Know Your Scumfuckers
So then. We know who the New Scum are, at least in outline. (More on that later.) We know their, our, position in the world. And we know that this position isn’t natural. Hobbes called the natural state of man a life that was empty; “No Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.”
And this is true. We could turn this into a discussion of the Noble Savage, but facts are facts. Without our civilizations, life sucks. So civilization, the social contract, all that, is a necessity of life. Escaping back into the natural world worked for Thoreau, but it won’t work for the rest of us. All of us, rich and poor and Scum, are stuck in civilization until further notice.
Nor can we hope to create some idealized anarchic world without rulers, from each according to his means, to each according to his needs, kum-bay-yah around the campfire and a nice free love orgy to cap off the night. It doesn’t work.
And to digress for a moment, it is a sad testament to human nature that it doesn’t. I often wish that I could return to the heady days when I was a Socialist. Back when I first started college, in those delightful black and white years when you know just enough to think you know it all, I was a Socialist (big S.) And it is a nice philosophy, a kind and gentle belief worthy of the people who espouse it. And that is it’s failing. It is too nice, assumes too much of the world. Assumes the world is like the people who believe in it. But a piece of advice. If you ever get the chance, make a Socialist your friend. For the most part, you will never find a nicer, more open and generous group of people than at a Socialist party meeting.
But we aren’t talking in terms of Socialism vs. Capitalism. This isn’t about the cool reasoning of Marx and Hobbes. The one thing that these philosophies all have in common is that they are imposed. They come from above. They are the tools the elite and the powerful. Even Socialism, kind and gentle as it is, presumes itself. Listen next time you talk about weighty political topics, or next time you hear a reformer, left or right, talk. There is subtle condescension in the way words are turned. A Socialist will speak of helping the poor, of feeding the poor, of curing poverty in a country. A Right-winger will talk of people pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, of hard-work, and of self-respect.
The rhetoric could not be more different, but the audience is the same. Their philosophies, their skilled argumentative barbs, are for the same narrow group of people. Well educated usually. In a position of more or less power.
And when it comes time to speak to us, to the Scum? Then it’s time to whip out the soundbytes, to talk about the buzzwords of Hope, Change, Country or Patriotism. They have the gall to talk down to us; the same people who’ve kept us here.
Or for another example. Look at the experience of someone who is the first person in their family to go to college. View the awe that they are held in from both ends, the upper class surprised that they escaped their surroundings, their families shocked that they made it out. In either case, that unspoken assumption that this person is a rare butterfly indeed…that they’ve escaped a cage through a particularly complicated maze. And clearly (the unspoken, for the most part unthought subtext runs) the other Scum couldn’t do that.
So here, after that lovely little bit of legalistic reasoning, is something simpler. What most philosophies miss is that they are jockeying among those with power. But when you get past the classes, down here to us Proles, power simplifies. There is being Fucked, and there are those doing the Fucking.
This is the essential nature of human power relationships, at least on a large scale. And don’t sit there and tell me that you are a kind and worthy person who’s never Fucked anyone in your life. You aren’t Mother Teresa, and if the stories are true, she Fucked over a fair few people in her time. On a large scale, upper class fucks middle class, fucks lower class, and they all fuck over the Scum.
The BIG Scumfuckers are easy to observe. The most egregious example is all around us. By now, any reasonably well informed person knows what happened with the US banking systems. To avoid the hassle of running through information that should be well known, the gist is this. The banks tried to cut a few more pennies out of the hides of the poor, and fucked it all up. Unsurprisingly when you lend a couple hundred grand to someone who makes thirty thousand a year, but I digress.
The big Scumfuckers are easy to find, easy to hate. Easy to string up by their thumbs, but unfortunately, things haven’t gotten that far. Yet. I’ve got a well oiled bullwhip for when it does, though. But since they are the worst offenders, they catch the flak. They rage against these most obvious of violators, however, is nothing more than a convenient catharsis, a pressure valve on the righteous anger of a nation. But the problem runs far deeper than that, and for the most part, it is ignored.
For another, much more subtle example. Think about this. Mr. and Mrs. Jones have moved into their new exclusive, very tony development. They live there quite happily, keeping their lawn trimmed and their shutters painted. And then the Smiths move in next door. Maybe the Smiths have come into some money, maybe the housing bubble popped here particularly badly.
