We Don’t Have To Live Like This

You cannot have failed to notice the changes. There is the extreme weather, for one thing. Maybe you’ve noticed that the Arctic is passable now, opened for shipping. A minority of our 200,000 year old species has managed to devastate this beautiful planet and completely upset its delicately balanced systems in under 200 years.

Two-hundred years… As an ancient historian who studies Greeks that lived more than two thousand years ago, specifically those Greeks who lived at least 2,421 years ago, two hundred years is barely anything past modernity, because it really isn’t. On a timeline of the history of this planet, the last 200 years barely encompass the width of a period. Even considering only the time since the ice retreated and the natural systems took shape within which we have thrived, roughly 11,700 years ago, the last two hundred years account for only 1.71% of that time. We don’t have to live like this.

Concomitantly we do not need to live in such a divided world. We are one species. And our one species is more connected now than we have ever been thanks to the internet. Never at any point since the earliest bands of our species roamed the African Savannah has our entire species been connected. We must press this connection into recognition of our shared humanity, our shared goals, our shared interests. This is something the wealthy have always done: it is ancient and cross-cultural. The over-wealthy are international and have always been; it is one of the practices that defines a wealthy person. By taking up this same model of recognition and unity we, the weathless rest, stand to gain an unprecedented power over our own experiences. We don’t have to live like this.

As it is right now, we are divided multiply by our individualities: the American Myth of the Individual weaponized against the individuals who perpetuate it.

There are two ways, perhaps among others, of utilizing the fact of intersectionality. As a white gay queer male other people may use this information in order to try to identify me, to create their impression of me by which they will gauge future interactions with me and with which they will attempt to forecast my actions, words and thoughts. It has here an informational reference-value.

Yet at the same time, as a white gay queer male, standard practice would seem to dictate that I whittle down my ‘tribe’ to other white gay queer males: these are they, I am told, who share my interests and whose interests must be my concern. It has here a limiting, boundary-drawing value.

However, I have never been able to see my interests in such a narrow view. For one thing. I cannot separate racist bigotry from the heteronormative bigotry I experience, just like I cannot separate myself from Palestinians being imprisoned in their own homeland, subjected to a slow, grinding and entirely systematic genocide, people whose suffering I grew up seeing on the evening news with confused horror.

There is nothing that separates the 99% of us in the US from the 99% of all humans everywhere, so that bigotry anywhere among the 99% is disastrous for the 99% everywhere. United we stand, remember? Divided we can be managed, repressed, held in check. Divided we can serve in place of the slaves lost to the capitalist class after the civil war.

Imagine working toward your own wealth rather than working for the profits of your superiors… Imagine paying only for the cost of producing the power you need, rather than that cost plus the cost of profiting a corporation… Imagine a world where there are no billionaires and the only trillionaire is the human species as a single entity.

I’ve always amazed at how effectively racist nonsense has kept working white people from joining with any other working person. We don’t have to live like this. Together we can do more.

Now I want to be clear about something: I am not suggesting that racism is not real; it is. I am not suggesting that racism does not negatively impact the lives of every person regardless of skin color; it does. Nor am I suggesting that projects like The 1619 Project are misguided; they are not. I would suggest only that we take a further step back as a part of this reckoning and acknowledge that race is an easy wedge issue, an easy means of dividing people into more manageable groups. I would suggest ultimately that we do not have to live like this, and that race has become a means of ensuring that we do in fact continue to live like this.

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