May 12, 2016

"Identity politics, of a different brand from Trump’s, is also gaining strength among progressives."

"In some cases, it comes with an aversion toward, even contempt for, their fellow-Americans who are white and sinking. Abstract sympathy with the working class as an economic entity is easy, but the feeling can vanish on contact with actual members of the group, who often arrive with disturbing beliefs and powerful resentments—who might not sound or look like people urban progressives want to know. White male privilege remains alive in America, but the phrase would seem odd, if not infuriating, to a sixty-year-old man working as a Walmart greeter in southern Ohio. The growing strain of identity politics on the left is pushing working-class whites, chastised for various types of bigotry (and sometimes justifiably), all the more decisively toward Trump."

From "Head of the Class/How Donald Trump is winning over the white working class" by George Packer in The New Yorker.

That reminded me of the wonderful old passage from "The Brothers Karamazov":
"I love mankind... but I am amazed at myself: the more I love mankind in general, the less I love people in particular, that is, individually, as separate persons.  In my dreams... I often went so far as to think passionately of serving mankind, and, it may be, would really have gone to the cross for people if it were somehow suddenly necessary, and yet I am incapable of living in the same room with anyone even for two days, this I know from experience.  As soon as someone is there, close to me, his personality oppresses my self-esteem and restricts my freedom.  In twenty-four hours I can begin to hate even the best of men: one because he takes too long eating his dinner, another because he has a cold and keeps blowing his nose. I become the enemy of people the moment they touch me.... On the other hand, it has always happened that the more I hate people individually, the more ardent becomes my love for humanity as a whole."

82 comments:

mccullough said...

I'm more with Will Rogers. I like people individually but don't like people in the abstract.

stutefish said...

Am I reading that correctly? Is George Packer only just now discovering identity politics on the left? Did he really go all this time thinking it was a right-wing phenomenon?

Sebastian said...

"That reminded me of the wonderful old passage from "The Brothers Karamazov": "I love mankind... but I am amazed at myself: the more I love mankind in general, the less I love people in particular, that is, individually, as separate persons" Why? Progs despise global-warming-causing, planet-despoiling, kid-breeding mankind in general and all white, male, non-gay, non-trans, non-Prog people in particular.

Gabriel said...

Screwtape sez:

...Do what you will, there is going to be some benevolence, as well as some malice, in your patient’s soul. The great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate neighbours whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the remote circumference, to people he does not know. The malice thus becomes wholly real and the benevolence largely imaginary. There is no good at all in inflaming his hatred of Germans if, at the same time, a promiscuous habit of charity is growing up between him and his mother, his employer, and the man he meets in the train. Think of your man as a series of concentric circles, his will being the innermost, his intellect coming next, and finally his fantasy. You can hardly hope, at once, to exclude from all circles everything that smells of the Enemy: but you must keep on shoving all the virtues outward ‘til they are finally located in the circle of fantasy, and all the desirable qualities inward into the Will. It is only in so far as they reach the Will and are there embodied in habits that the virtues are really fatal to us. (I don’t, of course, mean what the patient mistakes for his Will, the conscious fume and fret of resolutions and clenched teeth, but the real centre, what the Enemy calls the Heart.) All sorts of virtues painted in the fantasy or approved by the intellect or even, in some measure, loved and admired, will not keep a man from Our Father’s house: indeed that they may make him more amusing when he gets there...

M Jordan said...

Now I gotta read that book (The Brothers Karamazov) and you know how much I hate reading Russian literature.

mockturtle said...

I believe the left has always hated people. When I was one of the left, back in the late 60's & early 70's, my hippie friends and I only loved people who looked, talked and acted just like us [with the possible exceptions of the Black Panthers and Ho Chi Minh]. It's the only time in my life I could have aptly been called a snob.

Brando said...

It seems like the opposite of the way a lot of conservatives and libertarians feel about race. They don't like the idea of racial groups, but have no problem with individuals of various races.

The leftists are mostly appalled by the white working class because they do not have the correct inclinations to support the same things the leftists do.

mockturtle said...

Now I gotta read that book (The Brothers Karamazov) and you know how much I hate reading Russian literature.

Love Dostoyevsky! The Brothers K. was my first and I so hated to see it end! However, Crime and Punishment is his best. Don't worry! It's not at all like reading Tolstoy.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

The left sees the white working class as Archie Bunker. The right sees them as Walt Kowalski.

