Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Backlash of Entitlement Sustained by Dominance

Men are entitled to control women's sexuality.

White people are entitled to their supremacy.

Owners are entitled to the profits produced by their laborers.

The United States is entitled to its exceptionalism.

The other day I made a rather bold statement about this election. I suggested that we view all of the issues that are on the table through the lens of whether or not they contribute to dealing another blow to the embrace of dominance as the source of white male power, or give it new life. The statements above capture exactly what I was talking about.

Think about that in light of what Derrick Jensen wrote about entitlement.
I have spent the past several hours now thinking about the notion that masters "shall be entitled to their labor," and at the risk of overstating, it seems to me that entitlement is key to nearly all atrocities, and that any threat to perceived entitlement will provoke hatred...
From the perspective of those who are entitled, the problems begin when those they despise do not go along with—and have the power and wherewithal to not go along with—the perceived entitlement. ...
Several times I have commented that hatred felt long and deeply enough no longer feels like hatred, but more like tradition, economics, religion, what have you. It is when those traditions are challenged, when the entitlement is threatened, when the masks of religion, economics, and so on are pulled away that hate transforms from its more seemingly sophisticated, "normal," chronic state—where those exploited are looked down upon, or despised—to a more acute and obvious manifestation. Hate becomes more perceptible when it is no longer normalized.
Another way to say all of this is that if the rhetoric of superiority works to maintain the entitlement, hatred and direct physical force remains underground. But when that rhetoric begins to fail, force and hatred waits in the wings, ready to explode.
We are living in a moment when all of those entitlements are being challenged. Whether we are talking about women, people of color, workers or global citizens - we are all in the process of developing the power and wherewithal to not go along with the perceived entitlement. That has created a backlash of hatred (in the form of fear and anger), which is exploding and fueling the candidacy of Donald Trump (and Ted Cruz). The promise to "make America great again" is all about reinstating that entitlement via dominance.

It is interesting to note that Josh Marshall is describing Trump's candidacy the same way.
In my series of impromptu essays about Trump and Trumpism I've repeatedly returned to the topic of 'dominance politics' and the way it informs virtually everything about Trump's campaign. So far I've discussed it mainly in the context of domestic, electoral politics. That's the framework in which I usually think about it. But since Trump will almost certainly be the Republican nominee and thus possibly become President, it's important to think through the implications abroad as well...
As I've written before, Trump's brand of dominance politics is built on "a series of symbols and actions that mark the dominating from the dominated." His attitude toward other countries seems quite similar. In the Trump foreign policy worldview, we, the United States, are the unmanned losers that guys like Trump stomp and humiliate. We've become a nation of Jebs in need of a Trump to lead us. We need a Trump-type president to move back to dominating rather than being dominated.
It is important that we begin to see current events in this light. That is because it gives us the ability to see what is fueling the backlash...progress. That knowledge can steel us for the struggle, but it is also empowering. The threat to entitlement is so strong that it is resulting in a lashing out from the dying beast in its death throes. Or, as Rebecca Traister put it:
This is our country in an excruciating period of change. This is the story of the slow expansion of possibility for figures who have long existed on the margins, and it is also the story of the dangerous rage those figures provoke.
Finally, knowing all this reminds us to keep our eyes on the prize.

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