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The Real Face of “Globalism”: A Road Trip Through the American South

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In my writing I have argued before that travel is an important tool for understanding the modern world. Travel provides first-hand knowledge (as opposed to the second-hand knowledge often taught in schools) about different cultures and nationalities. In short, travel makes the meaningless catch words of “diversity” and “tolerance” much more meaningful because the “generalized other” (to borrow George Herbert Meade’s term) to whom we are being told to be “tolerant” of is actually a living, real, human being, rather than a caricature of an individual who merely looks phenotypically different. It is one thing to teach me about, say, “Egyptian culture”; it is a wholly other thing to travel to Cairo and actually converse with—and hang out with—Egyptians in their everyday lives. This is the real job of Sociology; it is to understand and bring people together; it is not to socially engineer—and divide people—further from one another.

In the spirit of some of my recent Memorial Day posts, I will tell the story of my most recent travels which took me through the original United States, tracing a route through most of the original 13 colonies of the Untied States: Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia (and West Virginia, once part of the original Virginia colony), Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. With each small southern town I stopped in, visiting antique stores, I could not help but think about my K-12 education. It had painted a picture of the American south as an area that is intolerant, racist, and underdeveloped (along with a slew of other—mainly insulting—adjectives). Yet, in reality, the American south is none of these things. In fact, it is a much more inviting place than, say, the urban sprawl that characterizes so much of New Jersey and Connecticut; a drive on I-81 through Virginia and up to Pennsylvania is a welcome respite from the stresses of life, while a parallel drive on I-95 through Virginia to the New Jersey Turnpike is a masochistic endeavor.

 

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I-81 in Virginia. Images Courtesy Of the Author.

 

A trip through the small towns of the United States tell the story of a geography which has been gutted by globalism. In the United States, we have become unable to take care of our own middle classes. This, in itself, is a major problem.  Jobs have been outsourced to China, and to Mexico, while illegal drugs flow from both countries into the United States—and they are drugs targeted at those who have most been affected by globalization: the unemployed in rural areas (Indeed, Fentonyl—a major killer—is being sent to the United States from China; in effect China is killing America’s most vulnerable people both economically and chemically). Our country is rotting from the inside, and no one seems to care enough to save it. To those on the coasts, they are just uneducated rednecks. To those in the heartland, they are just pretentious yuppie liberals. But in the end, both groups consume the same drugs produced in Chinese laboratories and suffer the same tragic consequences.

 

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Small Southern Towns, Gutted by Globalism’s Attacks on Domestic Industry as a Result of Policies Favorable to International Capital. Images Courtesy of the Author.

 

Despite the fact that our society is so clearly failing, in the universities the supposed “educated” portion of the population is finding it “cool” to hate America because of “injustices” committed in the past. But, of course, this begs one serious question: Can you really make something better if you hate it to begin with?

With these points in mind as I drove through the pastoral beauty of rural Virginia, I had to ask myself: If we do not change our own collective perspective, are we—as Americans—not in danger of becoming heirs to a “failed state”? While the term “failed state” is often thrown around at will by main(lame) stream media networks in defining foreign nations, could the same term not be used to describe the future of the United States if we are not careful? It is certainly an important question to ask, while we still have time to turn it around.

 

Is American Society Becoming Failed State?

Like Failed States, The United States Cannot Control the Border: At the end of April 2018, an immigrant “caravan” streamed towards the U.S. Border from Central America. The sight of these individuals, straddling the border fence, gives the impression of a country that has little to no control over its own borders. If this were to happen in another country—like, perhaps, Afghanistan—it is quite likely that the main(lame) stream media would brand it a “failed state”.

 

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An Absurd Sight. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/05/members-immigrant-caravan-asylum-process-180501065056337.html

 

Like Failed States, there is no Rule of Law in the United States: Unfortunately, since 2016, the number of police officers killed in the line of duty has reached record heights. In the first five months of 2018, almost forty members of American law enforcement have been killed while supporting their communities. Regardless of what one thinks about law enforcement, no well-meaning citizen should have to go home from work in a body bag.

Like a Failed State, the Education System is in Shambles: As an educator myself, I can see just how deep the crisis goes in American higher education. There is censorship—I have been rebuked multiple times for even daring to voice some of the opinions found on this blog—but the crisis goes much deeper than just my own experiences. Indeed, the United States has become a country which offers college degrees in “gender studies” while other countries still focus on developing real and tangible skills, like engineering. I liken going into debt for a gender studies degree to paying a scalper 5,000 dollars for a ticket to a sold-out football game only to be given a seat with an obstructed view behind a column. In both scenarios, the consumer ends up paying more than the original price for a very inferior product.

