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An Addendum: On White Liberal Issues

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Message Ross Brummet

I was recently confronted by a charming fellow after I suggested that Climate Change was a more important issue than gun control -- see "A Tale of Two Sandys" by Paul Street. My suggestion was racist, of course, as that "ecological sh*t" was merely a white liberal issue. This was truly bizarre considering that global warming is an issue that is disproportionately caused by white people that disproportionately effects non-white people. Calling it a white liberal issue is insane, unless one believes the only people who believe in science are white liberals -- a factual absurdity. Nevertheless, this claim made me consider what issues could really be considered white liberal issues, or alternatively bourgeois issues. These issues generally have some level of marginal importance, but seem to have the disproportionate and unjustified concern of a small group of white liberals who are disproportionately affected by them. So, with that said, consider this an addendum to my previous article, which offers examples of more important issues that require greater attention, as opposed to the following topics which require less.

Unreasonable Concerns: It's not so much that reasoned argument isn't important. The inaction on most of the issues I address in the previous article, stem from some faith or another, whether it's a rejection of the science of climate change, or the nationalism that justifies indifference to global poverty and the victims of war. However, instead of focusing on these important issues, or even important problems with organized religion, atheists in America obsess over the trivial existence of god, marginal attacks on the theory of evolution, and the minor infractions atheists face in the US. It all makes me reflect on a comment by Noam Chomsky when considering the topic of New Atheism, "If it is to be even minimally serious, the 'new atheism' should focus its concerns on the virulent secular religions of state worship." The problem is that they fundamentally do not. They choose to be reasonable about a few trivial issues, while remaining oddly indifferent and unreasonable about important issues. While people that can tentatively be called New Atheists aren't the amalgamation of the worst views of Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens that Chris Hedges falsely accuses them of being. They aren't, however, the rationalists they like to pretend to be.

Adorable Animal Rights: How often do you see something to save this species or that species? Or prevent the cruel and barbaric practice of dog fights? Or an insistence against fur? Here is the thing, it isn't so much that you shouldn't be against these things, it just that even when it comes to animal rights they amount to little more than trivial emotional appeals. Species die every day, other species are born, the problem only comes when the latter outweighs the former -- not when a particular adorable one dies. Fur might seem unpleasant but it is hardly worse than leather. The suffering of dogs is comparatively less than the suffering of pigs -- which are more intelligent, if less fluffy. One of the possible reasons for the obsession over these issues is that they are much more polite than the argument against factory farming -- a problem in which most people remain complicit. Its easy, for instance, to condemn dog fighting because no one does it, but most people still like cheap bacon. The former leads to the suffering of a couple animals whereas the latter not only leads to suffering of billions, but also plays a key role in climate change. Which, in turn, will wipe a lot more species than whaling. In short, it's not that discussion of our treatment of animals is unimportant but the way in which we choose to talk about it.

The Most Important Issue of Our Time: While in some parts of the world homosexuality is against the law, as world leaders deny it's very existence... in the United States, and elsewhere in the western world, gay people are relatively well off. Does that mean that they don't face a myriad of issues? Of course not. From a lack of worker rights, marriage rights, to a culture that condemns them or alternatively finds them faintly amusing. Yet, can we really say that gay issues deserve the amount of attention they get among liberals? I have heard liberals call gay marriage the most important issue of our time, which is interesting because I didn't know that discrimination against gays threatened the existence of the species. Ok, fair enough, just the most important civil rights issue of our time then. Really? Because I'm pretty there are more black people in jail than were enslaved in the 1850s. I'm sorry to say but I think that is more important than some official equality -- ask the average black person in prison, how official equality works out for them. Gay people deserve equal rights, and I'm not asking them to wait for them. All I'm saying, is that we need to calm down and look at this issue reasonably. I think my gay friends should be able to get married, but I don't think that is more important than any given child starving in Africa.

A Final Topic from A Misogynist Pig : One is often confronted with blogs from white bourgeois liberals, who like to think of themselves as feminist, bravely defending women from sexism and misogyny -- issues that trump all others. So, for instance, Richard Dawkins might have spent the majority of his life arguing against the most oppressive force against women in history, but we should boycott his works for his insensitivity on the topic of hitting on women in elevators. Julian Assange might be despised by the most powerful institutions in the world, but anybody who suggests his legal problems might have something to do with that is a sexist. After all, he has has been accused of rape, and no person in the history of the world has ever been falsely accused of rape -- that Tom Robinson did it. Here's the thing. Richard Dawkins might lack some sensitivity to women, but that has nothing to do with what he writes about. The accusations against Julian Assange may or may not be true, but that doesn't mean that Sweden, The United States, and Britain aren't attempting to use those allegations to crush an important activist. Both of these issues illustrate that for some "feminists", issues outside of woman's rights aren't relevant. Or they are significantly less relevant than issues that directly affect them. The Democrats are a capitalist party, that supports empire while opposing democracy? Yeah, but the Republicans will overturn Roe V Wade! The U.S. is waging an imperial war against Afghanistan that results in thousands upon thousands of innocent deaths? Yeah, but the Taliban treated women despicably!

Feminism has a noble tradition, but the greatest feminists always kept some level of perspective. Susan B. Anthony was a leader in the crusade for women's suffrage, but fought hard to abolish slavery. Rosa Luxemburg wrote articles advocating for greater women's rights, but was a Marxist who considered female equality as only a part of a greater class struggle. A personal favorite of mine is Emma Goldman -- notably imprisoned for advocating birth control. She occasionally took unpopular positions within feminism, famously opposing the fight for women's suffrage. Not because she opposed equality, but because she understood that voting rights are meaningless in a society in which elections are little more than distracting illusions. Maybe she was wrong, maybe she wasn't, but it was principled and fitting with a coherent ideology that viewed sexism and misogyny as problems, but not the only problems. Modern white liberal "feminists" would do well to read what she wrote. As would everyone else.

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Ross Brummet is a student and writer in Los Angeles. Considering himself a utilitarian with libertarian socialist sympathies, he is fond of the views of Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, and Peter Singer. However he finds Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas (more...)

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