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Born-again Social Darwinism: Survival of the Callous, Morally Unfit

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Considering how the fringe right enshrines its own perverse "survival of the fittest," you'd think Tea Partiers would warm to Darwinian "evolution" -- if only to justify concentrated wealth and power as "natural." "Whatever is, is right," the poet Pope says about the great chain of being. Is not history one grand upward arc towards rapture and redemption -- pinnacles after fundamentalist dominion over mankind, subservient woman, dark-skinned foreigners, aliens, and nature's bounty?

Let contradictions reign: a righteous ruling class scorns modest "handouts" to poor, sickly minorities (such "moral weakness") but lives high on the hog with cheap, federalized mortgages, corporate welfare and subsidies, unending war profits and permanent defense monopolies, plus unemployment benefits, Social Security, and Medicare. Of course the "profit-creators" all deserve princely treasures for they've all worked to the bone for it.

Haves, after all, lord over have-nots for good and right and identifiable reasons, not from mere luck. Did not 19th C. U.S. armies, defending federal railroad subsidies, "win the west" for all those good, pioneering Tea Party ancestors? Scattered farmers and ranchers never would have defeated (or corralled) native Americans with single-shot rifles, nor later firmly locked out millions of competitive immigrants -- those less protestant, less white, not from northern Europe.

From slavery through Indian massacres through 20th C. imperialism and Japanese internment, American history is a march of big government brutality founded on two convictions: "might makes right" enhanced by "white makes right." This history culminates in all its wondrous contradictions with Tea Party fanatics -- of late paying odd homage to obsolete Social Darwinism.

Social Darwinism is that late 19th C. crock that misapplied Darwin's genetic, biological dynamics for species differentiation to radically distinct sociological phenomena. The co-opted catch-phrase, "survival of the fittest," applied pseudo-science to rationalize all sorts of intact "natural" inequalities and oppression. Assuming all races, states, and cultures were in constant, violent competition, Social Darwinism ended up glorifying not just laissez-faire capitalism but, per Wikipedia, "ideas of eugenics, scientific racism, imperialism, fascism, Nazism" and permanent struggles between "racial groups." Oh, my, born-again racism on the march.

Haves Have Bigger Guns

If the ruthlessly fittest survived best in nature, so the logic went, then cultural-military superiority is natural, with violence obscured by unfeeling Christian Sunday sermons. Haves aren't more moral but have bigger guns, thus current NRA types in our peace-loving realm treat arms like sacred relics, awarding them rights and personhood (even family membership).

Neither sociologist nor political historian, Darwin could not have anticipated perversion of his biology. His fittest only mattered when able to procreate widely, increase their gene pool and adapt better to habitat niches. Darwinian evolution didn't propose warlike jungle morality, nor short-term triumphs of the well-armed over the unarmed. And as a progressive notion, evolution could not deify the status quo -- or the earth being 5,000 years old.

Yet, does not this standard take on Social Darwinism fit the Tea Bag mental case?

The most extreme ideological expression of nationalism and imperialism was Social Darwinism. In the popular mind, the concepts of evolution justified the exploitation of 'lesser breeds without the law' by superior races. This language of race and conflict, of superior and inferior people, had wide currency in the Western states. Social Darwinists vigorously advocated the acquisition of empires, saying that strong nations -- by definition, those that were successful at expanding industry and empire -- would survive and that others would not. To these elitists, all white men were more fit than non-whites to prevail in the struggle for dominance. -- Western Civilization: Ideas, Politics, and Society

Of course, today's Tea Party Tribal Revenge Gang enshrines its bloodthirsty impulses by distorting Jesus as well as Darwin. That strident Christians dare equate their Executioner's Mask for Jesus' compassion only speaks to a blind, tribal arrogance, a triumph of authoritarian fervor over compassion. Nowhere can one imagine Jesus approving torture or turning the other cheek to the dying sick because they hadn't paid medical insurance. In today's religious circus, the saved get full medical coverage not because they have the cash but because a punitive God figures the rapturous theocracy to come will need them in good health.

Bare-knuckled Scapegoating

This week, the Tea Party showed its fangs, taking ruthless, ideological fixations to a weirdly logical extreme -- kill-the-pigs scapegoating. They gloated about the purity of capital punishment (severely biased against minorities), irrational wars against foreigners (darkly-bearded Muslims), and the weak dying young -- what? thus "evolving" the species. Darwin made no claims the fittest were by definition morally superior to the has-beens, just better adapted for reproductive dominance.

It's one thing to oppose a national insurance plan, assailing its faux parade of Death Panels. It's another for Christians to justify letting the sick get sicker because, wonder to behold, illness wiped out savings, if they ever had any. Thus becomes the new Christian meek who "inherit the earth" by getting buried in it, prematurely -- contrary to anything Jesus taught.

We should expect before public executions come back into vogue (punish murderers, orates Rick Perry) the right must further demonize enemies (like Obama), then go full tilt to vigorously scapegoat less "real Americans." Thus, the mantra is no compromise -- take-no-prisoners when dealing with evil, secular liberals who defend abortion or gay rights -- even sharing the wealth. So, say the high and mighty, storms carry moral lessons from God to godless sinners.

Zealots Marching off to War

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Educated at Rutgers College (BA) and UC Berkeley (Ph.D, English) Becker left university teaching (Northwestern, U. Chicago) for business, founding and heading SOTA Industries, high end audio company from '80 to '92. From '92-02 he did marketing (more...)
 

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Looking back on the Bush-Cheney era as "the good o... by Jack Shneidman on Tuesday, Sep 20, 2011 at 5:48:07 PM