The Endurance of Cultural Supremacy
The New Year has come and gone. In the United States, there seems to be a massive emotional panic and a wrinkling of the brow, a re-visiting of histories of the past that seems to have returned to supremacy. White supremacy. In the United States, you had really dumb views such as “we’re post-racial” and other forms of denial, mostly invented by those who do not want to face, much less shed, their own white supremacist privilege. Privilege is often made evil in this scenario, by many who want to bark and bite at any authority or past traumas. So between vengeance and the will to maintain, the different sides prop up the continuing and enduring forms of supremacist ordering. All around the world, however, each nation, must deal with this phenomenon. The endurance of supremacies by a certain group, a certain way of considering the world, a certain array of making the world make sense, which has always exploited and twisted and killed some of those that the system wants gone and changed to suit its existence. Some would point to nature and science, and call it “natural.” Many many ways to rationalize it, make it stay–whether enemy or our mirror.
Like mountain peaks are of mountains, cultures and nations are not isolated objects, but are made up of each other, made up of humans and the lands and ideals and pitfalls it controls and manipulates and resists. People in any given nation, will resist and conform in different ways. The difference often depends on how much one is excluded, or cares about others’ exclusions, as well as how disempowered one may feel, or empowered, to resist and change those acts and structures of exclusion. Often, empathy is not there and cannot be developed. In other ways, empathy is there but the creativity to turn it into action for change is not there. And in another scenario, one may be so focused on only one aspect of the changes necessary, that we create other problems related to the ones we want to make go away, re-creating the same in different situations.
However, I do not think there is a perfect way, a perfect set of circumstances or thoughts or actions, that makes everyone happy. This is not why I am writing this. There are no panaceas.
I write this for those who understand that we must start with attempting to create pockets of change, pockets and moments where things shift toward something liberatory and not ideological. For some, love and peace are ideologies, just as much as fascism, capitalism, socialism and neo-liberalism.
It’s interesting to me, how many people are so outraged and are almost in a panic, about Donald Trump and the people he has chosen to work with him in his position as President of the United States. Structurally, how is he even in office? If he won the popular vote, why is he in office? And if we know there is something wrong, why do people depend on the system that created these conditions, to change? What needs to happen for there to be change? Putting different people into office is naive. But so often, that is the only place that many Americans have to shelter themselves from facing their own ignorance about the government and globalization, the realities of power relations and histories.
It is not a sudden affair, done in a vacuum, that an obvious anti-diversity ideology wins out over the others. It is hard won, structured, worked at. I understand that the United States is dominantly, largely apolitical, ahistorical, and anti-intellectual and it cannot be suddenly reversed *after* things have taken place. What must happen now, for things to change? We must understand that the white supremacist conservatives have upped their game as well. There are millions of them in the midst, reading this article. There are those who are partially in agreement. There are those who want everything I’ve written here to also be dead, killed.
Things are made easier without thinking. We just follow. Follow, believe. Thinking is the enemy *Unless*: one thinks to prop up our original beliefs. Admitting wrong-ness or admitting change would mean we are a non-believer. This kind of thinking is deep and cannot be depended upon to change. If one thinks that what one deeply believes is “the Truth,” it is an internalized colonization, as things like “universal truth” are invention made in western metaphysics long ago and continue today in millions of forms, creative havoc, enemies, counter-productivities. It is diverse. Without malice, they are life. With malice, they form the many genocides. Without this, then it is fascism. Fascism unifies.
Fascism unifies. It makes the many into “the One.” It is singular. It is about One Origin. All things come from it. If you state this and make an array of pronouncements and rationales around it, reasoning that leads to it, then it is totalitarian. Hannah Arendt had a good grasp of this. People should read her.
On the other end of the coin is the secular individual anarchist who is already alienated and also disrespectful of traditions and anything having to do with older generations. There is no understanding of how things got here and there is very little skill in figuring out what to respect and what not to respect, how to integrate, how to ask questions. Their positions are set. The enemies are known. Everything is blamed on that enemy, supposedly having nothing to do with them.
Keep in mind, when I studied in Turkey and Europe and across the United States, regarding Middle Eastern cultures and their relationship with the Kurds of Turkey, and Kurdish diaspora, as well as the Dersim communities from the Tunceli area, with parallels to Kurdish-ness and yet in contention with them in some ways, the same issues come up. When I did research for my book on my ancestral heritage, of the African-American presence in East Asia and the American Wars, and the Occupation of Japan, the Philippines, Okinawa, Korea, Samoa, and the Marshall Islands, the same issues come up. The ongoing issue of supremacy is no mystery. It is fairly consistent.
One of the strongest aspects is the nation-state system itself. It consists of certain ways of making rules, laws, Constitutional edicts, and processes, that are understandable and coherent to western metaphysical frameworks, made prolific through colonialism. So the structure of nation-states themselves, carry the genocidal impulse. By “genocidal impulse” I mean not just about killing bodies, but killing ideas, ways of living, ways of seeing, ways of being, ways of structuring. Only certain things are deemed appropriate and sensible to the world-system. Those outside of it are deemed evil, terrorist, traitor, crazy. Cuba, North Korea, Guatemala, Iran, Iraq, on and on. If one would read what the United States and European nations have done in these places, through the centuries, one would shudder. But because we are empty of history and empty of intellect, and ideologically taught that there is a single human universal “truth” and a single “origin” and a single way to be “right” and “good,” we are bereft of truly facing the time/space of the causes of suffering which lie within us, not because we are “human” but because we have internalized, and called our “own,” many thoughts and moralities and values and emotions, that are not ours.
Again, there is no perfect place/space. Begin there. What supremacies within us arise? Within us as person . . . . . . within us as community . . . . . . within us as racial-ethnic-cultural being . . . . . . within us as nation . . . . . as gender . . . . sexual orientation . . . . . caste and class . . . . . . . size and shape . . . . . color . . . . . language. . . . . . profession . . . . . .
On and on. These overlap, shape each other, manifest as that which others see us through, no matter who, and how we see out. Blindness to these things is another factor that feeds the ignorance that shapes the supremacies. That which we ignore becomes stronger, they do not go away.
There is no perfect place. To start means to begin being honest with the ordering of things, the supremacies we set up because of hierarchies we make in our minds, almost automatically.
Some hierarchies are not hurtful and may not need to be torn away from the truth of ourselves. But start with the truths we hold dear, and be careful we do not throw away or ignore things that are non-negotiable.