Friday, December 9, 2011

Nationalism, Political Parties, and Team Sports

Since the Obama Administration has continued renditions (and has since the new administration was barely a month old), CIA black ops secret prisons (there's one in Somalia now), the extrajudicial assassination of American citizens, wars public and secret throughout the globe, GPS tracking of American citizens, and all the other worst abuses of the Bush Administration, dedicated Democrat Party loyalists have been forced to either abandon their team or give in to their baser impulses and change their ideology to support their team. In other words, many Democrats, in Congress and in the public at large, have rediscovered their inner neoconservative. But don't tell them this. See, "neoconservative" is a word associated with the Enemy, their opposing Team, and as such is an object of hatred.

In George Orwell's 1945 "Notes on Nationalism", he wrote of nationalists:
All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side. . . . The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.

To put it more simply, it's not the action that matters, but the team that does the action. Political parties in our binary political system are as meaningless as a college football team, and the rivalries between groups are identical in their pointlessness.

If you live in a college town, like Columbus Ohio or Oklahoma City, you see this mindless fanaticism from team fans (short for fanatic) all the time. In "Buckeye" country, the blue and gold of their Michigan rivals are hated and reviled. It's only scarlet and gray here, thank you very much! Both teams just play football. Big fucking deal, right? And yet, there's a sense of moral righteousness in one team's support, and their opposition to the other team. People will be genuinely outraged if you wear the wrong colors. Fights may even start. For what?

The Democrat and Republican parties, especially over the last couple decades, have been different in word, but not significantly different in deed. During the 8 years of Bush, these deeds were associated with Republicans, and neo-conservatives. Those are on the opposing team, so members of the Democrat team opposed it. Now the Obama administration continues and expands what the Bush administration did. But the current administration is a Democrat administration, so for a member or supporter of the Democrat team they must oppose anything that challenges the Democrat administration, and they must support anything done by the Democrat administration. If it was a Republican administration, as members of the Democrat team they would oppose it.

You can see this in how members of the Republican team opposed Democrat military intervention in Libya. Obama has been a conservative in nearly all his actions, has been since the beginning, and yet the "conservative" team members still complain, and the "liberal" team members still support him. Not because of the actions themselves, but because of the team undertaking those actions. The actions don't objectively matter, what matters is Team. If you try to explain this to a member of the Republican/conservative team, or to a member of the Democrat/liberal team, they will just shut down. Or they will get very angry. They hate to have this sort of thing pointed out to them. Objective thought is impossible. Team is all.

For a related comparison, look at the reaction to that coach at Penn State, who covered up the rape of children, and was forced to resign. There were riots, not because children were being raped (which I would consider an excellent reason to riot), but because the coach that turned a blind eye to it was being forced to resign. All the anger and hatred of the fan(atic)s was directed not at the rightful target (child rapists and their defenders) but at the people in the media and at the college who dared to reveal this and demand accountability for it. Classic nationalism, it is not the objectionable act they oppose, but the revelation of that objectionable act and the associated discredit it brings upon the object of their worship.

With college teams, their coaches are looked at as being the team. Attacks on the coach are attacks on the Team. With national politics, the president is looked at as being the embodiment of the team, the political party. A verbal attack on the president and his actions is considered an attack on the Team, and this cannot be allowed to stand by the team's supporters.

If we can't get past our slavery to team politics in our country, we'll never be able to make any progess. Instead we'll continue dancing like puppets on the strings of the people who control both parties. They're able to do whatever they want, and the team supporters back it or oppose it depending on which team is committing the actions this year.


comrade x said...

I also have read that article by Orwell. It is a usefull reminder to our comrades that our " team" isn't always right and rather than turning former leaders of the struggle into holy icons, their mistakes should be reviewed so as to avoid repeating them again.

Dresden Scott said...

The riots at Penn State made me sad for humanity....