Monday, May 21, 2012

Welcome to the Julia Crow Era

Nietzsche was the guy that gave resentment a fancy name: ressentiment.  When people are angry because history has passed them by, it's not just resentment.  It's something more.

In the US we saw it in the Jim Crow era.  The Southern whites had lost the Civil War, and they had lost the profits of slave-grown cotton plantations.  They visited their ressentiment on the black freedmen to keep them subservient and prevent them from using their numbers to end the era of white domination in the post-war South.  The Jim Crow era only finally came to an end in the 1950s and 1960s when the federal government--led by liberals--broke the back of white racial domination in the US South.

Perhaps it is more compelling to describe the Jim Crow era in the language of modern psychobabble.  The white Southerners in the late 19th century were in denial about the fact that the glory years of ante-bellum slave plantations were gone forever.  So they vented their rage and their disappointment upon the people they used to own and exploit.  You could even say that they projected their own faults--developed during the lazy hazy days of life presiding over the plantation--upon their former slaves.

So now we have the liberal welfare state hitting the wall.  Do the liberals turn upon themselves, find a scapegoat, and move on to a politics that acknowledges the truth of the conservative and economic critique of big-government liberalism?  No, they do not.  Instead they write "hate speech" laws to make criticism of liberals a crime.  They demonize private capital firms that try to clear the arteries of failing unionized firms hooked on government subsidy and intimidation.  They erect a crony capitalism to reward their friends.  They respond to government failure with more government programs.  They call people that oppose them "extremists" while they send their union and Occupy goons out to intimidate them.

I've thought of a name for this twilight era of liberalism.  I call it the Julia Crow era, after the faceless woman in the Obama campaign's "Life of Julia."

It took the best part of a century to beat back the ressentiment of the Jim Crow era.  The old white Southern elite was well entrenched and taught the poor whites to fear the black hordes that threatened to engulf them.  It took face-to-face federal power to put a stop to the Jim Crow era and defeat it.

Let us hope that the Julia Crow era will not last as long.  The best way out would be for liberals to admit to themselves that their day is over, that their ideas have been exploded, that their top-down big government welfare state is unjust.  But I am not that optimistic.  History is littered with the wreckage of dog-in-the-manger elites that refused to give up their grip on political power until forced to.

In the 1950s, America decided that it was nobler, better than the meanness and the injustice of Jim Crow.  Let us hope that by 2050 we will have also put the Julia Crow era behind us and reasserted our faith in American exceptionalism, America as the last best hope of mankind on earth, the lodestar, the inspiration of those who must have freedom.

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