Palmer and Patterson and Possibility

Palmer and PattersonSetting ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ against Walter Palmer and ‪#‎CeciltheLion‬ is a failure of strategic imagination.

There are, of course, important differences that can’t be overemphasized. Otherwise we end up confounding the murders of humans and animals. But both cultural moments clearly speak to the nature of white privilege.

Racism and ecological expropriation aren’t orthogonal to each other. Indeed, Cecil’s death can be connected to land grabbing and deforestation across Africa straight out of John Henry Patterson. Which last I heard has something to do with black lives.

And if it takes a dead lion to move millions of perhaps misguided people out of a carefully cultivated metaphysics of isolated individuality into a more empathetic framework, I’ll take it. An ethos of mutual aid and solidarity isn’t necessarily going to come out of reading Kropotkin alone.

We’d do well to begin to be open to the aleatory nature of political circumstance. People arrive at the right idea by many a strange path.

UPDATE. How obvious can it be? ‪#‎CeciltheLion‬ isn’t about just a fucking lion. Millions of people with whom the miniscule left need engage have had a visceral reaction against white supremacy.

Have many of those millions dropped the ball on cops killing blacks in the U.S.? Yep! Have many failed to extend their sympathies to everyday Zimbabweans? Absolutely. But the point now is to use this sudden window to help people make those connections: among, for instance, racial oppression, capitalism, land grabbing and environmental destruction.

Who, in contrast, would ever wish to join a political bloc organized around making people feel like shit for failing self-righteous standards said bloc can’t itself uphold? “If you’re typing some version of ‘I can’t believe you people care more about lions than [fill in the blank],'” political economist Corey Robins puts it on his Facebook page,

please bear in mind that at least some part of that electronic device you’re typing that message on was probably made by some kind of slave labor. If your desire is to raise awareness and generate moral concern about a specific topic, it’s probably not a helpful strategy to tell people that the topic they are concerned about at that specific moment in time is either not worthy of moral concern or it not as worthy of moral concern as the topic you’re trying to direct their attention to.

We need ask ourselves, do we want to be a left forever caught in a rear guard action or are we a left with a world to win?


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