Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Black Poster Girl for my "Three Peoples" Theory

My Big Idea to explain everything is to say that there are three kinds of people in the world. Let us call it the Three Peoples Theory.

There are the People of the Subordinate Self, your eternal peasants, the clients in the patron-client relationship. They are people that experience themselves as victims, tossed about by irresistible forces.

Then there are the People of the Responsible Self, the classic bourgeois, that experience themselves as responsible individuals. Finally there are the People of the Creative Self, your artists, intellectuals, political activists, and such.

We know what a person of the subordinate self looks like. He looks like the clueless African-American failed TV journalist that shot two white TV journalists to start a race war. Just like the clueless white guy that shot and killed people in Charleston, South Carolina, in order to start a race war.

Hey, how about that iconic tweet:
The best part about the Obama era is all the racial healing.
But here's a rant by a black woman, Peggy Hubbard, who is about as clear a card-carrying member of the People of the Responsible Self as you could imagine.
Police brutality? How about black brutality? You black people, my black people, you are the . . . most violent [people] I have ever seen in my life. A little girl is dead. You say black lives matter? Her life mattered.
Notice one little thing in that quote. Peggy doesn't say Black Lives Matter. Or even All Lives Matter. She says Her Life Mattered, that individual that just got killed. But here is the money quote:
Excuse me, but I didn’t know there was a side to be on. Only thing I know is I see right, and I see wrong. I see good, I see bad. This is not a race issue, and it never has been a race issue. People made it about race. This is not about race. This is about morals. This is about accountability and responsibility. We have to be responsible for the things we do and the things we say.
 See that? "I see right, and I see wrong." And then "This is about accountability and responsibility. We have to be responsible for the things we do and the things we say."

Of course, as the People of the Creative Self are so fond of telling us, there is no such thing as right and wrong. Moral codes are social constructions, just like everything else except climate change and racism, sexism and homophobia, which are just Wrong and Hateful and Divisive. And nobody can truly be accountable and responsible in this world of oppressions and exploitations.

People that belong in each of the Three Peoples buckets are all living a fantasy. Subordinate people are not as helpless as they think. Responsible people are not as individual as they think. Creative people are not as creative as they think. We are all bound to the facts of the material world. John Gray in The Silence of Animals addresses this. He writes that the "dystopia of power," that "two and two is five" if the Party says so, "is a fantasy." Nor is Dostoyevsky right when he argues in Notes from the Underground that freedom is nothing if we can't push back against the laws of nature.
Yet the two projects serve the same infantile fantasy: the magical omnipotence of thought. Whether affirmed in terms of classical logic or denied in those of romantic will, the message is the same: the human mind is the measure of reality. 
And yet the human mind is the means by which we negotiate reality; in order to act in the real world we must each of us develop a world-view that pretends to understand that reality and its meaning.

Some people say that only Black Lives Matter and the police are out to get black people. Some people say that individual accountability and responsibility for individual acts are the only thing. Some people say that creative or romantic will is the only thing.

But I say that the first thing is to teach the People of the Subordinate Self how to grow out of clientism into the bigger world of individual responsibility. The second thing is to teach the People of the Responsible Self that the world is not just about good and bad and responsible acts; it is also about the liberating serendipity of the creative act. The third thing is to teach the People of the Creative Self to stop exploiting subordinate people by inflaming their tribal instincts with social-justice politics, and to learn a little compassion and understanding for the worthy, if narrow, People of the Responsible Self.

But the words of Peggy Hubbard are a start.

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