Political, economics, fear.
20190922 001037 5 minutes
To this I would add an insidious, but very real, fear in those who maybe think of themselves as unbiased: economics.
Being brought up in England – that land of Magna Carta etc., where freedom is supposed to reign, but the class system still thrives – for ten years I attended a strictly WASP girls’ boarding school. We had one token Catholic and one token Jew. The teachers really tried to be Christian, in the best sense of the word, but it was difficult there in the ‘40’s, and at home the Kipling-esque jingoism ruled triumphant. After all, we were fighting a war!
But somewhere along the line I came up with the unpopular idea that it’s the person that matters, not their denomination, color or income. Don’t know where it came from, but the idea fell on good soil and, like the mustard seed, grew into a strong and healthy tree. Even so, ingrained thought patterns die hard: women are second class, WASP must be better, latest and most expensive is progress and therefore better. All these were, no are, ?good? Victorian dogma, handed down from generation to generation!
While writing a book I’m doing a lot of research about the 16th and 17th centuries, and am discovering a lot I would be happy not to know. I want the book to be real, not just pie-in-the-sky, Polly-Anna stuff. Parts of it won’t be pretty. But it’s opening my eyes to just how bad the situation really was. And why. It’s not just the fear of physical hurt, it’s the fear that the balance of power might change. That “others” may wield the reins of government to “our” detriment.
While “we” can preserve the fiction that “we” are superior, in brain power or any other way, we can justify our position. Once that fiction is questioned, we have to face our history and all that entails. The White Man’s Burden has shifted from Christianizing the natives (while plundering all the resources available,) to acknowledging our responsibility in the dark side of history.
A couple of times, during my working years, I took away people’s excuses, their crutches. Several women, at different times, would say, “Well, he’s a man, so he doesn’t understand.” Or, “Well, she’s younger. She doesn’t understand.” But I was a woman, and older, and I did understand! I took away their excuses. They were thrown back on reality and had to admit life isn’t necessarily fair or easy, and in order to achieve they would have to work harder. Not a comfortable thing to acknowledge. And for many men it’s even worse, having been brought up to believe in the comfortable myth of the “ineffectual female.” The balance of power is being rocked, not the cradle.
Throw into that equation people who look different, sound different and have different values and there is not just fear but terror. If we have an African American President now, who might succeed him in the future? What language might we have to learn? Who might be living in all our beautiful big houses, and who will be the servants? How will I be able to afford my three or four cars, my swimming pool and my life-style? If others are allowed to climb the economic ladder, how will I be able to compete when I know I’m really not that good, and got my job because I knew someone? How will I afford to feed my family?
This is the basic fear that has resounded down the ages: keep out anyone who might threaten the “status quo.” It takes an enormous ground-swell to make any significant difference, and then at least a generation or two to change entrenched mind sets based on fear and equality/inequality. Politically, the fear-energy can be routed through physical channels but the motivation is to prevent the change in the balance of power.