Like a Failed State, the Healthcare System is in Shambles: The United States cannot seem to agree on a working healthcare system, and that is something that—it seems—Americans can agree on regardless of their own ideological positions. Yet, after centralized healthcare showed its negative sides in the United Kingdom during the Alfie Evans case, the Washington Post chose to fan the flames of political sectarianism by publishing a piece by a graduate student (!) connecting the unfortunate death of a child to the bogeyman of 21st America, conservative ideology. That no constructive debate can be had regarding something as fundamental to humanity as healthcare shows just how dangerous the American situation has become.

Like a Failed State, the United States is Riven by Divisions Based on Ethnicity, Race, Sexual Orientation, Gender, and Ideology: How is it that our country has become more reminiscent of the so-called “third world” or “developing countries” which the mainstream media so often ridicules? I despise these terms simply because they mean nothing in actuality; there is no quality which makes one country (and more especially one group of countries) superior to another. Rather, these are descriptions used by a globalist intellectual class to institute a divide and rule policy around the world. Domestically, this process manifests itself in poorer countries by dividing different clans against one another (as in the most famous of failed states, Somalia) or different ethnic groups (as we saw in Afghanistan) just as it divides different groups of people in the United States on the basis of such dubious lines as race, sexual orientation, and even sexuality itself! During a conversation with an EMT at a local university, I learned that some students—when taken to an ambulance—object to being labeled by the gender they physically represent because they “identify” with another gender. While this is ok in theory, it does not work so well in practice simply because modern medicine requires knowledge about gender (and sexuality) in order to provide the best care possible. And just like such students may be shooting themselves in the proverbial foot by resorting to identity politics at any opportunity, might we—as a nation—be doing the same?

 

Given that the United States is so close to becoming a failed state—riddled by censorship in academia and the divisions of identity politics—is it not time that we, collectively, make an attempt to turn it around? It is my hope that on this Memorial Day, in 2018, that we start to move in the right direction; we will never be able to erase the wrongs of the past but we—as the people—have all the power to prevent the same wrongs from being repeated in the future. We owe it to those who fought for our country in the past, we owe it to those who aim to build a life in our country in the future, and–most importantly–we owe it to ourselves in the present.

 

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A Marginal Sociologist on Social Engineering Part 2: Emotions

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Part one of this post focused on technology and its dehumanizing effect by reducing interactions between human beings. In Part two I will focus on emotions, and how the social engineering of emotion—what is acceptable and what is not acceptable—provides people with a false sense of their own humanity. Recently in the United States—and Western culture more generally—it has become the fashion to be “offended” when someone else says something that you might not agree with. Of course, this is ultimately a childish response and offers absolutely no opportunity for communicative action—itself a necessity for societal advancement—in the sense that German sociologist Jurgen Habermas meant it.

Most recently, we saw how many public sentiments in the United States were offended after a bizarre exchange between two septuagenarian politicians in the United States: President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. At a 21 March 2018 rally against sexual assault at the University of Miami, Mr. Biden said “They asked me would I like to debate this gentleman [referring to U.S. President Donald Trump], and I said no. I said, ‘If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him’”. Not one to be outdone, Mr. Trump responded via Twitter on 22 March with this: “Crazy Joe Biden is trying to act like a tough guy. Actually, he is weak, both mentally and physically, and yet he threatens me, for the second time, with physical assault. He doesn’t know me, but he would go down fast and hard, crying all the way. Don’t threaten people Joe!”. If we as a society were not so uptight—and so easily offended—we might have found this exchange to be humorous; perhaps it could have even made us laugh!

 

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A Humorous Tweet. Image Courtesy Of: https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/976765417908776963

 

Yet, it seems, that we are more used to dehumanization. We are so dehumanized that we cannot laugh. The main(lame)stream media in the United States—led by, predictably, CNN—chose to interpret this absurd event in terms of its own world view. Chris Cillizza wrote that Mr. Trump’s Tweet revealed “Three Big Things”. They were: 1) Being “presidential” is not a thing for Trump; 2) Trump sees himself as a street fighter; and 3) Trump is very, very frustrated. I would say that none of the three so-called “big things” that Mr. Cillizza mentions mean much. This is why I believe a second list of “three big things” is necessary in order to get to the point. My three “big things” or, more accurately, big questions are as follows:

 

  • Why Are we blind to the fact that Mr. Biden is exuding this level of toxic masculinity?

