March 15, 2019

Materialist vs. idealist views on the roots of group-group violence

In the wake of the massacre at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, just about everyone on both the Right and the Left are condemning bigotry, Islamophobia, hatred, evil, white nationalism, etc. These labels refer to a mixture of beliefs and feelings, which make up the motive for the attack.

Devoting their energy into condemning the thoughts and feelings of the attacker presumes that they are the main cause of the attack -- and so, if you can eliminate bigotry, Islamophobia, white nationalist thoughts and feelings, then you can put an end to these kinds of massacres.

These condemners of beliefs-and-feelings show that they think these things are fundamental when they try to explain how such a toxic ideology came to possess the killer's mind in the first place. He got the beliefs from others with those beliefs via the internet, and he had his feelings stoked into a rage by others with similar feelings on the internet. They view the particular forum he used, 8chan, as an incubator for these thoughts and feelings.

Thus, the main conduit for his radicalization is held to be informational -- the internet easily transmits the thoughts and feelings from one mind to another. To treat the problem of radicalization and potential violence, then, these observers are tempted to clamp down on internet activity, only differing in the degree of clamp-down they believe necessary to nip the problem of radicalized violence in the bud.

This is the idealist approach to diagnosing and treating the disease of ideologically motivated violence, and it is wrong. It fails to explain where the beliefs and feelings ultimately come from, why the ideology targets specific groups rather than others, and why they either succeed or fail to resonate with the individuals who become radicalized. After failing to properly diagnose the problem, they are impotent to prescribe any helpful treatments.

The idealist is only left with "primordial, fundamental racism" as their explanation of where hatred comes from. But then it should target all out-groups, not just certain ones. Why is there no widespread ideology that radicalizes white Americans against the Eskimo, or the Pygmies, or the Mongols, or the Ainu? Each of these groups has been the target of denigrating ideologies, but not coming from white Americans -- rather, from other groups who interact with them, such as the Japanese looking down on the Ainu, the Bantu Africans looking down on the Pygmy or Bushmen hunter-gatherers, the Han Chinese looking down on the Mongols, and so on.

These interactions form a struggle over material resources in one way or another -- pastoralist Mongols and agrarian Han compete over land that is suitable for both grazing livestock and planting crops. (In land that is suitable to only one form of material subsistence, neither one is envious of the land of the other.)

During the Age of Exploration, Europeans struggled against non-Europeans for control and possession of natural resources in the newly explored lands, as well as seizing some of the natives as chattel slaves.

During the Ellis Island period, and during our neo-Ellis Island period of laissez-faire deregulated borders, immigrants are brought into their adoptive nation by employers of labor-intensive economic activity, who are exploiting them as cheap labor -- and therefore pitting them against domestic laborers.

That is why nativist Americans during the Ellis Island period had such antagonistic thoughts and feelings against the Irish and Italians -- rather than Turks and Mongols -- sometimes escalating to the level of group-group violence. And that is why nativist Americans, Australians, French, and whoever else, are antagonistic toward today's waves of immigrants, who are Muslim, Central American, etc., rather than Irish or Italian.

The ideology is merely a rationalization for the natives' material reasons for struggling against the immigrants. They don't want to see their standard-of-living decline in the face of a massive surge in the supply of labor and the demand for housing. It sounds too crass, mundane, and self-serving to point to their own personal material motives, so they resort to elevating the quotidian material struggle into a grand battle of ideologies, in which they are serving as an altruistic soldier ready to be martyred for a greater cause -- such as Western civ vs. radical Islam.

In addition to the individual-level material factors, there are also collective or group-level material struggles. It is not only individual Muslim immigrants who are competing against individual natives in the labor and housing markets -- they form a Muslim immigrant collective, and act collectively. They form ethnic enclaves by residence, which gives them a collective swath of territory that they effectively control, and into which the physical presence of outsiders will be treated -- by both sides -- as a kind of trespassing. That creates a turf struggle.

Then they try to elect members of their own group to local (and even national) offices, where they will act as patrons for clients within their own group rather than the entire population. This ethnic spoils system pits one group against another for the control over the flow of government funding, regulation, and so on. It is not that the immigrant group is explicitly trying to harm the native group -- they may be only trying to serve their own group. But in the zero-sum competition for fixed resources, such as political influence, wealth, and power, trying to help one's own group rather than the entire population amounts to demoting the other group, who loses the contest.

