fragments of an attempted writing.
I generally try to avoid identity politics quarrels, with the exception of my being quite sympathetic to what we might call 2nd and 1/2 wave feminism, or something like that, and as an old leftist I consider race matters as existing prior to new leftist identity politics trajectories, even if the new left has royally messed up racial politics like it has so many other things [screw victim-hood and its cults - the old left was about fighting back and coherent organizational struggles, not perpetual whining and constant appeals to white guilt and the psychologicalization of the oppressed into quasi-divine impotent victims].

But for a split second I almost thought about getting a subscription to Touchstone again after reading this complete rubbish.  Petit-bourgeois liberalism and its decadent petty "liberations" - sigh, so astoundingly worthless.  Middle class white straight males might veer a bit away from gender normativity in parental roles by being exposed to subcultures wherein gay male parents are present.  Great.  What does that amount to exactly?  Dad changes one more diaper a week and washes dishes once more a week?  Talk about first world problems.  Cuz, like, I mean, totally, like, my mother told me when I was ten years old that I would have to do those thing if I got married.  Wait, not my mother, parent #1, or at least I assume the mother is parent #1, as I met her before I met my father.  And this idea that middle class gay families are going to facilitate the transformation of middle class straight families, such that they will now have an "understanding of sexuality as gift from God" and then de-instrumentalize their own sexualities (because, as we all know, when you think "middle class gay cultures" you naturally think "avoidance of the instumentalization of sex" - first thing that comes to mind, of course), all in the context of the American middle comfort class - identity as commodity - my life the movie in which my sexuality is a tool the Church needs, because everything I do, even with my penis, is, like, meta-narrative in importance.  Uh, yeah.  

31 comments:

  1. Two comments, both a little tangential:

    what we might call 2nd and 1/2 wave feminism

    What does that mean? I'm curious about (and more than a little skeptical of) any sort of feminism with which one might be sympathetic. When I was younger I sort of agreed in principle with the basic feminist idea of equality, while having my reservations about many of its manifestations (e.g. abortion on demand). The older I get the more I realize that my apparent agreement in principle with feminism was only the result of feeling guilty from being shamed by the wider culture; and the more I just say "nah, that's all just bullshit."

    Does "2 1/2-wave feminism" show that I'm wrong?

    for a split second I almost thought about getting a subscription to Touchstone again

    That is a delightful turn of phrase that captures the fleeting visceral reaction just before thought.

    For me, Touchstone is an odd phenomenon. One would think I would be right in its target audience (see above, about feminism) but for some reason I simply find it uncongenial.

    I subscribed only for a few months and then let my subscription lapse. I actually got a personal phone call from someone on their staff (a perfectly pleasant young woman), asking me why I had chosen not to re-subscribe. She wasn't trying to get me to change my mind; she really wanted to know the reason. I was really at a loss. I mumbled something about how a Christian ought to be concerned less with politics than with cleaning up his or her own spiritual act, and rang off.

    Now, a third comment, not tangential:

    Yeah, complete rubbish. Plus, the rest of what you said.

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  2. Chris,

    The history of feminism is generally broken up into "waves" - first wave feminism, second wave feminism, third wave feminism. It has been noted by many persons that a great many women under the age of 35-40 have either explicitly or implicitly rejected third wave.

    I realize that the term 'feminism' conjures up emotions and hatreds (whether one is for or against the term), and the term has become so broad and so connoted with caricature as to be rendered quite useless, but if we take is as broadly applicable to any of the waves of feminism then at least 90% of Christian conservatives I know are feminists. First wave feminism brought the right of women to inherit property, to sign contracts, to sue for divorce, to own businesses, to vote, etc., and only a very few people I know (even folks who like to bluster on about divorce), really believe that policy reversions in most or all of those areas are something actually worthwhile and socially beneficial. Setting aside the liberal notions of 'rights' which are so fraught with pointlessness, personally, I think folks who are opposed to first wave feminism to the extent that they want to "return" to social conditions for women prior to first wave feminism, are lunatics. But I certainly have met folks who believe that wives should not be able to open a bank account without the husband's permission. Hell, I grew up around fundamentalist Prot families wherein the oldest male son sat in the front seat of the car and mom sat in the back when driving, because they believed this properly reflected Christian social ordo. Fever swamped doesn't even begin to connote that level of batshitcrazy.

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  3. cont'd -

    Second wave feminism is the 60s and 70s Women's lib movement, and this is where Christian conservatives as we know them today decidedly veer away from feminism. But, per Corey Robin's thesis about reactionaries ultimately adopting and altering social transformations so long as they can still find some means to express elitism and social chauvinisms through them, most conservatives whilst asserting abhorrence for Women's Lib, when you actually find out their policy positions regarding women, well, they are fairly close to second wave feminist propositions, except on abortion.

    Third wave feminism, as Wiki notes "incorporates elements of queer theory; anti-racism and women-of-color consciousness; womanism; girl power; post-colonial theory; postmodernism; transnationalism; ecofeminism; individualist feminism; new feminist theory, transgender politics, and a rejection of the gender binary."

