Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Us vs. Them, Them vs. Us

How did it happen that working-class Americans lost their class solidarity? How did it come to be that working people have come to identify with their bosses? The people in government--overwhelmingly entitled, wealthy people--and the bosses of the business world know what their self interests are. How come working people don't? Who's responsible for this lie that what's good for the business world, for capitalism, is good for everybody?

Marxism, not exactly the most popular of ideologies in our post-modern world, got this one exactly right. One of the simplest but seemingly most difficult concepts of Marxism is that different social classes have different self interests. And the self-interest of the ruling class--them--really is to do everthing possible to stay in power and to game the system so it preserves and enforces itself. To "them," we below them exist to make them rich; to give them power. The self-interest of the working class--us--should be mutual solidarity, banding together to protect each other and to organize together to take what is rightfully ours.

It's true that Marxism hasn't aged well. Class-based methodologies like Marxism, heck even like industrial trade unionism, have been particularly prone to a host of corruptions. The truth is that "they" are very strong and "we" are very weak as long as "we" believe that "they" have the right to make the rules. But it doesn't have to be that way. "We" can make different choices, and these choices start at the smallest level of who we identify with, whose side we instinctively jump to.

One of my favorite jokes probably dates me horribly. (And, careful reader, it's even an example of Indianism.) It has the Lone Ranger and his trusty Indian companion Tonto chased into a canyon by hostile Indians. The Indian war cries echo off the walls of the Canyon, loud and fierce. There's guns shooting and arrows flying. Out from every boulder steps another Indian, and finally the Lone Ranger and Tonto are backed against the canyon wall. The Lone Ranger says to Tonto, "Well, Tonto, I think this is it. I don't think we're going to get out of this one. We are surrounded." Tonto turns to the Lone Ranger and says, "What do you mean we, white man?"

So yeah, us versus them: Which side are you on?


  1. You know whose side I'm on. I know Marxism hasn't aged well and industrial unions seem odd in a country without industry but capitalism is not aging well at all and deindustrialization is a failure. I'm fortunate to be a member of a still viable union in an area where unions still have some strength. I'm not too strong on ideology anymore and I'm definitely suspicious of the middle class left but when it comes to us versus them, I'm solid with us.

  2. I find it so frustrating even on a petty level.... when people take the side of the state, or a company, against individual people even in a not strictly political setting.

    Like in NYC how people are always blaming transit workers for the disgusting state of the subway and not the transit authority or the city that owns and is responsible for the subway. I swear it's like some kind of brainwashing.

  3. Well off course it's some kind of brainwashing. Not much can shock me anymore so I'm only a little surprised at how anti union most of the white middle class left is. During the New York transit strike most liberal web sites had hundreds of comments saying that transit workers had no "right" to inconvenience other people. Next most common comment was, "I went to college for (X number of years) and I don't make as much as those greedy inconsiderate bastards. Also saw quite a few comments to the effect of "If they were real working stiffs I could see supporting them but New York Transit workers are just a bunch of ignorant thugs". It didn't take much to realize that the problem (for those "leftists") was the that most transit workers aren't white.
    I don't think there's really a white left in America.