Accommodationism: the enemy of progress

As a “Gnu Atheist”, I run across the accommodationist trope in the fight against the toxic shit that comes from religion on a daily basis. But it’s not the only area in which it is present, and in all of them it is the enemy of making actual progress. The call for politeness, for measuredness, for being nice to to the haters and reactionaries who take away and deny us rights, has always been present. The suffragettes were being called unladylike and both anti-women and anti-men (yes, the suffragettes were the first feminazis!) before they ever started throwing stones, and even today people are disputing whether their actions actually helped women gain suffrage (I guess it’s just coincidence that suffrage was achieved after the moderate methods of the suffragists were abandoned in favor of civil disobedience and eventually real militancy). And this has not changed since. Even today, women are still told that “the effectiveness and inclusiveness of women’s advocacy is inversely proportional to its radicalism”.

The Civil Rights movement also had the famous “Uppity Nigger” trope, and MLK himself expressed his frustrations with the “moderates” and accomodationists among the white population in the Letter from Birmingham Jail*:

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn’t this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God’s will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

The same is being asked of LGBT activists who are called strident for kissing in public like everyone else, mentioning their partner in casual conversation like everyone else, and participating in those shrill, loud, Gay Pride Parades which corrupt children and somehow shove sexuality down people’s throats (as opposed to, you know, simply loudly proclaiming that gays are real people that really exist, not abstracts).

And in all these cases, it’s bullshit. The moderate stance is not accomplishing anything.

Or, if I want to be generous, it’s not accomplishing anything by itself. The moderates need the radicals. For one, without the radicals shifting the Overton Window, they themselves would be seen as the radical end of a spectrum (and in some cases, they are called that anyway). Two, throughout history it took serious threats of social disruption and violence (and sometimes ACTUAL social disruption and violence) to get anyone to do anything. Rights are taken, not politely asked for. Even the two most famous non-violent movements that were successes, were successful because everyone at some point realized that the choice was between dealing with MLK/Ghandi, or dealing with the seriously radical, violent elements (Malcolm X and Subhas Chandra Bose respectively). And let’s face it, even those non-violent movements made the real accommodationists clutch their pearls, since they WERE breaking laws and disrupting the existing social order. they just did it in such a way that none of their opponents were hurt (and nevermind that their opponents definitely didn’t have such scruples. but accommodationists never see that, do they).

Not that, at this point, I’m advocating turning to violence to get our points across, but at some times in history, it seems the threat thereof is the only way to get some social justice. Plus, I wanted to underscore how much less radical the “radical, strident, and militant” feminists/atheists/anti-capitalists/environmentalists/etc. of today are, compared to some of the social justice movements in the past. And yet, the accommodationists whine.

Well, fuck them. Sideways, with a Stinging Tree

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*and also against the “time is on our side, so just sit and wait” BS I wrote about in my last post. But that’s not the point right now.

Against optimism

It occurs to me that I shouldn’t write this post before reading Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Bright-Sided“, since she probably addresses the same points, much better and more thoroughly than I can right now. But it’s still something that bugs me, on so many levels.

Mostly, it bugs me at the fundamental level of things HAVING to have some positive outcome, as if it was some physical law that on balance, things must work out positively in human terms. The three versions of this that I run into most often are “I believe in America”*, “but still, life is/people are still good”, and the belief that progress is inevitable.

By virtue of living in the US and spending a lot of time on US dominated internet forums, I most commonly encounter the “I still believe in America” version. It seems most often to crop up as a last-ditch rebuttal of the problems people in the US are facing, as if it somehow is capable of refuting just how shitty America actually is, compared to other Industrialized countries (which is especially sad considering they came into the 2nd half of the 20th century well ahead of everyone else, by virtue of not having had a war fought on their soil, and therefore having some spare cash for investing into the future, rather than rebuilding from a pile of rubble). For example, some while ago I was arguing with someone on Pandagon about social mobility. Their argument was their son who, despite not having a college education, has made quite a life for himself in IT. I and others shored up a long list of reasons why this experience was exceptional and cannot be used as an example of American social mobility, while giving evidence for how social mobility and social wellbeing in the US is very low especially compared to many European countries. And that person’s last response in that thread? An indignant whine along the lines of “well, excuse me for still having faith in America”. My response was a rather snarky comparison of theoretical opportunities available to me in the US as compared to Germany, in which the US did not end up looking pretty.