    As I pretty much hate pomo in nearly all its incarnations, and as I find identity politics as a deviation from real (old) leftist politics which are concerned with working class and race issues, I don't go for all this so much. That said, I think one important insight comes from the third wave, and that was that second wave feminism, at least as it was organized and made known to the world initially, presented a monolithic version of feminism which asserted/suggested that all women, if they are honest or given the chance or rightly educated, want the same things - to enter essentially the same social, political, economic, sexual, etc. marketplaces that men have had as their domain. But, as we all know, this is clearly not true. Some women want to stay at home and raise kids. Other women, like my wife, want to work, but they want work opportunities which provide them with a great deal of flexibility so that they can still play a very motherly role with their children (and my wife is willing to make less and have less of a ladder to climb in exchange for that flexibility, but she still likes to work, as all day with the kids 7 days a week drives her absolutely nuts). So I think the third wave feminist insight that there is no one feminist program or feminist ideal of a woman's life that fits all is important - but we don't have to fall into all manner of pomo subjectivity and epistemological anarchy to assent to that observation.

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  4. cont'd -

    There are some folks who say that there is essentially a reformed second wave feminism that has broadened second wave ideals to include the observation that there are various strands of "what women want" and "what women need" categories, and I guess that might apply to my own position.

    When my dad was in seminary in the 80s my mom was the research librarian at the county library. This position was full time and required a graduate degree. She was not paid benefits and for the three years dad was getting his MDiv we didn't have insurance. When dad graduated and she left that job they replaced her with a man who had less experience than her and had a degree from a rinky dink institution whereas my mom had gone to one of the top library science programs in the country and had worked in her field before and she was recognized as having beneficially transformed the research librarian program at that library. The man who replaced her (he started just before mom finished) was paid considerably more and offered benefits. My mom found out and protested and she was told "well, he has a family to support." I know the various and sundry lines from Christian conservatives about how such is better for the social ordo, and I find them all to be utter bullshit. If I die I want my wife to be able to receive just compensation for her work regardless of her sex, and to receive a living wage with benefits so as to support her family. I think those who opposes this is not just mistaken, but either intentionally or de facto are socially malevolent, and I think anyone who supports my desire in that regard is, whether they will use the term or not, a feminist what else are we going to call it?). But I also understand why folks would avoid the term considering it has essentially been taken over by the most extreme identity politics zealots.

    Agreed on Touchstone.

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  5. Och, you make it seem as if there was a chance that the old left could NOT have morphed into the new left; fill us in.

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    1. I've never had any luck at games of chance, and I tend to sympathize with disastrously lost causes, unless we're talking about the Confederacy. I love me some Sherman.

      The old left grew out of circumstances which the old left was rather explicit (at times anyway) about being not ideal and in contrast to old leftist theoretical constructs. Things didn't go as planned (the first revolutionary societies being constructed in backwards places without developed bourgeoisie, etc.). And then you have factors like the role WWII played in the creation of the new left. Paris '68 is inconceivable without social factors related to the war. And there was the weight of the moral bankruptcy and ridiculous propaganda of the old left in a world that could end at any moment thanks to the bomb.

      Many conservative intellectuals of the Richard Weaver "Ideas Have Consequences" sort tend to think that social phenomena like third wave feminism is an obvious progression out of second wave, etc. Certainly there is some truth to that. It is one logical trajectory. But I tend to think that factors like personal computers and mass entertainment industries and increased free time for the middle classes and modern transportation and certain new medical technologies have far more to do with the milieu in which the decadence of third wave identity politics thrives.

      As far as the right's constant bitching about the deification of progress on the left, well, when the right stops embracing the results of that progress, only with a 10-40 year delay, I'll take it's critiques seriously. And I would say that to most trads and paleos and frontporchers and the like - who much more often than not still embrace most of the overall project of feminism (if we consider it broadly - from first wave onward). I think we rhetorically underestimate the benefits of most of the social transformations of the last 150 years, even if on policy point by policy point we assent to most of it. Take a typical German worker of 1848 and transport him to the life of a typical German working class individual and all the social dem supports and securities today. He very might call today's situation utopian. Likewise, when a conservative bitches about the excesses of third wave feminism and they assert that therefore the whole feminist project is depraved, I want them to spell out, issue by issue, exactly how it is moral and just to return to a world wherein women cannot divorce abusive husbands, wherein they cannot own property, wherein they cannot sign a contract, wherein they cannot act as legal guardian of a child in certain situations, wherein they cannot get a bank account, wherein they work for greatly reduced wages when doing the same work as men, wherein sexual harassment in workplaces is commonplace and virtually impossible to address through legal means, such that women who work in many workplaces are considered 'damaged goods' in terms of marriagability because everyone knows what men in those workplaces expect from the women who work there, and so on and so forth. It's cute to whine incessantly about the horrors of abortion and pansexualism and the like, but this "the evils of today far outweigh the evils of yesterday" is a moral calculus that I find horrifically simplistic, and evasive with regard to the systemic injustices women used to be subjected to nearly constantly - injustices which have, thank goodness for progress, been somewhat alleviated because of feminism.

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  6. my sexuality is a tool the Church needs, because everything I do, even with my penis, is, like, meta-narrative in importance


    Of course it is, my child..