Why is Mr. Biden, a darling of the American “left”, a man who “leads with love and kindness”, and takes (supposedly) candid photos of himself with homeless men, threatening physical violence against anybody? Isn’t falling back on stereotypical “male” behavior the kind of thing that those on the American “left” abhor and, ultimately, shame? Indeed, there should be no place for this kind of machismo and empty talk in American society. Yet, for some reason, this is a topic that the main(lame) stream media will not touch. After all, if Mr. Biden was just the kind of stereotypical male that feminists detest, then it would go against the narrative.

 

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Heartfelt? Image Courtesy Of: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2018/03/13/joe-biden-homeless-man/422097002/

 

  • Why do we get offended when Mr. Trump responds in kind?

Why did so many in the main(lame) stream media get offended when Donald Trump responded to Mr. Biden’s threats? Indeed, this was not the first time that Mr. Biden threatened Mr. Trump with physical assault, it happened on the campaign trail as well. Has our culture really become so neutered—so bland—that it is no longer acceptable to speak up when something wrong—like threatening physical violence—occurs? We owe it to ourselves, like the great sociologist C. Wright Mills once said, to speak up when we see absurdity happen.

  • Why do we allow the mass media to frame our world views?

I have written in the past about media framing. It is certainly dangerous, and it happens all the time. Just look at The Atlantic’s poorly informed attempt to frame the terms “globalism” and “globalist” as anti-Semitic slurs (rest assured they’re not, “globalist” merely refers to those who are advocates for globalization) or The Guardian’s attempts to discredit clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson. Unfortunately, the media has much more influence on people’s lives than they believe, and it is hindering the ability for independent thought.

 

Given these three questions I have raised, I will now attempt to provide an answer for all of these “whys”. I believe that the reason that that many people are unable to recognize Mr. Biden’s machismo, the reason that they are offended by Mr. Trump’s response, and the reason that they allow the media to frame their worldviews is because too many people are all too ready to fall back on the fake emotions that the culture industry has provided for them. If supporting Mr. Biden and his party means one is tolerant (and certainly against “toxic” masculinity, since it is a cause of the sexual assaults Mr. Biden was purportedly speaking against), then the case is closed. The media serves to fill the emotional void created by technology and tells the public just how they should feel. Of course, this happens everywhere, not just in the mass media.

 

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A Sign to Make Us Feel Better . . . Image Courtesy Of The Author.

 

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. . . While Our Childhoods are Sold Back To Us. Image Courtesy Of The Author.

 

Recently I found myself in an Urban Outfitters store and saw a sign which pointed towards the fitting rooms. It read “All-Gender Fitting Room: Open to All Persons, Regardless of Gender Identity or Expression”. Of course, most fitting rooms are already “all gender”. Indeed, they have always been so. They’re just…fitting rooms. But, Urban Outfitters seeks to put up such a sign in order to assuage the emotional fears of their customers while unabashedly selling customers their collective childhoods back to them in the context of late stage capitalism. I remember Champion Sweatshirts and the “flower” Adidas design from my childhood. Now, apparently, they’re back—and at a considerably inflated price. Perhaps customers should be offended at having the past being re-sold in the present at a premium price point, rather than worry about dressing rooms. The emotional appeal of the dressing room sign serves to mask the fact that Urban Outfitters is, cheaply, capitalizing on the nostalgia and memories of its customers to further its own profits. Indeed, the corporation is playing on emotions—the same emotions which are rapidly being phased out by the modern world—in order to provide a sense of emotional connection to their customers who are now living in an increasingly rational and ultimately emotionless world. In short, it is the same process we see unfolding in the mass media: raw emotions—and memories—are being transformed into controlled and sanitized forms of marketable emotion.

A Marginal Sociologist on Social Engineering Part 1: Technology

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Yesterday I found myself connecting through Washington D.C.’s Reagan National Airport. There were just nine gates in the small terminal I was in, so I headed to a nearby restaurant for a drink and a snack. To my surprise, there was no one around. No one working, at least. Each table had two Ipads—one for each chair—with menus, games, and even flight information on them. There were no waiters or waitresses. It felt like an odd wasteland, but I decided to play along. I touched the “drinks” page, scrolled down to “spirits”, chose “whiskey/bourbon”, scrolled down to “Jim Beam”, chose “double (plus 4 Dollars), chose a “non Coca-Cola Mixer” and selected “Ginger Ale”. Success (even if it meant spending more time on the Ipad than it would have to tell a server “One double Jim Beam and Ginger Ale please”). When it came time to pay, I was told to add a gratuity. But why? Would I be giving myself the gratuity? I took my own order, after all! And there were no servers whose service I could rate; after all, gratuity is given after the service has been conducted, not before!

