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Top 10 Reasons that Systemic Racial Hegemony IS Modernist
Orange is the New White
But not yet have we solved the incantation of this whiteness, and learned why it appeals with such power to the soul...
- Herman Melville
I know, I know -- articles that begin with exciting click-bait titles are not supposed to have quotes & prologues. However, I promise that there really is a TOP TEN LIST if you keep reading…
Whiteness is a hot social topic. The concept emerged from racial studies but has mutated into a very abstract and flexible way of discussing a set of entrenched cultural problems that pertain to a certain way of thinking, talking, organizing society & doing business. It’s not just race but it haunts our lingering racial problems. It’s not just about light-skinned people but it often shows up as that avatar.
For some folks, whiteness is an obvious fact & social evil -- an internalization of a hegemonic attitude that can be embodied in any one regardless of their skin pigmentation or recent ancestry. Other folks view the whiteness critique as part of a dangerously regressive way of thinking that is linked to rabid and illiberal attacks on the foundations of Western civilization. (Stay tuned for my TOP TEN WAYS THAT WOKENESS IS NOT POSTMODERNISM…)
But as central as whiteness is for certain discussion forums, I would guess that most people have not even heard of it. Even if they did, I’ll bet a lot of normies would find it highly ambiguous. To make the problem worse, I am going to discuss a number of other things about which most people have not heard.
I will be connecting the concept of Whiteness to the concept of “Orange”. Orange is a convenient code-word used in developmental sociology. Developmental sociology (think Integral Theory, Spiral Dynamics, Metamodernism, Jean Gebser, etc) is interested in the emergence of — and interactions between — different cultural operating systems that are variously complex & variously adapted to different life-worlds, technologies, cognitive capacities, etc.
So you will need to know that in order to make sense of this “top ten list.” You will also need the emotional maturity to realize that
(a) critiques do not mean that there is nothing positive about the thing that is being critiqued
(b) validating a critique does not imply that people who make the critique are at the upper limit of cognitive and ethical insight
(c) the word “systemic” does not mean overtly encoded in a rule set but rather it refers to statistical emergent patterns from the operating of multiple interacting systems.
As long as that’s all clear and describes you then read on! Otherwise, get the hell out of here and stop sullying my letters with your gross, ignorant eyeballs you perverts!
We’re so close to the TOP TEN list now. I promise. Although it would be kind of funny if I did all this and then there was no list? Hmmmmm… suspenseful.
You know, when I personally think of the color white in relationship to (orange) modernity, I am initially reminded of two tangential & silly things.
Firstly and inanely, I think of the insidious role that addictive, low-nutrient white powders play in our food supply. Flour, sugar and coca leaves are all worth consuming but not when they are subject to industrial and chemical processes that flatten them into an insipidly denuded whiteness that hacks human brains and rewrites our social food production chains for the worse.
The other “off topic” thing that the modernity/whiteness dyad reminds me of is James Cameron’s film Titanic (which was, at the time, the biggest movie in history). I wonder if that movie appealed — in the vine-choked & blood-soaked temples of the unconsciousness of the masses — to us by implying something about modern civilization?
After all, it is the tale of a steam-powered, industrial-scale, well-financed & dangerously reckless voyage of progress that overturns the old aristocratic customs and spills incalculable masses of human beings into the natural world when it crashes into a half-hidden block of icy whiteness. Modernity! It is a strange mixture. It lifts people from poverty while generating new forms of poverty, establishes conditions for peace while generating the deadliest wars in human history, powers innovation while simultaneously incentivizing the inhibition of innovation, teaches rationality by dogma & cultivates science by submission to authority.
Despite the many real (and the many more aspirational-rhetorical) virtues of modernism, its institutional customs have assumed a position of global dominance in which it is now flexibly meta-stable, too big to fail & clearly producing an accelerating set of multiple crises based on its inability to incorporate externalities into its operating procedures.