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  7. I used to have some animus towards identity politics. After all, I graduated from Berkeley, and bounced around the student left in my formative years in the late 1990's. I remember one white hipster in glasses who had the gall to wear a UFW pin, as if he had ever seen a field in his life. I wanted to rip it off of him in the name of my grandparents who are card-carrying members. However, it is easy to hate identity politics when you are white, straight, and male. Just sayin'. Me, I secretly like seeing white people grovel, even if it insincere groveling, as long as they give me shit. I mean, I didn't get into Berkeley just on affirmative action (I had a personal essay that could make Ayn Rand cry, plus I had a high GPA and good SAT scores). But shit, even if I did, I wouldn't feel bad about it. Just think of it as compensation for all of the racial profiling and growing up in the shadow of the fields. I don't shed a tear that Todd who had a 3.4 GPA, grew up in the suburbs, and was captain of the water polo team didn't get in because I took his spot, or my kids take his spot. Payback's a bitch, I guess.

    I would rather they spend money on the lesbian middle class black woman doing her thesis on queer theological doubling in Brazilian candomble than some geeky kid doing cancer research for the capitalist drug companies, or even on the labor bureaucrat whose main spiel is how "a fair wage" will make capitalism run better. At this point, screw the "class struggle", because it ain't working. It's time for outright sabotage.

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    1. Yeah 'screw the "class struggle"' is pretty much the stance of the left today, broadly speaking. And 'sabotaging' bourgeois cultures via gay subversiveness isn't working either - gayness has been and is continuing to be through and through gentrified and it is becoming an integral part of petit-bourgeois identity in much of non red state America (and even in red state America - I know plenty of white Republican Christian families who make comments about watching Glee or Parenthood, shows which brand and sell gay identity). Identity politics is where the wins are to be found. And I increasingly get the sense that the rhetoric of class struggle on the part of a lot of the left is really just an obligatory practice required to create the biggest possible organizational circles for identity politics struggles, which has become the heart of the left in terms of its goals and self-awareness.

      I've heard any number of leftists in the last year say this - "gay rights is the civil rights struggle of our generation" - equating the contemporary gay rights movement to the civil rights struggle of the 50s and 60s. I mean, even on the most utilitarian of levels, that is complete and utter horseshit. How many thousands of brutally killed blacks lie in our nation's dirt for every Matthew Shepard? And, let's face it, a middle class homosexual white dude doesn't receive discrimination in the totalizing manner that a black man did in the Jim Crow South. He can go to the post office or the grocery store or the job interview as just - white middle class dude. The experience is totally different. And there is something really sick about all this. It reminds me of when one of the rich white salepeople at work gets in a conversation with one of the poor workers at work and tries to identity with some aspect of poor dude's life - "oh, aren't teenagers expensive!, yeah, blah, blah, blah" when poor dude is trying to keep the kid in WalMart clothes and fed and rich dude is really anxious about getting a decent bonus so he can send his daughter on the Swiss Alp ski trip her friends are going on.

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    2. Owen, I just don't believe in the magical divide between the "working class" and everyone else. Granted, this is probably largely subjective, but what on earth that is human isn't? My position ultimately is that when people make an argument that gay marriage will ruin the "traditional" family is, "Good, it needed to go anyway." Perhaps it is all hyperbole, but as with giving people EBT cards instead of "workfare", or giving women in the ghetto government jobs so that they don't have to depend on deadbeat men, I say if it messes with the fundamental efficiency of imperialist capital, that's definitely a bonus. Law, order, efficiency, etc. are all going to kill us anyway, so if screwing with the norms can get even a centimeter of progress, I say go for it. I don't believe in the "magical working class" that one of these days is going to start a class struggle carnival of rage and violence like it's 1937 all over again. The unions in this country ever so faintly invoke that ghost, but we should all know by now that this stuff is just rhetoric. Even the street violence going on in Europe that is the stuff of your wet dreams doesn't seem to frighten the bourgeoisie all that much at this point. What did the urban riots in this country do to the cities? That's not necessarily a catch-all panacea (though I wouldn't mind if it happened).

      And I don't buy your zero sum game approach to it: either identity politics or "working class politics". Granted, leftists will often go for one at the expense of the other, but these are false dichotomies (and here I am riffing off of Dunayevskaya, who condemned those who said that one particular group will have to wait until "after the revolution" for a claim to freedom.) That's like saying that "you can have some healthcare reform, or you can condemn drones, but you can't do both". Why the hell not? Who is making the rules here? So when people compare the struggle for gay rights to the Black Revolution in the 1960's, I don't know why the latter shouldn't be flattered. Imitation is the best form of flattery, etc. It is indeed one long continuum (here again, I cite Dunayevskaya). Again, I don't have your "moral zero sum game" approach, whereby one has to put down one struggle to exalt another. The gay rights movement was inferior to the women's movement, the women's movement was inferior to the Black Revolution of the '60's, the Black Revolution of the '60's was inferior to the 1930's, the 1930's to 1917 (the Great Eschatological Year), etc. That sort of reserve of moral indignation gets us nowhere. It is true that many leftists and "progressives" are opportunist douche bags, but I am not convinced that you are not doing something else here other than channeling your disgruntled white male.

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    3. Well, I am a white male. And I am disgruntled. Who isn't when talking politics?

      A few months ago I re-listened to that talk you sent me a year+ ago by Noel Ignatiev. I still find it inspiring and informative. But the thought occurred to me this time around that virtually all of the specific acts of subversiveness and dissent that Ignatiev mentions in that talk are only possible in a milieu in which labor has already flexed muscles, created a context of at least some social fear on the part of power players, and created organizational apparatus. It's great that he dissents from corrupt unions and corrupt businesses, but almost all of what he describes would not have been possible in a factory in 1830, and half of it would result in immediate termination in my non-union shop.