I was bewildered. But the system does not let one order without paying; one must pay up-front in order to even get a meal! On top of that, one must swipe a credit card in order to pay! My attempts to pay in cash, needless to say, failed miserably. It was clear that the losers—in this situation—are those who do not have credit cards (this establishment, clearly, did not serve their kind . . . isn’t that discrimination?) and the limited number of servers themselves; those lucky enough to have kept their jobs in this technological utopia will be chronically under tipped because no one in their right minds should tip before seeing service.

Once the order was in, I decided to poke around the menu for a few minutes. I noted that it was available in a number of languages, which intrigued me (perhaps I should have been a marginal linguist, but I digress), so I scrolled down to “Turkish”. The translation was, predictably, atrocious. Likely, it would have embarrassed a five-year old. “Gluten Free of Charge” meals, Grilled Cheeses made of children, and “national bread” did not seem like very appetizing meals. Clearly, the restaurant had chosen to eschew human translators (like they eschewed employing a human wait staff) and instead relied on Google Translate. Unfortunately, the end result was an embarrassment. I felt like I was living in an episode of Black Mirror; I had found myself in a dystopian present dominated by the limits of technology. No, technology certainly does not make us “freer”; rather, it tends to erect more and more boundaries around us—it is certainly Max Weber’s “iron cage” of rationality.

 

A Bar Without Bartenders at Reagan International Airport…Black Mirror Much? Image Courtesy Of the Author.

 

While the restaurant itself was kind enough to provide me a prompt reply to my complaint via email, this example stretches far beyond just one poorly run restaurant in the Reagan National Airport. Rather, this kind of technological rationalism—if left uncheck—will likely spell doom for human kind (and human freedom more specifically) in the long term. Peter L. Bergman and Thomas Luckmann’s 1966 work The Social Construction of Reality makes it clear that we, as human beings, are social creatures (For more on Social Constructionism, please see the Wikipedia page here. We need human contact not only to just thrive, but also to survive:

 

Men together produce a human environment, with the totality of its socio-cultural and psychological formations. None of these formations may be understood as products of man’s biological constitution, which, as indicated, provides only the outer limits for human productive activity. Just as it is impossible for man to develop as man in isolation, so it is impossible for man in isolation to produce a human environment. Solitary human being is being on the animal level (which, of course, man shares with other animals). As soon as one observes phenomena that are specifically human, one enters the realm of the social. Man’s specific humanity and his sociality are inextricably intertwined. Homo Sapiens is always, and in the same measure, homo socius (Berger and Luckmann 1966: 69).

 

By severing our links with our fellow human beings—by privileging the technological over the social—we are, in actuality, setting ourselves up for a bland (and perhaps even bleak) future devoid of empathy and social interactions. While I have written about both the threats to empathy and ongoing cultural homogenization in the modern world before, it is useful to remember just why empathy—and human relations—are so important.

Empathy and respect for your fellow human beings are factors which can prevent tragic events like mass shootings and homicides; social alienation, however, are risk factors which can exacerbate anti-social behaviors and—ultimately—lead to violence. The first step of fascism—which the history of mid 20th century Europe provides a few examples of—is the dehumanization of the “other”. Once one sees “the other” as sub-human, it becomes much easier to dismiss and—in extreme cases—get rid of them; it is the process which Hannah Arendt outlines effectively in The Origins of Totalitarianism. In the period Arendt writes about, this dehumanization was encouraged by state-led propaganda. In the current era, this dehumanization is encouraged by corporations and Silicon Valley, who constantly stress the value of technology for “making our lives easier”. The other side of the coin, of course, is that machination serves the interests of corporations (by driving down the costs of labor and increasing competition between the remaining human employees) but does not serve the interests of average human beings. Is technology really making things “easier”? Or are we just willingly accepting a form of domination and—simultaneously—sewing the seeds of our own destruction? Perhaps we should care about one another—our fellow human beings—than we should care about robots. Unfortunately, it seems like Amazon’s Alexa gets more respect than living, breathing, human beings do, and that is a very real problem. Otherwise, we will be left in a very bland world where restaurants look something like this, too bland to ever offend anyone:

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A…Bland New Eating Establishment. Image Courtesy Of the Author.

 

Take back your lives from corporate greed.

Take back your educations from radical ideologues.

Take back your countries from dehumanizing bureaucratization.

 

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Image Courtesy Of: http://world-visits.com/2011/12/flag-of-the-united-states

Racism In Progressive Society: A Short Example From the Sporting World and Why We Need More Communicative Action

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A few weeks ago on 12 February 2018, NBA head coach Gregg Popovich candidly stated that, in the United States, “we live in a racist country”. As someone who studies both sports and society, this was—of course—fairly obvious. Yet, it was not obvious in the sense that Mr. Popovich may have meant it to be. While he might compare the current state of the United States to “the fall of Rome”, the road to that trajectory was paved by the 44th President of the United States of America, Mr. Barack Obama. Indeed, the racism goes much deeper than the surface level change in the White House which Mr. Popovich seems to allude to.

