Sunday, November 09, 2014

note taking/record keeping, a comment at Savage Minds, on Writing Anti-Racism
I really have a hard time with this.
The question then becomes: what does it mean to become more conscious of anti-racist writing as enmeshed in this plurality of modes of existence? I would like to think that, at the very least, such consciousness would widen the writer’s anti-racist strategic capacities and render anti-racist thought more efficient at combatting racism.
You can't write anti-racism. Your anti-racism can only be judged by those to whom your supposed "anti-racism" is directed. No man has the right to call himself a feminist. It's up to the women around him to say that he's not a sexist. Short of that it's just another record of some of someone saying "I'm a really nice guy!", and how's that sound? It's never sounded good.

What this means of course is that there's no true proof of racism, of racist intent: we can't read minds; there's only the record of performance. So for example Danny Aiello and Spike Lee argued over whether Aiello's character in Do the Right Thing was racist, while Murray Kempton in his review said that Lee's racism was against blacks, that Lee demonstrated more than a bit of self-hatred in the characters he created. It's the best review of the film I read.

All of this goes to show the politics of intent, of rationality and reason is bogus. But it makes sense that this sort of philosophizing should originate in cultures that follow the inquisitorial rather than the adversarial system of justice. Arguments for "seeing the other in myself" pull less weight in the Anglo-American legal system where "the other" is another lawyer. Postmodern philosophy hasn't been taken up by lawyers partly because our legal system is premodern so therefore already postmodern. Philosophers think of themselves as judges as central. No practicing lawyer in our system puts judges automatically in such high regard. They're taken seriously as powerful, not wise.

If you want to talk about the Western relation to Islam, you can't do it without discussion of the Western relation to Jews. From anti-semitism to philosemitism it's enough to make your head spin.

And Israeli itself... Here's a veteran of the Palmach:
We were the beautiful generation, the strong, the muscular, the anti-diaspora, as opposed to the Arab, the primitive, the reactionary, the conservative. We were the essence of good, and they, nothing, human dust. And it was almost charity to fight them.
That doesn't approximate Nazi language; it is Nazi language. And what are we to make of European defenses of Israel?

The politics of intention are the politics of patting yourself on the back; the opposite of the politics of curiosity, and irony.

"Irony is the glory of slaves." Czeslaw Milosz. Earnest liberators celebrate their own lack of it.
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See also, from 2013

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