Let’s imagine starting a new society, a whole new humanity. We’re playing SimEarth or Civilization here or something; just imagine it with me. We start it knowing everything we know now. We know there’s nothing to substantiate prejudice based on sex, gender, race, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Those identities all present naturally and in no way impact individuals’ ability to contribute to society or live upstanding lives. We remove all such biases from our new society; the idea of such prejudices do not even exist.
Then, we give our new society a free market system in which to function. Does our new society make sure that everyone has what they need to survive?
If they’re human, I doubt it. Humans naturally have a tendency toward greed; it’s just how psychological conditioning works. Even in a society without any context of identity-based prejudice, there would still be people who succeed and who enjoyed their success enough to not care about those less fortunate. A free market doesn’t mean everyone has the same chance of succeeding; it simply means that theoretically, everyone has the same opportunity to try. But even after one generation of our hypothetical new society, there would be people who have more and people who have less. So, even though there is nothing restraining equality based on identity, there is always inherently inequality, because you’re burdened or blessed by the circumstances you’re born into.
Still, we like the idea of a free market. Psychologically, it helps society move forward. There is reward for creativity; there is reward for hard work. People can be individuals and follow their passions. Despite its inherent inequality, there is also an inherent freedom, theoretically. This holds true so long as the divide between the haves and have-nots doesn’t become such that the haves control the have-nots and the have-nots depend on the haves to live their lives.
What should the goal of our society be? I think the freedom is important, but shouldn’t there also be a commitment to all people’s quality of life at a basic level? I don’t think a society is very successful if only a small proportion can prosper. So what happens when that divide widens? A growing portion of the population would not have enough, while a shrinking number would have more than enough. But in our hypothetical society, wouldn’t we want everybody to have enough? Since we’re controlling the dynamics of everything, I think we’d want to say to those rich folks, “Congrats on acquiring so much, but come on, you kind of have more than you need and a lot of folks are struggling. We’re not punishing you for doing well, but we’re going to ask you to sacrifice some of your excess so that everyone in our society can at least have enough to live a life at a certain baseline quality of life.”
The teabaggers say no.
Flashback now to the reality of the United States 2010. Every big problem we’ve dealt with lately has been at least partially the fault of corporate greed. Companies like Halliburton and Lockheed Martin have financial interests in our wars. Our economy collapsed because of the greed of corporate execs like those at Goldman Sachs. Our healthcare needed reformed because of the greed of insurance companies. We have an environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico thanks to corporate mismanagement.
But the teabaggers fervently defend corporate power. They don’t see the inherent inequality in an unregulated system. They actually believe everyone has a fair chance if they just try hard enough. They’re blind to all forms of inequality and don’t care that they perpetuate them. They don’t blame corporations for anything. Iraq’s been liberated. The economy is recovering on its own. Banks don’t need to be regulated. Healthcare doesn’t need regulated. We don’t need environmental regulations; accidents happen.
It’s bloody naïve, I say.
They complain about big government, but the government, for the most part, isn’t responsible for all these problems. Is there government corruption? Sure, and I’m not defending that. But to give corporations a free pass on everything is irresponsible and misguided.
And now, let’s revisit the point I made at the very beginning. In addition to the inherent inequality of a free market system, we live in a society where many other inequalities persist. Male privilege, White privilege, Heterosexual Privilege, and Christian Privilege make it so that not only are we imbalanced, but the imbalance targets certain identities. These privileges are systemic. They cannot simply be erased; they must be overcome from generation to generation. When we recognize forms of discrimination, we have the opportunity to resist these systems of oppression.
Teabaggers are committed to letting inequality persist. They so buy into the myth of the American Dream (which itself is an allegory for promoting greed—we should aspire to be wealthy) that they don’t want any regulation of the economy. There should be no limits on the haves, the have-nots be damned. There should be no hand-outs, no efforts whatsoever to counteract the inherent inequalities in the system.
And this means allowing identity-based inequalities to persist as well. Take a look at these numbers from a University of Washington poll and what they tell us about true teabaggers:
74% of Tea Party supporters agree that “while equal opportunity for blacks and minorities to succeed is important, it’s not really the government’s job to guarantee it.”
78% of Tea Party supporters disagree that “over the past few years, blacks have gotten less than they deserve.”
Even 46% of Tea Party supporters agree that “if blacks would only try harder, they would be just as well off as whites.”
Ever wonder why you really only see White people at Tea Party events? It’s because they don’t care about resisting white privilege; in fact, they’re more than happy to reap its benefits.
They also don’t want anyone else getting a chance at their American dream:
54% of Tea Party supporters agree that “immigration is changing the culture in the U.S. for the worse.”
88% of Tea Party supporters approve of “the immigration law in Arizona which requires police to question people they suspect are illegal immigrants for proof of legal status.”
63% of Tea Party supporters disagree that “we should not single out Muslims or Middle Easterners for airport security stops.”
Only 18% of Tea Party supporters agree that “gay and lesbian couples should have the same legal right to marry as straight couples.”
52% of Tea Party supporters agree that “compared to the size of their group, lesbians and gays have too much political power.”
Some good it’s doing us.
It’s getting harder and harder to separate teabagging from prejudice. And even in the absence of identity-based prejudice, the Tea Party platform is blatantly selfish. Members of the Tea Party are more concerned with their own well-being (or even their own perceived potential well-being) than to worry about anyone else. America is the country where I can succeed, regardless of anyone else who suffers as a result.
The Tea Party is dangerous, and their ideals are ill-founded. The mere fact that their platform has popular traction does not mean they are ideas we should be respectfully considering. They are clearly intent on maintaining as much inequality as they can.
If we want to protect the ideal that we are truly all equal and entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then the Tea Party should be our archnemesis. We need to hold them back or they will literally rewrite our history (and it’ll be rife with spelling errors).
(Kudos to this Tumblr for the photos.)