Saturday, January 26, 2013

Racism and Governmentism

     Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is a book about good and evil.  It has sold over 30 million copies because people are preoccupied with this subject:  sooner or later, we all confront evil--first,  from outside ourselves, and later, from within.
     It is an unfortunate fact--because it has terrible implications for everyone--that some people, no matter how old, never acquire the depth or courage to acknowledge the existence of evil within themselves.  Such individuals persist in the comforting childhood conviction that evil is "out there," and we must attack it as though it's a hoard of dragons and we are the mythical heroes poised to rescue the human race from annihilation.
     It may be true that humans need to be rescued, and it really is from reptilian monsters and aliens and devils--but they reside within us, and unite us as carriers of an evil force so insistent on making itself known that if we don't admit its reality it seeps out of us and casts an aura around everything we do and touch.  Then, if we still don't perceive ourselves as its true source it begins to emanate, like fog, into the world.  By this point we don't see our own evil.  We assume instead that we're good, and that evil is a threat from without, like burglers, and terrorists, and Nazis, and frauds.
     The evil in Harper Lee's book is racism, and more specifically, prejudice--which comes from a deliberate refusal to know.  We don't want to know ourselves, or others, not really.  We want others to be like us, on the surface, and when they're not we either envy them or hate them.  The more different they are, the less we want to know them.
     Not that any of us admits this.  Perhaps we don't recognize the process, insofar as our less noble attributes squat below consciousness.  And not that there aren't gradations of envy and hatred which seem less harsh and therefore more normal--since other people have them, too, and prove it via snide remarks, jokes, charitable works, moralizing and gossip--but none of that subtracts from the irrational wish we harbor that people should conform to our standards, and be like us.  When they aren't, and when we don't own our fear, envy, and hatred, these feelings reposition themselves outside us, as objects in our world, seemingly unrelated to us, except that we hate them, and consider them not us.
      One of the more cogent summaries of To Kill a Mockingbird is that it it is an indictment of racism, but not racists.  This is worth thinking about.  Most of us blame the human beings who carry, say, racist beliefs, and who act on them, rather than the set of assumptions and habits of unconsciousness from which racism springs.  It seems to me that our attack should be on the idea of racism, not racists.   Maybe human beings--racists or not--are okay.  They're simply human.  They follow the crowd, they get caught up in what Levy-Bruhl called a participation mystique, wherein they are unable to distinguish their own feelings as separate from the those of the times.  Maybe it's not the racists we should oppose, but the field effect of racism, which is hard for any individual to override.
      I hate the fact of racism, but I don't hate racists.  Racists are people who happen to be unsophisticated mouthpieces for a system of beliefs that attains power because so many of us fail to recognize it as a system that it might as well be one of those dragons I mentioned above.  When something like racism gains supremacy, it's because some of the monster of evil has gotten out of each of us, and gathered force.  Then it traps the majority under its spell, and exhales from its fiery gullet a form of hatred that becomes endemic.  The result is evil:  outside us, all around us, snatching more and more of us into its realm like that legendary dragon who ate maidens one by one until a single brave soul, St. George, stood up to it, wielding a sword.
     Racism is an example of the composite manifestation of all our little unrecognized internal prejudices having seeped into the world--because we haven't owned them as ours, our personal quota of evil, like original sin--and coalesced into a monstrous force with the capacity to infect masses of people.  If we each dealt with the evil within us, as our personal, heroic task, we wouldn't have gigantic evils like racism, outside us, to slay.
     Which brings me to the prosecutors and FBI agents who have made my life a kind of misery.  I don't mention them as individuals very often, because as far as I'm concerned they are products of a system that is not so different from racism.  I call the system "the government" because I don't know how else to refer to it, but that catch-all, "the government," doesn't connote the negativity I intend.  Maybe I should say "governmentism," because it's more of an "ism" that has taken hold of that entire cohort of human beings--those given the task of protecting us, but who instead have had their brains reprogrammed, and are caught up in a weird, destructive, propagandist mania not unlike that of cults, like scientology or the Ku Klux Klan. That's how I see government agents, and it's scary.
     When federal agents stormed my office, and when the prosecutors and their back-up crew--who happened to be more FBI agents--showed up in court for my emergency hearing last year, there wasn't an ounce of doubt on their mask-like faces.  They were all badges, certainty, and shared superego.  They were infected by "governmentism" as surely as people can be infected by the pandemic of racism.  They were caught up in the police process as though on a military mission:  a matter of life and death.  But a raid on a solo medical clinic is not a dangerous assignment.  ("We have hypodermic needles, but we don't use them as weapons," I told them during the raid, questioning the need for all those semiautomatic pistol.)
     The agents needed the kind of exponential power you find in masses.  Therefore, dozens of them stormed my office--having traveled from all over the state--tripping over themselves.  Otherwise, they wouldn't have the power they needed to make me feel small.  Real power comes from knowledge, or the facts--that's what they didn't have. They were caught up in the group excitement of governmentism, which is highly irrational;  without that, they would have had before them the hard task of questioning their motives.
     I don't hate the prosecutors, FBI agents, judges, or lawmakers who seem to be responsible for the raid and wreckage of my business.  Nor do I hate all the Americans who believe in these authority figures without giving it a second thought.  They don't recognize the participation mystique within which they are being held, like a school of fish or a herd of zebras, feeling what all their companions are feeling--and cut off from their individual hearts and minds, which might, if permitted, tell them there is something terribly wrong--maybe even something evil, worse than racism, if that's possible--about the governmentism that has them in its clutches. 

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