The “but still, life is/people are still good” is very similar to the “I believe in America” thing, but can be used both more broadly (i.e. when talking about non-American things), and more narrowly (i.e. when talking about a specific group of people/situation, American or otherwise). Mostly, I’ve seen it used when talking about something atrocious, like abuse in the military or even systemic problems caused by same(“but still, most soldiers are good kids”), or about the effect Western-centered capitalism has on the non-western part of the world. I’ve seen a combination of these two on an essay on ZNet by a soldier’s mom who first made an extremely long list of epically shitty things the U.S. military, the USA as a whole, and Capitalism caused (torture, war, environmental damage, etc ad nauseam)… and then she did a 180 and started talking about how, despite all that, life was still good, because she got to meet for coffee with neighbors, and a lot of other “little things in life” that were going well for her (and nevermind that because of the things in the first part of her essay, a very large portion of humanity did NOT have access to the stuff in the second part of the essay), and how that meant… something.

The third type is more a (subconscious?) attitude than an actual, formed argument, and it presents itself in many different, often very small and barely noticeable ways. A very obvious variant is the “technology will save us” response to AGW, but it’s generally the conviction that the future will definitely be better (or at least not any worse) than the past. This manifests either as the conviction that, in currently raging battles of the culture wars “time is on our side” and that we’ll automatically win given enough time**, or that the things that have already been achieved (8hr workdays and worker safety, abortion rights, gains in environmental protection, you name it) can’t possibly be undone.

I’m not quite sure why these self-delusions are so prevalent, but it seems people need them to function just as much as many people seem to need religion to function. I vaguely remember reading some article that said people with depression were often better at predicting their chances of succeeding at something, but I can’t remember what causal link they posited (or if they bothered at all), but no matter which way things go, it seems being positively self-deluded about one’s own chance at success is correlated with happiness, and being able to realistically predict ones chances in life is correlated with depression. Anyway, what I have noticed when people show these signs of unwarranted optimism is that they primarily do it to deflect acknowledging being part of a problem (pretty much anything environment- and/or capitalism-related) or someone else one knows being part of a problem (any single comment ever that defends the military by saying that soldiers aren’t evil***), or simply try to protect themselves from being crushed by the enormity of the problem (because, let’s face it, short of moving to a hippy eco village, pretty much everything I (and everyone else in the Western world as well as many people in other parts) do on a daily basis is making things worse: the electricity I use while typing this, the starbucks food I’m snarfing (mmm….cheesecake…wait, what was I talking about…?), the gas I used to drive to Bismarck, the plastic my grocieries come packaged in, etc.), and secondarily to give themselves a reason not to do anything much about the discussed problems. I suppose it’s just not human nature to want to go radical, so people instead react defensively (again, probably subconsciously) by either elevating the small things they do in the right direction to actual problem-solving *coughpriusdriverscough*, or by figuring the problem will solve itself given enough time (or if not itself, then at least with the number of people already being engaged being enough), or by simply erasing the magnitude of the problem.

People (and btw, that includes me, in case someone feels like complaining that I don’t do much either) seem to have an extreme need to be “normal” and not be radical too much and on too many things and in too many ways. And sure, it’s not physically possible for any one person to be part of a (radical or otherwise) solution to every problem facing humankind right now, but most people don’t even do what would be within their possibilities. And where this isn’t caused by sheer ignorance, it seems to be caused by fostering this sort of extreme, unwarranted optimism. So, i’m against this optimism that prevents people from realizing that things really could go to shit, and hope for maybe a bit more pessimism and realization that a good future needs to be vigorously fought for and defended against the assholes and idiots of the world.

P.S.:holy shit, this post is difficult to read. waaaaaay too many brackets. sorry :-p

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*I should note that there’s a difference between a “believing” in America in the sense that it’s salvageable and worth fighting for and needn’t be run away from just yet, and a believing in it in that magical-thinking sort of way that seems to assume some magical properties for America that protects it from the historical fates of every other civilization past and present. I don’t necessarily agree with the former either, but it’s a perfectly rational position to take, and even has a certain bravery to it that I just don’t have in me. The latter is just complete bullshit.

**Most notably in the fight for LGBT rights, where the demographics do show that younger people are more ok with gay marriage than older ones; but these demographic changes aren’t “natural”, they’re the result of hard-fought battles for social acceptance fought in the past. and they’re no reason to stop fighting, since a trend like that can be reversed just as much as it can be created in the first place.

***Interestingly enough, only soldiers in the US military are not evil even if the military does bad things (they’re feeding their families who depend on them and that’s why they can’t desert; or they’re doing the best out of a bad situation; or they were duped into joining by the “defend your country” trope and had to stick it out because desertion would have landed them in prison; or a million other reasons), but it never ever applies to German soldiers in WW2, even when they’ve never been within sight of a Concentration Camp and their reasons for joining/not leaving were the same as the reasons American soldiers often give now. But that’s a subject for a much longer stand-alone post which I may even write someday.

The Coffee Party

Still suffering from acute thoughtlessness, aggravated by meatspace drama, but didn’t want the blog to atrophy entirely, so here’s a light post on the Coffee Party Movement.

I heard of them for the first time quite a while back, but didn’t look deeper into it, since it seemed like an act of inconsequential counter-stupidity to the Tea Party, but apparently it has recently grown into a full-fledged movement (they even have a convention in Louisville, KY coming up; if it doesn’t get canceled, it will already be more successful than the teabagger convention in Las Vegas, which was “postponed” from July to October just a few weeks prior to the scheduled date “because of the heat”; yeah, right), so it’s worth looking into at least. I still think that, being a counter-movement, it will dissolve almost immediately the moment the teabaggers disappear, but as far as I’m concerned that could be a win-win situation: either the teabaggers will disappear; or there will be a pretty liberal/independent counter-movement to balance out their utter stupidity with some actual democratic activism.
The most interesting article about the Coffee Party that I found while trawling the internet for information about is was this blogpost by a centrist and former participant in it. It was interesting for the inside view of the Coffee Party (for a localized, supposedly decentralized grassroots movement, there’s decidedly too much talk about the leaders and leadership of “Coffee Party USA”) on the one hand, and for the odd perspective on non-partisanship/independence of the writer on the other, which I think reflects the perspective of a lot of self-declared centrists and moderates: that “independent” and “non-partisan” always has to mean standing exactly between the Republicans and the Democrats; being even slightly (or extremely, for that matter) to the right or left of that dividing line automatically aligns one with one of the two parties. This of course would be news to Bernie Sanders, who is an Independent Senator and a socialist, but seems to be how America views its politics; I blame it on the two party system. The blogpost complains about a perceived non-centrism of the Coffee Party, but quite frankly, I don’t think the U.S. needs more “bipartisanship” and centrism; what it does need is a real counterweight to the teabaggers, who are yanking the Overton Window sharply to the right. whether the Coffee Party can be such a things is, of course, a separate issue. Anyway, centrist dude also notes the lack of astroturfing and Big Donors, which is good; and the lack of transparency and “leaders” not listening, which is bad. The “unorganized” thing I’m ambiguous about, since I can’t tell whether he really means it’s a mess, or whether (considering his obsession with leadership), he’s just having issues with the sort of “netroots” anarchic, pseudo-organized movement that something that started on fucking Facebook has got to be by default, at least at first.

That aspect of both being a netroots spontaneous organization on the one hand, and being so focused on the founders and the leadership (though, admittedly, that might have just been centrist-dude’s bias, combined with the standard media focus on spokes-people and founders) makes me wonder whether sooner or later, this whole thing will morph into a standard-issue liberal “special interest” organization, or whether it can actually be an independent, glocal cooperative-like movement of people actually organizing around their own interests and needs that would lack the useless top-down management of issues and priorities. Most likely the former, because that’s how things generally develop, which would be too bad. Also, reading over some of the stuff on the Coffee Party USA website, at least some of the members take a similar stance on “independent” as the centrist I quoted earlier, i.e. they have shallow, middle-of-the-road opinions and commit the fallacy of the golden middle a lot. I mean, really, WTF does “I am not for a smaller government or for a large government. I am for right sized government. I am not for no regulations for businesses nor am I for a lot of regulations to manage the businesses. I am for enough, but not too much. I am not for government to cut all spending nor am I for spending wildly, but to spend where it is necessary.” even mean? it’s completely pointless rhetoric that tries to score points on the “I’m not an extremist like those people” talking-point. meh.

Also, I’m now getting their updates on facebook, and they’re strangely naive. Complaining about Murdoch Media offering infotainment? That’s… weaksauce. Real information sources exist, but expecting the mainstream media to be any good at it, especially in the face of shrinking profit margins and the downsizing on correspondents, investigative reporters, etc. is “political outrage 101”, so to speak. At the same time though, there’s some encouragingly effective activism going on, and at least, it provides a convenient set of activism tools for beginners, which is something I always thought was sorely missing. How to be an activist seemed to be one of those arcane skill sets one acquired by latching on to other, experienced activists (where one would find these experienced activists has of course also been unclear; not like they advertise in the Classifieds section of the paper). Now everybody can figure this stuff out, at least at the basic level.

So, as a whole, the Coffee Party is pretty weak brew (sorry, bad pun), but probably an excellent starting point for newly engaged/enraged people who want to become more active in their own democracy. If this becomes a mainstream-ish movement, and if even a small fraction of Coffee Partiers continues their journey into Advanced Activism, that will be a pretty good result, I think.

Individualism, take two

My last rant about individualism was about systemic problems being framed as “personal responsibility” (usually of the affected themselves, sometimes in the form of charity directed at individuals), which leads to various problems, like perpetuating or creating new TotC’s, putting the burden on the shoulders of the poor, disabled etc. who are least likely to have the resources to act, and so on.

This time, I want to make a sort of reversed rant: that placing responsibility for change on an amorphous “them” doesn’t help either.

I see and hear this all the time, usually in the form of “well yes, it’s a big problem. I really wish [insert name of public agency here] would do something about it! oh, well, what can you do.” Which is a way of allowing oneself to do nothing at all, ever. But it just doesn’t quite work like that, since a government/public agency can’t do shit by itself. It’s not a living, cognate thing with its own will, it’s a tool to be used by people. It’s very specifically a tool to deal with those problems that can only be addressed at a system-wide level, but in the end, it can and will only do whatever the people that engage in it/use it are telling it to do. And if you aren’t using and maintaining it, it will either rot away, or be used by others in ways you might not like.

I’m thinking part of the problem is with the idea that the people in government are “leaders”. Except in the very short-term and especially emergency situations, they usually aren’t. I suspect the naming was historically more accurate, but on most issues a government and its agencies are usually more conservative and inert than the society in which it resides*, which means that people always need to drag their government kicking and screaming to where they want it to be, rather than expecting, as we now often do, for the government to literally lead the way (which is especially stupid considering this works like a Tug o’ War, and if you’re not pulling, your government will actually move AWAY from your position, rather than leading in the desired direction).