This kind of racism was clear on 8 Februrary 2018 when House Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D of California) uttered these words regarding her six-year old grandson speaking with regard to his Guatemalan friend “Antonio”:

This was such a proud day for me because when my grandson blew out the candles on his cake, they said, ‘Did you make a wish?’… He said, ‘I wish I had brown skin and brown eyes like Antonio.’ So beautiful, so beautiful. The beauty is in the mix.

To me, as an American, the odd veiled form of racism contained in the above statement made me cringe; indeed it made me embarrassed to be an American. It was uncouth to say the least. Yet, sadly, this kind of veiled racism—disguised with the rhetoric of “tolerance”—is, sadly, everywhere in American society. It is this tendency to blindly subscribe to “tolerance” without actually believing it which has made so many Americans into what they should never be and, indeed, what they claim to fight against. Many Americans have become—unwittingly—racists, sexists, and bigots. It is a twisted and remarkable story.

I was reading an article for a graduate seminar last week and was struck by a passage written by the author, Ellis P. Monk, Jr. In his 2015 article “The Cost of Color: Skin Color, Discrimination, and Health among African-Americans”, the author has this to say:

 

I find that medium-tone blacks actually perceive significantly less discrimination from other blacks due to their skin color than both the very lightest-skinned and very darkest-skinned blacks (both self-rated and interviewer-rated skin color measures produce this result, although I only present the self-rated skin color findings in table 4). Moreover, I find that both very light-skinned and very dark-skinned blacks report significant amounts of discrimination due to their skin shade within the black population (table 4, models 3 and 5).

Monk (2015: 422)

 

As I read this passage I was repulsed. How was it, I wondered, that in 2018 we were discussing something as banal as gradations in human skin color? I found it to be the epitome of racism; indeed, I thought to myself that 100 years from now (if the world still exists, of course) sociologists will look back at our era and comment on how backward—and indeed racist—our society really was.

It is my hope that, as individuals, we will be able to get over our collective hyper-sensitivity to all that is different and which has poisoned our society due to the emphasis on identity politics. The signs of this kind of hyper-sensitivity—which encourages division over unity—are visible all over the town I currently live in, from a sticker on a trash can which reads “this oppresses women” (how a rubbish receptacle can oppress an entire gender I will never know) to a ludicrous poster in the window of a local bar. I would never have thought that all races, religions, countries of origin, sexual orientations, and genders would not be welcome at a bar—until, of course, I saw this particular poster. Acting as if the default—that is, inclusion—is not actually the default, that it is somehow an exception, is not doing a service to wider society. Indeed, this kind of absurd virtue signaling only serves to further divides within society by erecting boundaries where there are none and–in turn–furthers the other-izing of marginalized populations.

 

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A Few Absurd Images From Around the Town I Live In. Images Courtesy Of the Author.

 

I, for one, see the Besiktas ultra group Carsi as one example of how football fans can collectively poke fun at the small absurdities we see around us every day in order to combat these divisions. We cannot deal with a social problem like racism by further concretizing our differences; quite the contrary, we can only move forward and truly “progress” by abandoning the neo-fascistic ideology of modern progressivism which tends to concretize marginal identities in the name of “oppression”. That is why Carsi’s banners—which address social problems through humor—are so refreshing. During a match in 2009, the fan group acknowledged Michael Jackson’s death with a banner in the stadium which read: Rest in Peace Michael Jackson, the Great Besiktas Fan Who Lived Half His Life Black and Half His Life White [note: Besiktas’ colors are black and white].

 

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.haberaktuel.com/carsidan-michael-jackson-pankarti-haberi-205645.html

 

Carsi’s ability to shed light on social problems through humor with banners like “Carsi is against nuclear weapons”, “Carsi is against racism”, “Carsi is against terrorism”, or even “Carsi is against itself” allows for at least a semblance of communicative action (in the Habermasian sense) in Turkish society; this is how the group has become such a successful social movement. Unfortunately in American society, there is currently little dialogue since the real racists are hiding behind a neo-fascistic form of progressive ideology which only serves to mask a dangerous tendency to “other” everyone, whether they agree or (especially) if they disagree with the dominant strains of thought.

