White Power: Between Pride and Deniability

You can say every ‘culture’ is based on bullshit, on a lie, but should this fact serve to condemn it? Even before Marx, this lie was there already in Plato, in folklore, in mythologies of gods and heroes that stand up to them. Machiavelli identified the fictive origin story of Rome as the core of – what he thought was the best – ‘Roman faith,’ where it finds replenishes itself and finds direction. Indeed, this “holy lie” provided the culture’s distinction, where it both compromises its security and asserts its pride.

This is as true for the Romans as it is true for contemporary “white pride” enthusiasts, but for one crucial difference: the former affirms itself as fiction, the latter keep citing fact. They, too, see something like the Native American “religion” and “myth” as inferior and backward, whose people met with the ‘manifest destiny’ of near extinction by the white man. The latter’s “demystified faith” wields another kind of pride here, a particularly white pride: it posits its identity as a perfectly blank screen upon which every ripple shows as an aberration, something contingent and misplaced; “weirdly shaped” because it actually has a shape. And this is the point – or at least the deeper point – of “white pride:” it is the pride of the humble. Its story makes no fictions: no weird rituals or traditional, semi-digested myths, but only universal values and historical truths. A perfectly harmless-looking, blank sheet of hospitality, which is also a trap.

The trap consists in the way that white pride communicates with other prides. I’ve spent a long time looking at how Christianity’s ethico-metaphysical humility principle communicated with Judaic pride and, scandalously (not my term), distinction, separation from the “all.” Western thought, in the wake of the Reformation and the Enlightenment (but going back as far as St. Augustine), had found a way with which to invert this position of ‘absolute distinction’ into one of ‘absolute reconciliation’. BUT.

But even as inverted, a crucial (I would say anchoring) point of contact with absolute distinction must remain. Where did it go? After the Reformation it was no longer localizable as what young Hegel called the ‘positive’ institution – that is, a separate entity with political presence and power – of ‘Church’. The separation, in order to be truly inverted so that it at least disappears from view, is the burgeoning ‘human’ and the depths that are now ascribed to its “individual members.’ You see this? ‘Human’ is the humble category, and all the specificities – religion, culture, even gender – are now controlled by the category of ‘individual human.’ It seems scientific, and in many ways it is, for it organizes a kind of knowledge based on observation and hypothesis. Two words: ‘Rat Choice.’

The violence here, the way humility quietly suffocates pride and distinction – and this is a truth we owe to the white power “haters” (that seem to suffer most from this strange “twist”) – was designed so as to be difficult to see. It is always, first and foremost, a self-inflicted violence, for it keeps stifling expressions of distinction – love of self, recognition (and respect) for ‘enemy,’ etc. – as “private” affairs.

What, you think that when Capitalism’s “free market” imposes austerity measures of privatization – to the detriment of the entire planet – it is not embodying this older, religious-messianic force? (a good book in this context, one that focuses on the, rather bloody, history of the “free market” and how it came to be (imposed), is Andrew Fitzmaurice’s Sovereignty, Property and Empire 1500-2000)

But, like Nietzsche, I would like to look to the ethical implications of this type of maneuver, which is subtle; as subtle as inadvertently killing thousands of Native Americans through blankets, infested with “old world” diseases, given with good intentions.

This violence seems too abstract, and yet, popular culture can save us here. One thing that’s good about “the fundamental decency of the white man’s culture” is that it keeps justifying itself (its become almost farcical now, with the whole “woke” epidemic). See the following, from Star Trek: The Next Generation ("Peak Performance," Season 2, Episode 22, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIRT6xRQkf8):

Look at the aesthetic of this encounter, and the moral forces that it wields: the alien’s pronounced, multi-shaded, expressive face is met with a bland, homogeneously white, and expressionless face. The expressionless face nevertheless hides an offensive strategy aimed at vanquishing his foe (while the alien’s face always expresses his feelings). But the expressionless offense is one that is directed not at the opponent - who is encountered in a concrete context - but at ‘the opponent’ as a (universal) category. It is aimed not at this specific opponent, but the core assumption – i.e. what makes the game fun – of having an opponents and all (i.e. gaining distinction by defeating her/him/them).

The violence of white expressionlessness undermines precisely this: the possibility of gaining a distinction. Playing for a draw is playing against playing; it is precisely such an attack. Seemingly more humane, since it takes “ego” out of play, this attack nevertheless is felt, and devastatingly so, as humiliating and underhanded, but against which it is hard to complain. A subtle violence; a metaphysical violence.

What makes this example special is that it shows on an “individual” level – which is the unfortunately default framework for our secularism to adjudicate moral legitimacy – what occurs on a historical, metaphysical and methodological levels, where it is both encrypted and addressed to the very few.

The expressionless ‘Commander Data’ in fact embodies the paradox of white supremacists: expressionless pride – how? They feel, just like the rest of us, the power of “white” all around them, and yet they also feel the precarious nature of its pride (and act to defend it; e.g. Charlottesville).

They too feel the burn of Data’s statement: “in the strictest sense, I did not win.”

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