For high-stakes contests, individuals cannot act alone. They will want as much strength on their side as possible, which leads them to organize and act collectively. For low-stakes contests like getting hired for some single low-wage service job, or getting to rent a single crappy apartment, no collective action is necessary. But to have influence over the local school board, or the city council, or a caucus within the national legislature -- where far higher rewards can be won by the victors, and where far greater losses suffered by the losers -- individuals will form collective entities to pursue their individual interests.

Again, this is a materialist explanation, attributing collective behavior to the high-stakes nature of a contest over material resources, rather than to a "collectivist mindset" or an "ethnocentric nature" of the members of the group in question.

Other high-stakes activities are large-scale violence, where casualties per event may enter the hundreds or thousands. To win a war, individuals cannot go it alone -- they form collectives like gangs, militias, and armies. Collective violence may be waged within the nation subject to radicalization, or on the other side of the world. Either way, there is a material live-or-die contest between two collective entities, over control of territory, resources, etc.

For example, Central American gangs such as MS-13 or the radical Islamist hijackers of 9/11, whose collective violence against the American people has served to radicalize Americans against the larger groups that the violent teams came from. Likewise, collective violence or interference by the Pentagon in the domestic affairs of Central America or Saudi Arabia has radicalized those populations against the larger population that the Pentagon generals come from.

It is these collective material struggles which are most powerful in radicalizing individuals into developing antagonistic thoughts and feelings toward entire groups, and to take violent action against that group collectively (that is, without regard to who the individuals are, and just killing "Muslims" in general). The low-stakes material struggles in the labor and housing markets contribute to the animus, but low stakes do not motivate someone to take extreme action. Getting displaced in a low-wage job, or a crappy apartment, is not something worth committing mass violence over -- but if you thought your entire neighborhood, school district, or nation were under threat, then you just might decide to take extreme measures, or at least to feel seething hatred.

Under the materialist approach, the only solution to group-group hatred and violence is to keep members of different groups from competing against each other for material resources, territory / turf, and the institutions that govern access and use of such things. That means non-intervention in the material affairs of foreign nations, as well as minimization of immigration from those nations into our own.

As for which political coalition can accomplish those goals, we can exclude the military, whose material interests are in favor of invading and interfering with other nations, and labor-intensive sectors domestically, who are driven toward pursuing cheap labor in order to boost profits -- that includes agriculture, manufacturing, and unskilled small-business services (construction contractor, fast food owner, etc.). That excludes the Republican party in the US, and points toward the Democrats as the only possible political vehicle for the material separation of nations.

Democrats are controlled by informational sectors like finance, info-tech, and media/entertainment. They profit from global integration, but only in an informational rather than material fashion -- Google dominating the search engine traffic of Latin America, Goldman Sachs earning consulting fees for mergers involving foreign corporations, Hollywood studios beaming their movies into foreign theaters, Netflix streaming entertainment into foreign phones and laptop screens.

They do not rely on a massive physical presence in those foreign nations like the Pentagon or the oil companies do, if they want to control the local resources. And they do not require millions upon millions of immigrants into the US in order to boost their profits -- hardly anyone works in a sector that is not labor-intensive, and those jobs are highly skilled and selective. They may bring in hundreds or even thousands of educated professional foreigners, but not millions and tens of millions of unskilled foreigners.

Anyone on the Left or Right who wants to see a de-escalation of the collective violence that has steadily risen during the neoliberal era must pursue a return to New Deal-era policies, which had mostly closed borders, and whose senior member of the governing coalition -- big finance Democrats -- was not labor-intensive. As each round of these crises further destabilizes the social order, somebody is going to have to step in and set things straight. It will not be the Reaganite GOP, governed by the military, agriculture, and small-biz employers of unskilled laborers. It will be the realigned Democrat party, governed by the big banks and central bank, along with the IT cartel.

At an individual level, members of the GOP are more bigoted toward Muslims, Mexicans, etc., than are the members of the Democrat party. But that only underscores how irrelevant the thoughts and feelings are -- and how over-powering the material motives are. Illegal immigration has soared since Reagan took office, and takes off like a rocket each time a Republican is president -- including Trump, despite all the bluster -- and is less awful when a Democrat is president.