A Marginal Sociologist on Strange Bedfellows: The Sad State of Academia in the United States and Korean Unification at the Winter Olympics as Examples of What a World Without Empathy Will Look Like

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After another savage graduate seminar I came home. I had wanted to grade some student papers yet, after three hours of enduring the rabid anti-intellectualism of my peers, it seemed that I had little left in the tank. For the sake of my students I decided to hold off on the grading; I care much more about them than I do about my own work. They are the ones paying thousands of dollars for an education, after all.

It has become more and more exhausting to deal with the savage wrath of my fellow students for daring to offer an opinion that deviates from their form of one-dimensional, progressive, and ultimately neo-fascistic thought. Some days it feels like I am living in a novel set in a dystopian future. Unfortunately, however, this is no novel. And this is no dystopian future; this is my life.

In class the discussion focused on qualitative interviewing, an important component of any true sociological study. The student in charge of presentations decided to show us an interview he was involved with, conducted during the 2018 Women’s March on Washington D.C. following the election of U.S. President Donald Trump. The interview was predictably a train-wreck; it was as if the interviewers had searched for someone who would fit the bill of their preconceived notions of an “ignorant Donald Trump supporter”. Needless to say, it was hardly sociological but wholly ideological. When the professor and students started noting how the respondent’s derogatory comments towards women reflected his own “sexism” and “position of power as a white man”, I had to object.

I offered that while the gender differential played a role, could it also be that the man was upset at being made a caricature? Could it be that the entire exchange just exemplified the toxic environment that identity politics has created? After all, the man knew full well that the interviewer—being a female from the university—had a certain political view that could only be diametrically opposed to his own just like she knew she was conducting the interview for that very same reason? Secondly, could it be that this white male had no “power” at all in this interview, seeing as how the female interviewer was imbued by the power of being connected to the University (especially after the interviewer mocked the man by asking “where did you go to college”, likely knowing full well that the man would respond “nowhere”, as he did)? Furthermore, isn’t the point of interviewing to establish rapport with your interview subjects, rather than insult them? Wasn’t that why I was wasting three hours of my life sitting in an indoctrination chamber, to learn how to conduct interviews? Of course, due to the fact that I dared object to the one dimensional thought prevalent in the room, I was predictably savaged. No one could even offer a single constructive comment and I was left counting the minutes until I could escape what, at that point, felt like a prison cell. At that moment, it felt like not a single seed of intellectual curiosity existed in that room.

At home all I wanted to do was escape from the world for a few hours. I wanted to forget just how alone my “peers” had made me feel. Predictably, I turned to sports for succor. The first story I read was about the return of the XFL. As I read through, I caught the following sentence “Given [the owner of the proposed new league, Professional Wrestling mogul Vince] McMahon’s closeness with the current presidential administration, and that administration’s public stance on players protesting during the national anthem, players also might want to watch out to make sure this isn’t just some thinly veiled political propaganda vehicle”. Clearly, it is impossible to escape from the (over)politicization of American society that is so clearly dividing people along the stupidest of lines! The next story I found regarded the decision of North and South Korea to field a unified women’s ice hockey team in the upcoming Winter Olympics. The headline, “an illusion of unity” had caught my eye.

Indeed, the unification of the Koreas—for these Olympic games—had long seemed, to me, like a glorified political stunt. In typically technocratic language, the author describes well the rehearsed nature of this faux unity:

 

“The Olympics is more than just a global sporting event,” Kim Jae-youl, the executive vice president of the local organizing committee, told me in an office at the committee’s headquarters in Seoul last year, delivering the line with a lilt, as if it were from scripture. “The Olympics is the occasion where people put aside differences and come together to celebrate the greatest festival on earth.”

 

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A Unified Korea In The Olympics? Image Courtesy Of: https://qz.com/1179399/food-is-the-new-battlefield-among-museums-and-singapore-is-setting-the-bar/

 

Clearly, the powers-that-be at the Olympic committee see this as a feel-good story which they believe will provide a story line amenable to globalist sensibilities in order to increase revenue. It seems as if—in the modern world—people are more concerned with making money, even if it means playing political games at the expense of people who truly suffer from the issues the technocrats are claiming to save them from. In many ways, this is a situation echoed by the state of contemporary ethnography in modern sociology and anthropology.

