Friday, April 22, 2005
Untermenschen and Ubermenschen
I expanded my entry on Hitler's birthday and submitted it to Kuro5hin, a peer-reviewed discussion site. A very interesting discussion has resulted.
One of the things I brought up, but did not expand upon, was American Exceptionalism as the logical descendent of racial bigotry as a dark stain upon the soul of America. This perhaps requires a bit more explication as to how, and why, this philosophy (and its related philosophies Christian Identity and Christian Reconstructionalism) are inherently evil.
The basic tenent of American Exceptionalism is that Americans are a special and unique people. Americans are Ubermenschen, better than most, and everybody else is untermenschen, sub-human, to be pitied and aided if you are a liberal (for surely they lack the ability to help themselves, being mere untermenschen, sub-human, rather than real people, Americans), or to be dominated and exploited if you are a conservative (especially a conservative of the Christian Reconstructionalist variety), for surely it is God's will to dominate the untermenschen if you are an American, otherwise He would not have gifted us with the enormous natural resources and largely empty countryside that allowed our nation to become the greatest in the world by the mid 20th century.
Few Americans will state the notion of American Exceptionalism in such bald and blatant terms, for it is such an ingrained part of the American psyche that it goes unnoticed, unheralded, unexamined. News editors cynically state "one American is worth 100 wogs" when deciding which stories they should cover (i.e., a disaster where 10 Americans die is equal to a disaster where 1,000 Malaysians die when it comes news-worthiness), but no one questions why this is so. Yet the number of flags that you see flying in America (in no other country is it routine for individuals to fly flags, only government buildings fly flags), the whole "liberals hate America" meme, etc., are all based upon the notion that America is the best, Americans are the chosen people, that Americans are better than other people, and that pride in America is to be expected and enforced no matter what. To the extreme advocate of "America first", it is completely impossible for America or Americans to do something evil. They will literally justify any behavior on the part of America or Americans, no matter how brutal, as being only right and just because it is America bringing her uniqueness to some other place and some other people.
Yet this concept is, in the end, no different from the concepts of 'ubermenschen' and 'untermenschen' which led to the Nazis liquidating entire populations of 'untermenschen' and enslaving the rest. Indeed, this concept is a logical descendent of the same attitudes that led to slavery and segregation in America. Both slavery and segregation in America were justified by the notion that blacks were untermenschen, subhuman, and thus it was right and proper to maintain them in conditions of slavery or near-slavery. Even today, you will find apologists for slavery who will claim that blacks were happier and healthier under slavery, that slave-owners were charitable people simply bringing people out of the Stone Age into civilization, that Abraham Lincoln was a criminal who stole the property of Southern gentlemen without compensation as called for by the Bill of Rights, etc.
All that has happened is that this basic attitude has mutated. America has always had a rather mutable attitude towards race, witness the late 1800's when Boston businesses had help-wanted ads that said "No Irish Need Apply" because Irish immigrants were considered a seperate (and inferior) race. What has happened is that now that it is no longer fashionable to consider blacks or other Americans as sub-human, the concept has instead been generalized to non-Americans as sub-human.
An example is the rhetoric that George W. Bush now uses to justify the war in Iraq, and the reaction of the American news media to casualties in Iraq. Bush's current justification is that America had to bring democracy to Iraq. The implicit assumptions, however, typically go unexamined. For example, this statement implies that Iraqis are untermenschen, sub-human, incapable of bringing democracy to their own nation without soldiers from America, God's chosen people, imposing it at gunpoint. Similarly, the news media covers every Amerian casualty in Iraq, prints the name of each and every one of them, but the dozens of Iraqis who die per day in the violence of the civil war there are completely anonymous.
A typical lead paragraph for a particularly gruesome car bombing might say, "Forty Iraqis died and two Americans, Pfc. John Howard and Pfc. Tony Blaire, were injured when a car bomb went off outside the Green Zone in Baghdad Iraq today." Two injured Americans are literally more important than forty dead Iraqis, whose names, whose stories we never are told. They are extras on the set of a reality TV show "Survivor:Iraq", they are Star Trek "Red Shirts" (the extras who never lasted past the middle of the episode), they aren't people. Then when they die the Little Green Footballers and Freepers chortle "Yeah! Four more rag-heads dead!" because those who embrace the current virulent form of American Exceptionalism view only Americans as humans. Everyone else is a subhuman, and it is only right and just that America should rule them and cull them as desired.
That, then, is where American Exceptionalism leads us: an imperial America imposing her vision upon the rest of the world. Because if America is the best, if Americans are the chosen people, surely this is right and just? But this attitude inevitably, invariably, leads to atrocity. All nations which view themselves as "the chosen nation" or "God's chosen people" inevitably end up causing enormous harm both to others whom they consider "untermenschen" or to themselves. It took national disaster and the complete destruction of their nation to wake Germans to the notion that perhaps dividing humanity into "ubermenschen" and "untermenschen" was not right. Unfortunately, the United States, protected for so long by vast oceans, has never had to face the price for her hubris. But that price may be coming, and in a far worse way than if we'd learned our lesson during earlier times, because the rest of the world is no longer content to be an American plantation filled with darkies working their American massah's overseas plantations...
- Badtux the Sorta-Exceptional Penguin
Posted by: BadTux / 4/22/2005 12:53:00 PM
Holy shit, what an amazing piece of writing...Are you in protective custody, because this is going to generate a firestorm.
An excellent post on a very unpleasant and unmentionable topic.
# posted by TheCultureGhost : 22/4/05 1:29 PM
No need for protective custody, for each person who reads it shall say, "Man, that's just like my neighbor!" while examining his own heart not at all. We are always eager to ascribe evil to others, and always reluctant to find it in ourselves. That appears to be the nature of the human beast throughout history, but it is one that could be -- and is -- overcome by education and learning. Well, at least it is in some other Western countries. Too bad the United States has basically destroyed her educational system over the past 40 years, first due to the turmoils of desegregation, then due to Christian Reconstructionalism de-emphasizing education in favor of rote recitation of articles of faith handed down by High Priests of Learning...
- Badtux the Educated Penguin
# posted by BadTux : 22/4/05 1:59 PM
The ego is obvious. We are US. Everyone else automatically becomes THEM.
# posted by georg : 22/4/05 2:21 PM
Great post, Tux. Too bad the worst offenders would just look at you as sub-human for even mentioning this subject. If American is, as I believe, fast becoming a Christian Fascist state, then even we, who would dare to cry wolf, are culpable on some level. We have all kinds of rights in this country - even the right to be wrong!
# posted by Tannish : 22/4/05 7:41 PM
Wow...You are ofically my newest hero.
# posted by weenus : 23/4/05 7:53 PM
I have had the surprise to hear Madeleine Albright speaking of America's exceptionalism on French TV last year.
I has always made me laugh when I hear French politicians speaking of the exceptionality of France, the prestige of France, etc. Though I am French, I never believed in that bullshit, thinking that objectively, any citizen of any nation could find a reason to see his country as exceptional, and with all the countries being exceptional… You see what I mean.
I was extremely shocked to hear the French journalists and politicians approving (I haven't much esteem for politicians, Americans, French or whatever, and don't expect too much from them). If Americans believe in US exceptionalism, it's a sin, and a sign of stupidity. Now, foreigners, if YOU believe in that same US exceptionalism, you deserve to be sodomized by an exceptionaly gifted American without lubrication.
# posted by : 24/4/05 6:49 AM
- Name: BadTux
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I am a black and white and yellow multicolored penguin making his way as best he can in a world of monochromic monkeys.
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