<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Van Der Pol Ferguson Just Another Divide-and-Conquer Episode

Ferguson Just Another Divide-and-Conquer Episode


Someone suggested that in the wake of the events in Ferguson, Mo., recently, white folks should try to say nothing for awhile, instead concentrating on trying to hear, to feel, what is being expressed there. I have consequently tried to keep silent on the subject for some days, to quiet as much as possible the nitwit chatter and extreme individualism with which the electronic age has surrounded us, and to develop whatever empathy I could muster. Out of that attempt has come a few thoughts.

I don’t understand the fire and burning and destruction other than as a simple expression of extreme frustration. As a small farmer, I understand a bit about feeling helpless in our system. And I don’t understand why it is so difficult to charge a cop and bring him to trial. But I have come to think that a way out of racism, our American original sin, must be generated by the white working class.

Actually, Americans have two original sins, and they are related through racism. Our enslavement of black Africans is one, the other is the theft of the land we call ours from the American natives. South Africa is ahead of us with their “Truth and Reconciliation” effort. They have much to do, but they have at least made a start by admitting they have a problem. We could start by putting some of the economics professors who are generally busy mismanaging the economy to work calculating what would be left of it if we subtracted the value of the stolen land and the stolen labor using the time/value of money over the decades. The results of that calculation should at least sober us up enough to make room for a little humility. It would demonstrate the lie for all of us in the often heard assertion that “I” never benefited from slavery, or from the government’s eighteenth and nineteenth century land grab.

Humility opens the door for repentance. Repentance, if I understand Christian theology right, must come before redemption. And redemption for us would be reconciliation; to be reconciled to our American neighbors who do not resemble us, to the land which we have been destroying since we stole it, and eventually then, to the rest of the world. But why expect reconciliation, or indeed, anything good out of the white working class? Wasn’t it once again a white working-class cop who pulled the trigger? Isn’t the white working class poisoned with racism and nationalism and other forms of hatred? Isn’t it intentionally and proudly ignorant? Isn’t it entangled in our penchant for never ending war? The answers, of course, are yes and yes. Four times yes.

Look at it this way. Change is afoot. When the Masters of the Universe talk (quietly) about not needing a portion of the population anymore, they aren’t talking about blacks only. Whites are beginning to get a rude lesson in the meaning of being beside the point. The “permanently unemployable” that the cops are responsible for confining to their own part of town are going increasingly to include whites. And working class whites might become teachable because of it. After all, the white working class learned well enough from the elites for these past centuries that we were better than the blacks working beside us. The racial divisions and jealousy fostered by the elites for their own benefit caused the unionization of American labor to be bloody and strife filled. Today, the racism inherent in our union structure is a major reason it no longer has power. The union movement did not stand together against the destruction and dismemberment of Detroit basically because that union (the UAW) is largely black. Check the political stance of the air traffic controllers, for instance, in this and similar matters. We have been divided and we have been conquered. Now the corporates and the rich are busy making sure that the government can do nothing to protect the livelihood of any who are not wealthy through the recent “free trade” agreements which are a shoo-in to pass because so many of us are so busy pointing our fingers at Ferguson and other like events. Racism’s foot soldiers have always been the white working class.

One lesson we should have learned from Vietnam is that when the foot soldiers rebel, the war becomes impossible to maintain. The elites have always found it convenient to play one worker off against another, using whatever was at hand. But now they are overplaying their hand. Through the extreme over-mechanization of production, through escalating the savagery with which they attack the earth with their surface mining and drilling and fracking to get the last of the fossil resources, and through misuse of foreign labor, they have increased the proportion of the population they are pleased to call “surplus” well beyond the 10 or 20 percent it has been, pushing it up toward thirty and above. Meanwhile the job situation of those who do have work of any kind is so precarious it is nearly beyond their ability to improve themselves. The pool of people thought to be surplus, useless, and soon, unemployable is now beginning to include the white working class, who, in contrast to the African slaves and the American natives, have had something to lose much more recently. The question about race is thus linked with the question about decent government for all people. And it depends in all its particulars on the likelihood of the white working class growing up enough to assume some social and political responsibility. To facilitate this, it would be good if the chattering classes gave up their ignorant prattle about “coalitions of the ascendant”. In our economy, no one is ascending. The working class, white and black, needs to be honestly represented in government and heard in the media.

Jim Van Der Pol farms near Kerkhoven, Minn. A collection of his columns was published by No Bull Press (nobullpressonline.com).

From The Progressive Populist, February 1, 2015


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