Anyway, the Smiths aren’t the usual crowd. Scum Made Good, perhaps would be the best way to describe them. But they aren’t too big on cutting their lawn, maybe leave their kid’s toys scattered around. Their house isn’t freshly painted, there are always a passel of kids running around. Maybe even a truck parked on the lawn, being repaired.
And tell me, what will the response of the Joneses be? At most, putting the law (in the form of a HOA) on them. At the very least, a certain revelry in snobbery will ensure. The Jones will cheerfully gossip about the Smiths, criticize them openly, complain about them, write the sort of delightfully passive aggressive letters that can only be found in the suburbs. And the Smiths will certainly never be invited over for dinner.
In essence then, the Joneses are establishing their social position over the Smiths. Every complaint, cloaked in chapter and verse of the HOA rules, has the unspoken subtext that they are better people than the Smiths.
Of course, you argue that you are most certainly not like that. Perhaps not. After all, the example above is a more extreme example, but I think serves its power. The Joneses are, in terms of social power, the Fuckers. And the Smiths, in terms of social power, are the Scum.
Or for a more subtle example, let us use the same example. The description above of the Smiths is perfectly in line with the common media portrayal (and probably evoked images of) lower class white Americans. Rednecks. White trash in the more snobbish portrayals. All images filled with the implicit implication that the speaker is better than those people.
American society tends to have some of the worst offenders in this case. There are a dozen reasons, but a few stick out nicely.
First, and most subtly, is the dictates of history. American history promotes these conditions in a number of ways. First of all, for the most part, only three types of people came over to the colonies. The wealthy seeking plantations, the indentured or refugees seeking a plot of land and a chance, and prisoners and slaves. Our founding fathers were almost universally wealthy landowners, and the soldiers the poor farmers. This class distinction has been fixed into American society from the beginning, with one important distinction from the old European ways. In America, it was fundamentally simpler to rise in society, and with correspondingly less criticism of your low start once you got there.
This promoted the view (not helped by America’s strong Calvinist roots) that anyone could make it here. That anyone who worked hard and really tried could be rich. In later years, Horatio Alger and Andrew Carnegie would promote this view, but it has existed from the start. Of course, the flip side applies as well. If you are poor, downtrodden Scum, then you didn’t try and it is your own fault that you’re Scum.
You Get What You Deserve and the people who believe it (particularly the rich and successful who’s belief in it is strongly tied to their own sense of moral superiority) are certainly the most dangerous Scumfuckers. What is worse is that unlike many other lies in the American political system, not only the powerful, but the powerLESS believe this.
The most difficult thing about actually trying to be more than Scum is that there is no Scum unity (a topic for another day.) There is no Scum party, or Scum union trying to help each other. Worse, there is the human pack instinct. Humans tend to desire stable social structures of one kind or another, and we tend to desire order. This desire leads us to trust people in positions of authority. Particularly if you are Scum, without the lovely benefits of privilege, education, and time to devote to consider esoteric questions of right and wrong. So while a Democrat steel mill worker might not buy what George Bush has to say, and a Republican farmer from Texas might think Obama is full of crap, when both sides preach the same myths of American exceptionalism, and the bullshit bootstrap myths, what do people think? The Scum will believe it, ingrain it throughly into their belief system, because it is what they’ve always been told.
The Scumfuckers, then, are the people who not only perpetuate these myths, but believe them unquestionably even as they parrot them to the Scum. The people who honestly believe that they have achieved their position in the world through dint of hard work, bootstrap pulling, and morality.
They are the worst Scumfuckers, because they fuck down the social scale without realizing it. The Bernie Madoffs of the world realize what they are doing it. The worst criminals of all are those who truly have no idea that they are wrong.
Hopefully this post made sense. Now that I’ve laid out three basic posts exploring these power relationships. Now it is time, I think, to begin examining what they mean in real world terms. Tomorrow: Iran and a view of international Scumfuckers.
At some point in the near future, expect a post on the nature of Ethnocentrism, Xenophobia, Nationalism, and how the Scum get fucked on an international scale.