Liberation From Fear in The Age of Trump 4: Cultural Conflict and Closed Borders

1. Cultural Conflict and Identity Politics

cultural conflict I mean the mutual antagonism that arises between groups of people with different skin color, different languages, different ethnicity, different religions or religious traditions, different gender, different sexuality, different age groups or generations, different social castes, different economic classes, different political parties, and so-on, or who simply live in different places from one another.

Such conflict ranges all the way from mutual distrust and insults, to mutual coercion including threats of violence or actual violence, to systematic mutual or one-way persecution including imprisonment, torture, and murder, to war, “ethnic cleansing,” mass murder, or genocide.

The very idea of cultural conflict, in any one of its instances, implies the existence of a centered group, Us, that is the agent and first participant in a given cultural conflict, and an external group, or set of groups, that is the target and second participant in that conflict, Them.

Let’s call the agent-group, Our People, and the target-group or set of groups, Other People.

To the extent that Our People have Our own (relatively) unique political practices and policies, that set Us apart from Them, the Other People, these practices and policies jointly constitute an identity politics.

2. Identity Politics of the Right, Identity Politics of the Left, and Trump’s Political Meat-and-Potatoes

Now as I pointed out in the three earlier essays in this series, on poverty and economic oppression, on the job dilemma between either unemployment or shit jobs, and on healthcare hell in the USA, 8 November 2016, the day on which Donald Trump was elected President of the USA, was the dawning of The Age of Trump-POTUS.

The Age of Trump is going to last at least 4 years, perhaps 8 years.

Since Trump’s election, we find the following highly disturbing cultural and and social fact.

On the one hand, we find President-Elect Trump’s Republican, nativist, racist, anti-feminist, right-neoliberal, Know-Nothings, unified by their identity-politics.

And on the other hand, we find President-Reject Hillary Clinton’s Democratic, anti-nativist, anti-racist, pro-feminist, left-liberal, Social Justice Warriors, unified by their identity-politics.

Indeed, the 2016 USA Presidential election was, at bottom, all about cultural conflict, as Mark Lilla’s controversial recent op-ed piece in the New York Times (18 November 2016) “The End of Identity Liberalism,” clearly shows.

Trump’s Know-Nothings fear and hate foreigners, people with different skin color, people with different languages, people with different ethnicity, people with different religions or religious traditions, and people with different sexuality, and above all, they fear and hate Clinton’s Social Justice Warriors.

And, in return, above all, Clinton’s Social Justice Warriors fear and hate Trump’s Know-Nothings.

In short, there is fear and hatred everywhere in the USA, cultural conflict everywhere, and it is all fundamentally driven by identity politics, whether of the right or the left.

But please note this: President-Elect Trump, who received 46.3% of the popular vote, is a billionaire — a greedy, ruthless billionaire.

So for most people, the act of supporting Trump, and voting for Trump, was what is called internalizing your oppressor: kissing the foot of the person who is stepping on your head.

Do you really think that, over the next 4 or 8 years, he and all the other rich people in the Trump governing elite are even going to attempt to fix cultural conflict in the USA?

Hell no. Of course not.

Trump, his governing elite, the Republican Party, and the alt-right zealots desperately need cultural conflict in order to unify the Know-Nothings by means of identity politics: it’s their political meat-and-potatoes.

So, for as long as Trump is POTUS and nothing is done to fix cultural conflict in the USA, we’re all screwed.

3. Universal Open Borders, in Two Phases, as the Surprising Solution to the Problem of Cultural Conflict

According to The Wake The Fuck Up! Party , aka The WTFU Party, and its Universal Basic Income (UBI) proposal:

· Anyone 21 years of age or over and living permanently in the USA, who has a personal yearly income of $50,000.00 USD or less, and who is capable of requesting their UBI, would receive $25,000.00 USD per year, with no strings attached.

Over and above UBI, The WTFU Party is also proposing a Fifteen Hour Workweek for Understaffed Non-Bullshit Jobs (FHW-for-UNBJs), which says:

· Anyone 18 years of age or older who is living permanently in the USA, who has completed a high school education, and is mentally and physically capable of doing a job, would be offered an eco-job, paying a yearly wage of $25,000.00 USD, for fifteen hours of work (three 5-hour days) per week.