Ethnographer Bryan C. Taylor advocates post-modern analysis because it “restores to public consciousness marginalized cultural voices that relativize and challenge dominant narratives” (Taylor:67). While this is certainly a laudable goal, ethnographers should instead be careful to not re-create the colonialist forms of discourse that Maria Cristina Gonzalez criticizes. Gonzalez argues that colonialist ethnographies “were written in order to justify, legitimize, and perpetuate the colonization of those about whom the texts were written. Colonization implied cultural conquest” (Gonzalez:78). In this context, the “marginalized cultural voices” Taylor invokes become owned by the ethnographer. Gonzalez defines colonialist ethnography as “one that is written primarily to serve the interests of agents who have taken upon themselves the privilege of owning the voices of others” (Gonzalez:80). Paul Stoller’s prologue to Sensuous Scholarship points out just how the “rational” and detached nature of academic text tend to re-enforce the subjugation of “marginalized voices”. In Stoller’s words: “their [Foucault and Butler’s] bloodless language reinforces the very principle the critique—the separation of mind and body, which, as we have seen, regulates and subjugates the very bodies they would liberate” (Stoller:xv). Herein lies the danger: If modern social scientists aim to give voice to marginalized voices—without becoming detached from the human sensory experience—they must be careful that, in attempting to approach their subjects in a less “rational” manner, they do not replicate the pitfalls of colonialist ethnographers who sought to “own” the voices of others.

I personally saw just how dangerous this can be in the experiences of the ethnographers interviewed by the authors of one of the texts my professor gave me. Since a majority of the ethnographers interviewed were Americans pursuing research either in the global South or within marginalized communities in the United States, there was a quasi-neo-colonialist dynamic inherent in their work to begin with. In some cases, some of these ethnographers—in detailing their struggles—seemed to making value judgements on cultures very different than their own; in a sense they were viewing their research subjects—and locations—through a colonialist lens. Examples stemmed from an ethnographer who resented “sticking out” in Sub-Saharan Africa as a white American female to another who thought she was being “discriminated against” for having to use the female entrance to a mosque because she was . . . female. The ethnographer further denigrated the situation, resenting the presence of toys and children in the mosque. The ethnographer’s reaction seemed to come from a neo-colonialist perspective; she wanted the other culture to resemble her own and, because it doesn’t, she took it as a personal slight. Yet some knowledge of Muslim culture would have made her recognize that men and women have separate entrances to Mosques; since often women come with their children the women’s section tends to have many toys in order to amuse visiting children while their mothers pray.

It is in contexts like these that researchers should remember that—as French Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu pointed out—it is the researcher who has the power to define what constitutes “knowledge”. In order to not become “post-colonial neo-colonialists”, for lack of a better term, researchers should recognize the problems that bringing themselves into the research can have, especially in cross-cultural contexts. It can risk making the research less about the subjects and more about the (often Western) researchers, and that risks taking ownership of others’ voices. Similarly, by viewing the cultures they study through their own cultural lenses, they risk “regulating and subjugating the very bodies” that some researchers, ostensibly, claim to “liberate”. If researchers judge non-Western cultural contexts in terms of the West, are they not—in effect—“justifying” and “legitimizing” the colonialist enterprise which, in the modern world, is called globalization?

Of course, my rhetorical question will likely fall on deaf ears. But could it matter? After my day in class, it was all to clear to me that—unfortunately—the scholars who once sought to “liberate” people had become petty fascists, unable to even engage in any sort of intellectual debate. The neo-Marxism within academia has produced fascists. And that is most certainly a problem for academics in the United States. Once the researcher’s aim becomes re-making the cultures they research into a version of the Western culture they come from, they destroy that culture. And that is the same process that is evident in the article I read on Korean unification and the Olympics. While many in the West—such as, evidently, South Korea’s Olympic committee—might think that unification is the ultimate goal, wouldn’t they be better of talking to South Koreans and North Koreans? The article in question does a good job at pointing out how many North Korean immigrants to South Korea feel alienated and discriminated against in South Korea. In fact, many even consider going back! At one point, the author even gives these damning statistics:

 

Numerous studies have shown that as many as half of North Korean defectors experience depression after arriving in South Korea, and a 2015 survey by Korea Hana Foundation found that about 20 percent of refugees had had suicidal thoughts in the preceding 12 months — nearly three times the percentage of South Korea’s general population. Even more striking is that some aid organizations estimate that as many as 25 percent of North Korean refugees in the South consider going back […] In 1994, surveys found that about 92 percent of South Koreans wanted to see unification with the North; by 2007, that had dropped by nearly 30 percentage points, and a government survey in 2011 showed that only 9 percent of 19- to 29-year-old South Koreans are “very interested” in a unified Korea.

 

What, then, can this tell us? Is it that a unified Korea is a dream? If so, is it an impossible dream? Or is it a dream that the technocrats believe can be realized through the social engineering of modern social scientists and the global culture industry, of which the Olympics are a part, without ever acknowledging social reality on the ground?