Another reason for this attitude might be the unexamined wrong assumption about how to make a government agency act on something. People in their everyday lives are used to “voting with their wallets” in restaurants, shops etc. (usually about relatively trivial matters, or matters that can be supperficially patched up. But that’s a topic for another post), in which a simple announcement that you won’t do X at place Y anymore unless they correct problem Z can be a motivation for place Y to fix the problem, and similarly stating “if only place Y would fix problem Z, we’d definitely go there more often, but unless they fix it, we’ll stay away” can lead to the desired change. This does absolutely not work in government. It’s especially bad in a two party system, where the “choice” for participation is limited anyway and the parties really only care about a small subsection of voters in the middle, and therefore often cluster relatively close together on the overall spectrum; but to declare that you’ll stay away from a governmental agency entirely just renders you irrelevant to their decision-making process. The only time political parties care about whether someone will vote or not is when these potential voters already agree with them, and now just need to be coaxed into validating them. Otherwise, they only care that you do not vote for the other side, since they win if they have proportionally more than the other side, while businesses win both when they have a proportionally larger share, but also when they simply have more people “voting” for them, since the all-important growth can be achieved in both ways (conversely, the political parties don’t care if the total number of participants shrinks, as long as their slice if the smaller pie is still larger than the other guys’; businesses OTOH don’t handle the shrinking of their customer base well, even when their share of the market rises).

So anyway, a government agency isn’t going to change itself to “win you as a customer”, and a political party is only going to try if otherwise you’ll support the competition. So, participation is essential. And equally essential is vocal and highly visible participation, since government agencies cannot follow your lead if they don’t know what the fuck you want. And so it’s not just about voting, but about making it loud and clear why you’re voting, and why your vote should matter: because you have many friends you can take with you to the other side; because if they listen to you, you will give them your time and money to help them convince others to support them; etc. For that reason, building, supporting and joining interest groups and relevant public organizations for the issues that matter is often more useful and more important than just voting (though, without the voting part, the rest won’t carry enough weight).

And how does this square with my previous complaints about how problems cannot be solved by individuals? Well, the problem is that I wasn’t quite specific enough previously. The highly privileged can, as a matter of fact, solve the majority of their own problems; but the less privilege you have, the more difficult this becomes, because on the one hand you have to address fewer problems less thoroughly because you have fewer resources at your disposal, and on the other you’ll be more affected by more problems. But if the problems are being addressed in a collective manner as described above, then “from each according to his ability” actually can amount to enough to make the systemic change happen, which then will make it easier for people to address their problems**, leaving them with further resources to address the other problems, and so on. But this only works if even those participate in the group solution who could have managed to solve the problem individually, as well. It’s similar to the insurance principle, where those who won’t use it subsidize those who will, so that all remain taken care of. Looked as a whole, this will benefit everybody, since only the super-rich and super-powerful can solve all their own problems by themselves***; and therefore, pooling resources to address everybody’s problems means that your problems will be addressed, too, to a degree that you couldn’t accomplish individually.

So, while “acting alone” won’t solve problems, depending on others to act for you won’t, either. Participation and cooperation is essential. On life-or-death issues, this is so important that it needs to be universal and mandatory (healthcare most notably), but really almost all systemic problems require widespread and hopefully universal engagement, lest they become TotC’s in which cooperation unravels at ever-increasing rates, as is now happening with education for example.

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*and this is true regardless of whether the society is moving forwards or backwards. Reactionary elements may be more common in government, but government rarely leads in that direction, either. as fucknuts as some Republican politicians might be, they’re not nearly as reactionary as the Teabaggers as a whole, and certainly they aren’t their leaders; rather, they’re hanging on to the movement as it drags them violently to the right.

**for example, walking instead of driving requires either a lot of free time and a very convenient location of your choosing, or: all useful things to be closeby, everywhere; infrastructure and maintenance thereof (only a masochist (*cough*) would stomp through 2 foot high snow on the unplowed sidewalk instead of getting in the car and driving on the cleared road); community moral support (if it’s seen as a virtue, more people will do it than if it’s considered something only fucking weirdos and poor people do). Once those systemic problems are addressed, the treshold to doing it becomes lower in terms of willpower and physical resources, so that for one more people can start doing it, and two the people who used a lot of effort to do it before can now redirect that effort & resources into addressing other problems.