So anyone 21 years of age or older with a high-school degree and who is also mentally and physically capable of working, would have a guaranteed yearly income of at least $50,000.00 USD if they chose to do an eco-job.

***

Here are a few more details about UBI and eco-jobs.

(i) The UBI is to be paid by a monthly stipend check.

(ii) Eco-job income is not taxed.

(iii) For all individual yearly incomes of $50,000.00 USD or under, no tax will be levied; hence for someone receiving their UBI and also doing an eco-job, no income tax will be levied.

(iv) For all individual non-eco-job incomes, for every $1.00 USD earned above the standard UBI of $25,000.00 USD, that recipient’s total UBI is reduced by 50 cents, until the recipient’s total UBI is reduced to zero; hence for those individuals with yearly non-eco-job incomes equal to or under $50,000.00 USD, the maximum UBI + non-eco-job income sum is always $50,000.00 USD.

(v) For all individual yearly incomes over $50,000.00 USD, for every $10,000.00 USD earned, that surplus income is taxed at the rate of 1%, with the highest surplus income tax rate being 50%; hence the maximum surplus 50% tax rate starts at individual yearly incomes of $550,000.00 USD, and applies to all higher surplus incomes.

***

And in addition to UBI and FHW-for-UNBJs/eco-jobs, The WTFU Party is also proposing Universal Free Healthcare (UFH), which says:

· Every human person living permanently in the USA will receive free lifelong healthcare.

But of paramount importance for the purposes of this essay, The WTFU Party is also proposing Universal Open Borders (UOB), in two phases:

· Phase 1: Starting in 2021, there will be universal open borders with Canada and Mexico, and everyone who moves across those borders and then claims residence in the USA, will receive temporary or permanent residence in the USA and also full membership in the system of UBI, FHW-for-UNBJs, eco-jobs, and UFH in the USA, with the precise number of new temporary or permanent residents to depend on the current availability of (i) adequate funding for UBI, eco-jobs, and UFH , and (ii) adequate living accommodation, in the USA, provided that all new residents also fully respect the human dignity of everyone else in the USA and elsewhere in the world.

· Phase 2: Also starting in 2021, the USA, Canada, and Mexico will collectively form a Global Refugee Consortium (GRC), with three-way open borders to any political refugee, economic refugee, or asylum seeker from anywhere in the world (aka “global refugees”), who will receive temporary or permanent residence in the USA, Canada, or Mexico, and also full membership in the system of UBI, FHW-for-UNBJs, eco-jobs, and UFH in the three GRC countries, with the precise number of new temporary or permanent residents, and the precise distribution of new residents among the three members of the GRC, to depend on the current availability of (i) funding for UBI, eco-jobs, and UFH , and (ii) adequate living accommodation, in the three GRC countries, provided that all new residents also fully respect the human dignity of everyone else in the GRC and elsewhere in the world.

It is crucial to note that Phase 2 of UOB, and the corresponding creation of the GRC, presuppose that USA, Canada, and Mexico, by 2021, will have each implemented social systems equivalent to UBI, FHW-for-UNBJs, eco-jobs, and UFH.

Here is an obvious objection to UOB, which I will call The Inevitability of Cultural Conflict:

Since people are by nature egoistic and mutually antagonistic, then whenever they group together and become an Us, they will naturally and inevitably engage in cultural conflict with Them, the Other People. So universal open borders with Canada and Mexico, or to global refugees, will never work, precisely because they would inevitably lead to even more and greater cultural conflicts than already exist, and perhaps even lead to war. Therefore, the USA should always have (more or less) closed borders to everyone, forever.

Here is The WTFU Party’s reply to The Inevitability of Cultural Conflict objection to UOB.

Obviously, cultural conflict exists, and has existed in varying degrees, from minor, to moderate, to major, to intense, all the way to catastrophic, near-satanically evil, holocaust levels, as long as real human persons have existed.

Nevertheless, not only is it is simply false that people are by nature, or even inevitably by culture, egoistic or self-interested and mutually antagonistic, but also the very belief that people are, as widespread as it may be, is nothing more and nothing less than a self-serving cognitive illusion that directly serves the interests of Trump and his governing elite.