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    4. cont'd -

      I was at the Occupy meeting (which I've read got replicated at a bunch of Occupies) wherein for a couple of hours I had to listen to the interminable debate over whether or not people with penises who gender identify as women should be allowed in the Occupy women's caucus, and whether or not the name of that caucus should be changed to female caucus or feminine caucus or non-male caucus or female gender identity caucus etc., etc. ad infinitum. I watched as people who had come to their first (or one of their first) General Assemblies, people eager to get engaged in work which they hoped might help improve their lives and the lives of people they knew, walked away in disgust at the incredibly inane scene that debate created. I noted, as I have always noted in every encounter I've ever had with the radical ends of identity politics agitation, that the folks doing the demanding showed the maturity of the pre-teen or teen - "LOOK AT ME!! DON'T I DISGUST YOU!! LOOK AT ME!! AREN'T I AVANT_GARDE!! LOOK AT ME!! DON"T I DEFY CONFORMITY!! - and I realized that yes, some of these people had suffered greatly for being different in the South, but they expressed themselves with less maturity than my 7 year old, and they were full bore with all the decadent affect and crude catharsis and extreme narcissism of hyped up Proudhonish radical subjectivity. These people wanted a politics of spectacle and stage in which the world looked upon them and worshiped their hurt feelings and victim status. This is completely different from organizational methods meant to build and exercise actually existing power. It is completely different from the psychology of mass or class solidarity. It's a fucking joke, and that certain anarchist academics like Mr.-dresses-like-going-to-Renaissance-Faire David Graeber get off on it means nothing to me. I, and a shitload of people like me, need health insurance, and stable employment, and the ability to get by financially without having to spend every waking second away from our families. So forgive me if I don't really give a flying rat's ass about the movement to allow petit-bourgeois validation to the middle class dudes who want to bump dicks and adopt, or chop their dicks off, start wearing dresses, and not lose their job as a kindergarten teacher, after the kids start crying when they enter the classroom in a dress the first time. At the end of the day politics and economic structural changes involve a mix of self-interest and coalition building. The handwriting is now very much on the wall, as far as I’m concerned, that coalitions with identity politics groups don’t advance my self-interests, or the interests of families like mine ---- which will inevitably confirm I’m now a racist, because I can’t possibly mean working families by that line (so I guess I must mean white families, right….), as “working” is not an ontological reality, though apparently homosexual and transgendered are – at which point I thank you, because I think you give words to what lies behind the bulk of the left today – both radical and mainstream – in which identity politics carry the ontology, as it were, of societal transformation, and ‘working’ and ‘class’ are now ethereal. If that is the case, I want nothing to do with anything of the left. Sign me up for the Euro New Right or Catholic Integralism or somesuch – anything wherein ‘working’ still means something.

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    5. cont'd -

      And it's cute to moralize away my "'moral zero sum game' approach, whereby one has to put down one struggle to exalt another" as if this isn't exactly what is happening right as we speak, with the elevation of identity politics over serious policy matters that effect everyone, or at least everyone in the bottom half, or bottom two thirds of society depending upon the issue.

      Look, you're a sectarian, and you like small sects. First a Trot. Then SSPX. Then Eastern Catholic monk. Then tiny Anglican Sect. Then America's foremost mediator of Mexican folk Catholicism to white Catholics online (a niche if ever there was one, and frankly, pretty damn cool). Then nominally associating with the tiniest hyper-intellectualized leftist group I've ever encountered, even if very interesting people with one of the most coherent takes on the Marxist trajectory that I’ve ever read. And now perhaps moving on to one of the fringe radical Christian anarchist groups, or so it seems, and there again, with theory that I do really sympathize with when dealing with the abstract. That's all groovy. I can dig it all. I've been around sectarian lefties a plenty and I sympathize. But for you to ever suggest that someone is misguided to believe in the social efficacy of anything is always going to be an exercise in irony. You must understand that, surely. It seems pretty likely that as Marxist-humanism and Christian anarchism have had, they also will have, absolutely zero effect on any culture relevant to anyone who reads this blog. They are, we might say, verbose forms of political quietism. Prophetic? Sure, maybe, some of humanity may find out if they are or aren’t I guess. Especially the Christian anarchists talking about how we are quickly making the world unlivable. But what they are telling me doesn’t do me a damn bit of good in figuring out how I am going to pay for the bills that will come out of my wife’s doctor’s visit this morning, and I’m only really interested in politics that can speak to that, directly.

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    6. I'm left wondering how gay marriage, or most identity politics in general, "messes with the efficiency of imperial capital" or whatever. It's just adding more options for bourgeois living.

      Hell, "screw the class war" is easy to say when you have the benefits of petit bourgeoishood, if we want to go down that road. (And don't tell me you're not petit bourgeois because you don't own capital or some shit. No one gets to travel the world, trying out weird religions, and still gets to settle down with the life of granite countertops and golf, unless they belong to the right class. Welcome to the exploiting class, lets move on.)

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    7. Well, little old Baptist ladies gave me wads of cash they sacrificed from their SS payments so that I could go on missions trips when I was a teenager, and I don't think El P's travel was of jet set kind. And I also don't begrudge him the choices he's made or the good luck he's had. His grandparents didn't want him picking in fields. My grandfather's generation didn't want their kids working in the shops they worked in. I ended up in a shop which offers worse security than my grandfather's did because I followed a rather romantic view of vocational life for too long. I certainly don't want my kids to repeat my mistakes.

