The Working-Class Right: Sufferers of Stockholm Syndrome?

"Stockholm syndrome is a term used to describe a paradoxical psychological phenomenon wherein hostages express adulation and have positive feelings towards their captors that appear irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims." (FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Investigation. July 2007. pp. 10)

In 1957, Albert Memmi produced a seminal work entitled The Colonizer and the Colonized -- years before the aforementioned psychological phenomenon became a mainstream, popular, and universally understood condition. Briefly, Memmi noted the effect the colonial experience had on indigenous populations as they became subjugated, forced to conform and benefit or resist and suffer under the weight of colonial authority.  This dynamic can be seen over and over in America’s history as white indentured servants, slaves, Native peoples, freed slaves under the apartheid system of “Jim Crow,” and historically even caucasian women found “comfort” or persecution depending on the degree to which they helped to support and maintain the dominant paradigm of the day.  This dynamic can be seen during Europe’s feudal period as well.  It was not unheard of for a serf or peasant to be “rewarded” with land and or an advanced station when offering exemplary service to the crown or lord.

It is with these thoughts in mind that one has great ability to endeavor to understand the mindset, motivation, and rationale for the perspective and behavior of those calling themselves “Tea Party Patriots” (and could equally be applied to middle-class, non-tea party "conservatives" who rhetorically agree with economic policies that generally only benefit the elite).

The name itself, “Tea Party” is curious.  Simplistically, it seems obvious; a band of mythical colonists resisting the tyranny of unjust taxation without the consent of the taxed by way of their representative body. The fact is that in the modern era this is just not the case.  Any and all policy decisions made contrary to this “group’s” tastes were made in direct result and subsequent to a legally binding election.  In other words, the Democrats and record vote smashing President Obama won and have every right to enact their policies pursuant to Congressional (elected) approval.  This being the case, “taxation without representation” falls flatly on its own demerits!

In an effort to more thoroughly understand the drumbeat of mythical “colonial pride,” one would be wise to indeed remember and examine events leading up to America’s Revolutionary War -- who fought, for whom, and why.

If one hopes to understand the times and the War, one must remember that America was Britain’s penal colony as much as anything else, providing numbers and indentured labor to the expanding set of agriculturally based colonies and was replaced by Australia only after convict exportation became impossible due to the troubles in the colonies.  The American Revolution, unlike the French and more appropriately Russian Revolutions, was not a bottom up fight for peasant dignity rather it was a top down revolt by and for the preservation and expansion of aristocratic status and their accumulation of wealth.

Much like serfs and peasants of the feudal period, it would not be hard to conjecture that many “revolutionaries” fought as much to be released from their servitude and/or their Stockholm-like attachment to the British crown as much as for the promise of a nebulous and uncertain set of principles (not being a Revolutionary War scholar, I am basing this notion on my scholarship of people and welcome any correction if I am indeed far off base).  Indeed, if I am off base in this example, we certainly saw such “peasant rewards” during America’s westward expansion and attempts at the genocide of its indigenous peoples.

While contrarians may want to cite declarations and constitutions, again, these “universal truths” were for but a class of citizens . . . not all people!  Struggles for such universal application of the declarative “truths” enumerated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution would take over 150 years to fully vet and indeed have yet to be fully realized in terms of “gay liberation”.  But I digress.

So, in 2010, what then motivates a largely homogeneous group of people (racially, socio-culturally, economically, religiously) to demonize unions, the “government,” “liberals,” and other entities that have been at the vanguard of enacting policies and laws that provide them a semblance of security and act as a counter-balance to the historic excesses and exploitation at the hands of big business and the pluto/aristocracies that have long permeated the economics and politics of this country?

While racism is certainly at play, let’s be honest about what “we, us, and our” means, this only explains the vitriol spoon-fed to them by the ultimate beneficiaries of their "anger" -- the aristocracy, the “man,” whatever you would like to call it.  Herein we find the clues Memmi spoke of and psychologists point to in people who begin to identify with their “benevolent captors”.

One can hear it in “Joe the Plummer’s” exhortation that though he doesn’t make over $250,000 he may some day and that he doesn’t want to pay higher taxes when he does.  An interesting argument coming from a man whose skills and education makes it hard to think that he has “the stuff” to climb to a status that what, only 8% of the country can claim.  I would argue that in all the cajoling and attention he received by and post McCain celebrity that he started to believe that his interests were the same of those of the “master”.  Stockholm Syndrome.

This is but one anecdotal example but tones sound similar when you hear this group of wannabe “Tea Partiers” make mythical the aristocratic beneficiaries of the Boston Tea Party and then vilify the European “social state” -- apparently not understanding that such a state evolved for its people from the gross excesses and treatment during Europe’s aristocratic feudal period -- societies from which many of us come from.  In modern Europe, though not perfect, most societies want to know what corporations and aristocrats are doing for the state not what its masses can do for them.

I do believe Memmi had it right and that the “Tea Party” and its myopic group of followers are doing what has been done to serfs, peasants, and slaves for centuries . . . hoping to get that bone if they just do right by their master.

Ancillary addendum thought on adaptation:

What is sad is that many of these people advocate for an "America" that no longer exists, and instead of encouraging their group to learn to adapt to the changing face of the American demographic and electorate -- hell society -- they are ensuring their marginalization as they will be ill-prepared and ill-equiped for this change.

Ozzie is unemployed and undereducated, Harriet is bringing home the bacon.  Spanish is a de facto "second language," gays are out of the closet, and "minorities" will soon be majority.

Not understanding this  modern reality is what marginalizes them further.

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