Republicans are not hauling in immigrants because they love them -- they look down their nose at them -- but because their particular forms of economic activity are labor-intensive, and they need that cheap labor. And Democrats are not better at keeping out the immigrants because they hate them -- they are multicultural utopians -- but because their informational sectors don't need the cheap labor, and their electoral base of labor unions and African-Americans will be devastated by waves of cheap-labor scabs.

Idealism is for retards with no skin in the game; materialism is for those who stand to win or lose by a lot. Focus on the material, and the beliefs and feelings will take care of themselves.


  1. One thing I like about Andrew Yang is that he is a materialist and gets this. Far Right tried to tar him for this just hours before, but if they'd given him a fair hearing, what he said is that they are not intrinsically evil or subscribe to the wrong religion, ideology, etc.

  2. " As for which political coalition can accomplish those goals, we can exclude the military, whose material interests are in favor of invading and interfering with other nations, and labor-intensive sectors domestically, who are driven toward pursuing cheap labor in order to boost profits -- that includes agriculture, manufacturing, and unskilled small-business services (construction contractor, fast food owner, etc.). That excludes the Republican party in the US, and points toward the Democrats as the only possible political vehicle for the material separation of nations."

    "The better hope for killing a guest worker expansion lies with the Democrats. Anyone with a brain realizes this would be bad for American workers and benefits greedy corporations. Democrats have never been too fond of this plan, as evidenced by their skepticism about its expansion in the Gang of Eight Amnesty. [Gang of 8 defends guest worker plan, by Seung Min Kim, Politico, May 13, 2013]. What better way to portray Trump as a phony populist in 2020 than to skewer him for this gift to the cheap labor lobby?"

    The article has numerous examples of the GOP doing little to nothing to restrict immigration, in spite of numerous opportunities to do.

    "Jared Kushner is currently leading negotiations with the Cheap Labor Lobby to craft a bill that will likely increase guest worker visas. It’s unclear what exactly will end up in this legislation, but it is guaranteed to enrage immigration patriots. [Globalist Business Groups with Koch, Bush Ties Dominate Immigration Talks at White House, by John Binder, Breitbart, February 26, 2019]"

    Thirteen GOP'ers voted to block Trump's order regarding the "national emergency" at the border, and 4 GOP Senators have stated their plan to vote for legislation which further blocks Trump's ability to do things under the guise of such declarations. Another, Mike Lee, has specifically proposed a resolution that would give a 30 or 60 day grace period for "national emergency" decisions by the president, after which they would go out of effect unless congress votes to continue them. This seems to be evidence of at least one thing, and maybe another: 1)The GOP is worthless on immigration, as usual, and perhaps, 2)they are getting bolder at undermining Trump, perhaps evidence of the primary challenges to come.

    Ever since the 1994 "Republican revolution",the first but hardly only period of GOP political dominance in the modern era, this country has seen already ghastly immigration levels rise, and rise, and rise again. Meanwhile, chaotic cultural liberalism (widespread promotion of gambling, media obscenity, LGBT advocacy, etc.) has advanced with very little effective opposition (to the point that Trump is more publicly liberal on some social issues than Obama was in the 2000's). It's undeniable at this point that the GOP is effectively worthless at cleaning society up.

    Hell, Democrat rep. Omar broke through taboos regarding foreign policy, which Trump has mostly obeyed during his tenure; most normies know that Pax American is a joke, that we've been snookered by one set of middle Easterners to waste blood and treasure against another set of desert tribes, but how many Republicans aside from Rand Paul are going to admit it?

  3. I think it's the Israel cuckery that's been the last straw for Trump's base. Plus the "legal" immigration memeing from Trump, which just further reveals what was there all along: Trump never was a hard-liner on reducing overall immigration; he was a quality, not a quantity, guy.

    And while both Dems and Repubs felt compelled to declare loyalty to Israel in the wake of the Zion lobby flap, everyone and their dog understands that the Republicans have a material and political interest in promoting endless warfare, whether on behalf of Israel or any other particular nation. And certainly, the "Judeo-Christian" memes spread by Right Zionists/militarists since the 80's aren't going to make it easier to forget just how much the mainstream Right sold out America's long-term financial and cultural interests in the 80's and subsequent decades. The devotion to Israel would absolutely horrify the wholesome class of minds who established America in the first place, believing that America could be free (well, more than other countries) of various political and ideological toxins that could get us hopelessly entangled.


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