***though they often solve them by using the same sort of systemic tools available to us, they don’t need them. If there was no government for them to use to bully the populace, they could do it directly, and easier to boot. But other than that, even such systemic problems like bad air quality can be addressed with enough money for a state-of-the-art air filtration system. the rich will survive most of the disasters, unless they get killed off in a revolution. And even then any individual rich fucker has a higher likelihood of surviving than any individual revolutionary does. Private armies can do that.

Unhelpful individualism

Some problems are individual, some are systemic, and solutions usually have to be tailored to this in order to be effective. In the US however, the myth of Individualism has led to a virtual disappearance (or failure to appear; I’m pleading historical ignorance) of systemic solutions. Virtually everything is now framed as an individualistic problem, to be solved by individuals in an individualistic manner.

Obesity pandemic? Prod and shame people into gym memberships and weight-watcher programs, rather than promote walkable/bikable infrastructure and eliminate food deserts.

High infant mortality rate? Show PSA’s about the effects on skipping your folate pills and not quitting smoking, rather than create outreach services that create a culture of caring about preventive health in the affected parts of the population.

Homelessness? Volunteer at/donate to the temporary homeless shelter. Don’t worry about creating systems that get people off the streets permanently, and prevent them from landing there in the first place.

Poor education? Take your kids out of school and homeschool them, or send them to private schools, rather than clamoring to get the public system fixed.

I think the most blatant example of this was the movie for which Sandra Bullock just won an Oscar: The Blind Side. Basically, it’s a movie about an individual black ghetto kid’s learning problems, poverty problems, etc. being solved by being adopted by a filthy rich white family. There were SO many problems with that movie, especially the racist tropes (right at the beginning you have the attributes of the ideal dude for a particular position in American Football described in a way I’ve previously heard people use to describe the ideally built race horse :-/), but the focus on the “feel good”, personalized solution to the problems of African American ghettos just felt like obscuring the problem rather than highlighting it; especially when at the end of the movie, they highlight another kid, who gets shot, and they basically imply that if only someone had adopted THAT kid, he’d wouldn’t have to die. So what? should all middle-class and rich whites volunteer to take away poor black kids from their families to raise them in a more “civilised” environment?

yeah, didn’t think so.

and not once in that entire movie were there any hints about helping kids from ghettos as a group, rather than in such a silly, individual matter. And that thing won Oscars, FFS!

Anyway, it’s not just America’s own problems that America is trying to solve in such an idiotic manner. All those Christian organizations that urge you to “adopt” a child somewhere in the Undeveloped World? Actual, physical adoption-runs on poor countries (The Haiti adoption-scandal, for example)? These are examples of individualistic attempts at solving systemic problems, and in this case they also result in rich-guilt being assuaged to the point where calls for real, developmental and structural, help are ignored, because you’ve already helped; and you helped a real human being with a name and everything, whereas the structural help is for faceless masses, and doesn’t come with a personal thank-you letter written in crayon.

I’ve actually once gotten into a pretty big argument with a woman who adopted a child from Peru. I was commenting on something else, and saying that foreign adoptions are iffy because they’re too likely to be scams of some sort, at which point this woman entered the conversation, and wrote a long starfart about how mean I was to accuse her (even though she wasn’t even in the conversation up till the starfart) of stealing her daughter, when in reality her family voluntarily gave her up to her because she could have a much better life in America!!

Um.

Yeah. Just how shitty does your situation have to be to willingly sell your child to some rich Americans, never to see her again? And wouldn’t it be actually better for everyone involved if help would allow the child to grow up with her family and still allow her to have a good life?

But of course these were questions that the woman took as personal attacks against her, and her own image of herself as a Good Samaritan. No talk about systemic problems, and about the pain it must have caused the Peruvian family were permitted, because they would tarnish the woman’s self-image.

*sigh*


Individualism, Take Two, a second look at this issue.