Thursday, April 7, 2016

What Makes People Take to the Street

Everybody, by now, realizes that US politics is hitting an inflection point. The Trump phenomenon means that a chunk of GOP voters are saying, Who Cares, let's break the thing. And then on the Democratic side we have Black Lives Matter tearing the place up and the ideological base plumping for Bernie the Socialist over the capa de tutti capi of the Clinton Crime Syndicate.

Well, I've been reading Michael Mann and The Sources of Social Power, Volume 2: The Rise of Classes and Nation-States, 1760-1914. So there. Now Michael Mann is a Brit and his brain is completely clogged by center-left academic syndrome, a fatal disease. So his narrative is all about those poor exploited workers and peasants and how they struggled for political, social, and economic citizenship. He means that they struggled to be accepted as a partner in political, social, and economic power.

Apart from being annoyed by his smirking leftism, I am trying to get the story behind the story of the glorious rise of the glorious working class in the 19th century. Here are my takeaways.
  • When people experience an economic reverse, as artisans impoverished by de-skilling implemented by industrial manufacturing, or peasants ruined by low grain prices, they don't tend to think about what to do to make themselves useful again in the economy, now that the old gig is up. They tend to go to the government for subsidies or credit relief or some such dodge, and if all else fails they take to the streets.
  • The advantage of giving everyone the vote is that it keeps them all in the system. On Mann's finding, workers didn't go for revolution in the long 19th century unless they were excluded from the political system and didn't have a voice in the councils of power.
Now let's return to the present. We have the white working class kicking up a storm, and we have Black Lives Matter kicking up a storm. What is going on here?

Let's introduce another idea. The final convulsion of young men at the end of the world. There is the Ghost Dance movement of the Plains Indians that erupted in the 19th century, centering on the use of magic Ghost Shirts. La Wik:
[P]roper practice of the dance would reunite the living with spirits of the dead, bring the spirits of the dead to fight on their behalf, make the white colonists leave, and bring peace, prosperity, and unity to native peoples throughout the region.
Another 19th century magic cult was the Militia United in Righteousness, known to us as the Boxers, that rose up in China at the turn of the 20th century. The Boxers believed they were invulnerable to western bullets.

Numerous conservative pundits have noted that the white working class has been pushed outside the magic circle of respectability. Their opinions no longer matter in the councils of state. And Barack Obama famously wrote the white working class off in his "bitter clingers" speech to donors in 2008. So the only thing left for the white working class is some kind of a Ghost Dance with Donald Trump, believing that he will make America Great Again. Here is Ed Driscoll at Instapundit.
Middle Americans, as they appear to the makers of educated opinion, are hopelessly shabby, unfashionable, and provincial, ill informed about changes in taste or intellectual trends, addicted to trashy novels of romance and adventure, and stupefied by prolonged exposure to television[.]
The point is that when ruling class liberals say that and they believe it then they are writing a whole segment of America out of polite society; they are giving themselves a license to ignore those Americans and their needs and their grievances. And that means, per Michael Mann, that the only way for Middle Americans to get the attention of the ruling class is to start breaking things.

And as for Black Lives Matter, it cannot have escaped anyone's attention that liberals have encouraged blacks in social dysfunction the better to harvest their votes at election time. Camille Paglia:
I have been disturbed and repelled for decades by the way reproductive rights have become an ideological tool ruthlessly exploited by my own party, the Democrats, to inflame passions, raise money, and drive voting.
OK, so she was talking about abortion. But Democrats do that with race too, to "inflame passions, raise money, and drive voting." And it works.

But you'd think that, over the years, as things don't get better that African Americans would begin to get restless. And maybe their restlessness would tear the Democratic Party apart.

But the basic message from Michael Mann echoes in my mind. If you treat everyone as an equal, with a right to be in the room at the negotiating table, then you can usually stitch up some sort of political deal to keep the peace. You may make a nonsense of economics, and justice, but you will keep everyone in the tent.

But that's not what the modern ruling class has done. Just saying.

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