“In a society that has historically denied the humanity of people of color, solidarity with other human beings does not come naturally.”
Humanity yearns for a just and livable social contract, and will fail as a species if a global accord is not soon achieved. The biosphere, itself, shrieks and shudders under the contradictions of capitalism in its fatal, imperial stages. At the center of the vortex of impending annihilation is the United States of America, the Mother of All White Settler Regimes, ruled by a tiny cabal of plutocrats under the protection of the planet’s largest and most intrusive police state, who are determined to impose full spectrum dominance under an Earth-wide, doomsday canopy.
U.S. rulers reject the very concept of reciprocal social compacts among peoples. Positioned at the apex of a political order founded on indigenous extermination, African enslavement, and global European privilege and impunity, the Lords of Capital claim “exceptional” status -- an exemption from all rules and norms of human conduct. Having never renounced a first-strike, Washington reserves for itself the choice of whether humanity perishes in a nuclear holocaust, or not. In the interim, the U.S. ruling class demands “freedom” for its corporations to extract unlimited wealth from every corner of the globe.
“The Lords of Capital claim “exceptional” status -- an exemption from all rules and norms of human conduct.”
U.S. foreign policy flows from the logic of its lawless, expansionist, white supremacist history. The U.S. was born as the world’s first fully bourgeois republic, a transactional arrangement among rapacious white men who, in about a century, parlayed the stolen land of one continent, and the stolen people of another, into the world’s largest economy. The U.S. perfected and became the model of a racially regulated society, elevating “whiteness” to permanent social advantage while, at the same time, providing these denationalized Europeans with no identify beyond their relative privileges, and no social contract other than the right to abuse Blacks and other “inferior races.”
The absence of a genuine social compact among “Americans” meant that rich folks had no obligation to their fellows of any race. The U.S. promised only the “freedom” (for white men) to make and spend money as they wished. From the very beginning, “Americanism” was a grab-what-you-can ethos, inimical to the very notion of social solidarity -- except on racial terms.
Such an ethos always serves the master, while morally abandoning the slave or wage earner.
Hyper-capitalism, blended seamlessly with white supremacy, became the American religion – which is why “Prosperity Gospel” is virtually a U.S. invention, and has nothing to do with “brotherhood” or “community.” The United States has the highest levels of professed religiosity in the industrialized world, yet is demonstrably the most underdeveloped in terms of popular support for the social safety net.
“The absence of a genuine social compact among ‘Americans’ meant that rich folks had no obligation to their fellows of any race.”
The near-absolute cultural hegemony of the rich, through their control of the means of communication and education, allows the self-worshipping Lords of Capital to turn human language -- which evolved to explicate phenomena and ideas -- into its maddening opposite. The rulers describe the vast dislocations and suffering of deindustrialization and financial meltdown as “creative destruction” -- destructive of the livelihoods of those without capital, but engines of opportunity-creation for the big capitalists left standing. They specialize in Shock Doctrine to exploit disasters at home, inflict Shock and Awe to facilitate aggressions abroad, and celebrate the destruction of whole economies and nations. They gloat over new opportunities for investments and profits before the blood has dried.
Most Americans accept and internalize this barbaric discourse. Only the barest social contract binds them together, based mainly on race (for most American whites, the default meaning of “American” is “white”). The social bond with those U.S. residents that are not perceived as part of the “America”/white polity -- Blacks, browns, Native Americans -- is weak, non-existent, or negative/hostile. That’s why there has always been a White Man’s Party in the U.S., whose mass organizing principle is white supremacy: the Republican Party, for the last half century. A vote for the White Man’s Party is a rejection of any semblance of a social compact with Black people -- and that also applies to Blacks that vote Republican. However, the Democrats are also careful not to become too closely identified with Blacks, even if their standard bearer is African American, as evidenced by Barack Obama’s eight years in office.
“The social bond with those U.S. residents that are not perceived as part of the America’/white polity is weak, non-existent, or negative/hostile.”
Thus, after more than a hundred thousand Blacks were permanently evicted from New Orleans following Katrina, a Democratic cabinet member could see a silver lining in the disaster, based on the imposition of charter schools -- classic Shock Doctrine, resulting in near-instantaneous gentrification and school privatization. The ongoing torture of Black Detroit, initiated by a Republican governor but facilitated by Barack Obama’s administration, does not violate the social compact as perceived by most white Americans; clearly, such a compact hardly exists. And President Trump’s callous attitude towards his fellow citizens in Puerto Rico is totally expected; he and his constituency -- and plenty of white Democrats -- do not view the island and its people as part of their “America.”
The carnage in Las Vegas is, however, yet another example of the uniquely American -- and characteristically white – propensity to engage in mass domestic murder: crowd killing. It is the ultimate anti-social crime, most often committed by white Americans against their “own” people. It is true that mental illness is a given in such cases, but mentally disturbed people live in all countries, yet no nation comes close to the U.S. in crowd killing. I submit that such mass slaughter is dramatic evidence of the extreme weakness of the social compact, even among white people in the United States.
“The ongoing torture of Black Detroit, initiated by a Republican governor but facilitated by Barack Obama’s administration, does not violate the social compact as perceived by most white Americans.”
Majorities of white Americans are deeply racist -- as can be shown by various measures -- but that does not mean they share an intense bond with other whites. In a society that has historically denied the humanity of people of color, killing and enslaving them, and which has waged modern wars of annihilation against non-whites around the world, solidarity with other human beings does not come naturally. In a country where cutthroat capitalism is the national ethos, social compacts wither, or are still-born. Such is the collateral damage that white America has suffered from its failure to fight white supremacy in its ranks; it has poisoned its own soul, creating monsters that turn on their “own.” (Of course, when the social compact is totally lacking, nobody is one of your “own.”)
White Americans also suffer much higher levels of incarceration than whites in other developed nations. That, too, is collateral damage. Mass Black incarceration was politically popular among white constituencies all across the nation. A police and penal state was created to imprison as many Black people as possible, but such an infernal machinery cannot help but ensnare millions of unintended white victims, as well.
Lack of solidarity with Blacks and browns created a prison trap for whites. The extreme weakness of the white social compact with darker U.S. populations has spawned a cancer of non-solidarity among whites, who have been encouraged to own arsenals to defend themselves against the “Other.” But, when the social compact is weak, everybody is the “Other” -- and, therefore, a target.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].