Perhaps you all remember the story of Chicken Little and how, because an acorn fell on her head, she feared the sky was falling, but of course it was not. Well, I fear we have a situation where, at least from the point of view of White male Western-Europeans, the sky truly is falling. I am considering once again, the increasingly obvious failure of the dominant paradigm of Western-European thought, the paradigm that has been held for at least five hundred years and contains within it the myths of White, Western-European male superiority, as well as the superiority of Western-European culture. I speak of these beliefs as myths because that is what they basically were, although from the first appearance of Portuguese caravels along the African coast, through the horrors of European colonialism, the continued exploitation of the third world, the recent “wars” that still continue it, and the dominance of the West until the present time they have appeared to be facts. That is no longer so.
The American “empire” will be the last of the colonial empires. It is increasingly clear in the Middle East and in Central and South America that Arabs, as well as our “Little Brown Brothers” are no longer going to accept Western hegemony. India, Japan, and China either have or soon will surpass the U.S. in science, technology, mathematics, physics, as well as production. We are rapidly falling farther and farther behind in everything except perhaps military power and nuclear bombs, both being exposed as pretty much useless capabilities, as nuclear bombs cannot be used and our military might can’t even defeat a group of mostly illiterate Afghans fighting with only small arms. And we have, in truth, been defeated in our recent wars in both Asia and the Middle East (I guess we did great under Reagan when we took on Grenada).
In any case, like Chicken Little, we are in a panic, but for good reason, the sky really is falling for us. We, who have been brought up to believe in our superiority and “American exceptionalism,” are now being confronted with the truth, and it is terribly unpalatable for many, as well as somewhat pathetic to witness. Putting our “wars,” foreign policy, and economic problems aside, there are two manifestations of this panic that stand out: the seemingly irrational hatred of President Obama, and the “War on Women.”
I suppose if you were brought up to believe that Black people really are inferior to Whites, hatred of Obama who violates that basic belief might not be considered necessarily irrational. But it is the fact that he violates this basic belief that has to be the real reason for the hatred. As President, Obama has been like most Presidents, both good and bad, depending upon your points of view. His performance as President cannot explain the intense hatred. He is hated precisely because he has shattered the paradigm of White superiority and many just cannot tolerate that. No previous President to my knowledge has ever faced the massive opposition to everything he tried to do, even when those things were first presented by his opposition. When Obama was elected Republicans chose to oppose him no matter what he tried to do, and they have, much to the harm of our nation. And they have, of course, employed the “race card,” describing him as incompetent, a witch doctor, an “other,” and of course everything else from a socialist to a communist, fascist, Muslim, and etc. They hate him, in short, because he is Black, because, in the terms of Anthropologist May Douglas, he would be considered, “Dirt out of place.” It is not only Republicans who feel this way about Obama, it is the vast majority of the less educated White population as well, and, in fact, some of the more educated.
The other seemingly irrational behavior going on at the moment is the so-called “War on Women.” As this is politically suicidal for Republicans but they continue it anyway it can easily be seen as irrational. We wonder how it is that men believe they can decide better than women what is best for women’s health and reproduction. But remember, women were no higher up in the paradigm than children and Black people. In all societies I know of there is none where women held the most significant positions of power. Even in matrilineal societies (there are no truly matriarchal societies) power does not reside in women, but, rather, in mother’s brothers. In the matrilineal Trobriand Islands it is not the daughters that ritually “suck the bones of the fathers,” it’s the sons. Power everywhere resides in males, in Western-European societies in White males. Republican men do not believe they are in engaging in a war on women, they believe it is their “right” to decide such matters, it has always been so.
The belief in this basic paradigm is stronger in older people than in younger people who have been brought up in a more diverse cultural and ethnic society. We are witnessing the last gasps of a traditional belief system undergoing a basic paradigm shift, the last desperate attempts of Whites to cling to the powers they have come to expect as their due. With slavery gone, lynchings gone, Jim Crow gone, demographics changing, equality gaining ground, and voting and abortion rights being upheld, it is clear which direction we are going. It has been and continues to be a difficult journey.