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    8. I don't begrudge him either. I'm as petit bourgeois as Arturo. My parents didn't want me laboring for a living either, and I sure as hell am grateful for that. That really wasn't my point.

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    9. Shit Owen, you take a lot of this stuff personally. I tend to find it ironic that the thing that saved the world from fascism in the last election (as you and the CPUSA put it) was this identity politics stuff, because no one believes for a second that Obama will fight for "working class" interests, but enough people thought Romney and the Republicans were appropriately scary enough re: the "Gleeified" versions of the culture war to vote for the socialist Kenyan. Everyone talks about the "Hispanic" vote now, and I don't think anyone of my paisa border brothers believe that Obama did us any favors the first four years, but they did believe that the Republican Party is the devil precisely because of culture war reasons. It's all sectoralist tribalism, and I have no problem with it.

      That said, your argument would have teeth if there were anyone (the unions, the Democratic Party, non-profit groups, etc.) who were actually fighting for the "working class", people who were trying to re-enact the tragedy of the 1930's, even in a farcical way. Is there some magical "working class coalition" just waiting to emerge if not for all of those transgender black liberal arts professors who can't make the meeting because it conflicts with their yoga class? So far, I see no one. The CPUSA? That's funny. You love Obama because he gave you healthcare? Fine, in my initial reply and elsewhere, I can go on and on about the wonders of EBT cards and government cheese. I don't knock anyone's hustle. But once in a while, I just have to ask: "Hey, why don't we seem to be getting anywhere? Why is it we are returning to the same old stuff, over and over again? Why does the left's discourse seem to be the definition of insanity: always doing the same thing expecting a different outcome?" You may seem to be saying that you accept the reality on the ground, and are willing to endorse anything that gets your family a better life. I am just saying that you are going to be wildly disappointed. The poor will always survive, but to think that Obama or the CPUSA's awesome Leninist games are going to get us anywhere is the position that is most separated from reality. I have kids too, and don't make much more than you (I would guess) so it's not like I am speaking from a place where I am immune from the things to come.



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    10. Besides, as someone indicated, the CPUSA created "identity politics" through its own neglect. It started and then buried the black (and Latino) struggle for the sake of "anti-fascism". It perpetrated the very sexism at the heart of society within its own ranks. It condemned gay people within the party as "petit-bourgeois" and condemned them as liabilities. And so on and so forth. And you want to go back to the "good ol' days", because that worked out so well. Let me forget that I am Mexican, or gay, or a woman, and fight for what "really matters", as if money was the only thing that talks, and I should just brush off being called a spic or being portrayed as a parasitical member of the brown horde because that would offend the "broad coalition" of what have you.
      I could go on, but what would be the point? All I will say is that these "cultural issues" mean much more to us than they ever will to you. If you have a chance, check out the following documentary. It is about the suppression of the Mexican-American Studies program in the Tucson high schools. I have to admit, all of the faux Aztec stuff turned me off at first, being a white European trapped in a fat Mexican mestizo body (though I am pretty light skinned, but still noticeably brown). Then I realized that if it weren't for MECHA, those ballet folklorico assemblies, the mandatory blurbs about Cesar Chavez in elementary school, I, as a Mexican kid growing up in turn-of-the-century California, would have felt like complete shit about myself. Yeah, I dislike their petit-bourgeois altares de muertos, their sucky political Chicano rap, their forced pronunciations of Nahuatl words, but I now realize that I owe these people a huge debt of gratitude. I couldn't be the contrarian that I am today if it weren't for all of those culturalist Chicano activists who now have cushy positions in Ethnic Studies departments and kids who are whiter on the inside than a stadium during a Nickleback concert. So maybe I am defending my tribe, and distrusting that your imaginary (not-so) rainbow coalition of economist radicals would do any better for our community. You might get us more healthcare, or more money for schools, or whatever (but probably not), but either way, we will have the Aztec dancers, even though I roll my eyes when they come out. Part of me is just comforted that they are there.

      http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/precious-knowledge/

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    11. And just to clear the air on personal stuff: the granite counter tops were in my last place that we were renting rather cheaply. They renovated the downstairs, but the upstairs was pretty ghetto, as we had an absentee landlord. And I have never played golf. If I were on a golf course, they would probably be wondering if I were there to cut the grass. And anyone who saw my house would not think that I am living it up, and I haven't bought a pair of pants in two years, even though I badly need some new ones. I have healthcare only because I have a job that offers it. And I could go on...

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    12. I take things personally? Jesus, Arturo.

      I don't think Obama saved or will save the world from fascism. I sure as hell don't tote the CP line (do you read People's World ever? therein Obama is utopia), even if I agree that voting Green is pointless, and ever purist sectarian isolationism is essentially political quietism. I think that ultra left intellectual masturbating is a nice game if one has the time. If it's all sectoralist tribalism, and you have no problem with it, then let me have mine.

