Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Thinking about why many Lumpenproletariat folks tend to be conservative on many issues

An unfortunate truth. By Lumpenproletariat, or just plain lumpen, I mean folks who come from working class backgrounds who have dropped out of the system and are now leading a kind of twilight existence. These are the stoners and the gangsters, the hardcore partiers as well as the anarchists of all stripes who are connected to the street punk culture. As a former member of this group one thing that has always troubled me is why exactly is it that these folks, specifically the men, combine anti-authoritarian sentiments, hating cops, school, the establishment, bosses, with ultra-machismo, being insulting to women and homophobic. The latter characteristics are to me a pretty much uncontestable part of lumpen culture. You're much more likely to see a hardcore stoner treat women in a demeaning way while acting like he's a gangster, despite being white and not a gang member, then you are to see them be sensitive and aware of radical feminist arguments. Being hard, fighting, objectifying women, goes along with their support for the legalization of pot, medical marijuana, an end to the drug war, and end to police abuse, and less of a state. Ron Paul is popular among lumpenproletariat folks: all the libertarianism you could ask for without the social responsibility and equal treatment that left libertarianism demands. On the plus side, thought, racism is out of the picture.

I don't mean to be bitter, in fact, these folks aren't terrible people by any means, but the thing is that they really should be the ones who are leading the fight against our present economic and social system, while in reality they just support a libertarianism that doesn't interfere with their smoking habits.

Thinking about it from the inside, what I've come up with is that these folks are in rebellion against everything that society puts out there, both good and bad. They're against the cops, the schools, the establishment, but they're also reflexively against the social codes relating to women, how you take substances, fighting and machismo--codes that aren't so bad. What they feel is real, it's not just adolescent rebellion, but there's no recognition that just because something is supported by the establishment doesn't mean that it's automatically bad and must be opposed. It's that kind of thinking that's behind so-called 'iconoclastic' Fox News-esque perspective on liberal culture, irrespective of the reality of how liberal values play out in real life.

Me, myself, I separated from my Lumpen comrades partially for this reason, and partially because the people I was with were psychotic fucks and I didn't want to be associated with them anymore. I believed in the ideals of the '60s, or at least what I thought they were, and it became clear to me that the productive counter-culture didn't consist of just getting drunk and/or getting high, hanging out with people who were both ignorant and acted like they were on steroids. The way they treated people, their constant emphasis on 'hardness', was shit, to be blunt about it.
I went to a more liberal place, and then later found Progressive and Left ideas, ideas that to me explained very well what exactly is really going on with the world. I'm damn lucky that I did, and I'm thankful for it.

Other people in that scene weren't so lucky. I remember being contacted by one of them via Myspace a while ago, asking if I was a person that they went to school with. I didn't particularly want to talk to him, or have anything to do with him in fact, so I never responded. A week or so later I suddenly got a friend request from an obviously fake profile that had been created, where the person was a gay, native american, Muslim, who was intent on spreading the gospel of Islam. I had indicated on my profile that I'm interested in both men and women, and my political ideas were pretty apparent as well. I guess my non-dogmatic progressivism was too 'politically correct' to them. Perhaps they objected to my opposition of anti-Muslim sentiment in the post-9/11 world, even though they themselves listened to gangster rap put out by black people. The real world is a different matter, I suppose.

What sort of practical proposals could change this situation with the lumpenproletariat? Potentially, folks could try to spread liberal values among them, showing them that being cool doesn't mean hating gay people, that it doesn't somehow mean being weak, and that treating women with more respect doesn't imply being subject to "feminazis" or bowing down to authority. The Hardcore movement, which I was unfortunately never exposed to during my time in the Lumpenproletariat, has done a good job of steering people in a positive direction. This came about through the defeat of the Nazis in the American Hardcore scene, a very positive thing. By trying to reach out to kids it may be possible to moderate some of their blanket hatred of the world. Hopefully, if that can happen, if some sort of balance in their perspective is restored, they can start to figure out who's really benefiting from them being on the bottom, who's really on the top, and what they should do about it.

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