Can't imagine why they might start to prefer the right.

mockturtle said...

Oh, and regarding Dostoyevsky: The translation you select makes all the difference so make sure you get Pevear and Volokhonsky.

jameswhy said...

What's The Matter with Kansas? redux. Except now its Kansas and about 35 other states.

Owen said...

Great quotes of Dostoevsky but ESPECIALLY C.S. Lewis. That emotional bifurcation is the key. Make the malice wholly real, local, concrete. And make the love wholly imaginary, general, abstract. That way you get a double win: the pleasure of really HATING somebody, and being given permission to light a torch and pick up a rope and DO something about it! Even as your responsibility to really LOVE somebody remains an unfulfilled expression of sentiment, a virtuous signaling without any reckoning or payment due.

No wonder the Progs outnumber the competition.

harrogate said...

Ann, that's a great quote. It reminded me a little of this old chestnut from Melville, as well:

“Seat thyself sultanically among the moons of Saturn, and take high abstracted man alone; and he seems a wonder, a grandeur, and a woe. But from that same point, take mankind in mass, and for the most part, they seem a mob of unnecessary duplicates, both contemporary and hereditary.”

Ann Althouse said...

Mockturtle said what I was going to say: Get the Richard Peaver and Larissa Volokhonsky translation (which is what I used).

Will Cate said...

There is so much wrong with with Packer column that I don't even know where to begin. What a load.

The Godfather said...

Damn! Why did you have to quote that passage from The Brothers Karamozof? I read it almost 60 years ago, and now I'm going to have to read it again. (I'll also have to learn to spell it.)

Will Cate said...

"this Packer column" I meant to type

anon said...

"A subsequent Washington Post story showed that the crisis is particularly severe among middle-aged white women in rural areas. In twenty-one counties across the South and the Midwest, mortality rates among these women have actually doubled since the turn of the century. Anne Case, one of the Princeton study’s co-authors, said, 'They may be privileged by the color of their skin, but that is the only way in their lives they’ve ever been privileged.'"

The lie of white privilege spoken, but not seen or acknowledged.

buwaya said...

" and you know how much I hate reading Russian literature."

Is good, comrade. Even Tolstoy. Even War & Peace. Its really a soap opera. Just skip the boring parts, go to the Natasha parts. Will she find love?

Gusty Winds said...

Amazing, but not surprising, that liberals resent people with the word "working" in front of their class. The working class is sinking is because the non-working class has a hold of their feet pulling them under the water.

And that includes people in cush jobs that get their money for nothing and chicks for free; yet still bitch that it's not enough. Like UW faculty.

Interesting too it has to be identified as "the white working class". You don't hear much about "the (insert whatever identity you want) working class."

I guess the white working class is like the resented mom that returns to college after ten years with the kids, and pisses everyone off because she blows out grading curve, when the rest of the class is just hung over.

Luke Lea said...

I wasn't aware Trump even had any "identity politics." He never talks about it. Hillary, by contrast, plays the race and woman card constantly.

Luke Lea said...
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Fernandinande said...

buwaya said...
Its really a soap opera. Just skip the boring parts, go to the Natasha parts. Will she find love?


Yes, with Boris Badenov

eric said...

C.S. Lewis, quoted above in the screw tape letters, reminds me a little of Donald Trump. At least in one way.

If you've read his books, and I have, one book stands out. Mere Christianity. C.S. Lewis is not an easy read. Sometimes you read a page and have to read it again just to grasp it. But Mere Christianity is an easy read. Here's why: Mere Christianity wasn't written by C.S. Lewis. It was spoken by him. It was transcribed from a radio program played during world war II.

In other words, Lewis speaks different than he writes.

Trump is like that. People think Trump just uses ghost writers and his vocabulary really is what's contained in his speech.

I say, look to Lewis if you want to better understand Trump.

tim in vermont said...

He could have written this stuff years ago had he bothered ever to read a conservative comment thread.

tim in vermont said...

If you liked that quote, read Notes from Underground.

buwaya said...

I'm going to spoil it - she falls for the geek. Yeah, you knew that was coming.

Anyway, this Packer fellow is being about as "gorillas in the mist" patronizing as the rest of his tribe.

tim in vermont said...

