Pit-bull Politics

Society, culture and language are incredibly complex structures that intersect and influence each other at an uncountable number of nodes and in a myriad number of ways, to influence our collective and individual thinking. Exactly because of the simple meaning the words “racism” and “racist” have in common parlance, they are completely inadequate to the task of describing the racial aspects of these systems. 

Furthermore, as everyone keeps saying, racial divisions are recent constructs, created by elites to justify and maintain their privilege and exploitation of others. Why, then, do social theorists try to apply them in the same way as their arch enemies? Why don’t they just come up with new terms? They’re good at that. (I thought “White privilege” could be “Gruntligfunken”; “White Supremacy” could be “Slurgenjiblic”[1].) 

I suspect that campaigners are keen to harness the potency and emotional punch of these old terms because they have been so successfully vilified by previous anti-racist drives, campaigns that have built on the even deeper foundations of Liberal Humanism and its celebration of the value of the individual. People are resistant to change, so to put pressure on them, activists challenge their complacent assumptions, make them feel uncomfortable and ashamed. Activists need their language to be forceful and direct. 

Activists also need to make these challenges personal or their targets will simply shrug off injustice as the fault of “The Government” or “Society” and do nothing. 

The problem with such an approach is that it becomes relentlessly aggressive. Again and again, activists exhort each other to be angry; they celebrate it, even though anger is an expression of hatred and disdain. These are unhealthy and unhelpful emotions even when directed at faceless institutions. When, conditioned by the internet’s atomising influence, they become personal, directed at another individual with the intention of crushing them, they become drivers of destruction and persecution, sectarianism and alienation. 

[1] Am I being influenced by the joys of the German language – all compound nouns and deep throaty noises? Of course, my neologisms wouldn’t do. There needs to be a link to known language to make these terms accessible.

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