Leaders who give voice to the cultural anger, the economic resentment, the moral and religious indignation the reactionary feels while hypocritically contributing to the very issues with which their followers are concerned: the ties were made in China; the employees are undocumented; the adulterous affairs were with prostitutes illegally paid for their silence. Leaders who vow to preserve the status of their followers, who promise the restoration of an exaggerated, idealized greatness, of an exaggerated, collective glory in which their followers are encouraged to bask. Leaders who, in practicing the reactionary version of so called “identity politics,” reinforce the belief of the reactionary that they are being unfairly deprived of their God-given rights, their way of life, of what, again, because of who they are in a tribal or collective sense, because of their demographic rather than what they may have accomplished as individuals they inherently deserve. Deprived, or so they have been conditioned to believe, that “others” may rise. Deprived it should be said, not by people like the leaders themselves who shamelessly exploit the sense of victimhood and displacement the reactionary experiences, but by people with whom they have, ironically, a lot more in common, who also feel displaced, disrespected, disinherited and denied. In this dangerous, cult-like dance of the dark shepherd and the delirious, purblind sheep, the strategy of demonization coupled with scapegoating, at least with regard to the immigrant takes two principle forms, each of which reinforces the other. The economic reinforces the moral, the moral reinforces the economic: On the one hand, it is easier to hate the person you have been led to believe is the biggest threat to your job because of their unfair competition, their willingness to work harder and for less if you also believe they are simply bad people; rapists, murderers, terrorists and pushers, “hombres,” “savages” and “invaders.” (Likewise, it is easier to hate the person you have been led to believe is the biggest threat to your job because of the policies they seek to implement if you also believe they are “traitors” and “spies” who “hate our country.” “Socialists” and “unbelievers” who should “go back to where they came from”…) On the one hand, through demonizing the immigrant morally which they accomplish via the cultivation of underlying bias, the leaders of the reactionary movement are able to reinforce the hatred and resentment the reactionary feels towards those he or she has been manipulated into believing are their greatest economic threat. On the other, when it comes to the issue of culture, in demonizing those who embody and assert new or different traditions, viewpoints and mores, the leaders of the reactionary movement fuel the revulsion the reactionary feels towards those he or she has been manipulated into believing are the greatest threat to their values, their way of life, their enduring sense of themselves as favored. Indeed, with regard to the shifting landscape of culture it is certainly easier to hate the person you have been led to believe is the biggest threat to your values and beliefs if you also look upon them as perverts, blasphemers, baby killers and pedophiles who secretly operate child sex rings out of neighborhood pizza joints. Indeed, as already noted, economic anxiety, which affects only a portion of the reactionary movement does not fully explain by any means what the reactionary, who is not always poor, who as a matter of fact may be better off on average than the progressive, manifests. In addition to the concrete fear, exploited by those who are the real bandit, the real “hombre,” the real hijacker of jobs and security that there is not enough to go around, there is the fear that in the more abstract matters encompassed and defined by culture, “standing” will be lost, rank will be lowered. That in a society which refuses to favor any one race, religion, gender or sexual orientation over another, the white, heterosexual, Christian male will be devalued on an existential level, that in a new order, the hierarchy will be different. Thus, while you hear the phrase “existential threat” in progressive circles a lot these days because of the fear that the reactionary movement will succeed at disemboweling democracy, to be fair that threat is two sided. People on both sides of the great divide between those who see the “huge tumbling boulders” in a favorable light, as an unavoidable if disconcerting part of the process through which both the inner and the outer are positively transformed, and those who see them as the end of everything they trust and value feel threatened on a profound level. That is why it is so important for the progressive not to goad the reactionary unnecessarily by supporting extreme ideas. Indeed, it must be said that when the progressive goes too far he or she confirms the irrational fears of the reactionary and makes them even more resistant to the reasonable, positive change any open-minded, compassionate, freedom loving person seeks.
Three of Five