Notes from Underground is way shorter with far fewer obscure things you need to know.

tim in vermont said...

Trumps "identity politics" are projected onto him by the Democrat Party which is built on every other kind of identity politics, and of course simple logic dictates that "White Identity Politics" must be the enemy and "if it doesn't exist, we must create it!" If the only way you can think is in terms of Identity Politics, that is.

Oso Negro said...

Be severe! Read it in the original Russian! Unfortunately Western Civ is a goner or young minds would still be exposed to the great literatures of Europe. And after you plow through Dostoevsky, do not skip the great Bulgakov. My three favorite books of all-time are Huckleberry Finn, The Idiot, and The Master and Margarita. Yes, Bulgakov is that good.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Having acknowledged, at long last, the existence of the 60-year-old Walmart greeter in southern Ohio, people like Packer may be only a few decades away from beginning to at least consider that the 60-year-old Walmart greeter in southern Ohio may have a point.

Mary E. Glynn said...
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traditionalguy said...

The personal desire that he is describing is also called the Sin of Pride. Living among people requires patience...and that's just the good ones.

Maybe adding some mind altering drugs to the mix would help him.

buwaya said...

"Read it in the original Russian! "

Or, to find out what you're missing by reading a translation, try Nabokov's essay (in English!) "Reply to my Critics", on the ins and outs of translating Russian (in this case regarding his translation of "Eugene Onegin")
Best, get "The Portable Nabokov".
http://www.amazon.com/Portable-Nabokov-Vladimir/dp/0670010731
Amazon Althouse Portal !

EDH said...

I prefer Tom Smykowski to Dostoevsky:

"... I have people skills; I am good at dealing with people.

Can't you understand that?

What the hell is wrong with you people? "

Carol said...

Russians are the best writers. Dostoevsky had the left figured out totally in Demons. Also Turgenev's Fathers and Sons. The mellow liberal optimist begets a radical nihilist...

The Russians have been all through this, and in the days of Chekhov assumed things just couldn't get any worse...so then we got the Dr. Zhivago and Gulag Archipelago post mortems as well. I have read many of Solzhenitzyn's other books and short stories.

Damn, they're a productive bunch. Not to mention the music!

buwaya said...

"Damn, they're a productive bunch"

Production, unfortunately, ultimately stopped.
Maybe, at some point, it will start again.

"Natashas Dance" - Orlando Figes

Tom said...

I love poor working whites but, ewwww, NASCAR is so redneck.

Mary E. Glynn said...
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Rusty said...

"Yes. Bjugakov is that good."
They's never teach it. One of the chrachters is called,"Faggot". Not at all PC.

Mary E. Glynn said...
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amielalune said...

I think that 95% (or higher) of leftists are lacking something that makes them misfits to begin with. It's either personality, appearance, or intellect. They go left because they hate the world because the world doesn't accept or celebrate them. They are very often physically unattractive, lacking in people skills, and not nearly as intelligent as they imagine themselves to be. I have never met a leftist who did not meet at least 2 out of 3 of those criteria. Most of the men look as if they probably spent a lot of time being shoved into high school lockers.

The Godfather said...

eric (3:39 pm) said "look to [C.S.] Lewis if you want to better understand Trump." That whirring sound you hear comes from Lewis's grave.

William said...

I read The Brothers Karamazov decades ago, and I'm in no big hurry to read it again. The only thing I remember about it is the stinking monk. Apparently pious Russians felt that the cadavers of holy men were not supposed to become corrupt and malodorous after death. One of the characters in the book has a crisis of faith after the corpse of a holy monk of his acquaintance starts to stink. That's what I remember from the book. I'm probably not Dostoevsky's ideal reader.........Here's an interesting fact: When the Bolsheviks first took power they dug up the bodies of saints and put them on display to show how decayed they were. They, nonetheless, went to a lot of trouble and expense to keep Lenin's corpse perfectly preserved. Superstition can neither be created nor destroyed but merely transposed.

buwaya said...

"When the Bolsheviks first took power they dug up the bodies of saints and put them on display to show how decayed they were. "

In Spain, 1936, many of the Communist/Anarchist militias did the same - they dug up the remains of buried clergy and displayed them. More or less the same reasoning.

Big Mike said...