Personally, I would say—especially after seeing the fascism of my fellow students—that all dreams of social engineering should be abandoned (after all, they should have been abandoned long ago; weren’t the previous examples of social engineering in the USSR and Nazi Germany enough to show that societies cannot be built by technocratic bureaucrats?). Instead, societies should be left to develop organically. If the Koreas eventually decide to unify, let them do so on their own terms. Clearly at this point the cost of accommodating impoverished North Koreans is too much for South Koreans who—judging by the low percentage of young South Koreans supporting unification cited above—are more concerned with their pocketbooks than they are with unifying with their “brothers” and “sisters” north of the border. This is the divide between visions of the future which vacillate between the utopic and dystopic and . . . real life. Nations, countries, and societies cannot be willed into existence by technocratic and bureaucratic elites according to their own relative concepts of “social justice” and “progress”. Instead, they should be left to develop at their own pace, according to their own desires. Life is hard enough as it is, and we—as both social scientists and individuals—would do well to avoid social engineering.

The next day I visited the local police department for a meeting related to my research for a class project. It was there that, once again, I saw first hand just how dangerous the divisiveness in modern society has become. No, all police are certainly not racists, as the progressive mindset has one believe. Rather, most are just regular people looking to make their communities as livable as they can be. Does this mean that racist police do not exist? No, it doesn’t either—police are people, and all types of people exist in the world. Understanding that would be the first step towards a true kind of progress, rather than the “progress” that academics continually express their desire for.  The police officers told me that it was alienation—a need to belong—which drives the youth to become members of gangs. As the officers were explaining the process to me, I couldn’t help but let my mind wander: it is the same kind of alienation—the same kind of intense need to belong—which drives academics to seek a community in the arms of identity politics. In that respect, then, there is little difference between a graduate student caught in the throes of identity politics and an impoverished young African-American pursuing gang membership. Both look to find somewhere to belong in the alienating world we live in; both do not realize the dangers that membership will have.

After the meeting I am still thinking about the intense need to belong in the modern world. A colleague of mine tells me she doesn’t go on Facebook anymore, because no one posts anything “fun”. It is all about political debate (debate is a generous term here) now, and it just furthers people’s alienation from one another. In the future—if no one has any connection to their fellow humans that extends beyond their “smart” phones, then what will we have? We will have a world without empathy, and that will be a dark future. My friend told me a story recently: She dropped her purse when disembarking from her car; while helping her mother with the door her hands were full and her purse just fell. At the time, she didn’t notice it and went into a restaurant for dinner. When she noticed that the purse was gone, she ran back outside into the parking lot. There, she found a curbside flower seller holding her purse. He had caught a man emptying the money out of the purse and chased him off; then he returned the purse to my friend, the rightful owner. Such cognizance of humanity—of the need to help, rather than stifle—our fellow human can only be furthered by empathy. In a future world, where people’s heads are buried in “smart” phones as they seek “communities” in the digital world in order to escape the fractured worlds—divided along the lines of identity politics—of their “reality”, there will be fewer people to stop the thieves.

Yes, the seeds of a world without empathy are what I saw in the classroom; it is what we see in relations between South Koreans and North Koreans, who base the value of their fellow men and women in economic terms; and it is what we see in the battles being fought on social media daily. This attack on empathy is furthered by globalist news outlets like the Huffington Post, who attack anything that could possibly bring people together in mutual empathy; in their most recent interactive segment “I am an American”, they offer many options for readers to identify as: one can be a Simon and Garfunkel fan, a Game Warden, a Game of Thrones Addict, a Gaimanite [Author’s Note: I do not know what this even means], a Gay Person of Color, a Gay Woman, a Humanist, Senegalese, or even a Dynamo. The one thing a person can not be is, just, “An American”. In fact, the option does not exist. Such is the poisoning nature of identity politics.

 

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According to the Globalist Logic of the Huffington Post, You Can Be Anything You Want to be…Except American. Image Courtesy Of: http://interactives.huffingtonpost.com/2017/i-am-an-american/

 

My mind goes back to class. Our professor had given us a reading in which some of the writers implied that 9/11 was an inside job so as to “take away our freedoms”. That such armchair conspiracy theorizing has no place in an educational setting goes without saying; that it is a disgusting form of indoctrination should also be obvious. As sociologists our job should be to unify—and not divide—society. But the situation in classrooms also hits on something much deeper, and fear mongering like the “Doomsday Clock” should not stop us from addressing the problems in our societies. From all that I have experienced, it is—more than ever—clear what the issues are. It is political correctness and identity politics that will divide us and take away our freedoms. This is what we all must know, and this is what we all must resist.

 

 

Image Courtesy Of: https://www.amazon.com/United-States-America-American-sticker/dp/B00B1Z8XOS

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Image Courtesy Of: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flag-map_of_Turkey.svg