You Don’t Have a Culture and That Culture is Evil

Consider that it is through my own identity in Whiteness as a White Person that I have felt immediate empathy for Muslims and Queer people alike, among others.

Being Muslim means constantly feeling the pressure to not be perceived as an extremist terrorist who wants to dominate others, despite the sad reality that there are some Muslims who do this and have power. To be Muslim under hostile eyes, even the eyes of those rightly angry because they have suffered from Islamic extremism, nevertheless means belonging to a group that is guilty until proven innocent. If a caring Muslim person wants to speak out against Islamist extremism, they risk opening themselves to other peoples’s false perceptions of permission to attack and demean all Muslim identity, despite deeply honorable efforts among many Muslims to actively decrease extremist ideologies in their communities.

So it is with being White, seriously contending against literal White Supremacists while constantly being demeaned as the racially guilty enemy in my own land just for being White and not apologizing for that.

To be Queer (transgender, genderqueer, etc) means always trying to educate others while caring for yourself and your own life experience without constant self-conscious worry, once you express your heart’s aligninment with this identity explicitly and without apology. It means looking for counselors who understand your social situation enough so that you can spend that time being cared for instead of putting precious emotional energy into educating the one who should be therapeutically comforting you.

Where my Whiteness differs from these parallels drawn with Muslim and Queer identities is that to be White means being everywhere and nowhere, being assumed “the blank slate” norm while also being denied explicit pride in one’s heritage amongst a rapidly diversifying cultural landscape. It means having almost every space available to you but nowhere specifically for you, by threat of being charged with White Supremacy. Your presence is requested for its assumed “power and privilege”, because you owe it and you should show your support, but demonized and resented when you show up; you are told that your existence is a burden to other people’s special “spaces”. If you try to shed your ethnic identity and become another, you will be humiliatingly mocked, at best, or viscously attacked for committing “cultural appropriation”, at worst- but you are allowed no explicit culture of your own, remember. Being White means You Don’t Have a Culture and That Culture is Evil.

Being White now means being taught to have no ethnic self-awareness while fearing that if you develop your ethnic White self-awareness you will be constantly, CONSTANTLY told that there is nothing good that can be attributed to your ethnic identity. You are to unquestioningly adore everyone else’s culture but have no normal, healthy, proud ancestral Self. You, White People [the voice of seething resentment] are allowed no ethnic kinship with others who look like you, though you see yourself everywhere. You are “represented” in image everywhere and in spirit nowhere. You are alone, and you must teeter in hesitancy before the possibility of even broaching the topic with another like you, On Pain of Accusation. They might Turn You In. You cannot trust Your Own because you are policed by Your Own and, in case you forgot, you don’t deserve a normal sense of Your Own, and if you try you will be suspect and viciously, publicly hated. You are told you have No Ethnic Awareness, and you wish they were right. How much easier their lie would be, if it were true. Because those who hate you the most are others like you. You are the hated Racial Blank Slate, forced to be everyone but allowed to be no one.

Mortal Boundaries: The Limits of Our Compassion

 

I once had a math teacher in high school whose classroom was a refuge to kids like me. I was a kid preferred to spend my afternoons in the company of thoughtful peers and elders who shared a love of the intellect. We were talking about our frustrations with the preachings of mainstream religions.

“I can’t love and forgive everyone,” I said.

“That’s why Jesus is God and you’re not,” she laughed.

I thought that was brilliant at the time, as the affirmation of my human limits to “lovingkindness” were affirmed.

One of the things that bothers me the most about religions, including Neo-Paganism, is the exhortation to “perfect love and perfect trust,” which I think is bullshit, because nobody can do that and nor should they try. I do not believe in universal love, the acceptance of all and everyone, or the knee-jerk command to “love” one’s enemy or even one’s neighbor. Your neighbor may be a nightmare who wants to hurt you. Anyone who thinks they can or should ever live in “perfect love” or “perfect trust” is lying to themselves and others.

Love is a personal and individual experience of deep fondness for another person or place or group of people. Even falling-in-love romantically is a deeply personal phenomena that cannot be commanded as an ethic. I agree with E. M. Forster when he said,

 

“The idea that nations should love one another, or that business concerns or marketing boards should love one another, or that a man in Portugal should love a man in Peru of whom he has never heard –it is absurd, unreal, dangerous. The fact is we can only love what we know personally. And we cannot know much.”

I also definitely don’t ascribe to nonviolence on principle. I am a basically nonviolent person because I live in a civilized society where good policeman and the law stand willing to do lawful and moderated violence on my behalf. All of us would be far more violent if we lived in other societies, especially in other time periods, where the murder rate sometimes reached 20 in 1,000 people. Even if we weren’t ourselves killers, we’d know this for sure: violence can be very good and necessary, because violence or the threat of violence underlies the legitimacy of self-defense.

If someone comes to kill you and you do not use violence to stop them, then you are still allowing violence to take place. Only, now, you’re the victim and the offending perpetrator has been allowed to do their evil work. You’re not stopping violence from existing, and you’re not even lessening its presence in the world, by allowing violence to happen to you, a violence which could be greatly decreased or stopped if you fought back. Injecting exhortations to love an enemy into this kind of reality is an insult to nature, including moral human nature.

The pressure to be perfect in stupid love and unfounded trust is a counterpart to this untested proclamation of support for “nonviolence” in all the wrong places.

 

 

 

Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash