Saturday, July 09, 2016

Brexit, Racism, Trump, Part I

In the supposed populist revolt we are experiencing with the Trump and Sanders campaigns in America, coinciding with Brexit and rumblings of other European -exits, charges of racism and xenophobia have enjoyed a resurgence.  My default response is to disregard anything further the writer lays out, as they are clearly quick to judge, quick to insult, and prone to exaggeration.  If someone uses a milder term like ethnocentric I may stick around a bit longer. Because there is certainly something to the observation that people feel their culture or customs are being eroded or even taken, and they are trying to preserve something of Our Customs, Our Institutions, Our People.  When one culture dominates, those from other cultures feel left out. When the left outs create changes, either by law or by sheer numbers, the previous owners of the joint feel they have had something taken from them and push back.

This is not just racial and tribal.  It is noticeable when people move into a small town, turning it into a suburb. It's not like the old days.  Swedish churches have always had Luciafest, but when the families are more Italian and Korean and mixed ancestry they sometimes let it drop. Schools have traditions that fade for a dozen reasons.

Who gets to choose can be complicated, but there are some unwritten rules that people seem to acknowledge.  A.) Being in the majority has some weight.  When a new tribe moves into a place and eventually outnumbers the original inhabitants they change the culture more in their own direction.  B.) Whoever got their first, or more importantly, whoever established the institution (cleared the land, built the school, organised the choir) has some say. Obama's "you didn't build that" has enormous cultural implications that I'm sure were intentional.  C.) Whoever is willing to do the work now gets an important vote.

Much of the conflict comes from moving about so much these days.  People who come from there to here are used to having their own ways in the old place, and want to have them where they arrive. Yet isn't this a bit intrusive?  All fourth-graders take NH history here.  If I move to Michigan can I demand that they teach NH history to my children?  Am I right to move to California and complain that it's not enough like New England?

This isn't going quite where I planned.  One thing leads to another, and it's another example of learning by speaking, of discovering things yourself as you go.  Perhaps this will have to be Part I.
The people who want to keep their culture regard it as an innocent thing, something they deserve and have a right to.  John Derbyshire is clearly of this school and makes some solid points about it in one of his Brexit discussions.   Four things to note in that essay:

Roger Cohen, who writes a column called "The Globalist" for the NYTimes, bemoans Brexit because "'s a personal loss.  Europa, however flawed, was the dream of my generation." Well, no. Your age bracket voted against it, Roger.  It's your transnationalist elite class that dreamed it. But even if it were true, why should your dream rule?  Who cares, really?  My tribe has dreams, too, and we're not going to get most of them.

Anthony Lane's tying the embrace of difference into the (implied) more advanced because open culture of urbanites, sounds a bit like our recent discussion of New York and American urban-fanciers .  Derbyshire separates that into separate elements quite nicely.

Derb doesn't notice or pretends not to notice that some of the Brexit anger is not anti-Mediterranean/Muslim, but anti-Eastern European, hating Poles because they have competitive skills and hating the Roma because they don't. Yet I think he is right in that the English would have put up with that without revolt, and even endured reduced numbers of Syrians and Afghans.

His contention that the English are annoyed because there are whole sections of major cities where there are no white Englishmen, because groups have taken over what used to be fish-and-chips neighborhoods, may be true but seems odd to Americans, who expect that's what cities are supposed look like.  Chinatown, Little Italy, Germantown.  We are getting closer to actual racism here, though it's not as pure as it's made out to be. People like things to look and sound as they used to.Nothing personal

There is a considerable problem that people's memories of how things used to be is often rosily inaccurate, and traditions which seem long-standing actually go back little more than a generation, but we'll tackle that later.  For now, let's have a song.


Unknown said...

Wow good luck with this, you have your work cut out for you. Just off the top of my head, you seem to focus first on cultural flux, vis a vis immigration, vrs the political flux. That’s understandable since it most readily comes to mind, gets the most media attention, and is the more visceral. But, is Brexit and the like some sort of ethnocentrism run amok, or is it resistance to the decisions regarding daily life being made by remote, unaccountable, and UNKNOWN faceless bureaucrats from afar. Of course, it can be both. And, what happens, when the Globalists and Financialists over promise benefits, that don't pan out for regular folks, despite all the statistics? Is that a factor?

Sam L. said...

Don't Californicate Oregon! was a bumper sticker I read about, in the '70s IIRC. Part of Oregon was, though, and that part controls the big population area, and the state as well, from what I read about it.

Unknown said...

Just some random thoughts on Brexit. So I am going to go off on my own riff re: globalization and regulation. It seems to me that government and big business work in tandem to the greater benefit of the multinational megacorps and the inadvertent disadvantage of small local, regional, and national businesses.
Big business is a factor in driving big government and the emergence of international authorities for legitimate reasons. The government has to be large enough to have leverage over the business or industry, otherwise a multinational can extort concessions and play one jurisdiction against another. International governing authorities enable and facilitate trade, ie standardization of paperwork et al. The dilemma is how to balance the conflicting agendas and to protect the public’s interest (health and safety) and not strangle innovation, investment, and growth?
So here's the gist: Consider that these decisions are less and less local, by people who have skin in the game and hands on in the trenches knowledge, as opposed to a remote book learned technocrat in another state, country, and on another continent. These bureaucrats have been accused of putting their own class livelihoods and Big Business first over the citizenry. Even this maybe inadvertent, since Big Business can control the debate and is the source of their information. It is always fair to ask "cui bono?
As an example, here is a comment from the time of the circular firing squads over the mortgage meltdown but some of the underlying issues may apply. It’s about the disconnect that occurred between the borrower and the lender. What at one time was relatively local (face to face by known entities) link has stretched out across the globe (the lender may live anywhere in the world and has no connection to the borrower). This has over the decades become increasingly true of businesses. The business shareholder has no connection to the community where the plant(facilities) are located and is not a stakeholder. Multinationals to the degree that they are unethical or irresponsible are disconnected from their suppliers and their customers and in a position to do a great deal of local harm without any blowback. Thus, a business decision that creates a disaster for a locality is not a factor.
I am just musing on trustand how far it can stretch, I don’t have an end game here. Maybe tribalism is the dominant force in Brexit, not that I think either side is Monolithic. Or, I wonder if the folks who manage our lives from afar would be more trustworthy, if they were from the same tribe? Or, maybe not.

Texan99 said...

I grew up in a pretty homogeneous suburb. The very earliest cultural shock I can ever remember getting was at girl scout camp. A fellow camper (she was from Louisiana, practically a foreign country) didn't share the assumptions about how to set the silverware on the communal table that I had previously assumed were universal to mankind. I just couldn't fathom it. It's not that I thought the silverware was important; it's only that I had never previously considered the possibility that that kind of thing wasn't fixed and universal. It didn't become a rainbow-coalition celebration-of-diversity moment or anything, but I suppose it was a healthy development even though I remember disliking the experience intensely.