What is Wrong In/With the US?
For many, it’s white supremacy that is wrong with the US these days, or to put it more politely, the lack of diversity. Racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, etc., etc., etc., explain what is the matter with the US today. And from this perspective, Donald Trump looks like the coming of the apocalypse.
Only this analysis doesn’t cut very deep into the US psyche and its politics. Sure, racism, sexism, etc., exist and are harmful but they are merely symptoms, signs of a dis-eased psyche and politics. And that dis-ease is the belief in progress. That is, our dis-ease is the idea that the human condition is malleable, that it can be manipulated and controlled by the calculated use of power – both political and technological – in order to ameliorate the human condition by producing a heaven on earth, a utopia, a brave new world, or a new world order under the tutelage of a benevolent despotism.
It’s quite comfortable to blame our ills on racism, sexism, etc., because these phenomena are seen as aberrations which, once removed as they surely will be, will allow our utopia to flourish. In other words, the progressive project is fundamentally sound, even noble and beautiful, with only these vestiges of non- or anti-progressivism preventing us from reaching “the promise land.”
The problem is clear: If in fact it is the progressive project itself that is the cause of our greatest ills, then attacking anti-progressivism will do nothing to cure our dis-eased way of life. In fact, by attacking anti-progressivism, it is guaranteed that our dis-eased way of life will be fortified.
But are racism, sexism, etc. actually anti-progressive? Or are they merely reflections of, the by-products of progressivism in the sense of being ways of thinking that arise once we have embraced the idea that we are capable of almost limitless progress? That the latter is correct is confirmed by the fact that dissenters who reject, say, racism as the all-important determinant of our ills – as did eventually both Malcolm X and MLK – are more dangerous dissenters than those who did not. Malcolm X and MLK came to see that there was a savagery in the US that involved but transcended race. Their “demise” followed soon after their revelations. By focusing on racism, sexism, etc., progressives hide the flaws of their progressivism and, thereby, contribute to the dis-ease that is consuming the US.
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