And sometimes justifiably? More accurate would be "but hardly ever justifiably." Of course a guy who has just now discovered that the "Progressive" Democrats depend on identity politics is pretty unlikely to be self-aware to any extent.

William said...

Here's my brilliant insight into Crime and Punishment. Dostoevsky was a compulsive gambler. They say that the payoff for compulsive gamblers is not the winning streak but the inevitable losses. They're masochists and relish the overwhelming sense of failure and shame that losing brings.........Thus so with Ruskalnikov (or whatever his name is). He murders the pawnbroker not to prove that he is more daring than Napoleon but rather to show that he is more despicable than the pawnbroker. He gets caught and ends up living in a shack with a prostitute n Siberia. The prostitute isn't even an honest prostitute but some kind of Jesus freak. How would you like to spend the winter in Siberia, living in a shack with a Jesus freak? This is not a story of love and redemption but of masochism and debasement.

buwaya said...

Spain, 1936

http://www.alertadigital.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/muertos.jpg
http://www.periodistadigital.com/imagenes/2015/11/23/iglesias1936_560x280.jpg
http://hispanianova.rediris.es/general/articulo/026/art026_archivos/pagina3.jpg

cubanbob said...

I can see why Meade-Althouse often times delete Mary E. Glynn. I don't stay on top of things to know why Nichevo gets the boot but i have to assume it has to do with some rudeness towards our host.

As for the progs, the best revenge will be a substantial reduction of their special tax payer subsidized perks. And Trumpy with his white trash supporters are just the ones to do it.

Terry said...

Does packer ever get around to explaining that the taxes paid by the "sixty-year-old man working as a Walmart greeter in southern Ohio" pay the salaries of the government workers, college profs, and school teachers who despise him?

SGT Ted said...

The only part of the column that gets it right is that ordinary working white people are pissed off at progressives calling them racistsexistbigothomophobe for not agreeing with them.

But, Trump isn't running any sort of leftist style identity politics, which is merely bigotry and hatred directed towards whites and males. He is running on the classic ordinary American Identity politics of being an exceptional nation again.

Gabriel said...

@Rusty: One of the chrachters is called,"Faggot". Not at all PC.

He's named after a bassoon, so easy enough to rename.

Owen said...

"...to show how decayed [the bodies of the saints] were."

Or, simply: "We can do whatever we want." That message sinks in deep and fast. No words needed.

Mary E. Glynn said...
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n.n said...

A little late. Short of the mark. Baby steps, I suppose.

mockturtle said...

The great novel is not about the plot, any more than plays by Shakespeare are about the story lines. It's the crisp and clever dialogue, the penetrating insights, the credibility of the characters that make a great novel. A more contemporary favorite of mine is Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces for the reasons stated. Plus, it's hilarious.






.

Mary E. Glynn said...
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buwaya said...

"Does packer ever get around to explaining that the taxes paid by the "sixty-year-old man working as a Walmart greeter in southern Ohio" pay the salaries of the government workers, college profs, and school teachers who despise him?"

Dumber yet is that he doesn't understand that a bunch of guys they despise have the switches in their hands that control every necessity of life in their cities. Every last thing.

Roger Sweeny said...

I first encountered the thought in a Peanuts cartoon a long time ago. Linus says, "I love mankind. It's people I can't stand."

http://66.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lik9unHoLc1qfvq9bo1_1280.jpg

Skeptical Voter said...

My golf partners are guys I practiced law with. They are generally mystified at Trumps popularity. They simply can't conceive of the idea that if you call a dog "bad dog" long enough, the dog will eventually bite you. They also don't understand that if you call a fellow citizen (I am deliberately excluding the non citize illegal aliens here) an ignorant redneck, homophobic bigot long enough, they are not going to go your way.

They are mystified. They were the guys who were always right. What they don't realize is that people wise, they never could distinguish shite from Shinola. As Mr. T was wont to say, "I pity the fool." They have no idea what is about to hit them. And I don't like Trump.

Fabi said...

buwaya@6:51 -- That's a very good point and it's almost always ignored by the so-called elitist left. The world can survive without diversity coordinators and grief counselors, but it can't survive without farmers, welders, and truckers.

Freeman Hunt said...

