the Northeast and Midwest, or Chinese, Mexican and working-class European-American labour in the West, to pump out goods at very low cost.

Our economic, political and military ascendancy began in those years, grew, even if the Great Depression put a bit of a bite on it in the 1930's, during and after the First World War, and was essentially sealed by the Allied victory in World War Two, and our dominance in those areas, in much of the world anyway, came about because our industrial, agricultural and other resource bases weren't heavily damaged or destroyed outright, as the other powers', whether Allied or Axis, had been during that war.

It is those factors, I believe, that has made the US as rich as it has been.

But, with all that wealth, there generally came not greater wisdom nor compassion, but greater greed, malice and the desire to not only hold on to what we had, but to grab still more, and, if it came at others' expense, whether individually or collectively, no matter, as long as we got it.

While the vast majority of the blame for this should rightly be put at the feet of the US governing and business classes, there were, and are, plenty of so-called ordinary Americans who went along with these policies and actions for reasons of their own, some of which I've already outlined here, and who did so, whether by not resisting actions like the Viet-Nam and Iraq Wars, voting for candidates whose ideas and policies were designed to benefit the upper classes and their supporters while punishing those members of the lower classes, especially if they weren't European-American in origin, or who, in word and deed, supported segregation, whether of the de jure sort found in the American South, or the de facto kind found in the rest of the Union, and who resent and resist any changes, however small and late-coming, that have been made in that area of American life since the mid-1950's.

They have their fair share of the blame for the sort of mess we're in now, and have it coming, straight up, no chaser.

This doesn't mean that there aren't resentful, angry chuckleheads in the African-American, Latino, Asian-American, Native American, or Pacific Islander communities, who aren't also prejudiced and hateful. There are.

But, with the exception of a small handful of such individuals, those communities have historically been much more on the receiving end of the dirty end of the stick than have most European-Americans, and especially most upper- and middle-class European Americans, and that's something that people like Mr. Wurzelbacher either don't see, or refuse to see.

Poverty, oppression and marginalisation have traditionally been, as Mr. Baldwin put it, "for niggers,", but also for immigrants, so-called poor white trash, and any other person or group that fell outside of the so-called American mainstream, and these sentiments continue, albeit in generally more muted form than in previous decades, to hang about, like the proverbial bad penny in one's wallet.

That's why I don't believe Joe Wurzelbacher, and others like him.

There's just too much God-Damned historical baggage in back of what he says for me to take him at his word, and, considering the McCain campaign's use of Mr. Wurzelbacher and his comments for all they're worth, I see its use of him and his comments as just another ploy to keep on keepin' on with one variant or another of the same tired old monkey business that's taken place in the US since its foundation.

Thanks, but no thanks, Wurzelbacher. No sale here.

As for McCain, Palin, et al, sorry, folks, but this dog ain't a-comin' when y'all call, and I sure as Hell's ain't a-gonna hunt for y'all.

So, take that right-wing populist dog whistle y'all got in your back pocket, and go put it somewhere far out of sight.

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