19 October, 2017

Liberalism: Getting Out While You Can

By Uditha Devapriya

Uditha Devapriya

In Jordan Peele’s intriguing film Get Out, a White American family lures Black Americans to their house to operate on and then (literally) insert into them the brains of old, disabled White Americans to guarantee immortality for the latter. What gets kicked out, of course, are the brains of the Black Americans (who needs to keep them once they’re no longer of use, anyway?). “Perfect metaphor,” I thought to myself, reflecting on the many instances in history when Black Westerners in general were contorted to become hosts for White Westerners. Incidentally I am not just talking about slavery, outdated or contemporary. I am talking also about liberalism.

I am no American and not being one does not and will not give me carte blanche to write at length about American history, the Ku Klux Klan, the Founding Fathers, or Donald Trump. The history of an ideology, in any case, is far more interesting to me than the history of an individual country. Liberalism was not born in the United States. The simple truth is the other way around: the United States was born out of liberalism. Now that the Civil War has entered the mainstream political discourse in that country again, perhaps it would do to explore how that ideology more, delving into how the intellectual and the artist have perpetuated prejudicial views of the Black Westerner so much that he’s become a target for the liberal left and the right.

Historically speaking “oppressed” and “inferior” races have culturally and scientifically been debased in both scholarship and popular culture. That is why Edward Said’s Orientalism is as important a “text” as Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation. Said’s monumental book is and continues to be relevant at a time when the West still tends to look at the East through its preconceived notions of the latter, academically or otherwise. The fundamental rationale for dissecting those aforementioned races, whether in Asia, the Middle-East, or Africa, was to conquer them, to exert some semblance of ultimate authority over them (Oriental studies being just one example, incidentally). Judging the degraded, inferior race on yardsticks created by the White Man was of course a corollary to this: the East didn’t ask for it, but in the absence of a yardstick the White West found itself to be best equipped. The choice was unilateral.

Over time these yardsticks proved to be valid and important for slave traders, slave owners, and imperialists. The minstrel show was an example of this process occurring the other way around: the White West was judging the East (because Africa, from where slaves were forcibly extracted, belongs to the East) on what the former considered to be latter’s own terms: gullible, inchoate, and incoherent. The same could be said of the Empire (British, French, German etc). There was a gap between the colonial bureaucrat and the people he was commissioned (or rather destined) to serve, a gap that proved to be so wide that when the British, French, and German (as well as other empire-beholden countries) marched across their colonies they didn’t look at their subjects, but made those subjects the aim of their scholarship. It was a way of profiling them as inferior without beating the tom-tom about it.

Popular culture, inasmuch as I like it and consider it as one of the elements of modernity that keep us human beings sane, I mentioned earlier as being rather ambivalent about certain pressing issues. A friend of mine called Hollywood “Hollow-wood” recently, and to a considerable extent (with some reservations) I agree, particularly when it comes to racial disparities or the inflation thereof in the conflict between the neo-fascist right and the liberal left. How else can you explain why, for instance, in the great decade of desegregation (the sixties), the American liberal filmmaker tried to justify Kennedy’s and Lyndon Johnson’s efforts at doing away with white-against-black prejudice by portraying either a) the White Man as the ultimate saviour of the coloured people, or b) the Black Man as possessing near-perfect idealisations of the White Man? Get Out is a parody (and a thrilling parody at that) of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, the first American movie to depict, with a considerable level of sympathy, interracial marriage. Seeing that classic again the other day, however, one is left wondering as to what the director actually intended.

Consider the protagonist of GWCTD: a Negro named Dr John Prentice, played by the great Sidney Poitier. His CV is so wide that I can only offer a summary of it by Roger Ebert: “A noble, rich, intelligent, handsome, ethical medical expert who serves on United Nations committees when he’s not hurrying off to Africa, Asia, Switzerland and all those other places where his genius is required.” The perfect Negro, idealised to match the perfect liberal family (who nevertheless have certain reservations, which are eventually dispelled, about letting their daughter face an entire country seething with rage and wrath: 1967, the year the film was released, was also the year in which interracial marriage was finally legalised). In the sixties when Poitier got star role after star role playing protagonists in predominantly “whitewashed” casts, he was almost always portrayed as the perfect professional like that. “The problem with liberals is that they always idealise the Other. The problem with the racists is that they always demonise the Other. In both cases, the outcome is the same: the Negro becomes the White Man’s Negro,” another friend of mine commented, reflecting on the title of Raoul Peck’s 2016 documentary on James Baldwin, I Am Not Your Negro.

This subtle dichotomy between idealising and demonising a collective is what has coloured the race debate, not just in America but in the West in general. Those who celebrate Donald Trump do so because they feel (as I mentioned last week) that the minorities, both foreign and local, are eating into their jobs. Those who oppose him, from the mainstream “liberal left”, idealise the Negro, placing him on an imaginary pedestal and considering him their equal without delving into their hopes, fears, sorrows, and joys. I mentioned To Kill a Mockingbird last week, or rather its sequel/prequel Go Set a Watchman. Well, TKAM has a problem too, one that no less a person than Ebert highlighted: “The black people in this scene are not treated as characters, but as props, and kept entirely in long shot. The close-ups are reserved for the white hero and villain.” Perhaps Get Out, a movie I’ve come to hold in such esteem that I’m sure it’ll be at least nominated for the Best Picture Oscar next year, is a more telling indictment of what the liberal left have done to the hard-done-by Negro: install their brains in his, and make themselves his heroes and ours. They are not.