I think the translation I read was the one by Constance Garnett. (It was free for the Kindle.) I liked it well enough that The Brothers Karamazov is my favorite book, but maybe I'll check out the translation a couple of you are recommending. Right after I finish the other books I'm tied up in.

YoungHegelian said...

Abstract sympathy with the working class as an economic entity is easy, but the feeling can vanish on contact with actual members of the group, who often arrive with disturbing beliefs and powerful resentments—who might not sound or look like people urban progressives want to know.

Gosh, this sounds a lot like the relations between middle class or better white liberals & the black community, too. Many more excuses get made for the blacks, but physical proximity is best kept to a minimum. And, for God's sake, let's not have our little prince or princess go to a school full of 'em. Quelle horreur!

YoungHegelian said...

@Freeman,

I think the translation I read was the one by Constance Garnett.

Run away! Run away!

Garnett's translations aren't even from the Russian. She did her translations to English from French translations of the Russian authors.

n.n said...

The progressive liberals' concept of "diversity" does not recognize individual dignity. It is a recycled form of racism, sexism, and class prejudice. Their religion acknowledges neither individual dignity nor intrinsic value, and their gods in the twilight zone are notoriously selective or unprincipled.

mockturtle said...

The world can survive without diversity coordinators and grief counselors, but it can't survive without farmers, welders, and truckers.

Amen to that!

buwaya puti said...

Fabi, thats true as far as it goes, but it's more specific than that.
There are actual switches controlling - electricity, gas, telecoms, water, sewage, traffic control, railroad systems, you name it, critical subsystems everywhere. And at this point the vast majority of the actual people with their fingers near those things think well of Trump.

Freeman Hunt said...

"Run away! Run away!"

Heh. I'm not positive that the translation was by her. I tried to look it up in my old Amazon orders, but that product page has been removed.

SJ said...

Some White men are privileged.

That does not mean that all Whites are the recipients of privilege.

Somehow, the people of nuance on the political and social left can't quite grasp that.

Or convince the non-privileged White folk that their lack-of-privilege is noticed.

The Cracker Emcee said...

" Dumber yet is that he doesn't understand that a bunch of guys they despise have the switches in their hands that control every necessity of life in their cities. Every last thing"

A great, great point. 99% of ideologues, left or right, would gladly turn their every value inside out to keep the electricity on. Grid engineers are the unacknowledged high priests of civilization.

Rusty said...

Blogger Gabriel said...
@Rusty: One of the chrachters is called,"Faggot". Not at all PC.

He's named after a bassoon, so easy enough to rename.

And here I thought he was named after a bundle of sticks because he was so skinny.
Why destroy the story by renaming the characters?

damikesc said...

Democrats have deeply hated white folks for years.

The lie of white privilege spoken, but not seen or acknowledged.

I love that Progs argue that an African student attending an Ivy school stiffing a white waitress on a tip is a battle against white privilege. As if the waitress is privileged over black Ivy in any way. Are my kids privileged over Obama's kids? It's an offensive load of BS and, as a white guy, I wonder why we should feel the tiniest bit of regret of history.

It's clear black activists don't have a true problem with racial segregation. They are angry that it happened to them, not that it happened.

Gabriel said...

@Rusty:Why destroy the story by renaming the characters?

It wouldn't. "Fagot" is the Russian word for "bassoon". It's like if a character in an English book were named "Tiny" or "Beanpole", but you didn't translate the name. If you don't translate the name the effect intended by the author is lost. But that is one of the perennial problems of translation. For example the writer's association is acronymed as MASSOLIT, which in Russian sounds vaguely industrial but inappropriately silly, kind of like "Tons o' Lit" would, but in the edition I read they did not try to remake the acronym.

jr565 said...

""In some cases, it comes with an aversion toward, even contempt for, their fellow-Americans who are white and sinking. "
gee, do you think? Has this guy ever listened to black lives matter? Or feminists? Their whole rationale is thst white people are evil and the cause of all the problem in the world. White people WHITESPLAIN. They have no legitimate grievance, because they are white privileged. This is exactly what the left has been arguing for ages. Suddenly the author notices that it translates to contempt?
Even within the hierarchies thst the left promotes white feminists have less cause to complain than black feminist. And need to be told to sush because of their white privilege.

This is whyTrump has a following, by the way. White working class people are sick and tired of being made the scapegoat by liberals (many of whose are actually white)