But you don’t care about that! You want to get to the racial stuff…
TOP TEN REASONS THAT ORANGE IS THE NEW WHITE
Is mathematics contaminated by whiteness? Well, it seems regressive to complain that “science” or “math” should be jettisoned by virtue of the fact that a lot of great mathematicians have had lighter skin pigmentation. A bit like Nazis rejecting Jewish science. But it does make sense to say that the linear, analytic mechanistic, disembodied & administrative habits around the presentation and governance of sciences and maths has been predominantly modernist — since Orange has regulated and incentivized these bodies of knowledge.
International slavery is inter/national. Although slavery was (and still is) routinely practiced among tribal and ethnic rivals, it took modern thinking and technological innovations to set up the international slave markets which resulted in the Black/White tension in North America and also to produce the industrial-scale need for cheap-as-possible labor in which people are treated as machines (until they can be replaced by machines).
Whiteness is as old as modernity. The notion of a particular “white” group is only a few hundred years old. This concept would have made little or no sense as a social category in traditional society. What do the Spanish and English have in common with Russians? Such groups were previously experienced as dramatically distinct ethnic rivals. Separate ethnic kingdoms are only grouped together when an internationalist framing emerges to provide them with common economic opportunities and shared distinction from exotic ethnicities in far-flung corners of the Earth.
Economic modernity creates indigeneity which creates racialist modernity. The modern socio-cognitive operating system couples international-global exploration with modern weaponry and regulatory control. This is what enabled the colonization of distant parts of the globe. Those procedures inevitably involve overcoming, exploiting and harnessing local populations which are designated as “primitive.” Such a designation then allows, by contrast, the reciprocal self-identification (AS IF ethnically) of the institutionalized “superiority habits” of the moderns who continue to arrive.
Modernity profits from racial dichotomies. I’ve argued elsewhere that modernism characteristically institutionalizes polarization (e.g. electrical flow, team sports, partisan media, prosecutor/defender, debate, profit/loss, left/right politics, duopoly). It cultivates a privileged binary condition whose imbalances need to be maintained so that profit flows and political power can be generated by correcting those imbalances. In virtually all modern nations, there is a particularly dominant racial polarization narrative. We are all familiar with Black/White issue in America. Everyone is ideologically encouraged, from all sides, to have a “position” about the recreating-and/or-overcoming of the primary polarization in the discourse. And all those people, on all those “sides,” can be marketed to & mobilized as viewers/voters.
Hidden hegemonic representationalism. Modernity is representationalist in general. It asks “what does this symbol stand for?” It thinks in terms of agents who represent well-known corporate or identity groups. The Congressman for Alabama! Our first Latina Secretary of State! Here’s a spokesman for the Telecommunications Industry! All these “representatives” may deserve a seat-at-the-table. And those seats, of course, are not free. The business of determining which groups get represented is profitable and ongoing. Modernity talks a big game about individual rights but citizens always take a back seat to the competition between organized groups. Under all this group representationalism is, in every modern society, a group that does not get specially represented because it forms the normative assumption about the identity of the culture itself. If, for example, it is politically upsetting to make fun of any group except white males then, probably, they are the half-submerged portion of the iceberg. The “deep state” of representationalism. The group that does not get represented because it embodies the concept of representation itself. Oddly, open “white nationalists” could be a sign that the system is failing or transforming because the previously hegemonic group is now lobbying for the right to openly take pride in their culture and be represented in the modern halls of decision.
