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We’ve established that we don’t belong to one another—the first step toward genocide.
Next, we'd have to start thinking that life is something one earns. After all, if we don’t think life is something that is earned, we can’t make two buckets—and we are going to need to make two buckets.
It takes two buckets to enact genocide. One bucket is for the right people, who have earned life. And the second bucket is for the wrong people, who have not.
(If you've been reading along you might sense some potential hypocrisy. You might be thinking that I’ve been putting people into buckets labeled 'Justice' and 'Order' … and perhaps so. But hold on. We’ll get there.)
This is why I recommend so strongly that, if we wish to set about enacting genocide, we start by convincing as many people as possible that we don’t all belong to each other. Once we've done that, it’s going to be very easy to convince people that life is something you earn, to convert other human beings from perceived art to a presumed infraction.
But how does one earn life?
If wealth is interchangeable with morality, then the lack of it naturally becomes interchangeable with immorality. When life is something earned, after all, it stands to reason that those who die and suffer are those who failed to earn life. If they failed, then they must have deserved to fail. In fact, it becomes essential to believe that they deserved to fail. Blaming the failed for their failing becomes reflex. It becomes assumed. They have to be at fault, because if they aren't to blame ... well.
If they aren't to blame, then the fact that I am healthy and well would not be entirely because of my own virtue—and that can’t possibly be true. If they aren't to blame, I wouldn’t be a totally unconnected free actor in the world, entirely responsible for my own success—and I am. If they aren't to blame, then we might all belong to each other—and we do not. If they aren't to blame, someone else might be to blame for the inescapable fact that people suffer and die—and that someone else might even be me.
The key ingredient if we are making two buckets is blame.
An abusive system seeks to perfect itself by invoicing the costs of its own injustice to those suffering its abuses. Thus, injustice will deny its own existence, convert itself to justice by converting the suffering it causes to blame. The poor, therefore, are at fault for their poverty. Their poverty is not brought on by a system that ensures it; instead, their poverty is their own moral failing. Blaming the sufferers for their own suffering becomes second nature in a society oriented toward preserving an abusive order. Converting their suffering to perceived moral failing becomes common sense. It becomes reflex.
Who is at fault for the social woes caused by poverty? Why the lazy poor, of course, who’d rather suck the government teat than work hard like good people.
Who is at fault for the collapse of the housing market? The greedy poor, of course, who chose to take the predatory loans Wall Street lobbied to make legal.
Who is at fault for the national debt? Welfare mothers, of course, having babies they can’t afford, that I now have to pay for.
Why are there so many abortions? Irresponsible women just don’t want to have to take care of the babies that have been made unaffordable by policies I support.
Who is at fault for the threat of terrorism? Immigrants, fleeing countries our country destabilized, families on the run from the terrorists whose ideologies our bombs have empowered.
Did you get sick? You must have lived an unhealthy lifestyle. I don’t smoke and I run 20 miles every week. You should have done that.
Drug addicted? You should have had a stronger will, like me. I'm not addicted.
Depressed? Cheer up. Be more grateful, like me. I'm grateful.
Kids go to a bad school? You should have sent them to a better one. That’s what I did with my kids.
Uneducated? You should have studied harder. I studied hard.
Get raped? What were you wearing? I’d have dressed differently.
Cops shot you? Should have obeyed them. I’d have obeyed.
Drowned in a flood? Why didn't you evacuate like I would have? Better still, why did you choose to live there in the first place? I chose to live someplace that is not currently underwater.
Do people of color struggle in generational poverty? Tsk. They really should have focused more on the family unit. My family eats dinner together every night and we read the Bible. And where are their fathers? In prison? Tsk. Shouldn’t have sold marijuana. I didn’t sell marijuana. It never even occurred to me to do that. I had no reason to do that, therefore there is no reason to do that.
I deserve life because I have it. Others have failed to earn it and therefore don't. The reason they failed? Who knows? These aren't questions the already virtuous need to ask.
It could be they're lazy. Perhaps they should have worked harder.
In a society captured by the idea that life is earned, we might find that hard work is held to be interchangeable with virtue. And virtue is already interchangeable with wealth, so hard work and wealth will become similarly entangled. Soon I don't have to work hard to be considered hard-working. I don't even need to actually earn life by my standards in order to earn it.
Hard work is a moral virtue. Peacefulness is a moral virtue. Hard work can earn you money. Peace allows wealth to flourish. Thus all I need to do is reverse the causal relationship and suddenly, because of my money I become hard work. I become peacefulness. I become moral virtue.
And it is through my possession of these outward signs that my society deems I earn my life.
And it is through their lack that my society deems others do not.
|Imagine thinking the bowl of Skittles was the image that says it all.|
Suppose you lived in a society that believed all the assumptions mentioned so far. And then suppose that for centuries this society considered people to be property. Suppose that during those centuries the dividing line between people who were property and people who could own property was whether they were considered ‘white’ or not.
|Bill O'Reilly is very forgiving of the indiscretions of young boys.|
Further suppose that for millennia women were given to men by other men, in financial transactions called ‘marriages,’ while other women were owned by men as concubines or kept as mistresses or purchased as prostitutes, and any women not entangled in one of these ownership-based arrangements were marginalized, suspected of malign oddity or strange defect.
