Sunday, January 10, 2010

Noam Chomsky says "Love Thy Teabagger!"

And he makes a lot of sense...

So take right now, for example, there is a right-wing populist uprising. It's very common, even on the left, to just ridicule them, but that's not the right reaction. If you look at those people and listen to them on talk radio, these are people with real grievances. I listen to talk radio a lot and it's kind of interesting. If you can sort of suspend your knowledge of the world and just enter into the world of the people who are calling in, you can understand them. I've never seen a study, but my sense is that these are people who feel really aggrieved. These people think, "I've done everything right all my life, I'm a god-fearing Christian, I'm white, I'm male, I've worked hard, and I carry a gun. I do everything I'm supposed to do. And I'm getting shafted." And in fact they are getting shafted. For 30 years their wages have stagnated or declined, the social conditions have worsened, the children are going crazy, there are no schools, there's nothing, so somebody must be doing something to them, and they want to know who it is. Well Rush Limbaugh has answered - it's the rich liberals who own the banks and run the government, and of course run the media, and they don't care about you—they just want to give everything away to illegal immigrants and gays and communists and so on.

It's not that hard to understand. Living standards and socioeconomic opportunity have been generally increasing for most demographic groups for the last several decades, but all that positive movement has been coming at the expense of the few heavily-privileged demographic groups (i.e., white people, especially white males). Their (our) cultural hegemony was so absolute for so long that it could go in only one direction, and it shouldn't be a surprise that they're not all thrilled about it.

Something similar is true of Americans who grew up in a world where American dominance was nearly absolute: culturally, militarily, economically, ideologically. As that dominance erodes, you'd expect such people to feel threatened, angry, and/or sad about the whole thing. But their kids, for whom such erosion is the norm, will have a totally different reaction to it: not necessarily happier about it, but more at peace with it.

The point is, it's an understandable reaction and it doesn't make the people who have it morons. Even if sometimes they say moronic things.