In other words, Trump and his governing elite desperately need you to believe in The Inevitability of Cultural Conflict and closed borders, precisely because it’s their political meat-and-potatoes.

It is self-evident that people are most inclined to cultural conflict with others, via their identity politics, when they’re already very angry, anxious, bitter, or frightened about other things, for whatever reasons — e.g. poverty and economic oppression, being unemployed or having to do a shit job, or healthcare hell — and then they project those powerful negative emotions onto Other People.

In so doing, Our People thereby cognitively demonize and stigmatize the Other People, then actively fear and hate the Other People, or even, in the most extreme cases, cognitively de-humanize the Other People, by seeing them as wild beasts or vermin, or even as human garbage or human offal, fit only to be eliminated and exterminated.

Nevertheless, these are all strictly extreme, pathological situations, and almost infinitely far from being the normal situation between different cultural groups.

Of course, there are always some difficulties and tensions.

Consider, e.g., the most obvious cases of all, men and women, or older people and younger people.

Nevertheless, it is not all uncommon for sharply different cultural groups, even a multiplicity of sharply different cultural groups, to get along just fine, all things considered, to their great mutual benefit, with only the ordinary sorts of “human, all too human” problems, whenever the larger economic, social, and political backgrounds are appropriately supportive.

Real-world examples of this abound: happy marriages and other intimate partnerships, happy families, good camaraderie and friendships across even sharply different cultural groups, good working relationships across even sharply different cultural groups, etc., etc.

Indeed, the city of Toronto, Canada, is an excellent real-world example of all of this.

I am not saying that people are perfect in Toronto or anywhere else: infinitely far from it!

But the essential point is that people of even sharply different cultural groups CAN and often DO get along pretty well, given the right background-setting of economic, social, and political support, e.g., Toronto.

The amazing thing, then, is how often we forget or overlook this absolutely self-evident fact.

Therefore, the very best thing that could possibly be done in the face of cultural conflict in the USA is to create a two-phase UOB situation in which:

· everyone in the USA, Canada, and Mexico is moving freely across borders between the three countries and living wherever they want to,

· global refugees are given universal safe-haven in the Global Refugee Consortium (GRC) consisting of the USA, Canada, and Mexico,

and therefore

· people from all over the USA, Canada, Mexico, and global refugees from the rest of the world, can thereby all actually see each other, hear each other, and interact as neighbors, without wire fences, walls, or fear of any sort of persecution or violence,

· so that everyone is committed to universal respect for human dignity, and also has a universal basic income (UBI), a fifteen hour workweek for non-bullshit jobs (FHW-for-UNBJs), especially including eco-jobs, and universal free healthcare (UFH).

Thus the surprising solution to the problem of cultural conflict in the USA is:

· universal open borders with Canada and Mexico (UOB phase 1), and

· universal open borders to global refugees, via the GRC consisting of the USA, Canada, and Mexico (UOB phase 2),

· against the appropriately supportive economic, social, and political background of UBI, FHW-for-UNBJs, eco-jobs, and UFH.

Closed borders are therefore not only not a reasonable response to the problem of cultural conflict, they’re one of the basic causes of cultural conflict itself.

4. Empathy Politics, Not Identity Politics

“Okay,” [Rick] said, nodding. “Now consider this. You’re reading a novel written in the old days before the war. The characters are visiting Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. They become hungry and enter a seafood restaurant. One of them orders lobster, and the chef drops the lobster into the tub of boiling water while the characters watch.”

(Source: P.K. Dick, Do Andoids Dream of Electric Sheep? [New York: Ballantyne, 1968])

Tyrell: “Is this to be an empathy test? Capillary dilation of the so-called blush response? Fluctuation of the pupil. Involuntary dilation of the iris…”

Deckard: “We call it Voight-Kampff for short.”

(Source: Blade Runner, directed by R. Scott, 1982)

In Philip K. Dick’s brilliant classic science-fiction novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and again in Ridley Scott’s equally brilliant classic science-fiction film Blade Runner, it is philosophically highly insightful and significant that the Voight-Kampff test for telling human persons apart from “replicants” or androids, is an empathy test.