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    I think your belief system that you were taught while you were growing up make you write a long story which could have been summarized by a buddhist to say the impermanent are all the phonomena, and they are trying to make true for ever. Otherwise, they were celebrating the liberlism in everything saying it was a country made up of immigrent. the statue of Liberty which was gifted by French and how migrents arrived to this new country under the that staue are things that they celebrate. Now they despise immigrents. It is the same with market exonomy and liberlized trade. Anyway, they did not wnat it anymore. they cancelled the Trans-pacific Trade agreement. Because all the fast developing coutries would flood their country with the cheap stuff. Now, they are doing it to the Mexicio too. blacks, NAtive Americans are fared well too. See how impermanent is when you say only the Almighty Creator is there and he does everything and believes in pyramid schmes in which you exploit everything available to you. Now it looks, one day, things go the otherway. Ku-Klux clan believes they are highest in evolution, when Scientists believe small oriental humans are the highest in evolution with respect to the brain. On ther other hand, all the Aryans are called Sun-worshippers as they are knowledge seekers and It is said about 75% of Sri lankans are sun-worshippers. Do you believe it. Buddha defined Aryans (Nobles) in another way. Ku-Klux clan is those believe they are aryans becuse of their skin color with the sun burns and dirty looking so-called white skin. that is why they love the sun-tanning and reddish brown burned color.

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    “Those who celebrate Donald Trump do so because they feel (as I mentioned last week) that the minorities, both foreign and local, are eating into their jobs. Those who oppose him, from the mainstream “liberal left”, idealise the Negro, placing him on an imaginary pedestal and considering him their equal without delving into their hopes, fears, sorrows, and joys”, observes the writer.

    Those are couple of inane pronouncements that have no basis in fact. In fact, “those who celebrate” Trump have far more insidious reasons (read atavistic genetic deficiencies) for their racist ideologies. There were no “eating into their jobs” when the racists like the KKK went on their murderous sprees, which the crazed mob at Charlottesville were attempting to revive. And to assume that “… the mainstream “liberal left”, idealise the Negro, placing him on an imaginary pedestal and considering him their equal without delving into their hopes, fears, sorrows, and joys”, is another unverifiable bunch of bull.

    By the way, Liberalism is defined (Wikipedia) as “a political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally they support ideas and programmes such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free markets, civil rights, democratic societies, secular governments, gender equality, and international cooperation.

    And is this what you recommending to get out of “while you can”? Have you?

    No thanks!

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    Uditha,

    Good piece. You are one of the few people I read right through.
    …………………
    Unfortunately you are trying to learn about Blacks from Whites …………… their books, their films, ………. and most of all their opinions.

    I would suggest that you read/watch Malcolm X first-hand and also spend time on films like Melvin Van Peebles’ “Watermelon Man.” Or even listen to some good hip-hop artists …….. if your “White-education” makes allowance for such a thang ……… without getting your nose out of kilter ……..

    Get away from the crap that they cram down your throats in those Colombo International Schools; it’s a very Sri-Lankan-Man’s idea of the “West.” Some of those teachers haven’t even stepped out of Lanka.
    …………………………..

    Like some dude said “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” What you – and most others – do is trying to analyse after the fact. Sometimes you guys are right but most times not.
    …………………………..

    A tunnel vision of self-interest drives the world ………… if something good happens it’s just a by-product ………….. and “moralists” do the last mopping up to claim the last ounce of whatever can be wringed out.

    …………………………….

    Self-interest drives the “Whites” – Supremacists, Nazis ………… you-name-it – a century ago many people had an “easy-life” by virtue of being White; that’s all. And now they want that back. If you observe many people who are fighting for their “race” are the dregs of that race who have contributed bugger-all for that race being great. That includes Donald Trump too.
    Now just think if an easy-life armchair critic like Ebert would ever tell you that, eh ?

    ……………………………..

    And in Lanka Gnanasar/BBS …………… is no different

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    Well, done that Donald Trump team is packed up by that Steve Bannon was chief Stagiest, who was advocated politics of Ultra Rightwing that Trump has listen David Duke ,former Ku Klux Klan leader.
    In fact Bannon who is accountability of spreading ideologist often defined as WHITE Supremacism has been recently dismissal from White House thank-tank .
    The man of Bannon has went through many books but his mind set but cannot understating complexity in society of USA and its social fabric. As well as he and his team of think-tank unable to monitor that current global changes in many arenas.
    They are not for Democratic of Liberalism ,they appears to be for on behalf politics of Neo Nazism indeed.
    The under Trumpism that White House has missed that Liberalist bus by cohabitations of ultra right-wing politics of dead Nazism!!!
    USA has long -term which that unrecovered Economic doldrums since 2008 of that Wall Street stock market collapsed; the Long Depression–2008 that economic waves come of cycles make shifting is not easy to be predicts. Therefor result of that global debt surge which sources says of IIF of Institution of International Finance end of first quarter 2017 to $ 217 trillion dollars. Out of that US has share debt by $147 Trillion dollars more that 60% total World debt.
    There is no prescription to answer to US sickness of Economy cancer ,that only option is Bannon see to its type of politics of Supremacism white-race is nexus Neo-Nazism; that has no any relationship with Democracy of Liberalism?.
    But the US foundered fathers has different mission in their mind-set, when they declaration of Independence some where 1776 that they respect values and norms modern Democracy that was closed to Liberalism.?

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    I have correct that US Debt is US $ 127 Trillion dollars not that $ 147 trillion US debt is incorrect.

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