Fantasies

Cruelty

I came across this old book review in the New Yorker which argues that moral indignation rather than dehumanization lies behind some extreme cruelty.[1] It’s an interesting hypothesis, but I’m unconvinced: The argument is left unmade for me.

The thing about arguments of this nature is they seek to plumb the depths of motivation and belief in other people, which we can never really know. We can only know what they say or write. People rarely even fully know themselves anyway and people who express cruelty towards other people strike me as spectacularly unreliable sources.

Paul Bloom, “The Root of All Cruelty?” review of Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others, by David Livingstone Smith, and Virtuous Violence: Hurting and Killing to Create, Sustain, End, and Honor Social Relationships, by Alan Fiske and Tage Rai, New Yorker, November 20, 2017, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/11/27/the-root-of-all-cruelty


Donald Trump

3035Cartoon by Nicola Jennings, via the Guardian, June 2, 2019, fair use.

So Donald Trump made one of his pals ambassador to the United Kingdom. Said pal wants Britain to privatize its National Health Service or at least to “put it up for negotiation” in a post-Brexit trade deal with the U.S. Britons, except perhaps those in with Nigel Farage, are outraged.[2] I suspect this is what, in soccer, they call an “own goal:” If voters were lacking a reason to vote against Farage, they certainly have one now.

Jessica Elgot and Patrick Wintour, “Donald Trump to land in UK amid rising anger over trade demands,” Guardian, June 2, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/02/donald-trump-to-land-in-uk-amid-rising-anger-over-trade-demands


Horse Race

It seems California Democrats, at least those who attended a state party convention, are in no mood for so-called “centrism” (for which, read “neoliberalism”).[3] The problem here, as it was in 2016, is that neoliberals will never relinquish control of the Democratic Party to progressives in anything like the way that the Republicans acquiesced to authoritarian populists and social conservatives—they’ll just keep pointing to those nine percent response rate polls that favor the “touchy feely” misogynist pervert, Joe Biden, ironically claiming the mantle of “pragmatism.” Which means that progressives who run as Democrats are in fact, even if unintentionally, supporting neoliberalism by attracting progressive votes to a determinedly neoliberal party and thus helping neoliberals to gain or remain in power.

And we must not be deluded by neoliberal fantasies that Republicans will be more sensible when Donald Trump leaves office:[4] Barack Obama spent his entire presidency appeasing them; Mitch McConnell hasn’t stopped shamelessly obstructing Democrats, now for over ten fucking years. These fantasies are bullshit, just like the progressive fantasies that impeachment grandstanding will solve a damned thing.

Sophia Bollag and Hannah Wiley, “Boos for the moderates: San Francisco convention fires up left-leaning Democratic activists,” Sacramento Bee, June 2, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article231018043.html

Sean Sullivan, “Liberals go after Joe Biden, trying to blunt his presidential candidacy and the recent centrist surge in the Democratic Party,” Washington Post, June 2, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/liberals-go-after-joe-biden-trying-to-blunt-his-presidential-candidacy-and-the-recent-centrist-surge-in-the-democratic-party/2019/06/02/b0e20be4-8543-11e9-a491-25df61c78dc4_story.html


Palestine

The problem remains that Palestinians will not—and should not—accept anything less than full independence from the Israeli colonization that the Israeli right, which has a stranglehold on Israeli and U.S. politics, insists is a precondition for Israeli security. Let me clear: Colonization is never legitimate, and the Israeli version of it, in often violently seeking to erase the Palestinians by calling them “Arabs,” or by seeking to subsume them into Jordan and Egypt, fulfils one definition of genocide; it is, at the very least, ethnic cleansing. Israel, having been founded largely in response to genocide, delegitimizes itself with these policies.

John Hudson and Loveday Morris, “Pompeo delivers unfiltered view of Trump’s Middle East peace plan in off-the-record meeting,” Washington Post, June 2, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/exclusive-pompeo-delivers-unfiltered-view-of-trumps-middle-east-peace-plan-in-off-the-record-meeting/2019/06/02/94527d80-3a2c-4f04-b8f9-dd3fd78a5a8c_story.html


Migration

Spencer S. Hsu, “Judge rejects House suit to block transfer of billions of dollars for Trump border wall,” Washington Post, June 3, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/legal-issues/judge-rejects-house-suit-to-block-transfer-of-billions-of-dollars-for-trump-border-wall/2019/06/03/15b58402-7e31-11e9-8bb7-0fc796cf2ec0_story.html


  1. [1]Paul Bloom, “The Root of All Cruelty?” review of Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others, by David Livingstone Smith, and Virtuous Violence: Hurting and Killing to Create, Sustain, End, and Honor Social Relationships, by Alan Fiske and Tage Rai, New Yorker, November 20, 2017, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/11/27/the-root-of-all-cruelty
  2. [2]Jessica Elgot and Patrick Wintour, “Donald Trump to land in UK amid rising anger over trade demands,” Guardian, June 2, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/02/donald-trump-to-land-in-uk-amid-rising-anger-over-trade-demands
  3. [3]Sophia Bollag and Hannah Wiley, “Boos for the moderates: San Francisco convention fires up left-leaning Democratic activists,” Sacramento Bee, June 2, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article231018043.html
  4. [4]Sean Sullivan, “Liberals go after Joe Biden, trying to blunt his presidential candidacy and the recent centrist surge in the Democratic Party,” Washington Post, June 2, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/liberals-go-after-joe-biden-trying-to-blunt-his-presidential-candidacy-and-the-recent-centrist-surge-in-the-democratic-party/2019/06/02/b0e20be4-8543-11e9-a491-25df61c78dc4_story.html

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