It's Labor Day, the last holiday of the summer. And if you're like me, you're probably taking the opportunity to enjoy a nice warm day with family and friends. Maybe a walk in the woods. Maybe a dip in the lake. Maybe a traditional cookout. In large part it's just simple enjoyment of the blessings of life; and in part it's also a celebration of the remarkably widespread prosperity that America has brought to its citizens, even regular working people, that is unique in human history.
Or maybe you're a progressive. In that case, you are probably spending your Labor Day overcome with guilt and shame.
Just a couple of weeks ago I took a look at progressive psychology as revealed in a letter to a New York Times advice column. The letter writer, who signed him or herself "Whitey," claimed to be overcome with shame by the very fact of being "white":
I’m riddled with shame. White shame. . . . I feel like there is no “me” outside of my white/upper middle class/cisgender identity. I feel like my literal existence hurts people, like I’m always taking up space that should belong to someone else. . . .
Many commenters on the web read the letter and thought it had to be a parody. But Pravda's advice columnists treated it with the utmost seriousness. The essence of the advice was, do good by channeling your shame and guilt toward some officially-approved progressive causes.
Probably, you thought that this was one of the most brilliant trollings in the history of trolling. Don't be so sure. Yesterday's "Review" section of the Sunday Times has a column that takes this white guilt/shame thing to a whole new level. The author is an Indian guy named Pankaj Mishra, and the title is "The Religion of Whiteness Becomes a Suicide Cult." If you read the whole thing (I would not recommend it), it is highly likely that you will be thinking, "this has to be a gag." I don't think so. The author seems to be making a career of writing pieces of similar theme. And besides, Pravda does not publish parodies of its core beliefs on its opinion pages.
Whatever you do, don't try to make sense of these ravings. I mean, how did "whiteness" -- whatever that is -- suddenly become a "religion"? The gist of the thing appears to be to quote a few late nineteenth/early twentieth century racists, and then pin their thoughts, without evidence, on whatever current politician dares to stray from progressive orthodoxy. Mostly Trump, of course, but also several others. A few ridiculous quotes:
[T]he Anglosphere originally forged and united by the slave trade and colonialism is in terminal crisis today. Whiteness denoted, as Du Bois wrote, “the ownership of the earth forever and ever.” But many descendants of the landlords of the earth find themselves besieged both at home and abroad, their authority as overlords, policemen and interpreters of the globe increasingly challenged. . . . Mr. Trump appears to some of these powerful but insecure men as an able-bodied defender of the “higher races.” The Muslim-baiting British Conservative politician Boris Johnson says that he is “increasingly admiring of Donald Trump.” Mr. Murray, the British journalist, thinks Mr. Trump is “reminding the West of what is great about ourselves.” . . .
Other panicky white bros not only virulently denounce identity politics and political correctness — code for historically scorned peoples’ daring to propose norms about how they are treated; they also proclaim ever more rowdily that the (white) West was, and is, best. . . . [B]usy recyclers of Western supremacism, many of whom uphold a disgraced racial pseudoscience, remind us that history often repeats itself as intellectual farce. . . .
Mr. Trump’s trade wars, sanctions, border walls, deportations, denaturalizations and other 11th-hour battles seem to push us all closer to the “terrible probability” James Baldwin once outlined: that the rulers of the “higher races,” “struggling to hold on to what they have stolen from their captives, and unable to look into their mirror, will precipitate a chaos throughout the world which, if it does not bring life on this planet to an end, will bring about a racial war such as the world has never seen.”
Where to start with this drivel? Is it the "Anglosphere" or "whiteness" that is the source of the original sin? Take the Russians. They are the whitest and blondest of all ethnicities. Seventy years of Communism and 27 of authoritarianism later, they find themselves a second-class power shrinking every year in population, wealth, and influence. Or the Iranians. Aren't they "white" too? How's that government and theocracy-dominated economy working out for you? Does anyone notice a tide of immigrants trying to get into these places?
Here in the US, we have accepted some 40 million immigrants of the legal variety, and another million or so more every year, and another 10 or so million of the illegal variety. The legal variety receive the full rights of natives, including the ability to qualify for citizenship and voting. They are of all races and all creeds. Millions more bend every effort to come to participate in the entreprise. Are these the people Mishra refers to as the "captives" of "Western supremacism"?
Anyway, all the "panicky white bros" I saw over the weekend seemed to be relaxing and having a good time. But then, maybe the progressives were having a good time took, just in their own way. They enjoy wallowing in the made-up guilt and shame.