So You Want To Be a Teabagger: Hiding Prejudice Behind Capitalism

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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.”

They’re also incredibly concerned about keeping this country in the control of breeders:

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.)

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There are 4 Comments to "So You Want To Be a Teabagger: Hiding Prejudice Behind Capitalism"

  • Buffy says:

    The teabaggers are a bunch of whacko tools.  Most of them have only the faintest grasp of why they’re all there foaming at the mouth, yet they’re waving (misspelled) signs and half of them are ready to commit violence.
    Taxes!!! Never mind the fact that their taxes are the same as, or lower than, they were under their hero Bush.
    Jobs/the economy!!! Don’t blame that one on the current president.   We were already well into the recession when he took office and unemployment was at record highs.   Stop worshiping this free-market crap that encourages employers to send our jobs overseas where they can still make workers do 16-hour days for about $2/day.    Stop letting CEOs take “salaries” in the multi-millions (or billions) each year while their employees make minimum wage and get little or nothing in the way of benefits.   Tell the government to give people a minimum wage they can live on rather than one that’s poverty level.    And if you’re so pissed about the “illegals”, thank your free-market; they’re coming here because greedy employers like workers who will work for peanuts without complaining.
    Government intrusion/surveillance!!! Why weren’t they out in the streets when Bush implemented The Patriot Act?  In fact, when we were screaming about it, these teabaggers were the ones defending it with the refrain, “if you have nothing to hide what are you so upset about?”.
    We want to take our country back!!! Right.   You ran this nation into the ground for eight freaking years and the second a Dem president gets into office you have to start acting like a bunch of grade-school bullies who got denied their afternoon snacks?   I don’t like Obama.  I didn’t vote for him (I voted third-party).  But you don’t see me threatening people’s lives and having tantrums over it.   There’s another election in a few years.  “Take back the country” then.
    We’re not racists!!! Bull.

  • J Doe says:

    @Buffy – not just as low or lower. We currently have THE LOWEST TAXES WE’VE SEEN IN SIXTY YEARS.
    I saw a really good quip on the tea baggers at pharyngula today –
    “I had an exchange with a cousin of mine yesterday regarding the Tea Baggers, where he claimed it wouldn’t matter if President Obama was a white man, he’d still be protesting his attempt to “bankrupt” the nation and establish a socialist dictatorship.
    I responded with the following:
    Between 2001 and 2008, George W. Bush, a white man, about doubled the national debt on his spending priorities.
    Starting in 2009, Barack H. Obama, a black man, is also likely to increase the national debt on his spending priorities.
    If spending is the primary reason for the protests against Obama, where were you and your friends during the eight years of Bush administration economic policy? What is the difference?
    He still hasn’t responded.
    Yeah, that’s what I thought.”
    Also, Zack, regarding this:
    “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.”
    I think this is severely understating the case for taxation. It’s not just a voluntary sacrifice for the sake of the needy; it is repayment for the underlying structure that made their income possible. I’m not just talking infrastructure, either – in the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, taxes are the price we pay for civilization. This is quite literal. There are places in the world where there are no central governments and no taxation, and as a result, these places have no wealth – Somalia is the classic example of an anarcho-capitalist paradise, where there is no mean ol’ big government to tell businesses what to do. There are also no businesses to speak of, funnily enough.

  • ZackFord says:

    Very good points, J.

    In this particular post, I was trying to keep things simple, to demonstrate that there’s a very reasonable middle ground between an unregulated free market and complete socialism.

    But your last point is incredibly important. Let’s not forget the significant number of teabaggers who benefit from government programs, as well. “Eliminate taxes” is a nice talking point, but a ridiculously uninformed one.

  • Daniel says:

    Very good analysis. I would like to add one item to it. TP’ers want smaller government, except when it comes to their personal wish lists. For defense, they prefer big government, big spending, and intrusion in personal affairs. Same with immigration, abortion, gay marriage, ect. As long as government intrusion is on someone else’s time and and someone else’s dime, TP’ers are all for it. With such hypocritical views, it’s hard to take the “movement” seriously.

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