American Clusterfuckery

One of the more confusing things about moving to California from Toronto, to the USA from Canada, is how things can seem, on the surface, similar but, the more you talk about them, the more you realize that these similarities are only on the surface.  You and the person you’re speaking with might be using the same words but they all have different meanings. And then you have to puzzle through all that to try to figure out what the hell is going on. It feels like a costume ball where two people are wearing the same costume but, beneath it, are incredibly different. And, on top of that, what they think of their costumes and their reasons for wearing them are very different too. It makes sense out of that old saying: “England and America are two countries divided by a common language.”

I bumped up against this –and not for the first time– in philosophy class. We had to determine whether some sort of universal healthcare system could be based on the liberal utilitarianism of John Stuart Mill. That’s an argument that can be made, but it’s not really an argument that I (or I suspect many Canadians or anyone with a universal healthcare system) would make. Without thinking much about it, I tend to view the thing from a much more socialist perspective. Of healthcare being an inalienable right. Its privatization seems akin to the rich deciding who gets ‘freedom of speech.’ It just seems bizarre. You look at the American system and it’s almost impossible to figure out what the problem is. Like, why aren’t they getting it? Why can’t they get it? What is the fuck is the problem here? Why are they so confused and irate about the very idea?

Then you’re told to argue it from the liberal perspective and it all starts to make sense. Because, well, the liberal perspective is kind of trash. It undercuts itself before it even begins. It immediately cedes the strongest and daftest argument to the conservatives. It views taxation as an imposition upon liberty and then you have justify that imposition  by measuring its against its costs. And you’ll never get anywhere doing that.

The moment you look at taxing the rich as an imposition on liberty as opposed to its guarantor, you’ve got yourself all fucked up. And who has ever agreed to have their liberty imposed upon? Especially when the people being “imposed” on already have health insurance – that is, they have healthcare. You end up making some wrongheaded appeal to charity. You have to try explain to the rich that they should give a shit about other people. You depend on their feelings. And we can all see how that’s going.

The problem, the real stumbling block, in the USA isn’t the argument against healthcare so much as its the argument for it. As long as that argument is based in liberalism and utilitarianism, as long as the argument made for healthcare is a liberal as opposed to a socialist one, the whole fucking thing is dead in the water. Same goes for public education. Public anything, really. Except for the military. They get to exist as a bloated and intrusive bureaucracy, showing up to sing songs at baseball games, because they’re the so-called defenders of freedom. They keep freedom free or something. Their presence is viewed as the source of all liberty. Therefore any imposition they make upon anyone’s rights is considered welcome and needed. But it’s not the conservatives that make all this shit possible. It’s the distorted lens of liberalism that makes it inevitable.

What a total clusterfuck.

But, anyways, plate of shrimp.

I mention this because I bumped into a couple of things after writing and submitting that essay, which make me question whether or not a healthcare system made by a liberal as opposed to a socialist regime would even be worth a damn. Well, I was questioning that before too. They’re kind of along the lines of an argument I made within the essay about John Stuart Mill’s colonialism and his double standards regarding liberty when colonies were involved. Seems to me that a liberal version of healthcare would probably replicate those racist injustices. Hell, in this country, where racism is so strong and deeply embedded in the very architecture, a socialist version might too – it would have to really be on guard against such factors. That’s why you can’t just look at things in terms of class or money here. Race isn’t a side issue. It’s not a thing that can be subsumed below words like “class.” A universal healthcare system would have to be revolutionary – it would need to deliberately and radically expand America’s definition of the universal. If the hospital in Compton is different than the one in Beverly Hills, socialized health won’t be a force for equality but an entrenchment of inequality. This is something to be actively aware of. It has to be deliberately designed against.

Those two pieces, if you’re interested, are Homi Bhabha’s work on “Sly Civility” and John Stuart Mill in his book The Location of Culture. (You may need to get that one on paper — I trust you know how.) And the other is an excerpt from Domenico Losurdo’s Liberalism: A Counter-History entitled Liberalism and Racial Slavery: A Unique Twin Birth. I won’t summarize the arguments made in these respective works because both arguments are made with care but, in the case of Losurdo, Verso introduces it like so:

“Domenico Losurdo looks at the foundational link between liberalism and Atlantic slavery, and liberal philosophers’ shifting positions on slavery in the period between Somersett v Stewart and the American Civil War.”

That is, liberalism and racial slavery were not positions opposed to each other but positions closely related to each other.

Of course, none of this should be construed as any sort of endorsement for the republican party or fucking Fox news and whatever the fuck they mean by a liberal. The republicans and Fox can go get fucked. Given the choice between fascism and liberalism, I’ll take liberalism every single time. But there are other possibilities. Those should be looked at. This tension between liberalism and fascism can only resolve itself in stupidity. The terms of the argument have to be changed.  Socialism is required.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s