Indeed, the psychological capacity for empathy is an essential capacity of all human persons.

In turn, the key to understanding The WTFU Party’s surprising solution to the problem of cultural conflict, namely the two-phase UOB system, is what I call empathy politics, which is the diametric opposite of identity politics.

Frequently it is said that the alternative to the corrosive influence of identity politics, which emphasizes difference, exclusion, and exceptionalism, is a politics of commonality or universality, and shared interests and values.

That is true, but still too superficial.

What lies at the ground of a politics of commonality and universality is respect for human dignity.

In turn, what evokes and sustains respect for human dignity is the emotion of empathy: the ability to mirror the feelings and emotions of other people inside oneself.

This doesn’t mean that you have to agree with other people, or even to like other people, particularly: all you have to do is to be able to understand their feelings and emotions, and to respect them.

Empathy is inherently outward-looking, not inward-looking, self-absorbed, navel-gazing, or narcissistic.

Empathetic people are naturally inclined towards generosity, graciousness, kindness, and tolerance, and, at a minimum, towards politeness, and not towards arrogance, callousness, cruelty, rudeness, or intolerance.

Creating and cultivating personal and cultural practices of empathy are therefore the moral and political antidote to the morally and politically poisonous and pathological influence of identity politics.

Q: What do I mean by practices of empathy?

A: There are obviously many different ways of opening yourself to other minds, other languages, other nations, other traditions, and other ways of living and being human: studying their history, reading their literature, watching their movies, etc., etc.

But above all, what I mean is that we should all engage in frequent domestic and foreign travel, including actually living in many different places, all over the USA, Canada, Mexico, and the rest of the world.

That way, once all sorts of different people are actually our next door neighbors, then we will naturally and inevitably see how ordinary everyone really is, everywhere, hence we will all be able to empathize with them and respect them as human persons with dignity, just like us.

But in order to make frequent domestic and foreign travel, and living in different places, all over the USA, Canada, Mexico, and the rest of the world really possible for most people, we need the two-phase UOB system, together with UBI, FHW-for-UNBJs, eco-jobs, and UFH.

5. Two Decisive Reasons for Implementing Two-Phase UOB Together With UBI, FHW-for-UNBJs, Eco-Jobs, and UFH

First, although it is true that, under the system of UBI, FHW-for-UNBJs, eco-jobs, and UFH, no one would ever suffer from poverty or economic oppression again, no one who is capable of working and who wants to work would ever be unemployed again, and no one would ever suffer from healthcare hell again, nevertheless, if two-phase UOB were not implemented starting in 2021, then most people living permanently in the USA would still suffer from cultural conflict and the pathology of closed borders.

Second, under the collective system of UBI, FHW-for-UNBJS, eco-jobs, UFH, and two-phase UOB, not only would no one ever suffer from poverty or economic oppression again, not only would no one who is capable of working and who wants to work ever be unemployed again, forever, and not only would healthcare hell in the USA would be ended forever, but also cultural conflict in the USA and the pathology of closed borders would be ended forever.

6. Two Things You Can Do Right Now

In order to make UBI, FHW-for-UNBJs, eco-jobs, UFH, and two-phase UOB a reality, you can do these two things right now:

  • Publicly demand The WTFU Party’s version of UBI, FHW-for-UNBJs, eco-jobs, UFH, and two-phase UOB
  • Elect a President and Congress in 2020 who support The WTFU Party’s version of UBI, FHW-for-UNBJs, eco-jobs, UFH, and two-phase UOB

That’s only four years away.

Only four years away from no more fear of cultural conflict and no more pathological need for closed borders, forever.

Mr Nemo, Nowhere, NA, 11 December 2016

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The WTFU Party is a sub-project of the online mega-project Philosophy Without Borders, aka PWB, which is home-based on Patreon here. The WTFU Party and all the sub-projects of PWB are supported entirely by the generosity of patrons who think that the world would be a little bit worse if projects like these didn’t exist.

Formerly Captain Nemo. A not-so-very-angry, but still unemployed, full-time philosopher-nobody.

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