      Look, you mention EBT cards and government cheese alot, but do you actually follow the ins and outs of policy? I suppose it's all social dem compromise to you anyway. But there are provisions in Obamacare that would have made a huge difference in my family's stability in recent years had they been fully enacted a few years back. There is a person who has commented on this thread who might well be dead fairly sooner rather than later if Obamacare was partially gutted along the lines RNC strategists were vying for. There are changes in Medicare on the table right now that could, if implemented, have a very significant impact on my parents. Obama may well agree to those changes, I don't know. I do know that he is under pressure to not make those changes and that his political opponents are under great pressure from their constituency to make those changes. And I suspect that none of this matters to you, and the players I note here are white and the shit ought to fall that way once in a while, but it matters to me and will continue to.

      Is there some magical "working class coalition" just waiting to emerge if not for all of those transgender black liberal arts professors who can't make the meeting because it conflicts with their yoga class? The transition to such persons being the voice of the working class coincides with the death of the labor movement, not that they caused that death, but they are utterly politically impotent and always will be, with the exception of having a minor role (now) in identity politics. The identity politics train is now largely out of the academy in terms of social and political change - it is commercialized (Glee) and mainstreamed. Berkeley profs are just a little side show from here on out. They won, but they won't be crowned kings in the winning. And let's be fair, you don't "once in a while" ask why the methods you disdain aren't working, you ask that question all the damn time. But could we not just as easily ask it of the "movements" and activisms coming from transgender black liberal arts professors who can't make the meeting because it conflicts with their yoga class? Because it sure seems to me we've had that for 40ish years now in the U.S. and Europe and it hasn't made one damn dent in the direction of things with regard to wage stagnation, reduction in worker protections, and so forth. The advance of identity politics has done jack shit for the vast vast majority of working people (sorry to use that imaginary concept) and I don't see a change coming in that regard.

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    13. cont'd -

      Sure, CP created identity politics. CP was racist and sexist (when talking about the 20s and 30s singling CPUSA out for racism relative to every other national leftist group strikes me as bizarre, but...). What other group that had any efficacy whatsoever in organizational and radicalizational struggles meets your standards? CP made shitloads of mistakes. CP changed course dozens of times. CP was rife with petty tyrannies and movement pathologies and everything else we want to dish out. CP history reads like a bad joke most of the time. It's the crazy uncle who is family even if embarrassing. But read Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression by Kelley if you haven't already. Yes, the white males in NYC running CP were condescending and patronizing and assholes at times to the black party members in the South. But there were black party members in the South. Here in Memphis almost every first black to run for various local political offices was a CP member. The question is, at that time, where else were black radicals going to go? What other radical group had a substantial number of whites who were investing time and money and risking their lives to see blacks get unionized (in desegregated unions even) and run for public office in places where whites lives, and the like? Sometimes I wonder if you think it was wrong for black folks to fight on the Union side of the Civil War because the U.S. was a genocidal imperialist state with a racist president in 1862. I mean, seriously, when it comes to political allegiances do you ever play the cards you're dealt, or is your whole life spent folding each hand until you finally get the royal flush dealt to you?

      I'll watch the video.


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    14. Sure, I back plenty of people who I do not entirely agree with. The entire last part of my comment was basically siding with petit-bourgeois Ethnic Studies professors whose politics and mannerisms repulse me. I would probably back Democrats in Arizona because I believe Jan Brewer is the devil. Does it make sense to have voted for Obama? Look, I am not stupid, I know that no one is going to listen to me anyway. And I live in Louisiana to boot, so what would have been the point? To show solidarity? Yeah, that would have been a real moral statement. If we lived in a parallel universe where a sufficient number of people would have voted Green, the class struggle would be in a far different place anyway. I've lived off the government teat, especially as a child. Life would have been far harsher without it. But why isn't that stuff there anymore for people from similar backgrounds coming up? Why are the programs that allowed me to go to college becoming a thing of the past? Is going back to the 1930's the answer, or part of the problem? Or is it even possible? You seem to talk a lot about your personal reasons. I find that banal, but that doesn't mean I don't have my own. Personally, my one hope for last election is that it is a sign that most people in this country are profoundly uncomfortable with what will be demanded of them by capital to "get the country moving again". And perhaps even on a subconscious level, they are asking themselves if the only thing worse than failure would be success, if success means working longer hours for less pay, bombing even more countries, blowing up our land in search of coal and oil, etc. I don't think that is anything else than the North American masses recuperating some semblance of humanity. But that doesn't mean we are out of the woods, far from it. That doesn't mean that these masses still are not under some great reactionary spell to some extent. But if it all comes down to, "what I and mine will get", well, my daughters might only get into a good university because of affirmative action, I like Aztec dancers, and I feel that people should be able to get their graduate degrees in queer 18th century Caribbean literature because I have known people who have done so. But at that point we are not doing politics, or philosophy, or anything remotely human. At that point, we are just projecting the mirror image of North American imperialism, at a football game with wounded soldiers and the big flag on the field, the National Anthem, and the military jet flyover. Because they too aren't thinking either about the kids torn to pieces by drone bombs, the devastated cities in Gaza and Iraq, and the guy taking his last breath as he dies of heat exhaustion in the Arizona desert: it's all about "us". I shudder to think what sort of atmosphere that is for a young developing mind. That's just the good Hegelian in me talking, even though I get the hunch that I am far less religious than you at this point. I don't do moral calculus, perhaps because I was always bad at math anyway.

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  8. Well, terrible prose. "Capitalism" can never be used as an adjective. This is kind of another illustration of theology being always a good decade or more behind everyone else's thinking. The current received wisdom is that gays aren't queering marriage, but rather that gay marriage and the general normalization of homosexuality has led to gays not being all that queer anymore, having morphed into the bourgeois vanguard of doom.

    I was talking to a gay friend of mine about this recently. He's in his late 20's and was complaining about how damn conservative most of the gay guys he meets who are younger than him. He's worried that American gays will wind up following in the footsteps of Dutch gays, who form a core constituency for far-right parties there (think Pim Fortuyn).

    Personally, I'm far more afeared of the coming Gaypublicans than I am of having the locus of my sexual self-understanding dislodged from my groin and exiled to my elbow, which is what I think a lot of this article was about....

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    1. The current received wisdom is that gays aren't queering marriage, but rather that gay marriage and the general normalization of homosexuality has led to gays not being all that queer anymore, having morphed into the bourgeois vanguard of doom

      That's been the received wisdom for a decade now (see Alexandra Chasin's Selling Out or Rosemary Hennessy's Profit and Pleasure, both from over a decade ago). I wonder where the theory is actually trending now, because that received wisdom won't last another decade.

      I agree that the "reformation" the author talks about isn't going to happen. There is going to be cultural blowback even from quarters that aren't typically associated with antagonisms towards gays (as has been seen in a fair amount of Europe). The Gleeified selling of gay identity can only take a culture so far, same with gay marriage law changes, etc. The sexual utopia wherein the breaking down of gender normativity results in the vast sexual free for all in which most persons regularly have sex with men, women, trans, and other sorts of humans just isn't on the horizon - and it won't be unless technological aids are brought into that game of social transformation. The religious right may someday learn that it should have spent more time fighting Monsanto and some of the more anti-humanist trands of medical biotech than worrying about marriage equality laws.

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    2. "I wonder where the theory is actually trending now, because that received wisdom won't last another decade."

      I dunno, at least from what I've seen, there is a tangible generation gap with gay men in the US, in terms of a great number of them have grown up relatively accepted and also importantly, basically post-AIDS. So, in this environment there's little motivation to be some kind of cultural radical, but rather just have fun, make some money, buy a brownstone and raise your neighbors' rent...


      "The religious right may someday learn that it should have spent more time fighting Monsanto and some of the more anti-humanist trends of medical biotech than worrying about marriage equality laws."

      Well yes, but the religious right was never really known for being full of clever, forward-thinking people...

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  10. I agree with Owen that a lot of third way stuff is just quietism or intellectual masturbation. Today it amazes me that anyone could think that the reason behind their say presidential choice had some significance that anyone other than their own mother would care about. If practically no one gives a shit why you made the choice you made, how the hell is society supposed to get the significance out of the why? At least a vote for Obama or vote for Romney was going to result in an agenda being forwarded, even if one ended up on the losing side. A third party vote was a known choice for the losing side, and then we still get to hear bitching about losing.

    Not to be a pure materialist here, but my concerns on politics regard what is going to make my life better. I'm willing to tolerate quite a bit. I'll take health care reform in return for Obama subsidizing contraception for bourgeois women. (Poor women already had contraception coverage through either Medicaid or a separate family planning program.) I'm not however willing to put aside my interests or pretend they are unimportant until the day two gay dinks (dual income, no kids) can call each other spouse. Gay rights, particularly adoption and marriage, are purely bourgeois pandering. Pandering isn't necessarily bad, but it isn't eradicating some social horror. And while there is some patting on the back to be done over the civil rights movement, the condition of black people in many urban centers rivals that of 3rd world countries. And to think it is within this context that gay people get indignant at their condition in life and declare theirs to be the modern human rights struggle.

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    1. Wait, all of that "realist reformist politics" seems to be what has gotten us in this mess in the first place. Let's not worry about proletarian revolution, because that is too abstract. Let's just agree to the pay raise of one dollar now and not dispute the ability of capital to up and ship a factory overseas. Damn, now my kid can't find work. I never saw that coming. Or let's not discuss the intimate relationship between racism and capitalism, let's just accept that a few of our darker people make it into the upper echelons (one even made it to president) and forget all of those people rotting in prison for being caught with weed. It's unrealistic to expect to get those people anything anyway, just as it's unrealistic to expect the US government to stop drone bombing people, and so on and so force. Those are just sacrifice zones, those are the people we need to crucify in order to appease the imperial order. Don't take it on, it's just a pipe dream, etc.

      And frankly, I am sick of you people condemning gay rights as "bourgeois". Why do you people care so much who people marry and don't marry, screw and don't screw. You know what changes people's minds on the gay rights movement, even very conservative people? It's that conservative douche bags make such a big deal out of it, while also bashing blacks, immigrants, single mothers, etc. Most people are starting to put two and two together. Evidently, people commenting here are having a harder go at it. And anyone can use the words "bourgeois", "working class", etc. So what? Even the devil can quote Scripture? The Front National is making a killing attacking those horrible Muslims and Gypsies in France. Are they "friends of the working class"? You remember, Mussolini and Hitler started out talking left, it was the Social Democrats who put the rifle butt to the head of Rosa Luxemburg because she was being "unrealistic". If you want to gripe about people, gripe about bankers, bit people who just like to stick their privates in different places that you don't approve of.