Multi-ethnic oligarchs abstract their dominant feature. While the traditionalist socio-cognitive operating system(let us call it “kingdom culture”) is openly hierarchical & sectarian, devoted — under the symbolic guidance of a holy book and a scribal priesthood — to the task of generating a visual, linguistic and patriotic ethnicity that is embodied in a ruling oligarchy that gets fronted by a theatrical-authoritarian “monarch,” modernity does things a little differently. It expands into an internationalist, multi-ethnic oligarchy protected by a constitution that provides the game rules for literate bureaucracies to run business and politics. That means that, in principle, over time, people of any gender, religion or skin color can, in principle, fight their way into the oligarchies and bureaucracies. The immediate consequence of the shift to a multi-ethnic oligarchy is that the shared quality among the social dominators must become more abstract. In situations where sectarian dominion was previously orientated around white males, for example, the “patriarchal whiteness” remains even when women-of-color join the team. Whiteness emerges as the abstraction that modernity brings to traditional hegemony. Modernity can be paternalistic (the technocratic-expert logic of looking after you even at the expense of your choice, freedom & general health — see, Anti-Vaxxers are postmodernist too!) In cultures where the traditionalist dominant class had another commonality, then THAT feature would need to be abstracted to describe the multi-ethnic, non-sectarian oligarchy which occurs progressively under modernization.
Modernity epitomizes blindness to systemic effects. While modern values (nominally) liberates individuals, group by group, it creates a culture that is largely blind to systemic and inter-systemic effects. This is partly because it simply cannot see the things that it is leaving out. A larger worldview will be required. It is also partly because making money requires an imbalance. The gold coins need to roll down the tilted playing field in order to be collected in the bucket. That means modernity has to propose a fair playing field and create a skewed playing field. So the blindness to (& exploitation of) systemically-distorted game rules is characteristic of modernity and revealed to the eyes of postmodernity. While overt racism is premodern, the systemic problem of racism to which whiteness points is a very orange problem. A feature, not a bug, in that system.
Modernity breeds diseased premodernity. The modern socio-cognitive operating system plays people against each other on cultural issues in order to maintain incremental, managerial & profitable control over society. That can mean issues as far-ranging as abortion, religion, gender roles & racial equity. In order to protect its systemic structure and continue to maximize profit, it requires a large number of people who appear to be modern (i.e. they can drive cars and repeat what they heard on the news) but are actual ethnocentric conformists. It is important to create a “team sports” atmosphere so that voters can be mobilized by liberal strategists. It is important that people are gullible, reactive, identitarian & symbol-driven so that marketing will work effectively upon them. So generating premodern souls with modern speech habits is incentivized over time. Unfortunately, the life-conditions that nurture healthy traditionalists are, at the same time, utterly desecrated by modernity. Farms are bought up by conglomerates. Industrial pollutants ruin local water supplies. Modern fisheries ruin local fisheries. Regional sensemaking is driven crazy by the constant influx of strategically stressful news about distant events. Modernity is generating fake modern people who are driven crazy by modernity’s destruction of the premodern lifeworld. Result? Constant ethnocentric agitation hidden within all apparently modern systems.
A fake dominance group protects the modern elites. Modern economies generate, among other things, a pattern of ultra-wealthy elites who have the ability to leverage their resources and social networks to skew legislative bureaucracies in ways that make it easier for those individuals, their families and their industries to game the system ever more effectively. To serve and protect this “class” there is a cultivated administrative and quasi-administrative group who derive a special set of privileges. The professional, technocratic population (administrative) directly organizes society in favor of elite powerbrokers while a group (quasi-administrative) of less-educated or impoverished people run interference between the so-called elites & the masses. A shared narrative is cultivated in which these two groups — what I call “the shield” — belong in a special category together. The former group can afford to be very sensitive and progressive about “those other minories” who do not fall into the special category, while the latter group has to take a more aggressive, racist-sounding stance against “those other minorities” because it has no advantages other than its identification in the special category. These sound an awful lot like Biden voters and Trump voters. The interesting thing is that this special category is bogus. Europe and America invented “white” to do this job but somehow the category didn’t include the Irish a hundred years ago! China invented the “Han” a popular hegemonic racial category — even though, according to reported DNA testing, a large majority of people who identify in that category are not genetically related to Han ethnicity. The category is flexible because it is socially constructed. Han-ness or whiteness is a more accurate way of thinking about this group (invented differently in each modern system) so that its systemic role can be interrogated apart from the actual ancestry and genetic lineage of people involved.
Well — aren’t you glad I didn’t do the TOP TWENTY?