In such a society, whiteness and maleness would become interchangeable with property, and therefore interchangeable with wealth, and therefore with virtue. Whiteness and maleness would themselves become assumed moral virtues. They would be implied hard work. They would be implied wealth. They would be implied ownership of property. And, therefore, they would carry an implication of having earned life.
Conversely, to be not-white and not-male without agreeing to become property would make your existence interchangeable with theft. Not being a thief, but being theft itself. Possession of a body that should belong to another. Non-whiteness and non-maleness would themselves be assumed sins of laziness and poverty. They would make you implied poverty. They would make you implied property. And, therefore, they would carry implications of having not having earned life.
Living without the mantels of assumed morality conferred by whiteness and maleness would be the difference between experiencing a society to which you are assumed to belong and experiencing a society to which you are assumed to be a belonging.
|Bill O'Reilly is very forgiving of the indiscretions of young ... wait a minute.|
So if men tend to make more money than women for the same work, they will be considered naturally more virtuous and hard-working, by the very fact of their advantage. We'd invent any number of reasons why this gap did not exist, or was in fact good.
And if white people tend to have more wealth than people of color, they will be considered naturally more virtuous and hard-working, by the very fact of their advantage. We'd invent any number of reasons why this discrepancy is fair and just and good. In such a society, for example, phrases like 'regular, hard-working’ people,' might be used interchangeably in pubic discourse with 'white people,' with an implied corollary about the rest.
In such a society, we would discover that women have a common shared experience, in which they walk the street observed by men who seem to feel toward their bodies and demeanor a general right of ownership. In such a society, we might regularly encounter comments, jokes, and even elaborate ceremonies premised on the assumption that the relationship of a father to his daughter is best understood exclusively as the obsessive and faithful stewardship, on behalf of some future beneficiary, of a perfectly unsullied vagina.
|It's funny because he's murderous.|
We might find men who come to the defense of an abused woman framing their ability to do so along the strangely specific contexts of transitive empathy on behalf of the women they 'have' in their own lives.
We might find that when a young white rapist is sentenced, the judge publicly frets about what damage the sentence might wreak upon their promising future and what damage it might do to their implied moral virtue.
|Chance Macdonald, 22, pleaded guilty to common assault in April |
after he was initially charged with sexual assault and
forcible confinement following a 2015 party.
And in such a society, we would discover people of color who know they walk the streets observed by people considered 'white,' who feel toward their very lives a general right of ownership.
We might find that, when a person of color is killed by police, the particulars of the victim's past are closely examined for infractions from years past, which are presented as an obvious part of the story—a story which seems to be not about why an unarmed human being was shot dead, but about why the dead person now might deserve to be dead. And, should the victim prove particularly virtuous, the story might become about how this particular death was tragic, in comparison to all the others. And, if a person considered 'white' kills a person not considered 'white,' you may find a significantly different framing of the story.
|Mugshot for the victim, not the shooter.|
|(P.S. He still also fatally shot Tyre King.)|
We might find that a grass-roots movement that exists to proclaim that their lives actually matter (despite the contrary assessment of the justice system), and to demand the public servants hired to protect them stop murdering them, is spoken of on mainstream media platforms as equivalent to terrorist organizations or hate groups—or worse. We might find powerful people calling for laws to be passed making it legal to run such people over with cars.
We might discover that a political party can come to power while actively working to strip people of color of the right to participate in society as equal voters. We might find them nominating as their leader a man who took out a full page ad in the paper of record to demand the execution of five innocent black men, a man who declared Mexicans rapists, a man who proposed a Muslim ban and a border wall, a man whose solution to the problem of police brutality was to relax existing standards in order to make the police even less hesitant to employ violence and harassment against people who our society deems have not earned life. We might find that this man referred to such unfettered injustice as 'law and order,' and we might find that when he did, millions nodded and clapped and cheered.
If this were a deeply ironic universe, we might even find that people ascribed to all these ideas while worshiping in a religious tradition that spoke of a deity who fed and healed without price, taught that he was a shepherd who would search for every lost sheep, that in his kingdom there was no wealth, or race, or religion, or gender.
Those are the sorts of things we might find, in a society dedicated to the idea that life is something you earn.
This is the conclusion: Other people do not matter, and it’s their own fault that they do not.
Here is the penalty for believing this lie. Insecurity. When I believe in this lie, others with greater leverage can compel me to twist myself into discomfiting and violent shapes, just to prove that I have earned the right to live. I might spend my life focused not on the living, but in the desperate attempt to prove my right to live.
Here is the danger of believing it: When I believe life is something that is earned, then eventually I, being human, being finite, will fail. No matter how strong, or smart, or successful, I will fail. And, having believed in a world where life is earned, I will have no longer earned life. I may even believe this lie of myself. It will certainly be believed of me, one who has taught the lie for so long.
A world in which one must earn life is a world in which I will inevitably earn death.
2. THE GREAT DIVIDE
6. THE KNIFE AND THE TRAIN
7. OUR FAVORITE FLAVOR
8. CHANGE THE LOCKS
9. THE LOWEST RUNG
10. BOTH SIDES
11. I’M TRYING, RINGO
12. EVERYTHING IS PERMITTED