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    2. Arturo,

      But wouldn't you agree that your kids likely are going to find work, probably pretty decent work relative to what would have been expected for the kids of a Mexican and black Louisianan generations ago, and they going to be able to do so because of the work of reformists? I am glad that your kid will get such work, and I suspect you are too.

      The discussion between racism and capitalism is discussed all the time withing the broad left, most often by people not agitating for immediate proletariat revolution, because every sane person knows that such agitation is a complete waste of time at this time. Maybe, just maybe, there was a window between the red scare of 1919 through to maybe 1924 when a radical transformation of this country's economic structures would have been possible. Since then, what should we be doing now? This:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=uE2M7g_IWSE


      Who is doing the most work agitation and most organizing on prison reform and prison abolition right now? It seems to me that it is those damn reformists you love to hate to much. And in recent years their press has started to influence policy discussions of note, and when proletariat revolution doesn't come in the next 5-10 years, some folks will have better lives because they won't be in prison on weed charges because of the efforts of reformists. I don't follow your "it's gotta be all now or nothing now" - we should not help some, we should say fuck all about doing anything for those we can under current constraints, because there are babies dying from drones somewhere and so on and so forth. But of course the ethereal political musings of the sectarian leftists don't do a damn thing for them either. And you might forgive us if it is hard to keep up with your rhetorical transitions, with that malleable enlightenment which shifts from one truly true sectarianism to another. Now you are done with terms like "bourgeois" and "working class". I can't keep up. I'm hopeful that when the banking classes argue against the existence of a 'working class' in their rhetoric (which allows for only 'middle class' and 'dependency class') you will at least be inclined to resist that.

      And as for the homosexual rights movements being petit-bourgeois, this is language which gay theorists themselves, presumably even some who like yoga classes and teach at Berkeley, use to describe the gay rights movements and the subcultures that drive them and are driven by them, as evidenced by the two works I've already referred to in this thread and plenty more. The bankers love the gay rights movement because it offers a "liberation front" which is not concentrated upon them. As David Harvey likes to say, there is nothing that capital loves more than electoral politics being all caught up with identity politics.

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    3. Here's the problem, it seems to me: this entire discussion is framed around academia. Now, it could be that only academia can appropriately frame the discussion from the outside so as to represent faithfully the inside, all the while being able to live in both realms (making $60-80+grand/year with benefits and retirement). Is this really where we want to take our cues (and narrative) from? I suppose we could trace this back to Marx (and the rather cushy life he led). I suppose we could say that it takes an educated class to take up the banner of the working class (and only an educated class could truly desire the death of the educated class). But, dear lord, if education in this country is supposed to be the golden-ticket to the middle class (and statistically this is the case), and the middle class (of whatever color/gender/sexual orientation) ain't the working class, then it seems to me the game is rigged. Now if the game is rigged always as towards sliding to the petite-bourgeois (and therefore with bourgeois dreams), then I'll just say "no thanks" to "race/gender/sexual" politics. Middle class dreams are always the Elysian fields of racial dreams (and perhaps rightfully so), but not so for gender (make 70% of their male counterparts but because of marriage stay firmly in the middle class--unless we take into consideration race, but this ALWAYS leads us back to jobs/wages) and sexual orientation. There are bigger fish to fry with regards to sexual orientation (though, historically speaking, one can't really track sexual orientation with any sense of wage inequality simply because the closet kept it all pretty quiet, as did the APA and families and shame [and the Nazis], etc., etc.). So sexual orientation has never really had a class narrative, until recently, and this is Owen's very point--because the class orientation places it on the very opposite side of other tools/objects of capitalism.

      Here's the deal, inarticulately put: Arturo celebrates race/gender/sexuality getting theirs by whatever means necessary, even if it means doing so by means of all capitalistic enterprises. But what's the end game here? That all of these groups participate in the late-capitalist orgy? Ugh. Only an atheist (and I mean NO disrespect) or a nihilist (because I certainly don't equate atheism with nihilism) could see this as fulfilling--because if not now and by any means, then when, and why not?

      CONT>

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    4. CONT.

      Now if the argument is that Arturo sees these groups as part of late capitalism's drive towards collapse and that they simply ought to get theirs because the collapse of capitalism isn't going to happen until they get theirs, or that the workers of the world will not unite anytime soon, and so history marches on, well, o.k., but Owen's argument is still better--and by better, I mean more moral. Owen's schema seems to include most people of color (since they are, as a percentage of the economy, labor as commodity) and women (theoretically but not always practically speaking), but doesn't include sexual orientation because gay men and women make more and spend a whole lot more than all of their minority counterparts. This means that the markets want gay men and women and those who are sympathetic to their causes, and will consume and pivot off of whatever identity politics are out there (it's stunning the way this cycle of politics made evident that political posturing was part of capital--see examples of owners banning Obama supporters and seeing their businesses go up, and vice-versa). McDonalds makes sure it advertises the return of the .99$ McRib during NBA playoffs, while Volkswagon Jetta commercials are legion during _Modern Family_ and _Glee_, with a shitload of Chase investment banking thrown in. That's kind of different, I'd dare say. We can see where the power of the dollar rests--demographically speaking (and capitalism speaks only demographically). See any new sitcoms with union or migrant workers? What would those commercials look like? Know what a sit-com pitch looks like: within first 3 questions: who are our advertisers.

      O.K., some I'm just chasing my own rabbit trails.

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